Sri Lanka Travel Tours



Sum up

The well-preserved ruins of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka’s medieval royal capital, are one of the country’s most prominent cultural sites. You can spend several hours wandering freely between the various ruined temples, imposing Buddha statues and royal bathing pools.

Duration: 2 hours

Best Time: Year-round

Additional Information

First a military base for invading South Indian Chola tribes until King Vijayabahu overthrew them in 1070, Polonnaruwa was subsequently developed into a city by King Parakramabahu I and it became the country’s capital city until the late 13th century. This is regarded as a golden age for Sri Lanka when the kingdom thrived under his visionary rule.

Polonnuruwa is recognised as Sri Lanka’s second capital and it superseded Anaradhapura which was destroyed in 993. The ruins are clustered over an extensive area of about 4kms from north to the south which makes them ideal to explore by hired bicycle. A great man-made reservoir, or tank, named after King Parakramabuhu, and a museum are both within easy reach.

The ancient city is in remarkably good nick and is a fascinating cultural site to visit, home to ruins of a palace, an enormous dagoba, stunning statues and a striking building which has such unusual architecture that it is still unexplained by historians today. Some of the most impressive ruins are the sculptures at the Gal Viahara, which were cut into granite stone in the middle of the 12th century.

The entire sculpture consists of four colossal statues of Buddha – a samadhi image in meditation posture; a seated Buddha image inside a cave; a standing Buddha image which is 23ft in height, and recumbent Buddha image measuring 46ft which depicts the passing away.

As an interesting sideline, you can also learn about the rival monkeys of Polonnuruwa which also contend for supremacy over the site.

For further information on Sri Lanka’s main historic sites please see our regional guide to the Cultural Triangle.You might also like our Monkey Kingdom of Polonnaruwa activity.

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