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

Sightseeings nearby
Tourist reviews about Polonnaruwa

GerMar60 [TA], , Burton-on-Trent

Our driver-guide brought us here from Habarana and took us between the various different parts of the site (it was very hot and humid, so we had no qualms about being lazy!).

We were quite impressed by the ruins (although - as someone else has suggested - they are not as impressive as Angkor Wat) and enjoyed our wander around the ruins. The carvings are quite lovely.

Interesting, In-tact - beautiful ruins!
Lauren C [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

We had a driver take us around to all the different areas, which was essential as they are quite far apart! Most of the ruins were great, large and in-tact! Make sure you take something to cover your shoulders for some of the ruins. It does get very hot during the day, but at every point there are small stalls selling bottled water and King Coconuts!

It takes up most of your day and they are amazing and definitely worth it! However by the end of the day due to the heat, we were ready to skip the smaller ruins and head back to the pool.

100% worth it though!

Beautiful ruins, chance of wildlife encounters
Wijpotts [TA], , Richmond, Canada

Avoid the heat of the day and visit the ruins less visited, especially the ones where the monkey families congregate.

Great place, but be prepared for the heat!
Grumpybro... [TA], , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A fascinating place to visit and well worth it. The area is vast and needs time for a worthwhile visit.

Tips are: keep your nerve with the street sellers or hawkers; take plenty of water for the heat; go with a guide. There are some religious sensitivities so be prepared.

A must for a Sri Lanka visit
fillyk [TA], , wolverhampton

We had no idea about this World Heritage Site before our trip to Sri Lanka, but are now very glad to know a bit more. It's quite amazing - a huge site with so many relics that are very well preserved.
We would recommend visiting with a guide, ours was really knowledgeable and was really able to add more than just a guide book could.
It's worth a trip around the site museum before heading out to give you an idea of how it all hangs together.
Tip - wear shoes that are easily slipped on and off, as you'll need to do that several times!

Huge and very impressive site
John L [TA], , Shrewsbury, United Kingdom

A visit to Polonnaruwa takes time and energy. We are talking about a small city here and there a large number of individual areas to see. To 'do' the lot would take days and, unless you are an archaeologist, you would almost certainly be 'ruined out' by the end of the first day.
Most people therefore go for the main attractions like The Quadrangle, Shiva Devale, Gal Vihara, Vatadage,the Royal Palace Group, Island Garden and Lankatilaka. Even to do these, you will need transport and at the very least 5-6 hours which, in the temperatures (30-33C) existing for most of the year, is seriously debilitating.
However, it is worth the effort as the ruins are all impressive, though they do require a certain degree of imagination to conceive of the sheer magnitude of the whole site and the manpower that must have been required to build it.
Polonnaruwa is a must for any visitor to Sri Lanka and fully repays the exertion expended.

Half day trip
Peffer [TA], , Malaysia

We spent 3 hours in the old city. Entrance fee is USD 25 per person and go straight to the museum. Ensure you wear appropriate attire as part of the respecting the place. Many monuments and statues for photos. Hat and water is a must as very hot walking around outdoor. Most of the tourists have a guide with car or bus. Otherwise you can hire bicycle too because its a big place to walk.

Very interesting, but take a guide
Oscar_7_9... [TA], , Zagreb, Croatia

We spent some 5 hours around the site and I have to say we really enjoyed it. Our driver found us a guide, whose price was 20 USD, but was really worth it. He was really proficient in English and told us many interesting stories and information about Pollunaruwa. We went around by car, which is also recommendable as the area is rather big. Go to the museum after you see the site-for me, it was a good wrap-up. Also, there is a nice hotel on the lake ( behind the parking in front of the museum) with lovely terrace, great coffee and fruit juice and a nice view.

Best go to the museum first
GrumpsDC [TA], , Cheltenham, United Kingdom

We spent several hours visiting the various parts of the Polonnaruwa site, but took time out to first visit the museum. At the end of the day, I wished we had spent even longer there as it helped put what we subsequently saw in the correct context.
My only disappointment is that they do not produce a good catalogue or brochure for the museum, especially as you cannot take photos there.

Lovely site
Bonnotgir... [TA], , Burgess Hill

This is a very historic and ancient site, quite well preserved in many places. Recommend visiting with a guide so all the information can be given and you can be taken to all the best bits, as the site is quite sprawling across a wide area. There are quite a lot of dogs about but they don't bother you (and I'm not great around dogs) and the hawkers are not annoying or troublesome. This site was a surprise to me as is comparable to the experiences I've had of visiting sites in other countries such as Tulum in Mexico.

Lots to see, but very extensive
the_mcgui... [TA], , Marlborough. UK

Fascinating historical site. Start at the museum to get a decent oversight, signed in English too. Once you understand the zones/eras you can go out into the park, remembering to buy tickets at the museum though. Several kilometres long so think about transport (and water!). Some amazing Buddhist features culminating at three amazing statues in a line hewn into a cliff face.

Without a guidebook or the museum (or a guide person) it would make little sense on the ground though.

Very good site to visit, well guided and maintained
YashasTan... [TA], , Bangalore, Karnataka, India

This is a place worth visiting. The sites are all located near to each other and also the directions and boards are well placed.

