Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka in Photos

Polonnaruwa is one of the must-visit monuments in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle. The vast grounds and ruins that spread throughout the UNESCO protected historical park need a full day to visit and are best tackled by bicycle.

You can read about how to get to Polonnaruwa and how to go about renting bikes in part I of my Polonnaruwa story here.

Today I’m going to share with you some of my photos and tips from this great day out at Polonnaruwa…

Polonnaruwa

Starting out at Polonnaruwa

Once you get into the park you’re alright, but starting out is a bit overwhelming due to the sheer size of the site. And of course you don’t want to miss anything.

Hiring a bike is a must and it’s fun. The park is mostly flat so don’t worry.

Once you’ve arrived at Polonnaruwa and have sorted out a bike, you might be a bit confused about where to start.

Start at the Archaeological Museum. This is where you buy your entrance tickets (not at the entrance gates to the park) and this is where you can pick up a map.

The archaeological museum also has lots of great information and the displays there will help you to understand the ruins you are about to visit.

After the archaeological museum, visit the ruins just behind the centre before you head across to the main park. These are the ruins of the Palace Complex of King Nishshanka Malla.

Polonnaruwa

Palace Complex of King Nishshanka Malla

Polonnaruwa

Palace Complex of King Nishshanka Malla

Polonnaruwa

Palace Complex of King Nishshanka Malla

Polonnaruwa

Palace Complex of King Nishshanka Malla

After delaying the inevitable you are going to have to tackle the main road on the bike.

At the main road, turn left and up the hill. The entrance to the main site is on your right.

Once inside you have a choice: follow what all the guide books say and start at the end and work your way back to the beginning; or make it up as you go along.

We did a bit of a mixture of both: we had intended to follow the guidebook advice but when we got there we got excited and just wanted to start looking at stuff so we went first of all to the Royal Palace before disciplining ourselves and cycling to the end.

The Royal Palace, also known as the Palace Complex of King Parakramabahu

Top Tip: You know those superior spiritual tourists that think they’re Buddhists because they practice meditation? The same people you see doing yoga on train station platforms? Yes, you do. Well you’ll notice that those guys are the ones dying to get their shoes off and show their respect at Polonnaruwa.

Here’s the thing: taking your shoes off and walking on uneven baking bricks is very uncomfortable and a pain in the ass (and feet). Here’s my top tip: you don’t actually have to take your shoes off until there is a sign that tells you to do so. Even the locals don’t take their shoes off to tramp around the royal palace ruins. So give yourself and your feet a break and leave the damn things on until you actually do have to take them off. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of opportunity.

Polonnaruwa

Palace Complex of King Parakramabahu

Polonnaruwa

Palace Complex of King Parakramabahu

Polonnaruwa

Palace Complex of King Parakramabahu

Then we got our act together and headed for the far end of the complex so that we could work our way back to the beginning, stopping at each complex on the way to explore.

It was a really pleasant bike ride through the park.

Polonnaruwa

We saw a pretty big monitor lizard out for a morning stroll

Biking in Polonnaruwa

It was a really pleasant bike ride

Gal Vihara

We arrived at the Gal Vihara complex, probably the most famous part of Polonnaruwa.

This was near another entrance and there was a car park with coaches. It was much busier with visitors on tours around this area. Someone told us that people doing coach tours are whisked in and out after being herded around the Gal Vihara and a few other important ruins.

This seemed such a chaotic way to visit such a peaceful place to me and I was glad that we’d opted for the bikes and that we’d taken the full day to enjoy the site.

Gal Vihara is a group of statues of Buddha carved in rock dating from the 12th century. The 7m high standing Buddha and the 14m long reclining Buddha are in great condition and Gal Vihara is definitely one of the highlights of Polonnaruwa.

Polonnaruwa

Gal Vihara

Polonnaruwa

Gal Vihara

polonnaruwa gal vihara

Gal Vihara

Polonnaruwa

Gal Vihara

Polonnaruwa

Gal Vihara

Next it was time for a rest and a drink. In that baking heat, the makeshift bars with fresh coconuts look so inviting. You can get snacks too, but we had eaten such a huge breakfast at our guesthouse that we didn’t expect to be hungry for the rest of the day.

The drinks at these makeshift bars in Polonnaruwa are far from cheap but when you consider all the work that goes into setting them up every day it’s quite understandable. Plus, I would have paid double what they were charging for that cold refreshing ginger beer at that very moment. Toni had a coconut.

Polonnaruwa

We sat and watched the monkeys for a while… Or was it them watching us?

Polonnaruwa

Toni had a coconut

Polonnaruwa

Ready to drink

After that quick recharge we were back at it and our next stop was the Kiri Vihara with its magnificent white domed stupa and beautifully preserved moonstone. And then the Lankatilaka Vihara, one of Polonnaruwa’s most impressive structures with its roofless hall leading to the huge (now headless) standing Buddha.

Polonnaruwa

Time to move on

Polonnaruwa

The amazing moonstone

Polonnaruwa

Fantastic white dome of Kiri Vihara

Polonnaruwa

The impressive standing Buddha of Lankatilaka Vihara

Top tip: In any Buddhist country, but especially in Sri Lanka where they take their religion so seriously, it is a huge no-no to take a photo of a person posing with their back to any image or statue of the Buddha. It is considered extremely rude and is taken as a great sign of disrespect toward Buddhism and towards the deity.

Despite having visited several Buddhist countries, it was here in Sri Lanka that I learnt this and it made me think of the times that I have taken photos posing in this way without knowing, such as in Ayutthaya in Thailand, which I mentioned in my last post and which I’ll share with you next time.

Polonnaruwa

Having creative fun with shadows and moonstones

Vatadage

We saved the Vatadage for last. It is another very important part of Polonnaruwa with its central dagoba accessible from four different entrances and with some really impressive Buddha statues inside.

Polonnaruwa

Vatadage

Polonnaruwa

Vatadage

Polonnaruwa

Vatadage

Polonnaruwa

Vatadage

I hope you enjoyed this photo-post about my day in Polonnaruwa. Don’t forget to read my other post about how to get to this fantastic ancient city from Habarana and about bike hire. You can read it here.

I’ll just leave you with one last top tip: When you visit Polonnaruwa don’t forget to take a hat. You are out in the open all day long and the sun is hot hot hot! A hat makes all the difference. You do have to remove it out of respect along with your shoes at some of the monuments but most of the time you can wear it.

These are just some of my photos from Polonnaruwa. You can see the rest here.

I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel.com are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.

Filed Under: asiafeaturedSri LankaSri Lanka Cultural TriangleTravel Photography

Tags:

About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply




If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.