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Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka

The history of Polonnaruwa shines a dazzling light on the history of Sri Lanka. And ancient ruins and latter-day aging rock-stars underscore why this World Heritage Site lies at the centre of our sacred cultural firmament.
In 1982, chart-topping British rock band Duran Duran came to this tropical island paradise to make their music video Save a Prayer, and the ancient city of Polonnaruwa formed a perfect backdrop.
In fact, ancient and modern coexist in perfect harmony in what was once not only Sri Lanka’s capital city, but also juxtaposed traditional Buddhist introspection with a far-sighted commitment to the science and technology of the day.
The city’s Golden Age began nearly 1,000 years ago in the reign of Parakramabahu I. Trade and agriculture flourished thanks to a magnificent system of irrigation and water management that even today is the backbone of the region’s staple rice production.
The Sea of Parakrama, an enormous man-made reservoir that encircles the city, was also a defensive moat that safeguarded the tombs and temples, statues and stupas that are the heart and soul of the ruins of Polonnaruwa.
Another major attraction are the toque macaque monkeys. For centuries, they lived and thrived in the city, and are now the stars of the film Disneynature's Monkey Kingdom Polonnaruwa, which has proved a box-office hit worldwide.
Of the sacred monuments themselves, one of the most significant is the Polonnaruwa Gal Viharaya temple and its two massive statues of the Buddha, one standing and the other reclining, which were carved into the living rock face.
A trip to Polonnaruwa would not be complete without seeing the Lankatilaka image house. Built by Parakramabahu and restored by Vijayabahu IV, this cathedral-like gedige has 56ft (17m) high walls, while the central aisle leads to a huge headless standing Buddha.
Also worth a visit is the Archaeological Museum, with rooms dedicated to particular themes, including the central citadel, the outer city, the monasteries and some equally impressive Hindu monuments.
So, as Duran Duran’s Save a Prayer says: ‘You don’t have to dream it all—just live a day.’ And a day at Polonnaruwa will create living memories that will last a lifetime.

Activities in Polonnaruwa


If you prefer cycling but aren't so keen on struggling with uphill climbs, there are many interesting trails in the lowlands of Sri Lanka that take you through a beautiful landscape of tea, rubber and spice plantations or even the ancient capital of POLONNARUWA .


Sri Lanka and its many lakes, rivers, and leisure centers are good for practicing all types of swimming activities. The numerous lakes and swimming pools offer a good chance for young and old alike to get fun and cool off.

Attractions in Polonnaruwa

Gal Vihara

The 23ft (7m) standing Buddha that towers over Gal Vihara is an outstanding testament to the skills of Sri Lanka’s ancient stone-masons, and a must-see for any visitor to the ruins of Polonnaruwa.

Polonnaruwa Vatadage

The Polonnaruwa Vatadage is widely venerated as the best example of buildings constructed to protect small stupas, but which in this case is also a magnificent edifice in its own right. Believed to have been built to hold the tooth relic of the Buddha,

Lankathilaka Image House

This majestic temple, a jewel in the crown of the ancient Gampola kingdom, was built atop a massive rocky stronghold as an enduring symbol of cultural supremacy. Surrounded by lush greenery in the Hiripitiya hamlet in Udunuwara, it overlooks the Hantane mountain range and is renowned for t

Sandakada Pahana (The moon stone )

Sandakada pahanas, or moonstones, are semi-circular stone slabs, elaborately and intricately carved and usually found at the bottom of staircases and entrances.

Thivanka Image House

Thivanka Pilimage image house and its original wall paintings, classical art and sculptures in their original form is without doubt a high point of any visit to the ruins of Polonnaruwa.

Statue of Parakramabahu or Pulastya Rishi

The magnificent 11ft 2in (3.40m) statue, carved from a rock-face just to the north of the main ruins of Polonnaruwa, is a source of much mystery and speculation. It is thought to depict either King Parakramabahu I himself or possibly a celebrated sage of the 12th Century period.

Gal-potha Stone Book

The Gal Potha, or Stone Book, a massive slab 26ft 10ins (8.2m) long and 4ft 7ins (1.4m) wide, is literally a cornerstone illustrating some of the history of Polonnaruwa. Created by King Nissanka Malla, who ruled from 1187 to 1196, the text—three columns, 72 lines and 4300 characters.

Weijantha Prasada

The Weijantha Prasada was built by King Parakramabahu I (1153–1186) as majestic 1,000-roomed, seven-storied palace containing all the trappings of his luxurious royal existence.

Rankoth Vehera

Rankoth Vehera, which translates as Golden Pinnacle, is at 108ft (33m) the largest stupa in the ruins of Polonnaruwa, and one of the most revered.

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya

The stone columns Nissanka Latha Mandapaya—not straight, but curved in three places—are a unique feature of the ruins of Polonnaruwa and their sacred architectural heritage. This impressive monumental structure was built by King Nissanka Malla (1187–1196),

Medirigiriya Vatadage

Vatadages were uniquely Sri Lankan Buddhist constructions built to protect the many small stupas that are central to the history of Polonnarua and its sacred cultural heritage. The Medirigiriya Vatadage is one of only ten now remaining in Sri Lanka.

Sathmahal Prasada

More mystery in the history of Polonnaruwa, this time in the unique stepped-pyramid shape of the Sathmahal Prasada stupa found inside the Dalada Maluwa. Legend has it that this seven-storied building, which reflects the style of similar buildings found in Cambodia and Thailand,


Legend has it that this magnificent building at the centre of the ruins of Polonnaruwa was completed in just 60 hours, and that it originally housed the Relic of the Tooth of the Buddha.

Lotus Pond

The lotus pond is a charming and beautifully constructed granite bathing pool that lies just outside the main ruins of Polonnaruwa. Created in the shape of an eight-petalled blossoming lotus flower, this jewel of the pokuna architecture is off the beaten tourist track

Kiri Vehera

The 80ft (25m) Kiri Vehera, which lies north of the Lankathilaka Pilima Ge image house and is the second largest stupa at at Polonnaruwa, is said to have been built by a queen of King Parakramabahu, who reigned from 1153 to 1186.

Somawathie Chaitiya Sanctuary

The beautiful gleaming white Somawathie Chaitya stupa lies outside the main ruins of Polonnaruwa, being a revered feature of the wildlife sanctuary named after it nearly 20km north-east of the city. The stupa is renowned for the precious Pinnacle Gem atop its spire, and there was huge cons


The history of the man-made Giritale Tank ‘inland sea’ predates the history of Polonnaruwa, and is now part of one of the area’s best nature reserves.


Atadage Dalada Maligaya is the house of the tooth relic of Buddha built by King Vijayabahu I (1070-1110). This building is built on 54 stone pillars. The tooth relic has been kept on the second floor probably made out of wood. The access to the second floor is through a granite stair case.

Wasgamuwa National Park

A short drive from the ruins of Polonnaruwa is Wasgamuwa National Park, with its herd of 150-plus of elephants and the highest biodiversity of any of Sri Lanka’s protected nature reserves.

Minneriya National Park

Two hundred elephants gathered to bath and socialize in the waters of the ancient man-made lake in Minneriya National Park is truly a wondrous sight to behold. They will have arrived from all corners of this best know of Sri Lanka’s many wildlife sanctuaries:

Holiday Packages in Polonnaruwa

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This is almost 40% off discounted Sri Lanka Affordable Luxury Tour package.

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