20 Jan 2021

Must-see attractions in Polonnaruwa

Travel and Leisure

Polonnaruwa is one of the most historically significant cities in Sri Lanka – arguably being second only to Anuradhapura. Polonnaruwa is full of old ruins, structures and relics that harken back to a long-past age. So, if you ever find yourself in this sacred city, here are the places you absolutely need to visit.

The Royal Palace

When it comes to places to visit in Polonnaruwa, consider starting off with a visit to the ruins of the Royal Palace. If you’re staying at the Hotel Sudu Araliya, it’s only a short drive away. This is a massive structure that once house over 50 rooms and served as the King’s personal residence.

The Shiva Devale

The Shiva Devale is one of the oldest buildings you’ll find in Polonnaruwa. It is believed to have been built during the 11th century when Chola invaders from South India had established themselves in the city. Being built entirely of stone, it is one of the most intact ancient buildings found in Polonnaruwa today.

Pabalu Vehera

Pabalu Vehera is a Buddhist stupa that can be dated back to the mid-12th century when King Parakramabahu ruled over the island. It is among the largest stupas you’ll find in Polonnaruwa and is in excellent condition as well.

Rankot Vihara

At over 54 metres tall, Rankot Vihara is a massive Buddhist stupa that you simply have to see for yourself when you’re in Polonnaruwa. Not only is this the largest stupa found in Polonnaruwa but it’s the 4th largest stupa found across the entire island!

Gal Vihara

The Rock Temple – known locally as the Gal Vihara – is one of the most iconic and sacred attractions you’ll find in Polonnaruwa. As the name suggests, you’ll find some of Sri Lanka’s best-preserved rock carvings here. Located only 6 kilometres away from the Hotel Sudu Araliya, the Gal Vihara is definitely a site you want to add to your itinerary list.

The Vatadage

A vatadage is a structure that was built to guard a stupa and was a unique piece of architecture found in Sri Lanka. One of the best-preserved examples of these is found right here in Polonnaruwa and you should make it a point to visit and observe it – after all, you’re not going to find something like this anywhere else!

The Parakrambahu Statue

The Pothgul Vehera Statue – most commonly thought to resemble Parakaramabahu the Great – is one of the most iconic sights associated with Polonnaruwa. What you’ll witness at the site is a majestic figure that has been carved onto a rock face holding a yoke with both hands.

Minneriya National Park

Polonnaruwa isn’t all about ancient history either, one of the island’s finest national parks is found just 30 minutes away from the city centre – the Minneriya National Park. You can spot iconic wildlife here like the Sri Lankan elephant and the elusive leopard.