olonnaruwa ist die alte Hauptstadt von Sri Lanka und gehört seit 1982 zum UNESCO Weltkulterbe. P olonnaruwa is the ancient capital of Sri Lanka and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. The archaeological park of the old royal city of Polonnaruwa is therefore one of the most visited sights in Sri Lanka.

The old royal city is located in the so-called Cultural Triangle, which consists of the cities Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. Anuradhapura was the first and oldest capital of Sri Lanka and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After Annuradhapura was destroyed in 993, King Vijayabāhu I. founded the new capital Polonnaruwa in the 10th century. His grandson King Parākrama Bāhu I led Polonnaruwa to its heyday in the 12th century: he built schools and hospitals, built the Royal Palace and numerous temples and gardens that still exist today. He also had an irrigation system created, which allowed the inhabitants of Plonnaruwa to grow rice during the dry season. This secured the city's survival. The city was prosperous and attracted many scholars. Unfortunately, the splendor of Polonnaruwa did not remain long in the history books; in the thirteenth century the capital was invaded and plundered and finally abandoned. For more than 600 years it was hidden: nature overgrew the Dagobas and temples, the magnificent ruins and palaces were devoured by the green jungle. Only the English were again interested in the old stones and grandiose Buddha figures, so that the old capital Polonnaruwa made it thanks to the English Lieutenant Fagan back into the public.

These cheeky chipmunks whiz around everywhere

Visit to the Archaeological Park of Polonnaruwa

The old royal palace of Polonnaruwa

At the entrance, you first come through a museum that shows the many treasures of Polonnaruwa found during excavations. Then the path continues through a library to the magnificent Royal Palace. Once he was supposed to have been up to seven stories high and had to eat over 1000 rooms. However, the kämmerchen must have been very narrow and small.

Polonnaruwa Highlights: Audience Hall or Council Chamber

Especially nice is the Council Chamber (Council Chamber), which is strictly guarded by the typical for Sri Lanka Hutaffen. Here the government met, there was a strict seating arrangement from the king on the throne to the council members and log writers. The council chamber is surrounded by a relief of elephants, lions and dwarves. If you go down the stairs, you come to the Prinzenteich. In this pool, the kings of Polonnaruwa bathed, the water is said to have flowed from crocodile taps in the pool.

Polonnaruwa Highlights: Round Temple Vatadage

The round temple Vatadage of Polonnaruwa

One of the most beautiful buildings of Polonnaruwa is the round relic Vatadage. The construction is built in the unique Sinhala architectural style and in any case a super nice photo opportunity. Filigree reliefs with elephants, lions, flowers etc. where you look. There are four entrance gates, with stairs leading to the Dagoba. Here are four Buddha figures who look in all four directions.

In the adjacent building "House of the eight relics" was once kept the sacred tooth of Buddha, which can be found today in the famous tooth temple of Kandy.

Polonnaruwa Highlights: Ruanveli Dagoba

55 meters high is the impressive building, the highest of Polonnaruwa and the fourth highest Dagoba in Sri Lanka. In the past, the tip still shone with a golden umbrella.

Polonnaruwa Highlights: Gal Vihara

The rock temple Gal Vihara is one of the most famous in Sri Lanka. In front of his entrance are four oversized Buddha figures in different postures. The largest Buddha statue is the 14 m long reclining Buddha - he symbolizes the transition to nirvana. The lotus pond in front of the rock temple Gal Viahara was created for the monks living here so that they could bathe in it. Today he is a beautiful backdrop. Waterfowl and turtles like to romp about here as well.

Is it worth a visit to Polonnaruwa?

Yes of course. It is one of the most important sights of Sri Lanka.

Annaradhapura or Polonnaruwa?

I only visited Polonnaruwa. Supposedly, the visit to the archaeological park of Polonnaruwa should be more beautiful than the one in Anuradhapura. One reason for this is that the city was not quite as big as the former capital Anuradhapura and the historical ruins are therefore closer together and better run. In addition, Polonnaruwa should be better preserved than Anuradhapura, because the ruins date back to the 12th century and are therefore younger. However, Annuradhapura was also an important center for Buddhism in Sri Lanka.

Polonnaruwa explore highlights by bike

It is very popular to explore the ruins of Polonnaruwa by bike. Is certainly a nice thing, I did this eg in the Historical Park of Ayutthaya in Thailand . On my visit, however, I was on foot and had the pleasure to be driven in an air-conditioned minivan through the ruins and I'll tell you something: that was really good, because the heat is extremely exhausting.

You should pay attention to this during your visit

Dress code you should absolutely comply. It is also very much taken care of by guards. Specifically, this means:

  • over the knee walking clothes (so long skirt / dress or long pants or pants over knees)
  • covered shoulders with T-shirt
  • in front of the temples: take off your shoes
  • no posing in front of Buddha figures
  • do not photograph Buddha figures (turning back to Buddha does not work)
  • Feeding monkeys is prohibited
  • take enough water and sunscreen with you
  Admission: 25 EUR
Opening hours: 8:00 to 17:00

Overnight stay for your visit

Oak Ray Elephant Lake Hotel

Stayed at the Oak Ray Elephant Lake Hotel for two nights for visits between Sigiriya, Damulla and Polonnaruwa.

Read my complete Sri Lanka travelogues or itinerary here:

Sri Lanka Travel Tips: The Best Travel Guide for Sri Lanka

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Stefan Loose travel guide Sri Lanka: with travel atlas *

very good travel guide for individual travel:

Travel Know-How Travel Guide Sri Lanka *

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GEO Special / GEO Special 01/2018 - Sri Lanka *

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