Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka: Travel/Tourist Information Guide

It is the main town of Polonnaruwa District in North Central Province of Sri Lanka. The Polonnaruwa New Town is Kaduruwela area and the rest is the royal ancient city of the Kingdom of Polonnaruwa. It is the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms. It was first declared the capital city by King Vijayabahu I. He defeated Chola invaders in 1070 to reunite the country once more under a local leader. In 1982, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa was added to UNESCO World Heritage List. The city is located 216 km northeast of Colombo, 140 km northeast of Kandy and 104 km southeast of Anuradhapura. The city is well-preserved and it is home to many ancient dagobas, moonstones, parks, buildings and statues. The city has a tropical climate most of the year and it is occasionally chilly in December and January.

Getting There

There are several ways to get to Polonnaruwa. Firstly, the nearest airport is Hingurakgoda Airport in Ratmanlana. There are flights operated by FitsAir from Colomco to Ratmanala. From Sigiriya Airport, there are flights operated by FitsAir, Millennium Airlines and Cinnamon Air from Colombo. The most convenient way to travel is by hiring a taxi which charges LKR 30 per km. Most cars are air conditioned which will make the journey more comfortable. The journey takes around five to six hours. Next, travelling with train is quite cheap and there are three wheelers riding to the train station. From Colombo Fort Station, there are trains to Trincomalee that connects in Gal Oya. Trains are not air conditioned. The last option is by bus. There are buses leave from Colombo Fort. The journey takes from six to eight hours. From Anuradhapura, buses run throughout the day and the journey takes around three hours.

Getting Around

To get around, the best way is by bicycle. They can be rented from most guest houses. It is recommended to make sure the condition of the bikes is good and their tyres are properly inflated. The sights of Polonnaruwa are located next to each other which make it convenient to get around by a bicycle. There are are also buses that run frequently between Old Town and Kaduruwela. Three wheelers ask for Rs 200 or more.

Places to Visit

Archaeological MuseumGal ViharayaGal ViharayaLankatikalaRoyal PalaceTivanka Image HouseVatadageVatadage

Gal Viharaya

There are four figures of the Buddha carved out of a small cliff face of granite. They are part of Parakramabahu’s northern monastery. They are considered to be the best rock sculptures of the island. The earliest is the standing Buddha. It is 7 m tall and considered the finest. The other statues were added later by Parakramabahu. The reclining Buddha is 14 m long. The other images are both of the seated Buddha.

Lankatikala

It is located at the heart of the Alahana Pirivena. The shrine is a 12th Buddhist shrine with enourmous brick structure. It was built by Parakramabahu and later restored by Vijayabahu IV. It has 17 m high walls.

Archeological Museum

It is located by the side to the Parakrama Samudraya and it is home to original artefacts found in Polonnaruwa. It also exhibits replicas and artistic impressions of the ancient monuments in the area. The museum has several rooms and each of them is dedicated to a particular theme: the citadel, the outer city, the monastery area and Hindu monuments. Opening hours: 9 am – 6 pm.

Tivanka Image House

It is located 400 m north of the Lotus Pond. The meaning of Tivanka is ‘thrice bent’ and it refers to the Buddha image within is a three-curve position which is normally reserved for female statues. The only Polonnaruwa murals on the inner walls survived.

Vatadage

It is a circular relic house that is located in the southeast of the Quadrangle. Its outermost terrace is 18 m. The moonstone at the northern entrance is considered to be the finest in Polonnaruwa. There are four separate entrances and they lead to the central dagoba with its four Buddhas.

Rankot Vihara

It is the largest dagoba in Polonnaruwa which was built by King Nissankamalla. It is 54 m and the dome of it consists of earth fill covered by a brick mantle and plaster like it is in the other major dagobas in Anuradhapura.  It can be seen that the construction of the dagoba imitates the Anuradhapura style.

Royal Palace

It was constructed by Parakramabahu. It measures 31 m by 13 m and it is said to have had seven storeys.

Thuparama Gedige

It is the oldest image house at Polonnaruwa that goes back to the reign of King Vijayabahu the first. It is also the smallest gedige in Polonnaruwa. The building shows a strong Hindu influence.

Restaurants

The Lake Restaurant

It is a hotel’s dining room. It is air conditioned and it offers Asian cuisine. Main dishes change between Rs 400 - 1400. Address: The Lake Hotel, Potgul Vihara, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

New Araliya Sinhala Hotel

This is a popular eatery that serves Sri Lankan meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Main dishes start from Rs 150. Opening hours: 8 am – 9:30 pm. Address: Habarana Rd, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Lake Inn Guest House

This guest house is a good for eating. Meals change between Rs 200 -500.