The descriptions before the sites help a lot understanding the significance of them. You will need 4 hours to complete the whole tour. One of the best short tours to visit in Sri Lanka.

Well Preserved History
Zakarya-z... [TA], , Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan

we went there with our guide, so fascinated to see 2000 years old temples palaces and statues , and how well organised and advance those people were in their time. they built malty stories building round and cone shape temples, plus Gal Vihara are different statues of Buddha in sitting and dying all on a single rock ..its is a sacred place so you have to remove your shoes, no head gear , long shorts and cover shoulders..if its not raining thick socks will be of a great help as walking on rocks is not very pleasant job, do take pictures but no back to Buddha, but spare some time and sit and observe these buildings and statues ..go back in time ..beautiful feelings.. it is a large compound you need some mean of transport to room around. enjoy

Great place to see
LadaKocia... [TA], , Zlin Region, Czech Republic

If you like historical places, you will be excited. Many places in areas, a lot of statues, temples and ruins. You can imagin the life thousands years ago... It´s good to rent the bicycle or only walking, we think it´s better than rent tuk-tuk or bus, because you can see a lot of places in gardens and sometimes the places hidden between trees :) But be carefully if is big sun and keep at eye on monkeys, their are so fast! :)

Good ancient site
AChiara78 [TA], , Arezzo, Italy

It took me half a day to visit the ruins of the site. The place is quite big so it's a good idea to use a bike or a tuk tuk. Ruins are very well kept and there are interesting spots. I could do with my guide book without taking a local guide. The museum is very informative and has got useful reconstructions of the destroyed buildings to imagine the ancient site.

5035Micha... [TA], , Adelaide, Australia

We have seen quite a few things in our travels & this place rates. Very worthwhile trip, be ready to take lots of photos.

Great half day trip
Anne W [TA], ,

There are several areas to stop at - recline Buddha, large brick stupa, big standing Buddha, etc - all worthwhile. I felt it was better than anandurapura

Polonnaruwa Second Ancient Capital Of Sri Lanka
kadstours [TA], , Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa is the second capital city of the Sri Lanka built in the 11th and 12th centuries A.D. and which is a World Heritage Site, situated in North Central Province. Here you can see the ruins of the royal palace, the gal viharaya where 4 splendid statues of the Buddha in “upright”, “sedentary” and “recumbent” postures carved out of rock could be seen, the audience hall,lotus bath, the statue of king Parakramabahu the great, and the Parakrama Samudraya(artificial lake) built by king Parakramabahu.there are also monuments of famous places such as Alahana Pirivena, Shiva temple,Lankathilake,watadage,Galpotha,Kiri Vehera and remains of a former temple of the Tooth Relic.

A real slice of ancient history
PaulMCol [TA], , Paphos, Cyprus

Use the services of a guide for this one, cost 1,000 LKR, well worth it.
The ruins of this ancient city are fascinating and an incredible sight, even in the pouring rain.
You can get a bit of Temple overkill, but bear with it as some of the information you get here has relevance to other historic sites across Sri Lanka, particularly the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.
Another must see if you like this kind of stuff.

500Chris5... [TA], , Wellington, New Zealand

Great archaelogical site and well worth investing some time in exploring the great variety of ruins. It pays to either have a guide who knows their history or do some reading up before hand.

Worth a look
Melanie H [TA], ,

We visited here in July 2014 and were impressed with the variety if ruins. There are some beautiful sites here and the age of the ruins is pretty amazing.Definetly worth a visit, the only thing I would say that's a negative is that the actual township doesn't have alot to do or great accomodation options so if possible go for the day. It can get pretty hot but there were plenty of people selling cool water. Would definetly recommend.

Second kingdom of Sri Lanka
milankov [TA], , slovakia

Very preserved place, but often rain cats and dogs, paths between historical buildings are able to run over by bicycle, but success is depended on the actual weather without rain.

Best temples in all Sri Lanka
Tomsbril [TA], , Paris

It's easy to get 'templed out' in Sri Lanka, but I wouldn't recommend recommend missing this one.

This place is a marvellous collection of ancient ruins. Walking around it's really easy to imagine how the place might have looked nearly 1000 years ago. The sites are scattered so you'll need to hire either a tuktuk or bicycle to explore it fully if you don't have a driver.

The museum at the start gives some detail about the history of the place, however I would have liked to know more about each site as I was walking around it and information boards are lacking - so either take a decent guide book with you or splash out and hire a tour guide. I wish we had.

Also for those complaining about the $30 fee for tourists...get over it. It's a pittance and besides, it is the Sri Lankan's national treasure to be preserved and not exploited by hoards of foreign tourists.

30+ shrines was ancient capital in 11th century
Sue C [TA], , London, United Kingdom

Found this very interesting and was good to see all the different statues and shrines. All in their original state, nothing been renovated or modernised. Amazing sculptures out of one piece of rock near the lake.

Expensive but worth every penny
Jimmyg220... [TA], ,

Yes it is $30 but you can spend the whole day visiting the sites. I am not a big museum fan but could have spent a lot more time had we not arrived late due to our bus. The sites are great, more than doable on a bike but also fine in a Tuktuk if it is a bit hot. My advice would be visiting the ruins and going back to the museum later on in the day when it's dark and to help you with more information, perhaps not as spectacular as Anuradhapura but I preferred it and there is a lot more information dotted around the sites if you are interested in the history as well as the sights.

