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Polonnaruwa Travel Essentials


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Ideal duration: 1 Day

Best Time: November to March Read More

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"History along with a homely experience!"

Polonnaruwa Tourism

Polonnaruwa, located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the island's most significant historical and cultural destinations. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is renowned for its well-preserved ruins, royal palaces, temples, monasteries, and other religious and secular structures. It is Sri Lanka's second oldest kingdom, thus boasting a rich heritage that continues to be visited by thousands of tourists. It is located 2 hours away from Sigiriya, around 4 hours from Kandy and is part of the cultural triangle of Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura.

The town has two sections - Polonnaruwa, New Town, and the Old Site with ancient remains and monarchical structures. It has numerous ruins dating back to 800 years comprising of tombs, temples, statues and stupas. One of the most iconic landmarks in Polonnaruwa is the Royal Palace complex, which once served as the residence of the ruling monarchs. Although now in ruins, the palace complex offers insight into the grandeur and sophistication of ancient Sri Lankan architecture. Another highlight is the Gal Vihara, a group of four colossal statues of the Buddha carved into a single granite rock face. 

Polonnaruwa is also home to numerous ancient temples and monasteries, including the Lankathilaka Temple, with its towering brick walls and intricately carved entrance, and the Rankoth Vehera, a stupa adorned with elaborate carvings and surrounded by a tranquil courtyard.

Exploring the ruins of Polonnaruwa is like stepping back in time, with each structure telling a story of the city's illustrious past and the achievements of its rulers. In addition to its archaeological significance, Polonnaruwa is surrounded by natural beauty, with lush greenery, serene lakes, and abundant wildlife adding to the charm of the area.

Must Know Before You Travel to Polonnaruwa

  • Polonnaruwa Entrance Fees (including the museum complex and UNESCO World Heritage-listed ruins):
    Non-SAARC foreign adult - USD 30
    Non-SAARC foreign children (between 6 to 12 years) - USD 15
    SAARC foreign adult - USD 15
    SAARC foreign children (between 6 to 12 years)- USD 15
    Local adults:  Free entry
    Local children (between 6 to 12 years): Free entry
    All infant and toddler(below 6 years): Free entry
  • Polonnaruwa Timings: 7:00 AM - 6:30 PM every day
  • Getting Around: Best way to explore the ancient city is by renting a bike which can be rented at the entrance to the museum complex or in the main town. It costs around LKR 400 per bike. Walking is recommended if you are fit. Tuk-tuks are also available with the drivers acting as guides.
  • Where to Eat:  There are no proper restaurants inside the ancient city. You will find good restaurants in the main town.
  • Do not take a photo with your back towards the Buddha as it is considered highly offensive.
  • Dress conservatively. Cover your shoulders and knees.
  • Visit early morning to avoid the high heat. If planning to rent a bicycle, start wen the Archaeological Museum Complex opens.
  • Polonnaruwa can be visited as a day trip from Sigiriya or Dambulla.

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History of Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa was the capital of the Cholas and the Sinhalese kingdoms. The Cholas shifted the capital from Anuradhapura to this princely state as they believed it offered more protection against attacks. Later it was fully conquered and taken by the Sinhalese, and during this time it flourished in trade and commerce. Buddhism garnered Sri Lanka during the rule of King Nissanka Malla who inscribed a majority of the stone architecture.

Food in Polonnaruwa

Priyamali gedara, Gemi Gedara, Thidas Arana Restaurant, Wishma Restaurant, are some of the places you can experience local cuisine. Rice and curry is their staple food. So their dishes hero the rice element and is garnished generously with vegetables, coconut milk based gravies and chilli paste for spice.

Shopping in Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa offers wine and home-brewed alcohol - Midland Wine Stores, Midland Beer Shop. Around the ancient city, small artefacts and souvenirs can be purchased. While in the city, one can find Batik cloths, wooden handicrafts and custom tea.

Best Time to Visit Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa Photos

Rankot Vihara in Polonnaruwa
Potgul Vihara in Polonnaruwa
Hatadage in Polonnaruwa

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FAQs on Polonnaruwa

What is the best time to visit Polonnaruwa?

November to March is the time to be in Polonnaruwa. The weather is warm and gets colder around December, and there are fewer chances for precipitation. Your stay will be hassle-free if you could avoid the rains. June – August is drier and remains sunny with barely any rainfall. While September – November sees minimal tourists who would make the stay inexpensive; January, July and August see the most visitors. Winter from December to February presents a favourable climate. The temperature is peaceful, which is why tourists step foot between these three months. The presence of trees and lush greenery aid the tropical, temperate climate. Watching elephants in the MInneriya National park that too, in huge numbers would be possible in the dry seasons of July – October. As good as 300 elephants gather together to drink water from the reservoir, and it is indeed a sight to see!
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What are the things to do in Polonnaruwa?

The top things to do in Polonnaruwa are The Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu, Rankoth Vehera, Archaeological Museum, Polonnaruwa, Kiri Vihara, Polonnaruwa Vatadage, Nissanka Latha Mandapaya. You can see all the places to visit in Polonnaruwa here

What are the places near Polonnaruwa?

The top places near to Polonnaruwa are Sigiriya which is 28 km from Polonnaruwa, Kandy which is located 83 km from Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura which is located 79 km from Polonnaruwa, Colombo which is located 170 km from Polonnaruwa, Nuwara eliya which is located 113 km from Polonnaruwa

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