Polonnaruwa is one of the most attractive and clean cities in the country, surrounded by old city ruins and agricultural plains. In 1982, the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the title “Ancient City of Polonnaruwa.”

The remains of the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa feature some of the period’s best-preserved architectural marvels. The tenth-century ruins contain palaces, monasteries, Buddhist and Hindu temples, dagobas, and numerous magnificent statues. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, which spans an area of around four kilometers, is home to a great number of historical relics.


History of the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

In 993, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s first capital, was conquered by South Indian Chola invaders, who transferred the capital to Polonnaruwa in the north-central province. After more than 70 years, the Cholas were ultimately driven out in 1073 by Sinhalese King Vijayabahu I, who decided to preserve Polonnaruwa as his place of government.

Several kings, most notably Parakramabahu I and Nissankamalla, built the city, which remained a royal capital for about 200 years before being reclaimed by South Indian invaders. After the capital was shifted to Dambadeniya, near Colombo, Polonnaruwa gradually fell into disrepair.

King Parakramabahu built magnificent palaces, monuments, and gardens. Most of the buildings constructed during this time period have been carefully preserved, notably the Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa’s primary attraction. Parakramabahu also built the Lankatilaka, a stunning religious edifice known as a “gedige” that shelters a massive headless Buddha figure.

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya is one of the structures created by King Nissanka Malla, and it is supported by granite pillars. The pillars that stand on a platform are made of granite.

Top 10 places to visit in Polonnaruwa

  1. Royal Palace
  2. Audience hall Relics
  3. Sacred Quadrangle
  4. Swimming Pool
  5. Dagaba Kiri Vihara
  6. Pabalu Vehera
  7. Buddha statue at Lankatilaka
  8. Lord Buddha figures at Gal Vihara
  9. Rankot Vihara
  10. Polonnaruwa Tank (Parakrama Samudra)

What are the highlights of Polonnaruwa

1. Royal Palace

The famous king Parakumba’s (1153-1186) Royal Palace was a seven-story building. The construction took roughly seven years and seven months. Of the seven stories with 1000 rooms, just three with 55 rooms survive. The Palace’s basic floor plan is identical to that of the 12th-century Vijayabahu palace in Anuradhapura. A south Indian invader known as “Maga” had destroyed the Palace.

Ancient Royal Palace ruins - UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pollonaruwa, Sri Lanka

2. Sacred Quadrangle

This sacred quadrilateral is rich in sacred monuments. It depicts the most opulent building of the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa at the period. The circular Vatadage is regarded as the most visually beautiful portion of the quadrilateral. Four massive Buddha sculptures encircle the temple’s center. A tiny stupa monument behind the Buddha sculptures shelters the Sacred Tooth Relic. The Vatadage is regarded as one of the most magnificent structures in the country.


3. Rankot Vihara

King Nissanka Malla (1187 to 1196), who ruled the nation for over a decade, built the Rankot Vihara stupa. The Rankoth Vehera was designed with the Anuradhapura Maha Viharaya’s historical legacy in mind. It towers 54 meters above the ground.

Rankot Vihara

4. Buddha statue at Lankatilaka

The Lankatilaka Vihara is considered one of the most prominent structures of Polonnaruwa’s former royalty. It is also regarded as one of Sri Lanka’s earliest image houses. A narrow path made by two enormous walls led to a big, headless Buddha statue that still exists today. The statue is approximately 14 meters tall. It was built by the legendary king Parakramabahu.

lanka tilaka

5. Buddhas statues at Gal Vihara

The Buddha statues in Gal Vihara are perfect examples of solid stone  Buddha statues. Those were built during King Parakramabahu’s reign (1153-1186 A.C). The 14-meter-long reclining Buddha sculpture, a well-known Polonnaruwa statue, represents Buddha entering Nirvana. The Gal Vihara’s sculptor artist was very competent and knowledgeable in the field of stone sculpture in Sri Lanka.

Buddha statue on Sri Lanka island

Did the monkey kingdom movie shoot in Polonnaruwa?

Yes, the 2015 American nature documentary film Monkey Kingdom, directed and produced by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill and narrated by Tina Fey, was shot in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka. The Monkey Kindom is about a family of monkeys who live in ancient Sri Lankan ruins. On April 17, 2015, Disney Nature released Monkey Kingdom as their eighth nature documentary.

How to get to the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa is located 230 kilometers from Colombo and 78 kilometers from Anuradhapura. from Passikuda is more than 68 kilometers.

The best method to go to Polonnaruwa from Colombo is by taking a train to Habarana and taking a cab or a bus to Polonnaruwa. The rail ride from Colombo Fort Station to Habarana takes roughly 6 hours. Another option is to take an Intercity bus from Colombo Fort to Polonnaruwa, which will take 6-8 hours. 

If you are coming from Sigiriya, a bus is the most convenient way to travel from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa. Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa are 56 kilometers apart, and you must first travel to Inamaluwa to board a bus to Polonnaruwa.

How long does it take to tour the whole site?

Even though you may see the sights in a few hours by tuk-tuk or automobile, plan on spending an entire day.

Opening hours and entrance ticket prices of the Ancient city of Polonnaruwa

The park is open from 7 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., however you should arrive by mid-morning to prevent being scorched by the sun. Polonnaruwa Museum & Cultural Sites Admission (Foreign) 25 USD / Children 12.5 USD

Where can I rent a bicycle?

Riding a bicycle is the most convenient way to go around Polonnaruwa. Because most tourist attractions are close together, you may easily cover them all in a single day by bicycle. Bicycle rental shops can be found in and around Polonnaruwa, as well as at the site’s entrance.

What should I wear to visit Polonnaruwa?

Visitors to Sri Lanka’s temples should dress modestly. It is important to cover the knees and shoulders. It’s humid, so bring a sarong to wear over your shorts anytime you visit the temples.

where to stay in Polonnaruwa

  • Luxury: Ekho Lake House, Deer Park Hotel
  • Medium: Heritage Polonnaruwa, Hotel Sudu Araliya, Giritale Hotel
  • Budget:  Royal Nest Polonnaruwa, Tishan Holiday Resort, Ruins Chaaya Hotel

Are there any National parks near Polonnaruwa?

Polonnaruwa is close to numerous national parks, the most well-known of which is Minneriya. This modest reserve, centered on a big tank, is home to a variety of species, but it is best known for its annual elephant gathering. Hundreds of elephants can be spotted feasting on the tank’s lush banks between August and September.


Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also Visit Polonnaruwa

Sri Lanka is not a tough country to tour around, but if you don’t like planning or prefer to leave it to the pros, Ceylon Hunt provides some fantastic guided tours.

  • Amazing Sri Lanka– this 8 day  Ceylon Hunt tour is excellent for Getaway travellers.
  • Discover Sri Lanka– a 12 day Ceylon Hunt tour perfect for a European  Travellers.
  • Most of Sri Lanka– an 15 day CeylonHunt tour goes to all the most popular places to visit in the country.

Polonnaruwa is still a source of cultural and religious prestige for all Sri Lankans. It demonstrates a high level of understanding in ancient archaeology and agricultural systems. If you’re thinking about visiting Sri Lanka, don’t miss viewing this gorgeous area where you can rest and enjoy the experience of this wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Site which is rich in local history and culture.

Those who are pondering visiting Ancient City of Polonnaruwa can go through our tour packages or make the resevations through our website.