Cycle Tours
Megha07 [TA], , Colombo, Sri Lanka

The best way to experience this site is no doubt, by cycle..! Amazing experience..

Plenty for hire at the entrance.

Tuk Tuk rides through the site is another exciting option!

Cheap at the price
AJCG [TA], , Ascot, United Kingdom

How can people complain about a USD30 to see a site like this? And of course the locals should pay less... otherwise no Sri Lankan would ever see the place. This is a wonderful old site; well maintained with some magical stuff to see. Really worth the visit.

Geat Ancient City
Ruwan_Rat... [TA], , Colombo, Sri Lanka

Very lovely city with ruins of the 2nd kingdom of Sri Lanka. Lovely place with so much to see. A well planed city. I have visited more than 100 times, but it still give me a fresh felling when I visit it again and again. Like it very much.

Absolutely great!
Fausta N [TA], , Zurich, Switzerland

One of the best ruin sites in the world, along with Borobudur, Angkor Thom... in the top ten! Lovely, peaceful, not crowded, a must for Indiana Jones Freaks

Worth the trip
Bromitch [TA], , Perth

The ruins themselves are pretty awesome but what makes it better is the greenery surrounding them and how well maintained the old city is in terms of the tracks and cleanliness of the grass and gardens.

We hired bikes and it was an excellent choice. Riding around the place was quite serene and made for an excellent afternoon.

The place is extremely photogenic so photographers step to the front of the line. It reminded us a little of the ruins in Siam Reap in Cambodia but not quite as extravagant or amazing but definitely worth it.

We went to Anuradhapura the following day and were extremely disappointed. Having done the two back to back and comparing them I would choose this ancient city over it anyday. The ruins are more intact, the area is far better maintained (ie tracks, grass/gardens, no cow poo when walking with no shoes) and shows that your entry fee is actually going towards something. Although expensive and the Sri Lankan government extorts tourists with fees, this is the only one I've found to be worth it.

It's too spread out to do on foot and I feel sorry for the people in cars being driven around as the experience on bike made it all the more enjoyable. We didn't get a guide, just a map from the museum and off we went.

If I hadn't been to Angkor Wat etc in Cambodia I would have given it a 5.

A must see area!
Gordon C [TA], ,

This area is part of the Cultural Triangle and a must see in Sri Lanka. The Gal Vihara reclining Buddha(s) etc. are an amazing sight, the biggest and best in Sri Lanka. The whole area around and in Polonnaruwa is a cultural feast that take some time to digest. Allow at least 2 full days. Then try Minnerya Giritale Nature Reserve for a half day game safari, well, elephant viewing at least. There is not much biodiversity in Sri Lankan game parks but nevertheless give it a go.

Ancient place to lose the day in
Alemanne [TA], , Konstanz, Germany

I always love to stroll thru' ancient ruins and try to get the feeling of this place. Even with lots of other tourists around you'll always find a quiet spot to sit down and enjoy the peace.
Why only 4 stars? If I had to choose Polonnaruwa OR Anuradhapura (because of time or money strains) I would always prefer Anuradhapura because of its grandness.

Beautiful ruins but little bit expensive
Lieven B [TA], ,

We've visited the old town of Pollonaruwa in September 2014 by bike. Not so easy to find the museum to buy your ticket. It's located near the clock tower. Income price is 25 USD per person which is a little bit much for this kind of attractions. Ruins are very easy to visit by bike, you don't even need a lock on your bike when leaving them alone for 30 minutes :). You can't get lost as all the ruins are situated along one road.

Ruins and ruins everywhere
Magdalena... [TA], ,

Polonnaruwa was about an hours drive from our hotel in Habarana. We spent 1/2 day exploring the ruins of the ancient kingdom and also saw a few great lakes. Let me recall one massive lake - prarakram samdra lake

Mostly foundations, very few in tact buildings
Tom K [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

Perhaps I have been spoiled by the truly amazing remnants of ancient civilisations I have had the pleasure of viewing - Rome, Angkor Wat, and many Mayan ruins throughout Mexico and Guatemala - but these were mainly foundations with very few in tact buildings. Unlike the wonders of the Colosseum, the city of Tikal or the towering brilliance of the remains of Angkor Wat, Polonnaruwa is a non event. Sorely disappointed.

Astonishing ruins
Roy R [TA], , Tel Aviv, Israel

We came there after a 4.5 hours drive from Negombo, and boy was it worth it! Incredible statues and ruins very well preserved. We took a guide (recommended!) who enriched our experience tremendously. The sleeping Buddha is amazing, so huge.

greate polonnaruwa kindom
mark w [TA], , Rajasthan, India

They can not stop going !!!! It is an incredible archaeological city !!!! I was fascinated !!! !!!! Go again Spectacular !!!!

Excellent Ancient City
MichaelBo... [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

We spent a very hot day at Polonnaruwa and enjoyed every moment. We had a private driver/guide plus also hired bikes as it seemed a better way to cover all the distant sites.

You do need a guide to understand the significance of the sites and their meaning.

Recommend you visit if anywhere nearby.

