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An update from Evaneos

Polonnaruwa (Sri Lanka)

Practical information about Polonnaruwa

  • Place or Religious Monument
  • Archaeological Site
  • Place or Historical Monument
  • Unesco World Heritage
  • Essential
4 / 5 - 2 reviews
How to get there
213km by bus from Colombo
When to go
From January through April
Minimum stay
1 to 2 days

Reviews of Polonnaruwa

Romain Beuvart Travel writer
89 travel articles

Polonnaruwa is a historic city forming a part of the 'Cultural Triangle' of Sri Lanka, acknowledged as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1982.

My suggestion:
The site is very expansive, so hire a tuk-tuk for the day as it's the easiest way to visit all the different sites without having to actively look for the temples.

The remains of Polonnaruwa are spread out over numerous sites. Among the most well-known are the Quadrangle and the Gal Vihara. When you arrive on the bus, a group of tuk-tuks will be there ready to welcome you. I find this is practical to visit the site whilst you are at it, and much more if you travel as a family.  

The majority of buildings have a religious function, but not all of them, for example, the first of the day's visit which was a royal advisory chamber with the palace not far from there. The Quadrangle site, a bit further away, is a collection of temples on a raised plateau. I found it interesting to see the completely different types of architecture in the same place: sometimes a temple would remind me of the Khmer style, whereas another would be, so to speak, unique. The other peculiarity that the place has is that it still supports its heavy stone roof even after 1,000 years!

Among the other sites, I saw the large stupa of Rankoth Vehera and the impressive Lankatilaka temple with its thick walls 17m high. I was, however, quite disappointed upon arriving at the Gal Vihara, as the figures of Buddha were carved out of a rock partition. To protect it from bad weather, the site is completely covered by a sheet of metal which does diminish the charm somewhat! This leaves the monkeys to entertain you...

Take note however - the heat can get too much in Polonnaruwa and make your visit uncomfortable.

One of the Gal Vihara Buddhas
Vatadage temple on the Quadrangle site
David Debrincat Travel writer
459 travel articles

213km from Colombo, Polonnaruwa is a marvellous site which you can easily explore by bike.

My suggestion:
I invite you to hire a bike in the village to explore the fabulous temples with freedom. It would be ideal to begin your visit very early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the stifling heat.

The Cultural Triangle is a rite of passage on every trip to Sri Lanka. Acknowledged as a UNESCO world heritage site, Polonnaruwa spreads out over several kilometres.

You can hire a tuk-tuk if you want, but a bicycle might be a better idea as it offers you more freedom. It's a real pleasure to go from temple to temple with the wind in your hair. There are around 8 hours of visits you can do either in one whole day or two half-days, at your own speed.

There are many things that can quench the thirst of the curious tourist, from the statue of the king Parakrama Bahu to the terrace of the Tooth relic, via the Poth Gul Vihara, the temple of Shiva and many more besides. Another thirst to be quenched will be that created by the stifling heat. Don't hesitate to take a break in the little huts built at the side of the road.

Statue of Buddha in Polonnaruwa