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Polonnaruwa Tourism And Travel Guide
24.3° C / 75.8° F
May to July
1 to 2 Days
Sigiriya Airport, Dambulla (58 kms)
Habarana (48 kms)
The relics of the ancient city of Polonnaruwa are considered one of the best preserved archeological sites of Sri Lanka and the city is considered the 2nd largest Kingdom as well. The splendor and tranquility that’s quite evident from the music video ‘Save a prayer’ from Duran Duran’s album in 1982, Polonnaruwa is one of the cleanest and most beautiful cities in the Island and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Tourism in Polonnaruwa has a huge appeal on account of its greenery, gorgeous historical archeology, a huge lake built in 1200 called the Parakrama Samudra, the lovely accommodations and warm hospitality by the populace of the ancient city. Close to the old city is a small town that houses multiple tourist hotels with some glitzy shops and stores to cater to everyday essentials, government institutes in the new part of the city, schools etc. To get you comfortable and familiar with Polonnaruwa before you reach there, here’s a comprehensive travel guide.
How to Reach
There are 19 flights from different parts of India flying to Colombo every day. Since Polonnaruwa doesn’t have an airport, the closest airport to the ancient city is in Sigiriya, Dambulla. You fly from Colombo to Sigiriya with two airlines operating 4 flights daily, costing approx. $230.
It is best to catch a train and then travel by bus or hail a taxi for a convenient form of travel to Polonnaruwa. A 2-hour journey from Colombo Fort Station to Habarana, the train ride will cost you LKR 270 at the max. The frequency of trains leaving the Colombo station is 3 times in a day, and the journey from Habarana to Polonnaruwa can be made via cab.
Renting out a car is the easiest way to travel to Polonnaruwa, with a distance of 216 km to cross. A 3.4 hours journey by road, boarding a bus is another alternative. You can also board an inter-city bus at the Colombo Central Bastian Terminal and be dropped off at the Polonnaruwa terminal.
Polonnaruwa is best covered on a bicycle, since most tourist spots are located very close to each other and can really be covered in a day
Weather and Best Time to Visit
Polonnaruwa’s climate is tropical and 6 months of the year, chiefly May through July, are really hot. May through September witnesses a dry period, while June through August is overcast, with rainfall in October-December.
March through May is hot with an average high temperature of 32-35°C. The city experiences rainfall typically a week to 10 days in a month. The season of spring is tourism wise the low season.
With no rains in between June-August, summers are very warm during this period and hence the ideal time to visit Polonnaruwa. Hotels sell out at a high tariff, so it’s best to make bookings in advance and save up on expensive and unnecessary spends!
Polonnaruwa’s temperature from September through November oscillates between 30-33°C, calling for pleasant weather this time of the year. With a significant rainfall ranging 4-14 days every month, tourism is quite dull through this time and most travellers can look for discounted rates for their hotel stays.
The weather in Polonnaruwa around December-February is a treat for travellers who prefer a warmer climate. With an average temperature of 28°C to a maximum of 32°C, and rainfall occurring a week to 12 days in a month, the winter season is another opportune time of the year to visit this beautiful ancient city.
Things To Do
As is the norm of any travel destination, there’s a lot you can explore in Polonnaruwa in terms of its history, architecture and culture. You can visit the Quadrangle filled with significant monuments like Dagobas of the Buddha’s tooth, the Shiva Devale (an ancient temple built in honor of Lord Shiva) and Rankoth Vehera (54 m high and the 4th largest monument in the country).
A lovely way to enjoy the ruins of Polonnaruwa’s ancient Kingdom is to cycle your way through! From visiting the sea of Parakrama to witnessing the clean and lush green countryside of Polonnaruwa, allow yourself to relax through the wondrous scenes, ending your tour with a refreshing coconut beverage.
Tour a Village:
Spend a few hours touring the authentic part of Sri Lanka and experiences its rich cultural heritage. Engage with the villagers and indulge in some local activities to get a feel of their daily life, including taking an Oxen cart ride, a ride aboard a catamaran or a walk through the fields. End the tour with a delicious local meal, hosted by a village family, set buffet style in a classical way!
Explore the wildlife safari at Wasgamuwa National Park in a comfortable private vehicle with a tour guide and witness beautiful sightings of sloth bears, local monkey species, crocs, lizards and endemic butterflies, in addition to water monitors, water buffalos and golden palm civet.
Where To Eat
For all the soulful travellers who love gorging on food both global and local, here are some restaurants that have the best to offer in terms of diverse cuisine and delicious treats at that! To taste the best of local food at Polonnaruwa, Jaga Food at Jayanthipura tops the list with its local dishes, beautiful garden sitting arrangement, cozy ambiance and warm & hospitable staff. With an assortment of authentic Sri Lankan curries cooked on firewood, their treacle pancakes, fiery fish curries and buffalo curd are worth having.
Gami Gedara, Bendiwewa is another eatery with melt-in-the-mouth delicacies, with a nice selection of traditional dishes, a rustic setting amidst paddy fields, creating an illusion of a mud hut. Served in clay pots, the local dishes are cooked over a wood fire and eaten off a lotus leaf. Their mango curry with a blend of chilly and coconut, eggplant gravy and dessert served with a variety of fruits in buffalo curd, topped with organic honey make for a real treat.
Surrounded by a sparkling lake and tucked off within the glamorous Sudu, Araliya Hotel is their in-house restaurant which not only offers a stunning view to sit by but serves some really amazing local and international cuisines in both buffet and ala-carte style. Their onion sambol and dry fish beduma is to die for! Other places you can visit for delectable treats of Sri Lanka are the Thidas Arana restaurant for batu curry, coconut roti & kosata, Wishma for mango & plantin curry, eggplant and seafood, the Lake restaurant at Pothgul Vihara for a variety of salads, soups and desserts. Govi Gedara is known for its home-style cooking and hospitality in addition to its best sellers - the Pittus, kothus & string hoppers.
Where To Shop
Nishantha Wood Carvings is one of the best places to shop when visiting Polonnaruwa. A conventional woodwork factory with handcrafted items for sale, the shop has been in business since 1981 and has a variety of rare wood engravings and furniture to choose from. The prices on offer make the products a real treasure to own! Spread over a large building, the place has a wide range of wood carved items that you are introduced to in terms of how they are naturally tinted, sculpted and then sold in all shapes and sizes.