Amazing architecture across a huge site
Shm00 [TA], , London, United Kingdom

Polonaruwa is a really interesting complement to a day spent in Anaradapura. Whereas the Anaradapura site is huge (and I mean truly vast) and involved a lot of travel between 'highlights' in a car, Polonaruwa felt much more manageable, and many of the buildings here are still standing, or partially so, giving a much clearer vision of what life would have been like in the palace and monastic compounds.

Lots of small flies
Welsh_tra... [TA], , The Netherlands

We didn't visit the local sights, but used it as an overnight stay after the safari. There was a lot of small flies and over priced hotels

Highlight of the cultural triangle
AndrewCol... [TA], , Cape Town

We spent about four hours with a driver going through the myriad historical sites at the old citadel. It just keeps on getting better the deeper you go into the citadel. The reclining Buddha is a spectacle to behold - and clearly revered.

Some criticisms are poor and or limited signage, it is quite littered in places, some of the sites are not being well maintained and you are more harassed by vendors and guides than anywhere else. Having said this though, we loved our time here.

Ancient city of King Parakkramabahu.
Dilak j [TA], , Negombo,Sri lanka

This is another place we visited during our trip, All these areas are really warm as the day goes on so be there as early as possible much better for the travelers. One main attraction is the stature of great king parakkramabahu , Next is his palace, by 10 am we were able to cover these two places.

Great ruins and statue but rubbish everywhere
Alberto G [TA], , Bologna, Italy

Polonnaruwa is the ancient capital of Sri Lanka from the 10th to 13th century. The ticket is 25 dollar per each person. There are some fine temple ruins and statues to be visit. The Buddhist temples are a lot but the well conserved are the round one, the square one and the one where there is the biggest Buddha statue. All these temples are still a sacre places so you must take off the shoes.
There is also a place where you can see 2 big Buddha statues: the first statue is in sleeping position and the other one is in meditation position.
The temple ruins and the statues are a very beautiful place to visit but there are a lot of rubbish!!! It was unacceptable because the ticket is expensive and there are a lot of guards who were only check your ticket!! What a pity for a nice place like Polonnaruwa!!

Farziya A [TA], ,

Well it was very informative about the historic side of Sri Lanka. Atleast one place preserved properly. But sadly if your Muslim who covers the head just remember you can see it from only the outside. You cannot enter the inside since covering the head is disrespectful for the Buddha. Other than that nothing to complain.

archeological site
Martine B [TA], , Melun, France

Superb site, very well preserved, very quiet with nice monuments. We could imagine the life of the kings at that time. Very pleasant to ride a bike as it is huge.

Bob R [TA], , Nis, Serbia

With Sigiriya, for me, this is the highlight of Sri Lanka! Beautiful ruins...temples...statues... It is best to hire a bike and drive slowely thru the ancient city. It took me 5 hours to see all on a very hot day! Be prepared to be barefooted and without a hat in the temples, though they are in the open

Better than Anuradhapura - for the price CHOOSE HERE INSTEAD!
Sukie W [TA], , Birmingham, United Kingdom

So I have written a lot about the ridiculous pricing of the tickets for tourists in Sri Lanka, hence I won't again.

However for the price they charge for these sites I would highly recommend Polonarurwa over Anuradhapura.

While it is the SECOND Capitol not the first, the stone Buddhas here are simply amazing and with a guide, there is much more impressive things to see.

If you wish to do both, of course be my guest. But in my experience, Polonarurwa is a much more impressive and worthwhile trip.

Take a guide (~2000rs DONT pay more) and a car/bike. And remember ladies that it is a holy place, so long skirts and shoulders covered.

PS the ground BURNS bare feet so maybe take socks???

Another amazing Sri Lankan wonder
Mr. MJB [TA], , Cheltenham, United Kingdom

We were lucky to have a very knowledgeable driver guide for our 8 day tour of Sri Lanka and he was very good at choosing the most interesting places to visit in an orderly way through this site. Personally I found it more interesting than Anuradapura as the buildings are slightly less ruined and it is therefore easier to imagine the ancient occupants going about their business. A lot of shoe removing is involved but this is just showing respect for the culture and is entirely acceptable but I do endorse the view of others who suggest wearing socks. Also take care not to offend local people. We saw one young man adopt a silly pose with his back to a Buddha to be photographed. A Sri Lankan gentleman insisted on taking the camera to delete the picture and then handed it back. - good for him.
This site is huge, it would need more than a day to visit and absorb it all and too much space on this review to describe it. So all I will do is to strongly recommend that it is included in your itinerary.

Huge site
Andrew M [TA], , Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

We were lucky enough to have a guide who has worked at the site for over 37 years. He knew every building inside out. We started at the museum and studied the model of the site, which gives and idea how huge it is.

The buildings have a fascinating history, although by the end of the day, we were getting a little worn out.

The site is completely different to Anuradhapura. Much of the site has still to be 'discovered'. As other have said, take decent footware for walking but can be easily taken on and off.

Well worth it
Rediff L [TA], , Washington DC, District of Columbia

Great ruins. Worth the journey and well maintained. Don't need a guide if you have your Lonely Planet or Rough Guide. There is a lot of history here and everything is just very epic. Lot of places you do need to take off your shoes.

