Exhausted from a morning spent exploring Polonnaruwa’s massive archaeological site, we sat down for a much-needed break. I leafed through our guide book, and took a big gulp. We had already seen a lot, but weren’t even midway through. And the ruins which remained threatened to be even more amazing.
You’ll want to get an early start when you visit the ancient city of Polonnaruwa, for a few reasons. Mornings are cooler. The later the day gets, the more tourists arrive. And the archaeological site is so large that, even with a bike, you’ll need an entire day to see everything. But the chief reason is that you’ve just paid $25 to enter. And damned if you’re not going to get every single rupee’s worth.
For nine centuries, Anuradhapura was the capital and most important city of the Sri Lankan Kingdom, filled with glorious stupas, irrigation tanks and an incomparable religious life. Unfortunately, it was easily accessible and made a tempting target for armies from India. The city often fell into enemy hands and in 1056, King Vijayabahu decided to move to a more defensible location further inland. The age of Polonnaruwa had dawned.