The second most ancient of Sri Lanka's kingdoms was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I, who defeated the Chola invaders in 1070 CE to reunite the country once more under a local leader.
Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned Archeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom's first rulers. Its beauty was also used as a backdrop to filmed scenes for the Duran Duran music video Save a Prayer in 1982. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Polonnaruwa is the 2nd largest city in north central province. But it is known as one of the cleaner and more beautiful cities in the country. The green environment, amazing ancient constructions, Parakrama Samudraya (a huge lake built in 1200 A.C.), attractive tourist hotels and most importantly nice people with hospitality, always attracted local and foreign tourists. One recent scientific observation is that of its climate changes. Historically Polonnaruwa had a tropical climate most of the year, although it was occasionally chilly in December and January. But in recent years the rain and chillyness has been increased noticeably. Although this is surprising to some people, it is more enjoyable for tourists. But sometimes paddy field farmers suffers when there is too much rain.
More information can be obtained in Wikipedia
Recommended review time for sightseeing: 2 h
Before I got to Sri Lanka, I knew that entrance fees were generally high for tourists so I could only pick one "expensive" attraction and I picked Polonnaruwa. No regrets there!
I got on a bus from Dambulla and in less than 2 hours, I arrived near the entrance of the archeological park. I rented a bicycle for Rs350 and paid the entrance fees of Rs3250 at the museum office. The museum is located next to a gigantic lake that's almost like an ocean. The winds were really strong too. That alone was a great place for pictures.
I spent about 4 hours touring the archeological park. There were signs all around and the bicycle place also gave me a map so I had no trouble navigating the park. Most of the ancient ruin sites had information in English. Of course, having a guide (easily available for a fee around the sites) would help but I opted not to have a guide. The weather was very very hot so please make sure to hydrate yourself. I had 2 coconuts in the span of 4 hours. During the time I was there, there weren't too many tourists so I got pretty good photos and also enjoyed just sitting in the shade and looking at the magnificent ruins. There were also some restoration works going on and the park itself was very well-maintained with minimal trash and comfortable pavements to ride on. That made me realize that the entrance fees are completely necessary to maintain this place. If we could travel thousands of kilometers to visit this country, what's a few bucks to contribute to the upkeep of the site. How else would we be able to see the magnificence of this park in a comfortable state?
This is one of those things that you must do during your visit to Sri Lanka.
Tip: Walking would limit you to the number of sites you can visit in a day and can be very tiring. Other options besides cycling would be to hire a tuk-tuk who may double as a guide for an additional 2-3 thousand rupees
Now, the first thing I shall say is I am writing this review from the basis that we had a driver escorting us around the city. If you have a driver then great and I think most people would say a tuk-tuk is recommended to get around. I wouldn't recommend trying to talk round the city...it's massive. I would estimate it took us 3-4 hours in a car. Some also recommend a bike, but I'm not sure this is the best idea. With the amount of time it takes to take it all in even starting early morning you will still encounter the hottest parts of the day and cycling may be quite exhausting. Overall, I thought this was a fantastic attraction, a city well preserved and steeped in history, housing three of the ancient Sri Lankan kings.
Take a good guide and let you show this amazing place. Never you will forget this stupas, the Buddha and the different antics. Also to visit the Museum is a must as well as the most wonderful Lotus bath.
Lots to see and imagine what it is like. Go with a guide to see the best bits. Not quite as spectacular as Sigiriya but still worth a visit. Saw some elephants crossing the road on the way there which was unexpected.
You can see the impresionant ruins of the city. We rent a bicicles and visit the ruins like this. I like so much this city.
The people is fantastic. They always are smiling.
Great lot of ruins close together .
Have a guide of some sort but having said that lonely planet great
Take water and have an umbrella
Polonnaruwa's ruins are closer to each other than Anuradhapura's. However, its best to have some sort of transportation as there is a lot to see. we had bicycles and it was perhaps the most perfect way to see the sites. The famous sites are filled with tourists and schoolkids, but its not difficult to find sites that nobody seems to be visiting. The stupas offer no shade, so its good to have on some sunscreen/hats. That siad the area in general has a lot of trees and shade. One thing to keep in mind if you are not part of a group that arranges everything for you is that the ticket office is located a bit away from the entrance to the site. the office is by the lake. if you are coming from town to the site, get your tickets first, otherwise you will have to go back for it.
A day in Pollonaruwa was a memorable one. We arrived early and was alone (with only some monkeys to keep us company) at some sites which was a fantastic experience - we felt almost like a lone explorers. So, do try to start early to have a place to yourself.
Some advices for fellow travellers:
- wear socks (you need to take of your shoes and the stone gets really hot)
- wear decent clothes or you will be wrapped in drapes
- do not smoke near the sites (it is forbidden, but there are no signes)
- do not pose for pictures with your back facing Budha statues
- there are no maps provided in the museum (where you buy the tickets for the site) so try to bring your own even if it is fairly easy to navigate even whithout the map
This is an excellent place for a visit. The history of this place never ends and has alot to obtain. Must visit place in Polonnaruwa. More than 2500 years of history.
We spent half a day cycling around Polonnaruwa. There is plenty to see both in terms of ruined sites and religious temples.
The Buddhist sites were numerous but my favourite part was a Hindu ceremony taking place in one of the very old temples. It felt somewhat strange especially with a almost bacchanalian girl performing a whirling dervish type dance around the temple.
Make sure you bring your own guide book; as with many other historical places in Sri Lanka, maps of the site and information can be lacking.
Even if the entrance to here and many other places are steep, these places have to be visited as they are magnificent historical monuments and I personally think subsidising local tourism is good.
We saw this place in January 2013. The biggest surprise was the size of this area - there are a few locations which can be visited at once. The best is to go there with some tour guide who will take to each place. Ticket price is pretty expensive - 30$ for person but it's worth to spend it.
Our tour guide recommend us this place instead of Anuradhapura which he sad is very similar but less interesting.
So many ruins and temples, so little time! We only had 1/2 day to explore the main sights at Polonnaruwa but could have easily spent days seeing each temple. We only had a driver (not a guide) so relied on him to direct us to each place of interest and then had to read the sign boards. I would recommend either taking along a guidebook that can explain each of the sights or having a guide with you.