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The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa – Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa Vatadage
Polonnaruwa Vatadage is believed to have once held the Tooth Relic (Budhas Tooth)

One of the major attractions in the Sri Lankan Cultural Triangle area, the ancient city of Polonnaruwa is a massive spread out area full of nearly 1000 year old ruins. There is a lot of variety in the UNESCO World Heritage site, with some of the best ruins in Sri Lanka, amazing temples, statues, and a healthy variety of wildlife (mainly monkeys). It’s easy to spend a full day or two exploring this ancient city, rent a bike or hire a driver and get lost in Polonnaruwa.

When visiting Polonnaruwa I saw people riding bikes around which seemed like a cool way to see the city, but it’s large, spread out, and sometimes very warm, so consider this before making your choice. You’ll probably be offered a guide. I was more or less forced into hiring a guide by my driver because he didn’t know where to go. Guides are not cheap, it will cost almost as much as the entrance fee (see below), although it is nice to have one in some parts of the city. If you’re not worried about the money, I’d recommend hiring a guide, but if you want to save money you can get by without it, it just may take longer. I do however recommend getting a map before trying to explore the park on your own.

Unfortunately the entrance fee to Polonnaruwa is a bit steep (see Would You Expect Sri Lanka To Be Cheap?), being a UNESCO site means you’re going to have to pay a lot in order to see these ruins. Entrance fees to Polonnaruwa are 2800 LKR for foreigners, which comes out to be around $25 USD (and they only charge 40 LKR for locals!). However, if you’re headed north through Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa is located at the northern tip of the triangle, making it a nice place to break out of the cultural triangle and into the amazing beaches of Trincomalee. Take a break in Trinco, lick your wounds, and know you won’t have to pay the enormous national park entrance fees for a bit.

Rankot Vehera Stupah
The Rankot Vehera Stupah in Polonnaruwa, the 4th largest Stupah in Sri Lanka
Polonnaruwa Vatadage Sky
Polonnaruwa Vatadage with some nice clouds in the sky
The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
A Budha statue surrounded by the ruins of Vatadage in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
Grey (Hanuman) Langur Monkeys, Sri Lanka
Grey Langur (AKA Hanuman Langur) Monkeys at Polonnaruwa
Thuparama Image House, Polonnaruwa
The Thuparama Image House building
Lotus Bath Polonnaruwa
Probably the quickest stop on the Polonnaruwa tour, the Lotus Bath
Tivanka Image House Fresco
A fresco inside the Tivanka Image House on the outer edge of Polonnaruwa
Hatadage Polonnaruwa 3- Buddhas
3 Buddhas at the ancient relic shrine of Hatadage Polonnaruwa
Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa
The giant standing and laying Buddhas of Gal Vihara, Polonnaruwa
Gal Vihara Budha Carving
A sitting Buddha granite carving at Gal Vihara, Sri Lanka
Atadage (House of Eight Relics)
Atadage (The House of Eight Relics)

Polonnaruwa Image Gallery

Polonnaruwa Map

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