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Exploring Ancient Polonnaruwa

I went on a trip to the ancient Polonnaruwa a few weeks back. So I thought of sharing some of my ideas just to make a visit to Polonnaruwa better to anybody who is interested.

We left the home around 6 in the morning and reached Polonnaruwa around 11 in the morning. We could have gone there earlier but we were aware of the speed limits as we were informed about traffic police by some of our friends.

Before Seeing Ruins

When you visit the city the best place to go in the first place is the Museum which is at Wewa Road near Parakkrama Samudra (Close to the famous Polonnaruwa Rest House).

The ticket for a local costs 40 rupees and for a foreigner it was something around 40 US dollars. Children can get half tickets. That place describes every ancient place in Polonnaruwa. A great amount of ancient stuff are displayed and described there in all three languages, Sinhala, Tamil and English. There are coins, pots, medical equipment, war fare, jewelery, statues, carvings etc. There were some really great model structures made which demonstrate the ancient buildings that are now ruined. At that place we can get a clear understanding of the places where we should go and we can get a good knowledge about those places. It would take 2 hours maximum to cover the whole place.

Visiting Ruins

Once we come out the museum we can visit the Pothgul Vihara complex which is 5 minutes drive from the museum along the bund of the Parakkrama Samudra. All the way points are guided with the boards along the road. So finding places are not that difficult. At that place there is the Pothgul Vihara and the famous statue of the king or the rishi (the one people call the statue with gaslabu baeya). It is better to visit the museum and the ruins closer to it in the visiting day if you have time so that in the next whole day we can visit the main ruin site without any rush. The museum closes at 5 in the evening.

Most of the ruins are found at one place where the kings old city was. In one side there is the palace, the pools and the Raja Mandapa and in the other side we find the Shiva Kovil, Nishshanka Latha Mandapa, Thooparama Pilima Geya, Saptha Prasadaya, Atadageya, the famous Watadageya, Hetadageya and some other ruins. After a one minute drive we can go to a stoopa which is said to be a model to remind Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura. From that stoopa there is a road to the Galvihara (Uttararama) which goes through Beheth Oru and the hospital section of old times. If we like we can avoid that road and drive up to the place where Galvihara is. One should not miss the Galvihara as I think it is the most beautiful thing in Polonnaruwa. Along the way but before Galvihara there is a place called Nelum Pokuna which is a small pool.

The only place left out is the Thiwanka Pilimageya which is a 3 minute drive from Galvihara.

Interesting Places Out of the Way

There are a few places which get missed easily as they are not in the direct road of our visits.

One place is the Namal Uyana where the pink granite is found. There’s nothing much to see but it’s nice to climb the mountains early in the day before the sun comes out and burn us down. We didn’t go there this time but one of the past trips we climbed the mountains around 8.30 – 9.00 in the morning. That trip we left Colombo around 3 – 3.30 in the morning.

Another is the famous Medirigiri Watadageya. It is not very far from the main ruin site. It may take 20 minutes to go there. That place also has some interesting ruins to see. There is a place in the Watadageya where burglars have excavated to get treasure. In that place there is a secret building and a stone vas which is said to be holding the treasure at old times. It’s now guarded by a locked net so that we can see the underlying structure.

The other famous place is Somawathi Sthoopa which is 37 kilo meters from the main road. We didn’t go there as we felt it’s a bit too far.

Lodging and Resting

The best place to rest on the way is the Ambepussa Snack Bar. It has better toilets and food at reasonable price. If we take food with us and all of us are guys the best place would be Kos Kele which comes just after Kurenegala town.

When we went Polonnaruwa we stayed at Hotel Seruwa which is controlled by Ceylon hotel Corporation (CHC). It is somewhat ok but not very well maintained these days. It has all the facilities like hot water, A/C, attached bathrooms etc. What’s nice about it is the rear side has an opening to the Parakkrama Samudra where we can stay and enjoy some cool breeze. It has around 40 rooms. Some are double bed rooms and some are triple bed rooms. We should have gone to Polonnaruwa rest house which is also maintained by CHC. But it is harder to book as it has something around 10 rooms. There were some other two hotels near where we stayed. One “Araliya” and one “Village”. Both looked ok with pools and stuff.

As to my knowledge I estimate we can have a fully loaded trip with 3 days including Namal Uyana, Somawathi Sthoopa and Medirigiriya. Or we can have a relaxing trip with 3 days excluding the out of the way ruins which would leave us some spare time to chat and enjoy some cool breeze of Polonnaruwa.

I’m listing down the phone numbers of some of the better places of Ceylon Hotel Corporation. To some places I have visited. Other places are recommended by friends.

Lihiniya Surf Hotel - Beruwala 0342275126

Tissa Resort - Tissamaharama 0472237299

Ambepussa Snack Bar - Ambepussa 0355671803

Polonnaruwa Rest House - Polonnaruwa 0272222299

Queens Hotel - Kandy 0812233026

Some historically interesting information about the ancient Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura are found in the article " Interesting Articles on Ancient Sri Lanka" which is found below in the blog.

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