The ancient city
LaiYi P [TA], , Hong Kong, China

The ancient city is worth to see but be aware when finding local tour guide, they might not be professional. Needa remove shoes and cover yourself up if you wanna go into the temple.

Ancient City
DorothyKa... [TA], , Hong Kong, China

This is the place where lots of ancient located at. The building is awesome so it's worth to visit this place unless you do not like to visit an ancient city.

How into Heritage are you ?
Andersons... [TA], , Kinver, West Midlands, UK

If the historical legacy of Sri Lanka is your thing then go ahead a spend a day filling yourself with it, in truth on a hot July day it didn't float our boat, there are some must see photo shots, but much of the site is low walls where things once stood. The museum is a good start (text in English so unless you need someone to read it to you don't get a guide here). The site is holy so be prepared to have shoes on and off at regular intervals and dress appropriately.

Part of the cultural triangle
585Petr [TA], , Eastbourne, United Kingdom

We visited this site as a part of of our escorted tour. As mentioned in previous reviews, the entry ticket price is much higher for tourist (and you must buy the ticket), but this is the reality across the Island, the same regarding intrusive locals, trying to be your guide and selling the junk. These aspects were the only negative ones, otherwise this place is must to visit. Compare to other places (Sigiriya and Kandy), it really worth to have reliable guide (or at least to visit the museum first) and with the car, because the site is large - scale, and you cannot just walk on it. The alternative could be to hire a bike, but could be difficult when the weather is hot.

better than anuradhapura
Maaikelvg [TA], , Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Yes, its better; the ancient city is easier to visit since the sites are more concentrated in one place, the national park with elephants is nearby and its situated along a beautiful lake and therefor more beautiful than Anradhapura.

If I need to choose for next time - choose Polonnaruwa instead of Anuradhapura (was in both) - very nice and various
Zsuzsa N [TA], , Bratislava, Slovakia

The all place is various and not so ruins as in Anuradhapura, than is more enjoyable. It takes around 2,5 hours to see everything - by car.

World Best
jeni p [TA], , Scottsboro, Alabama

I have loved ones of ancient monuments is their architettura.Molto advanced dal'europa conservation is also maintained and lakes all around this beautiful ancient city we had so much fun doing bagno.Polonnaruwa as a city is worth a visit.

Historic site but so large you need a day to visit
SteJenny [TA], ,

We visited Polonnaruwa in November and had mixed experiences of it. The whole site is huge with numerous buildings and historical places to see from old temples and stoops to swimming pools and statutes. It was fascinating but visit with a guide as there are no real explanations about what each building is or it's historical importance. If you visit on your own you can visit the museum across the road which explains the history and what each place is but you will have forgotten which building is which when you walk around.

I found the whole site interesting and for those of you who like animals we saw a whole range of local wildlife during our visit including about 100 monkeys feeding in a field. I would say it is a must see but spare a whole afternoon as you can not just pay a quick visit.

Worth The Entrance Fees
smellyoch... [TA], , Kuala Lumpur

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

A superb ancient city, worth a visit
ScottCabs [TA], , London, United Kingdom

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.

One of the 3 places you m u s t visit in Sri Lanka
Werner N [TA], , Mumbai (Bombay), India

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.

Interesting enough place
Richard K [TA], , London, United Kingdom

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.

The city of the big ruins and the beautifull lake
Luvamoren... [TA], , Barcelona, Spain

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.

Go as early in the day as you can
Nigel B [TA], , Rotorua

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

Ancient ruins in a green forest
DocNewYor... [TA], , New York

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.

Not to be missed
Marsonia [TA], , Osijek, Croatia

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

Kasun R [TA], ,

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.

Interesting historical site
David S [TA], , London, England, United Kingdom

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.

fabulous ancient ruined city in a beautiful green park
dianagray [TA], , East Sussex

If you enjoy ancient historical sites, this is a lovely one. The lush green setting makes it special. To see the ruins rising out of the greenery or glimpsed through the trees is magical. With imagination ---and copious notes or a good guide---- you can 'see' how it might have been, imagine all the ceremonies and activities and take yourself back 100s of years. The site covers a large area. Many people ride around it on bicycles or have a tuk tuk or car to get to the main entrances. There are some small occasional stalls/shops where you can get water (most important when you're walking around in the heat) and snacks.

Better ancient city to visit
tianyi z [TA], , Beijing, China

We visited Polonnaruwa ancient city one day after Anuradharpura ancient city visit. Generally speaking we found this one was better. They show you the overall picture and background info in a museum first, which is helpful. Besides Buddhism, here you can also find Hindu heritage. We also saw a group of deer closely during our visit here. Overall, I prefer Polonnaruwa than Anuradharpura.

very interesting
Objective... [TA], , Chengdu

if u like culture and history tourism, visit this place. it's enjoyable and so much better than Anuradhapura

Holy sites take one back in time
PatiBaz47 [TA], , Clayton, New York

The Polonnaruwa area is alive with so much to see of the ancient city with many ruins. There is so much to see that it may warrant a few days to take everything in,

Heartland Sri Lankan Beauty
whowesit [TA], , Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We fell in love with this part of Sri Lanka due to its natural beauty. The local people were happy and friendly, leading a simple lifestyle. The jungle and abundance of wildlife makes this corner of the world especially beautiful due to its unspoilt natural beauty.

