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Polonnaruwa, the second capital of Sri Lanka

Updated on 10.06.2018

The Historic City of Polonnaruwa is a premier archeological site in Sri Lanka, and a key stop in the Cultural Triangle. It is Sri Lanka's second capital, after the destruction of Anuradhapura. Polonnaruwa presents a rich architectural heritage to its visitors.

Polannaruwa Temple, Sri Lanka

A little history

In the eighth century, Polonnaruwa housed only a modest royal residence. Two centuries later, while Anuradhapura, the first capital on Sri Lanka, is rapidly declining after the Rajaraja Tamil ruler has been razed, Polonnaruwa is developing under the impulse of the Sinhalese kings. With a mastery of irrigation, the city becomes a base for reconquest of Sri Lanka, and will reach its peak in the 12th and 13th centuries. Driven by the megalomania of its leaders, sumptuous royal and religious buildings were built in the city.

Guide to visit

Before visiting the archaeological sites, let's start with the Polannaruwa Museum (Polannaruwa Museum). There are few exhibits but very interesting models of buildings to understand their original architecture. Allow between 15 and 30 minutes to visit the museum.

The first sites to visit are grouped in the South, not far from the museum. The first site is made up of three buildings: the Royal Palace (Vejayanta Pasada) and hundreds of rooms for the maidens of the king's court. Then walk to the Royal Baths (Kumara Pokuna) which you will reach down a staircase. Then retracing your steps, stop at the boardroom (Parakrama Bahu) recognizable by its multitude of vertical columns. These are not religious sites so no need to take off your shoes; on the other hand for almost all the other sites that we will present, it will be necessary to take off shoes to penetrate the buildings.

Five hundred meters north, on the left, a temple dedicated to Shiva. Then further north, the famous Terrace of the Tooth which consists of a set of religious buildings, including the Vatadage (pictured above), the Hatadage (just opposite, a temple that would have housed a tooth of Boudha) .

Go back by car and travel about two kilometers to the north on a road that was once very commercial to reach the southern part of Polonnaruwa.

Lankatilaka exposes a large standing Buddha, which is reached after crossing a set of Stupas populated by nice gray-faced monkeys.

On the other side of the road near the lake, Kalu Gal Viahara presents other standing Buddha.

Taking the car further north, we reach the House of Images (Tivanka Image House), a building whose beauty is revealed once inside, whose walls are rich with colorful frescoes.

Useful information

You probably understood that it is better to be transported to visit Polonnaruwa. Renting bicycles from your hotel is also possible.

To visit all sites including the museum, you must buy a pass worth 3900LKR, on sale at the museum.

Polonnaruwa Hotels

Polonnaruwa offers a limited range of hotels. Without being the best, the lakeside hotels generally offer a beautiful view of the wild waters.