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The ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka

January 24, 2015 -January 25, 2015

Full Polonnaruwa Photo Gallery Here.

Polonnaruwa, a city of overgrown ruins in the jungle would be our next and last destination in Sri Lanka.  Polonnaruwa, once an ancient capital city of Sri Lanka sits in the sweltering hot lowlands and offers many archeological sites to explore and museums to visit.  Anyone interested in the history of Sri Lanka, or who just likes seeing jungle covered ruins should consider checking out the city of Polonnaruwa.

We arrived in Polonnaruwa via two buses, switching in the city of Dambulla.  There are many guest house options around Polonnaruwa and after checking out some reviews we chose to stay at the Luxman Guest House, just a short walk from the bus station.  The city itself while nice, doesn’t have that much to offer tourists.  The real draw are the massive sprawling ruins of the once great city which served periodically as the areas capital city from the late 10th to 13th centuries.

Since the ruins are so spread out renting or borrowing a bicycle for a day is a good idea.  Our guest house had them free for guests to borrow and it made traveling through and between the various ruins much easier.  There are so many ruins and they cover so much area you could walk for an entire day and not see them all, or spend a lot of money on taxis, or on a bus with other tourists.  Better to just borrow a bike.

The best way to explore the various ruins around Polonnaruwa is borrow or rent a bike for the day.
The best way to explore the various ruins around Polonnaruwa is borrow or rent a bike for the day.

With our bicycle tires pumped up and gears and brakes checked and mostly working, we set off to explore the ruins!

TIP:  Many of the sites are considered sacred and no hats, shoes or revealing clothes are allowed inside. Women have to wear conservative clothes or they will not be let in by the guards outside (Krista could not enter some ruins in a tank top).  So wearing modest clothes and easily removable footwear is a good idea.

The main complex of ruins, and there are several stretches for many kilometers down lightly trafficked roads with ruins spread out on both sides.
The main complex of ruins, and there are several, stretches for many kilometers down lightly trafficked roads with ruins spread out on both sides.

 

Large lions carved into the stones are common.
Large lions carved into the stones are common.

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Many of the sites are considered sacred and no hats, shoes or revealing clothes are allowed inside.  Women have to wear conservative clothes or they will not be let in by the guards outside.
Many of the sites are considered sacred and no hats, shoes or revealing clothes are allowed inside. Women have to wear conservative clothes or they will not be let in by the guards outside.

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The largest and tallest of the ancient ruins by far was this massive Buddha Stupa which loomed high above the trees.  Watch out for wandering Kommodo Dragons outside!
The largest and tallest of the ruins by far was this massive Buddhist Stupa which loomed high above the trees. Watch out for wandering Komodo Dragons outside!
The largest Buddha Stupa from a distance.
The largest Buddhist Stupa from a distance.

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If you look around carefully you can find lots of monkeys, lizards and other wildlife wandering through the jungle.

If you look closely you can see some wildlife around the ruins.
If you look closely you can see some wildlife around the ruins.

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A large 'reclining' Buddha near the north end of the main ruin complex.
A large ‘reclining’ Buddha near the north end of the main ruin complex.
Polonnaruwa is situated along the shores of large ancient man made lake, which hasn't changed much in centuries.
Polonnaruwa is situated along the shores of large ancient man made lake, which hasn’t changed much in centuries.

We noticed a large military and police presence around the various ruins and wondered what was going on.  The recently elected President of Sri Lanka flew in by helicopter to visit the ruins the same day we were there.  We did not see him but saw his helicopter and lots of security.

We found the ruins to be very extensive as well as very impressive.   They reminded me of the stereotypical jungle covered ruins you would expect to see in a Hollywood film, only this was an entire sprawling city of them stretching for miles in every direction.  Definitely worth a visit if you can stand to leave the beaches for a couple days.  Overall we found a visit to Polonnaruwa’s ruins more fun and interesting than the ruins in Sigiriya.

Unfortunately we did not have time to complete the trifecta and visit Sri Lanka’s oldest capital city, the ruins of Anuradhapura which are more than 2000 years old. Instead we took another beloved train ride back to Colombo and the beachside town of Negombo, so we could catch our plane early the next morning.  At 3:45am on the 27th we were in a tuk tuk heading to the airport for our Sri Lankan Airlines flight to Bangkok, Thailand!

 

One thought on “The ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka”

  1. AWESOME! You’ve totally sold Cori and I on a trip to Sri Lanka. It looks beautiful and everything you’ve described of it seems like the right pace for a trip. Hope everything is still working out as well as it was there! (except the buses)

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