Visiting the Ancient City, Polonnaruwa

I was so happy since a CS member from Indonesia and work in Colombo, Dinda was able to accompany me to Polonnaruwa (long time ago called as Pulatthinagara) and later, we traveled together to most of places I want to visit in Sri Lanka. It’s a holiday for Indonesians around the world, for Hari Raya (Celebration Day after they fasting for a month), but since she didn’t come back to Indonesia so she had spare time to visit some area in Sri Lanka. She hasn’t visited around Sri Lanka a lot, because it’s kind not so comfortable for female to travel alone in Sri Lanka. So both of us were happy with the opportunity of traveling together.


Us take selfie in the bus, look at the guy behind us trying to be in the photo as well.


We went to Pettah (bus station) at 9 am, and take bus to Kaduruwela, a new town close to the old Polonnaruwa city. Price for the ticket bus quite cheap, cost maybe around USD 2 for each person and takes around six hours, yes, a long journey. Since it was my first intercity trip by bus in Sri Lanka, I try to enjoy it. The view of Minneriya National Park along they way, enough to satisfy my eyes, even I can say, the beginning of journey I mostly slept like a dead person.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa21We took this bus from Pettah (Colombo) to Polonnaruwa.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa39A glimpse of Minneriya National Park from or bus.


Once we arrived in Kaduruwela around 3 pm, few of tuk-tuk drivers approaching us. One of them asked where do we come from, when we said we are from Indonesia, he said : “Apa kabar?!” Kind of surprise me that Srilankan knows about bahasa! He said, he worked in Dubai before with another colleagues from Indonesia, that’s why he knows a bit of bahasa. Later on, he offered tuk-tuk services since Polonnaruwa itself far from the place where we stop.


After we agreed for price of the tuk-tuk, 4500 rupees to see all the places inside of the old town, we go and enjoy the ride. Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient kingdom in Sri Lanka after Anuradhapura. It is situated in North Central Province in Sri Lanka and listed as Unesco World Heritage Site on 1982. What so nice about this ancient city and reminds me of Angkor Wat as well, because all the ruins located in one area, so it’s pretty easy to visit all the places by tuk-tuk, even walking around the city can be so hot, since Polonnaruwa so dry at that moment.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa23Way to Polonnaruwa ancient part, quite far – tuktuk ride is acceptable needed.


First, the driver brought us to the Museum. It’s a nice beginning, especially the place has Air Conditioner haha. We can’t take a picture here because they expect us to buy some of photograph (in form of painting and postcard) in their book store. But honestly to say, the book store is not so nice, it’s lack of management and nice things, so I can see no one buy anything from here – including me. I wish their tourism dept. can manage the place by tidying some stuff and make it looks good so people interest to buy their souvernir, not just let it fulls with dust and dying by old ages. But if you are here, do buy book about Guide to Polonnaruwa. It’s worth to have! I bought one in the seller near the temple, because my interest raised too late about the book. But I remember, the bookstore has it and once I read this book, I really like it cause it gives me more knowledge about Polonnaruwa.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa41This book helps me a lot to understand about Polonnaruwa.


Based on the book, it is explained that Polonnaruwa in prehistoric times was all the jungle and lake. Later, people appeared and clearing the jungle then started to cultivate the land. The purpose of the town in beggining for military camp where the Sri Lankan Kings maintained their standing armies, later on, population grew there. At that time, monks has important roles, since the history of early Sri Lanka was very carefully recorded and written down by them. The book can explains you more about the history.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa24The tuk-tuk driver tried to explain to us about the area.


Later on, we continued to go to the old Polonnaruwa city. Honestly I am a bit confused with the location cause at that moment, I haven’t had proper map of Polonnaruwa, but later I can take a picture of map board in the ticket counter. But this is the area that I visited after I take a look again of the map :

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa22Map of Polonnaruwa ancient city I took from the map board.


First stop to >> Alahana Parivera, Manik Vehera and Rankot Vehera

Alahana Parivera is the largest monastery complex in Polonnaruwa since it has extent of 35 hectares of area. It is believed that the place used to be cremation ground. Here also I saw Rankot Vehera, the biggest dagoba in Polonnaruwa.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa6Alahana Parivera

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa8Pabulu Vehera. This unusual shaped stupa has been built by one of the king Parakramabahu’s wives, queen Rupawathi. Pabulu means Beads, because a large of number of glass beads found around the stupa.


visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa9Lankatilaka Vihara, where two great walls, each with a thickness of 4m & height of 17m form a narrow aisle leading to a very impressive, though now sadly headless Buddha statue still standing, over 14m high.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa10Lankatilaka Guard Stone. One local told us, it’s a female figure. The only female guard.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa11People visiting the area – look at my friend, trying to gather with local 😛

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa12Kiri Vehera, the White Dagoba


Second stop to >> Naipena Vehera

It called Naipena Vehera or Cobra Shrine and probably dedicated to Vishnu, one of Hindu god who is appears as handsome young man with four arms, a mild and gentle god.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa26Naipena Vehera

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa28I walked to the area which used to be a hospital.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa29Study tour?