Definitely rent a bike
ErinMonic... [TA], , Alexandria, Virginia

We went to the museum first, which was helpful to get a sense of the area before we set out. Then we went across the road and rented bikes to tour the 3mi stretch of ruins. We were able to cover a lot more ground on bikes than on foot, and the bikes were safe to just set down, without locking, while we explored each area.

Excellent ruins, boring town!
darkydoor... [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

Polonnaruwa ruins are remarkably well preserved and some of the finest examples of craftmanship in Sri Lanka, mainly due to it being the youngest of the cultural triangle ancient cities. Cycling or tuk tuk tours around the city are probably the best way to get around, and one day is enough time to explore fully. The town however offers little except fantastic rice and curry at a little sunken, corner cafe near the roundabout. Believe it or not, Polonaruwa is the only place that I was hasseled as a female! However, this is not to be missed off any cultural itinery!

Best to go the Museum first
KingofCar... [TA], , Hsipaw, Myanmar

Lot of people complain that it's all about statues and Buddha all because they didn't bother to learn the history at the museum where you buy tickets. I was deeply engaged while visiting the ruins for the tour at the museum gave some background of what I would see at the site. I arrived at 8AM at the museum (too early) and spent an hour before going to the site. Before lunch I went out to escape the heat and came back at 3. Just tell the entrance that you'll return they'll write down your passport number on your ticket. A bike was really useful to go around it and recognize the different sites written on my guide. After lunch, very few people were there except for the couple who didn't have bikes and took it on foot! I spotted a deer, some eagles and birds. The paths leading to the Lotus Pond was uphill so it was kind of steep. Had a great day!

if you don't wanna go out, bring packed lunch. Contrary to what people say at the entrance, no decent meals are sold inside.

Rock, Rock, Rock.
evelinezv... [TA], , Utrecht, The Netherlands

Fun to see, but a lot of rocks!
You should definitely rent a bicycle!!

Make sure you buy enough drinks before going. You can buy drinks down there, but it is really expensive,

I would not go around lunch time. It is the hottest time of the day... and I can tell you, it is to hot!
You have to take your shoes of if you want to see the sacred ruins too. So it burns your feet if you go around noon.

A must see in Sri Lanka
Chris R [TA], , Watford, United Kingdom

We had an excellent guide in Fernando. If the weather is hot take socks for when you have to take shoes off in the temples and walk on burning hot ground.

Look out for huge water monitors in the run-off from the tank near the museum entrance.

A highlight of our trip to Sri Lanka
LeethalLe... [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

The ruins in Polonnaruwa and Buddha statues are well worth a visit. They date from the 12 century and are amazing in their construction. The 4 Buddha statues carved out of one piece of rock are also very impressive.

We had our own guide, Sam Samarakoon, who was able to provide us with lots of information, and drive us from site to site.

Should be included on any itinerary of Sri Lanka.

The ruins
RikaMalay... [TA], , Malaysia

A place steeped on history. U must have a good guide to explain the ruins. Beware of the numerous souvenir sellers who can be pests. Don t miss the lotus pond and do bring sunglasses and bottles of water , a hat and a good pir of shoes.

Huge site of ancient ruins
John12312 [TA], , Singapore

The ruins of temples and houses are scattered everywhere. So you need a car or if you are able to take the burning sun you can hire a bicycle to ride around. The ancient ruins are not as monumental as Angkor Wat or Borobudor. You either like it or dislike it. But the value of understanding the culture and history of a country is the purpose for visiting the place. To enter the site you need to pay an entrance fee of US$25 at the Main Museum even though locals are free. Take you time to explore the site. You need to remove your shoe to enter the temple premises which is not a pleasant way to walk especially on a hot afternoon.Wear light clothing with hat and bring along bottle of water. You need to bargain till ridiculous low price before buying anything from touts selling souvenirs.

Not spectacular
Tweetcoz [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

Such a long drive from Dambulla to see something that isn't that spectacular is so disappointing and such a waste of a good part of the day.

Ancient ruins. Not much left to say about this place really. We were driven around or you could cycle in the heat if you are crazy like some others. Wear something below knees. No photos allowed to be taken with your back to the statue. Remove shoes and get your feet burnt in the blazing sun on the heated rocky sandy path.

Costs 3,250 rps each

Loved every moment of it!
PSH_08 [TA], , Colombo, Sri Lanka

Ancient capital city of Sri Lanka. Loved & lived every moment of it!


:: Always carry loads of water.
:: Don't forget to take Hat/Umbrella/Shades
:: Do visit to museum during noon time to escape from SUN/heat.
:: Ladies, avoid wearing shorts keep a shawl always with you.
:: Do not take photographs of yourself with any statues on the background

Enjoy your trip!

Lots of history in a lovely location
KarenPUAE [TA], , Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Visited here after an early morning climb of Sigiriya Lion Rock, so it was 10.30 when we got to the museum. Quite busy but very interesting. I don't think you appreciate the distances between the relics so it was a good job we had a driver. Suggest to anyone to go to the Temples first where you need to take your shoes off because by 1pm you could fry eggs on the ground. If you are in flipflops or sandals take socks or you really will burn your feet. Lots to see with palace and temples and gardens and the breeze from the lake is very welcome. Not too littered, and if you are female and need the toilet at some of the locations there is another toilet which is locked. This is locked but for a few rupees the guy will unlock it and make sure there is toilet paper!

wonderful ancient city
Theofilos... [TA], , Rhodes Town, Greece

We visiting the site with a driver who also explained the importance of buildings. The ancient city is another of the old capital cities of Sri Lanka and so much has survived, albeit in ruins. There is so much to see. A huge garden with tranquility, outside the ancient city there is an artificial lake that are worth visiting.

