Explore the Ruins of the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Explore the Ruins of the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

The well-preserved ruins of Polonnaruwa were established in the 11th century by the Sinhalese kingdom. They are considered the highlight of The Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka and an important stop during your travels around the country. The ancient city consists of monasteries, temples, shrines, houses and dagobas, gathered in various groups and spread over a large area. Lost for centuries it was excavated only in the 20th century and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

How to Explore Polonnaruwa Ruins

Polonnaruwa is an ancient city covering a large area. The distance in between the temples is big, therefore you have 3 options on how best to explore it.

  • By walk is the cheapest way. However, be aware that it will take at least 30 min to reach different complexes.
  • By bike is by far most popular option. There are bike rentals at the entrance gate.
  • By scooter if you arrive on one. That’s what we did. We drove here from Sigiriya where our hotel was located and then used the scooter to drive in between of the sites.

TIP : The tickets are sold only at the Polonnaruwa Tourist Information Center and Tourist Police, NOT at the entrance gate. 

Visiting Polonnaruwa Ancient City

Passing the entrance gate turn right and start sightseeing at the Royal Palace Group. Visit the remains of Parakramabahu’s palace and the Audience Hall. 

TIP : Make sure to wear clothing covering your shoulders and knees or take a shawl that can cover them. 

Hop back on the scooter or bike and drive north stopping at the spectacular Quadrangle: home to the splendid Vatadage that houses the Tooth Relic. 

TIP : Wear easy removable footwear, but do wear socks. To enter the ruins you must remove your shoes, but during the day the sand gets unbearably hot and could burn your feet. Walking with the socks is a great alternative. 

Continue north on the road and reach the impressive Rankot Vihara. Its the 4th largest dagoba in Sri Lanka, measuring more than 50 m high. 

Do not forget to visit the Gal Vihara just outside of the city walls. This shrine comprises a group of four beautiful Buddha statues carved out of a single piece of granite. 

Note : It is forbidden in all the temples to face back towards the Buddha statues. If you walk away, you must keep facing the statue and make your way backwards.

There are many monkey groups & families on the site. They are harmless and very cute. Please do not disturb them and do not feed them. ??

If you are interested in visiting other UNESCO World Heritage sites during your travels around Sri Lanka, discover Galle Fort on the southern coast.

Practical Info

Opening Hours

The site is open daily from 7.30AM to 6PM.

The Entrance Ticket

The entrance fee to Polonnaruwa Ancient City costs 3750 LRK (18.5 EUR) and you can buy tickets at the Polonnaruwa Tourist Information Centre and Tourist Police

Best Time to Visit

It’s best to explore the ruins either early in the morning or late afternoon. The heat during the day can get really intense. 

TIP : Visit Polonnaruwa ruins in the morning and arrange an afternoon safari at Kaudulla or Minneriya National Parks.

 Read : The Best National Parks for Safari in Sri Lanka

What to Bring

Make sure to wear comfortable and easy removable shoes, clothing that covers your knees and shoulders, a hat and sunscreen. Also bring with you a bottle of water.

Read : Simple hacks to being Eco Friendly while Traveling

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