Third stop to >> Sacred Quadrangle, Nissan Kamalapalace Complex

Here, you will see numerous important monument of Polonnaruwa period which are temples of the Tooth of the Buddha before the tooth moves to Sacred Temple in Kandy. Vatadage is one of the most beautiful building in Polonnaruwa. In the entrance, you can see a beautiful craved stone called moonstone, a symbolic representation of the stages on Buddhist towards Nirvana.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa15A beautiful Moonstone once you want to enter the Vatadage.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa16People prayed in Vatadage.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa17visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa35visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa18Hatadage or Tooth Relic Temple of Nissankamalla, mean “The House Built in Sixty Days.”


Fourth stop to >> Parakramabahu Palace Complex

It must have been used to a very large building. It described as “seven stories high, furnished with a thousand chambers.” The majestic brick ruins will make you feel awesome because you are standing in the middle of witness of the royal palace splendid long time ago.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa36visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa31Monk’s Cell.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa32Incredible the power of nature.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa33Walked around the area.


Fifth stop to >> Siva Sharine No. 1

It’s first monument along the road and devoted to Hindu God, Siva. It was probably built during a period of Indian domination in Thirteen century. Siva is one of the three most important Hindu gods. He represents fertility and destruction.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa3-2 visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa2-2Kumara Pond. I bet it’s so beautiful when they used it long time ago.


Sixth stop to >> Uttararama

It consists the famous Sleeping Buddha statue, a seated Buddha image in deep meditation and a standing figure with 7 meters high. The area called Gal Vihara and built by Parakrambahu I. The Buddha is lying down at the final moment of His earthly life, before entering Parinibbana, the state of Supreme Enlightment. When we were here, the tuk-tuk driver suggest us to visit this place later, because they make a rooftop for the statues, so in the daytime, workers do their job there and will be not nice to see the area. We came to this place almost at the sunset time.

visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa37 visit-the-ancient-city-polonnaruwa5


Seventh stop to >> Statue of King or Sage

It is still debating whether it is a famous sage figure who were Hindu holy men (Brahmanical sage) or represent a king, probably Parakramabahu I. Even Sri Lanka was a predominantly Buddhist country, but they were respected sages (Hindu holy men) and they had an advisory and ceremonial role in Sinhalese Royal Court. We can’t see it properly because it’s dark already, but as said, it’s one of the finest statue in the area.


Notes :

  • Visiting time is from 7 am – 5.30 pm. Come early morning, so you can really explore the whole area. Cycling is really nice idea even you might sweat a lot.
  • Official ticket price of visiting Polonnaruwa is USD 25 (3250 rupees), we paid all the expenses via our tuk-tuk driver – but I am really wonder whether it was a legal entry because I think we got a used ticket – but the thing is, the guard stamped our ticket on the exact date we were there. I hope it was a legal ticket!
  • There is important rules you need to follow while visiting Polonnaruwa ;
  1. Open your shoes/sandals when enter the temple area (sacred places) – it means, you need to walk barefoot in hot surface, so be prepare with it. Better to use sandals, since it takes so much time to open your shoes all the time and a bit annoying.
  2. Open your hat when enter the temple area (sacred places) – otherwise, a local will shout to you “Hello! HELLO!! HAT! HAT!”
  3. Don’t walk on the walls! Even it’s so low and almost the same as the ground, but respect it is an ancient place, there is a history behind it.
  4. Don’t bring food, or you need to fight to get it with monkeys.
  5. Bring water, lots of water.
  6. Use sunblock if your skin is easy to get the sun burn.
  7. No photograph with back toward to the statue.



Me at Rankot Vehera, the largest Dagoba in Polonnaruwa.


Enjoy Polonnaruwa!
Dea Sihotang




    • Hello Lee, yes sure 🙂 With pleasure. Yes, it was quite long journey but at that time we thought that’s the best way. Because we only have 1 weekend, so Saturday we visited Polonnaruwa (arrived at 3 pm) and full Sunday visited Sigiriya and Dambulla (I haven’t finished to write it down). Cheers, Dea


  1. Looks like you had a great moments in polonnaruwa. you were so lucky to be there . And do you know I’m thousand times lucky than you cos I’m living in polonnaruwa. 🙂


  2. A hundred thanks for that map! Great writeup.

    I want to know how long you girls took to cover the entire area in the tuktuk. I’ll reach polonnaruwa by 1pm, by what time can I expect to take the bus back? 🙂



  3. Hey! A thousand thanks for your picture of the map!!

    I’d like to know how long it took for you girls to cover the entire site, on the tuktuk. I’m planning a trip where I’d be arriving at polonnaruwa by 1pm. How long should I give it before I take my bus back?



    • Hello 🙂 At that time we also arrived around lunch time, and take about 3-4 hours to walk around Polonnaruwa by tuk-tuk. But still, it was too late for us to taking bus – so we went with that tuk-tuk to Sigiriya (because we wanna go there in the next morning). Better to avoid taking bus in the evening. I took one from Dambulla to Kandy, and I wasn’t feeling so secure… Hope it helps!

      Cheers, Dea


      • Thank you so much for your reply and your really interesting and helpful blog about this! 🙂 Tomorrow after Minneriya park around 10am we want to go to Polonuwara, hope we have enough time to visit with tuktuk. Tuktuks are not available there at the site in the entrance?

        Thank you in advance!!

        Greetings, Sil


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