Ancient City with lots of things to see
RuthHowes [TA], , Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We were lucky to have a monk as our guide and he took us to the most favoured places. We also had a car to take us to the different places. It was a hot day and taking shoes off and walking onthe hot ground was hard but it was all worth it. A guide is definitely a need here.

Worth A Visit
Bill J [TA], , Camberley, United Kingdom

Found the museum very interesting. The site and the ruins of the palace and temples are spread out over a large area. We wished that we had allowed more time to take it all in. As a previous reviewer mentioned, shoes must be removed before entering some of the temples - trust me, that ground was hot!

A guide is needed to bring this to life
DREGS [TA], , East Grinstead, United Kingdom

This place is very spread out and our guide was great. Moon stones and Buddhist history considering the image houses and stoopers make this an amazing place. Without a guide I'd imagine this would be boring and dull.

This is an enormous citadel.
Middlemis... [TA], , Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

The whole site covers miles and you are best starting at the Museum which is well laid out describing each part of the citadel. Then it really is a car or bus journey round, though I gather you can rent bikes. It was very hot for sight seeing when we were there and in parts you had to take your shoes off - take soaks with you to save your feet from the hot stone. However it is quite spectacular in its shear size and the number of different buildings. Sun cream and water essential.

A great UNESCO site
bhuxtable [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

I visited Polonnaruwa as part of my Intrepid Tour and preferred it than Anuradhapura. To be honest, I think I'm still ' ruined out' from my Central America holiday where I saw countless Mayan an Aztec ruins the year prior. It was beautiful, but I don't think I appreciated it as much as I could have. Think I'm going to avoid ruins for a couple of years now, however it's definitely a must see in Sri Lanka. There are some beautiful photo opportunities available here.

Excellent UNESCO World Heritage site
vbm6 [TA], , London

The museum is excellent and well presented. Use the toilet here as there is nothing available outside. it is also reasonably clean. You have to go to the museum to buy your ticket and then make your way to the site which is 5-10 minutes away. The site is huge and will require several days to absorb everything. Even just the highlights will take a whole day. The property is poorly signposted and finding your way around is not easy. My suggestion is to pick up an official guide (check the licence) lurking outside the museum, tell him how much time you have, negotiate a price and let him guide you. It is an amazing site well worth a visit as the poor maintenance will probably ensure that certain parts will be closed to the public in the future for preservation purposes. The huge granite carvings are worth the (expensive) entrance fees alone. The site is completely outdoors so go in the morning when it is cooler as it gets very hot in the afternoon. Also wear shoes you can take off easily as there are many sites which require you to enter bare footed. Wear sun cream and bring plenty of water as there's nothing available once inside.

a bit expencive
marishkaS [TA], , Candolim, India

Its nice place for the one who is interested in history. you can make lots of nice pictures and see many ancient ruins. knowing a story behind makes it more exciting but price is little high and its not very comfortable to drive to the museum to purchase the ticket..
Half day is enough to see the place.Be ready for the heat!

Interesting monuments, hot weather
zigoslav [TA], , Ptuj, Slovenia

Visited in last days of July, its a realy big complex of monuments, with remarkable historic buildings. Comparable to monuments in Egypt or Greece. We couldn't visit all of them in half day. The weather was realy hot, suggesting everyone to use suncreme.

Don't miss
HermesFra... [TA], , France

This palce has been added to UNESCO as a major site , old capital of Sri Lanka ...plenty of buildings and the site gives a good idea of town organisation several centuries ago .

Rip off
Julian S [TA], , Bristol, United Kingdom

Massively overpriced for poor relation to Annaradhapura. Tip - get the local tuk tuk driver to get you in the back entrance for a fraction of the price.

Great for exploring - brought out my hubby's inner Indiana Jones
Edgecombe... [TA], , Plymouth, United Kingdom

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Polonnaruwa!
It brought out the inner Indiana Jones in my husband .. i'm sure much to the despair of our tour guide!
There are so many remains to see so be sure you leave plenty of time in order to be able to really appreciate them.

Lots of old bricks
Kay_from... [TA], , New York City, New York

I consider myself to be an amateur archeology buff. I've been planning all my holidays around visiting archeological sites for 5+ years. Unfortunately P'ruwa is just average. The buildings are poorly preserved, with little artistic detail remaining, so most of the time you're just seeing piles of brick. I was done with the site in 3 hours. It is an interesting site, and it does provide insight on ancient Sri Lanka. But it's underwhelming if you've seen Pompei, Anchor Wat, Petra, or traveled to Egypt. I went to Sri Lanka assuming that A'pura and P'ruwa were world class sites. They're not.

Awesome, in the true sense of the word
Julia940 [TA], , Sydney, Australia

Well worth the time spent here, and get yourself a good guide. Lots of hawkers which was the negative, but don't be put off. Good to start off at the museum to help understand the history more fully.

