Nestled in the heart of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa stands as a testament to the island nation’s rich history and cultural heritage. Once a thriving medieval capital, this ancient city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, attracting history enthusiasts, nature lovers, and curious travelers from all corners of the globe. With its awe-inspiring architecture, stunning landscapes, and vibrant local life, Polonnaruwa offers an unforgettable experience that transports visitors back in time.
The Historical Significance of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa served as the capital of Sri Lanka during the 11th and 12th centuries, following the decline of Anuradhapura. During this golden age, the city flourished under the reign of King Parakramabahu, leaving behind a legacy of remarkable structures and monuments that tell the tale of a glorious past.
Exploring the Ancient City
One of the most sacred sites in Polonnaruwa, the Vatadage is an ancient circular relic house that once enshrined the Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha. This intricately designed structure with its exquisite moonstones and guard stones is a testament to the architectural brilliance of ancient Sri Lanka.
An awe-inspiring ensemble of four colossal Buddha statues carved into granite, Gal Vihara is a mesmerizing sight to behold. These statues, which include the iconic standing Buddha and the reclining Buddha, showcase the artistic mastery of the ancient craftsmen.
As the largest stupa in Polonnaruwa, Rankoth Vehera dominates the skyline, exuding a sense of spirituality and grandeur. The stupa’s finely crafted brickwork and stunning white dome make it a captivating attraction for history buffs and photographers alike.
Royal Palace of King Parakramabahu
Step into the past as you explore the ruins of the Royal Palace, once the residence of the great King Parakramabahu. The intricate layout of the palace and its surrounding gardens offer a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the ancient royals.
A Glimpse of Nature’s Beauty
Minneriya National Park
For wildlife enthusiasts, Minneriya National Park is a must-visit destination. Home to a large population of elephants, this park also boasts a diverse array of wildlife, including leopards, deer, and various bird species. The highlight of the park is the annual elephant gathering known as “The Gathering,” a remarkable natural spectacle.
Built by King Parakramabahu, the vast Parakrama Samudraya is a colossal ancient reservoir that showcases the advanced engineering skills of its time. The tranquil waters and the lush surroundings make it an ideal spot for a relaxing escape.
Dimbulagala Forest Monastery
For those seeking spiritual solace, the Dimbulagala Forest Monastery offers a serene retreat. This ancient monastic complex, nestled amidst rocky hills, provides a tranquil environment for meditation and reflection.
Embracing Culture and Spirituality
A marvel of ancient architecture, the Lankathilaka Temple features a towering brick wall and a stunning Buddha statue within. The temple’s unique design and sacred ambiance make it a site of great cultural significance.
Located in the wilderness, the Somawathiya Stupa is revered as a place of worship for Buddhists. Surrounded by the beauty of nature, this stupa holds a special place in the hearts of the locals.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Siva Devalaya is an ancient Hindu temple that showcases the cultural diversity of Polonnaruwa. The temple’s intricate carvings and vibrant rituals are a testament to the island’s harmonious coexistence of various religions.
Experiencing Local Life
Immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture by exploring the bustling Polonnaruwa Market. Here, you can discover an array of colorful fruits, spices, handicrafts, and souvenirs, making it the perfect place to take a piece of Polonnaruwa home with you.
Cycling through the Countryside
Embrace the laid-back charm of the countryside by renting a bicycle and pedaling through picturesque villages and lush paddy fields. This eco-friendly and enjoyable mode of transportation allows you to connect with the locals and experience the authentic rural life of Sri Lanka.
Where to Stay in Polonnaruwa
Indulge in a luxurious stay at one of the city’s high-end hotels or resorts. Experience world-class hospitality while relishing the scenic beauty that surrounds you.
For budget-conscious travelers, Polonnaruwa offers a range of affordable guesthouses and lodges that provide comfortable accommodation without breaking the bank.
Delightful Culinary Adventures
Must-Try Local Dishes
Savor the flavors of Sri Lanka by trying out the delectable local dishes. Don’t miss out on traditional rice and curry, hoppers, kottu roti, and a variety of mouthwatering street food.
Polonnaruwa boasts several restaurants that cater to diverse tastes. From authentic Sri Lankan cuisine to international delicacies, these eateries offer a delightful dining experience.
Best Time to Visit Polonnaruwa
The ideal time to visit Polonnaruwa is during the dry season from May to September when the weather is pleasant and rainfall is at a minimum. This allows for optimal exploration of the ancient ruins and wildlife encounters.
Tips for a Memorable Trip
- Stay hydrated, as the Sri Lankan sun can be quite intense.
- Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
- Engage with the locals to gain a deeper understanding of their culture and traditions.
Polonnaruwa, with its majestic ruins, natural wonders, and warm hospitality, promises a journey like no other. This living testament to Sri Lanka’s glorious past and vibrant present invites travelers to immerse themselves in its captivating history, culture, and landscapes.
- Is Polonnaruwa safe for tourists?
- Yes, Polonnaruwa is considered safe for tourists. However, it’s always wise to take necessary precautions and be vigilant about your belongings.
- Can I explore Polonnaruwa on foot?
- While some attractions are within walking distance, it’s best to rent a bicycle or use a tuk-tuk to cover more ground comfortably.
- Are there any restrictions while visiting ancient sites?
- Yes, visitors are expected to dress modestly and follow respectful behavior while visiting religious and archaeological sites.
- How can I travel from Colombo to Polonnaruwa?
- You can take a train or bus from Colombo to reach Polonnaruwa. Alternatively, hiring a private vehicle is also an option.
- What souvenirs can I buy in Polonnaruwa?
- Polonnaruwa offers a variety of souvenirs, including handcrafted wooden items, batik fabrics, and traditional Sri Lankan spices.