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Places to visit in Polonnaruwa

Updated on February 20, 2011
Entrance to Polonnaruwa Vatadage
Entrance to Polonnaruwa Vatadage

Must Visit Places in Polonnaruwa

There are many places to visit in Polonnaruwa, as with most ancient cities in Sri Lanka they mostly consist of temples, statues, ponds and castles. Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka and the most developed city after Anuradhapura in the time of kings. One of the main reasons for choosing Polonnaruwa over Anuradhapura was the constant threat of South Indian armies. Polonnaruwa was much easier to defend and it had some natural fortifications. Because the focus was mainly on defense and also because of the constant wars you want find many shrines as in Anuradhapura but there are still quite a few great places to see in Polonnaruwa. In this article I will discuss about the best places to visit in this world heritage site.

Standing Statue of Lord Buddha in Gal Viharaya Polonnaruwa
Standing Statue of Lord Buddha in Gal Viharaya Polonnaruwa

Gal Viharaya

The most famous tourist attraction in Polonnaruwa and a must visit place if you go to Polonnaruwa. It is a Buddhist shrine where four statues of Lord Buddha are carved out of the rock. The skill shown here is amazing since there is hardly room for error when your carving out statues from pure rock. There are some beautiful patterns carved out in the stone as well around the Buddha statue that is in a seated position. There are four Buddha statues, one standing up, one in a reclined position and other in a seated position. There are lots of historic tales about the place and if you happen to find a good guide you can hear most of them. Please make sure not to turn your back towards the statues when taking photographs as a mark of respect.

Polonnaruwa Museum

This is a great place to learn about the various must visit sites in Polonnaruwa. If you are hoping to explore the city in detail then this is the best place to start. Various attractions are clearly market here so you can plan your trip accordingly. There is a visitor information center as well so you can get help in planning your trip.

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya in Polonnaruwa
Nissanka Latha Mandapaya in Polonnaruwa

Nissanka Latha Mandapaya

One of the most well preserved buildings in Polonnaruwa, the place got it name from the king who built it, King Nissanka Malla. This was used by the king to listen to "Pirith". This is a beautiful building with some unique carvings and well preserved stone columns. The stone columns must have supported a roof during that time. This is a unique building so it is advisable to add this to your itinerary if you are visiting Polonnaruwa.

Lankathilaka Temple

An impressive building around 18M in height, this was built by King Parakramabahu. There is statue of Lord Buddha inside the temple although the head is missing in the statue. Other than that there are lots of beautiful carvings in the temple walls. Some well preserved guard stones can also be found here.

The Royal Palace

Another building built by King Parakramabahu during the golden age of Polonnaruwa. Although the stone walls of the lower level is remaining it is believed that the palace was seven stories high one of the most beautiful buildings in Polonnaruwa. Stone lion carving and walls with elephants carved in them can be found here.

Plenty more things to see in Polonnaruwa

Listed below are few more ancient sites that are worth a visit. You can find ruins all over the old city area and it would be difficult to learn about these without a guide.

  • If you are interesed in seeing dagobas there is Rankoth Vehera, Demala Maha Seya and Kiri Vehera, all of which have huge dagobas.
  • Statue of King Parakramabahu
  • You can visit Polonnaruwa vatadage and Madirigiriya vatadage. Vatadage's are wall like buildings built protest statues and dagobas and they were huge structures. You can find some beautiful stone carvings and moonstones near these buildings.

As you can see although there are not as many as Anuradhapura, there are still many places to visit in Polonnaruwa.

According to You What is the Must Visit Place in Polonnaruwa

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