Amazing site

Again to appreciate everything to be seen here I would definitely recommend the services of a guide. The site is huge and unless you have a very good guide book I think you would just be wandering around without realising what you are looking at.

Impressive. You need a day to see it all.
Chris W [TA], , Peterborough, United Kingdom

The ruins are spread over a vast area so I only did the main ruins. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982 and I can see why as the site is full of stupas, temples, Buddha statues and historic ruins.

A nice historical place
sabanis [TA], , Paris, France

A place to visit to see these nice ruins, you need to spend couple of hours up to half day in that area at least.

Great for historians
sigrid_b2... [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

First stop has to be the museum, which is not that big, but explains what you see in the ruins, what was there in the past etc. Not too crowded, I was alone and was not hassled or rushed at any stage. Very enjoyable.

A massive site, impossible to take in
Phil S [TA], , Hereford, United Kingdom

We were fortunate with our guide/driver as he explained the site and the significance of the buildings clearly. I feel that it could be a little overwhelming to visit without an explanation. This is another of the old capital cities of Sri Lanka and so much of it has survived, albeit in ruins. There is so much to take it that I would suggest, if you are pushed for time, that you get transport and just take in the more important areas. The man-made lake is worth a drive along.

A huge town in ruins
christoph... [TA], , London, United Kingdom

I spent about 6 hours there , I had to rend a bike because cars are not allowed on the site and it is about a 10 kilometers walk if you want to see everything. The heat made it very hard to stay and if you do nit have a guide they are just stones leftovers!
I think it is an easy one to skip and people should focus more on Dambulla cave and Sigirya rock

Expensive, but worth every rupee
Zvijer [TA], , Zagreb, Croatia

Yes, entrance fee is high, and they have special price for foreigners. But consider this is their best source of income for further protection, research and preservation of the site, and cough it up.

We did not took a guide, but we did a lot of research prior to visit. Explanations on the site are not very detailed,so if you don't know anything about it, a guide is recommended.
In any case, it is well worth visiting museum before visiting the site to familiarize yourself with it.

Best way to get around are bicycles, which can be rented cheaply around the town and in any guesthouse. Take your time and enjoy, this is a well worth half-day to full-day trip.

Wonderful place
solofem77 [TA], , Manchester, United Kingdom

Expensive but a wonderful place, You must visit the museum first. Also be prepared for lots of travel between the various sites a bike , tutut or car is needed.

A beautiful place to spend some time.
vagabond1... [TA], ,

This is a vast site to visit so either arrange transport or hire a bicycle to fully appreciate it. The museum will give you a good insight into the history. Please remember that there are some temples and sacred sites so dress and behave appropriately. Definitely worth the visit but the $25 fee is a bit much

Expensive but a must visit.
Dleow [TA], , Singapore

This sight cost 30 usd per person. Yes, it's really expensive but they are trying to conserve the amazing place so we were willing to pay. The ruins were great with Buddha statues relatively well preserved, a destroyed palace, temples which used to house the tooth relic and others. At least worth a visit once in your lfe.

must visit
chandanal... [TA], , Syracuse, Italy

this is second ancient capil of srilanka ,we visited to see seven story palace belongs to king parakrama was built on 5 century,veru nice and amazing evry body should go and visit them yes yes yes.

Interesting but not a lot of explanation
AndrewJV... [TA], , Nueva York, Nueva York

The ruins you see are relatively small compared to other ancient city ruins I've seen in other places in Asia. There are several places to visit in the area, some of which are quite small and similar. The real gap was the lack of information as you went though. You get some context from the museum, but nothing in depth anywhere else. It's best that you read up on the history and the site ahead of time if you are looking for more context. Same issue in Anuradapura. The entry prices are very very high for foreigners in my opinion for this and nearly every other site in the Sri Lanka. You should at least get better information and on-site "context" for your money.

Very historic place
Sha F [TA], , Melbourne, Australia

The ancient ruins and the lovely environment. The people were friendly. The hotel we stayed was excellent.

Marvellously atmospheric ruins
Cornwallg... [TA], , Gunnislake

After several days heavy rain and poor visibility, it was hot and sunny again the day we went round Polonnaruwa. It was a beautiful drive from Dambulla, going around the Minneriya tank and through the park, and our experienced driver/guide ensured we saw the ruins to best advantage, starting with the excellent museum. This really helped to put the site in context, as it is huge - far bigger than I had imagined. He took us from place to place by car, and we took his advice as to the order in which to do it. Bear in mind that many of the stupa and temple ruins are still regarded as holy sites and the usual rules about removing hats & footwear obtain - it really helps to have easily removable shoes! There were a few touts and sellers at each of them, but none are persistent or in your face. It really is very beautiful, and the crisp quality of some of the carvings after such a passage of time is amazing. As with most of the major attractions in Sri Lanka, the entry ticket price is quite high, but the cleanliness and condition of the large area is remarkably good. We thought it was fascinating and I enjoyed it more than Sigiriya, but possibly because the weather was good and it was on the flat!

great place with history
Korniak [TA], , Lodz, Poland

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.

Just amazing!
missyb_11 [TA], , Adelaide, Australia

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.

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