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How To Reach Polonnaruwa
Sri Lanka’s glorious medieval capital, Polonnaruwa was founded as the first city in 11th century AD and has been a witness to innumerable civilizations and partisans of the Sinhalese Monarchy and Brahmanism. In the present day, it happens to be one of the best archeological sites in Sri Lanka, having replaced Anuradhapura, making it a living testament to the magnificent skills of its royalty and engineering.
The remnants of this ancient city lie on the east shore of Topa Wewa or the Parakrama, a huge artificial lake, built in 1153. Within its vicinity are clusters of Dagobas, Palace Buildings, a number of religious complexes and temples, with a number of other ancient buildings on the north side of main Polonnaruwa.
Polonnaruwa has become popular off late, thanks to a documentary by Disney, called the Monkey Kingdom, which was released in April ’15, depicting the life of a group of wild toque-macaques also called Rilaw. The set in the movie was based around the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. 134 miles from Colombo, Polonnaruwa can be traveled to by road mostly, on a train or a flight.
When flying from India, there are about 19 flights to Colombo, with 4 non-stop flights from Delhi, 4 flights from Mumbai, 8 flights from Chennai and 3 flights from Bengaluru. There’s no airport in Polonnaruwa, hence the nearest airport is the Hingurakgoda Airport; however, the flights arriving there are quite restrictive, making Sigiriya the second-closest airport.
There are 4 flights operating daily on the Colombo-Sigirya sector by Sri Lankan Airlines and Cinnamon Air with the flight duration of 30 minutes. The flight cost is approx. $230. From Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa is about 56 km away and takes an hour or so to reach by road. You can hire a cab ranging from LKR 1300-1600 or rent a car for LKR 300-450.
The best way to get to Polonnaruwa from Colombo is to board a train, with the onward journey in a cab or a bus. It takes about 2 hours with a train leaving from Colombo Fort Station for Habarana costing LKR 80-270. The frequency of the train is thrice a day. The journey from Habarana to Polonnaruwa can be covered in 45 minutes by taxi, costing LKR 1100-1400.
To travel by road, going by car is the easiest way to reach Polonnaruwa. The distance from Colombo to Polonnaruwa is 216.4 km by road and approx. 3.4 hours. It will cost you roughly LKR 1,200-1,800 for the road trip.
Another alternative is to board an Intercity bus which leaves from Colombo Fort and will have you in Polonnaruwa in 6-8 hours. Route no. 48, Colombo-Polonnaruwa leaves from Colombo CBT/ Bastian Mawatha Bus Stand. The Polonnaruwa bus terminal is located 4 km to the east of the tourist attractions, so you can ask to be dropped somewhere closer, like the Clock Tower.
To get around Polonnaruwa, riding a bicycle’s the best way! Most guesthouses rent out bikes, but be cautious of the bike condition, in terms of its tires, etc. Since most tourist spots are within close proximity of each other, you can cover them easily on a bicycle in a day.