Devi Tourist Home

This guest house is also famous for food. Meals change between Rs 300 – 600. Address: Lake View Watte, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Where to Stay

Hotel Sudu AraliyaLeesha Tourist HomeManel Guest HouseSeyara Holiday ResortSiyanco Holiday ResortThe Lake HotelThisara Guest HouseTishan Holiday Resort

Thisara Guest House

This guest house is located in Polonnaruwa and it offers air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi. The guest house features an outdoor garden with seating. It also has a restaurant. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. It is 4.3 km away from Polonnaruwa Railway Station. Rooms come with a safe and desk. Address: New Town Road, Old Town, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

The Lake Hotel

The hotel overlooks the scenic Parakrama Samudra Sea in Polonnaruwa. It offers free parking. Rooms come with simple furniture, a fan or air conditioning, a private balcony with views of the natural landscape. It is located 14 km from Hingurakgoda Airport. The tour desk can help to arrange bird watching, fishing and boat trips. Address: Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Siyanco Holiday Resort

The resort offers an outdoor pool, barbecue and terrace. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Free Wi-Fi is available. Free private parking is available on site. Rooms come with a TV with satellite channels and a private bathroom. Some rooms have a seating area and views of the pool or garden. There is a shared lounge at the property. The resort also offers bike hire. Address: 1st Canal Road, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Hotel Sudu Araliya

The hotel features an outdoor pool, sauna and a fitness centre. It is located close to the banks of Parakrama Reservoir. There is a 24 hour front desk at the property. Free parking is available on site. Rooms come with tiled flooring, air conditioning, a wardrobe, a satellite TV, minibar and a seating area. The staff can assist guests with luggage storage, laundry and car rental services. Address: New Town, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Leesha Tourist Home

This guest house offers free Wi-Fi. The rooms come with air conditioning and private bathroom. Free bikes are available at the property. The guest house has its own restaurant. It is located 77 km from SLAF Anuradhapura Airport. There is a 24 hour front desk, a garden and barbecue facilities at the property. The property also offers tour desk service and free private parking. Address: No. 105/A, New Town Road, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Manel Guest House

This guest house is located 200 metres away from both Polonnaruwa Ancient City and Polonnaruwa National Museum. Kaduruwela Railway Station is 5 km away.  It offers a spacious outdoor terrace, free internet access and free parking facilities. Rooms come with air conditioning, a seating area and a writing table. All rooms have en suite bathrooms. There is a 24 hour front desk at the guest house. Guests can enjoy a meal at the on-site restaurant.  Address: New Town Road, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.  

Seyara Holiday Resort

The hotel features a restaurant, free Wi-Fi access and a spacious outdoor terrace. It is located 7 km away from Polonnaruwa Railway Station. Free parking is available on site. Rooms come with a private balcony, a seating area and a work desk. Guests can enjoy a garden view from all the rooms. There is a 24 hour front desk with space for luggage storage at the property. Guests can enjoy authentic Sri Lankan meals at the in-house restaurant. Address: 34, Bendiwewa, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Tishan Holiday Resort

The resort offers a restaurant and a tour desk. Rooms come with air conditioning, a TV, sofa, private bathroom and free Wi-Fi.  The resort is located 7 km away from Kaduruwela Train Station. Guests can enjoy Sri Lankan cuisine, barbecue facilities and a shared lounge. Bicycles are available to rent at a surcharge. Address: No: 1580, Bendiwewa, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.

Excursions

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Kaudulla National Park

It is located at the north of Polonnaruwa. It is a national park on the island of Sri Lanka. It was designated a national park in 2002. Kaudulla National Park has been identified as an important bird area. It is an important sanctuary for elephants, endemic and migratory birds. It is one of the 16 irrigation tanks built by King Mahasen but it had to be reconstructed in 1959. Recently, it supports a range of diverse plant and animal life. The best time visit and spot elephants is from August to December because they migrate via the Park.

Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park is located at the north west of Polonnaruwa. It is located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is approximately a 45 minute drive from Sigiriya. It is located 41 km from Sigiriya. The area was designated as a national park in 1997. It was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. The park is centered around the 249 square km Minneriya reservoir built by King Mahasena during the 3rd century AD.  It is one of the best places in the country to see wild elephants. May to October is the best period to visit Minneriya National Park to view the famous gathering of the wild elephants. Up to 300 elephants are seen at the park so far. In August and September, each year during the dry season, wild elephants from the surroundings search food and water. Therefore, they make their way to the shores of the Minneriya Reservoir. They come together within a few square kilometres of the lake. The park is home to a mixture of forest, scrub and grassland. There are 24 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish and 74 species of butterflies living in the park. The entry fee to the park is around 14 US Dollars. Opening hours: 6 – 8:30 am and 3:30 – 6:00 pm.