Top Picks for Sri Lanka


When speaking about the history of Sri Lanka, the city one cannot omit is Polonnaruwa. Situated in the North Central Province 227km from Colombo, 51m above sea level, the city has a warm and windy climate throughout the year.
The royal ancient Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was the second capital of Sri Lanka after the destruction of Anuradhapura and it was ruled by the Sinhalese kings from 1055 until 1232. The city is situated along the left bank of the Mahaweli river which is the longest river of Sri Lanka flowing across the island for 335km. Polonnaruwa has always been an important settlement in the country as it oversaw the crossing of Mahaweli river to enter the Anuradhapura kingdom, the longstanding capital earlier. However, in 1017 the Cholas from India captured the local King Mahinda V and established their rule in Polonnaruwa and ruled for 53 years. It was the heroic king Vijayabahu I who defeated the Cholas and reunited the island and ruled from Polonnaruwa who reinstated the Sinhalese royal lineage. The Kingdom of Polonnaruwa was abandoned in the 14th century, and the seat of government for the Sinhalese kings was moved to Dambadeniya.
With a colourful history of heroic stories and coinciding ancient relics and buildings, it is certainly no wonder why Polonnaruwa is a dream for any visitor looking for the authentic culture and heritage experience.
One of the must-see places in the city is the Royal palace complex which dates from the period of King Parakramabahu I (1153 – 1186). The palace as seen today is an impressive and massive structure, measuring 31 m by 13 m, once including 50 rooms supported by 30 columns but picture it being seven floors tall with 3 m thick walls and you will know why this city is treasured not only by the islanders but also by the International community, being declared as a World Heritage city by the UNESCO. The ancient royal gardens, the royal swimming pools and water parks, the royal audience halls like the Nissanka Latha Mandapaya are valuable experiences for any visitors.
Any visit to Polonnaruwa is not complete without a visit to its many ancient Buddhist temples. The Vatadaage, is a circular temple 18m in diameter with four entrances for the four directions with stone guard-stones on either side. The Shiva Devalya (no.02) is the oldest building in the city dating to its Chola builders. Pabalu viharaya, Rankoth viharaya and Kirivehera are other temples to visit. The Lankathilaka is a cathedral-like building with 18m high walls and an aisle that leads to a tall standing statue of Lord Buddha. The roof of the building and the head of the statue are losses that we must bear. Another important building is the Galviharaya, housing a standing stone Buddha statue of 7m in height, a reclining stone Buddha statue 14m in length and a sitting stone Buddha statue, which are all excellent evidence to the creativity and artistic talent of Sri Lankan stonemasons and architects of the ancient times.