Best time to visit Sri Lanka

Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka

Part of Sri Lanka's famous Cultural triangle and UNESCO World Heritage list

Best time: January–February | June–September


Polonnaruwa became the kingdom and a new capital of Sri Lanka in 1070 AD, after the fall of Anuradhapura. It is the most western point of the famous Cultural Triangle.

Polonnaruwa features the largest man-made rainwater reservoir in the country, called the Parakrama Samudra. Created by King Parakramabahu, it occupies an area of 2,500 ha and remains a primary source of water for farming. Statue of the King holding a manuscript can be seen near the water carved in the rock. There is also a large 16 m carving of Buddha and several ancient Hindu temples.

Parakramabahu I is praised for the period called "Golden Age of Polonnaruwa." At that time, both agriculture and trade flourished in the region thanks to irrigation systems that were far superior to those of the Anuradhapura Age. Water was sufficient for paddy cultivation during the rigid dry season in the east of the island. After Jaffna Kingdom invasion of Sri Lanka in 1284, the capital was moved to Dambadeniya, and Polonnaruwa got somewhat neglected.

The place is popular both among tourists and locals. You can visit it anytime, but favorable weather conditions are between January and February and also from June to September. Also, in terms of hours, they say that late afternoon is the best time to visit Polonnaruwa as all the tourist buses usually leave by that time.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Polonnaruwa and why?

It is best to visit Polonnaruwa from January to February and June to September due to the favorable weather. Sri Lanka is a tropical country where two monsoons, southwest and northeast, affect the climate. There is a significant drop in the number of tourists during the monsoon season. These months are an excellent opportunity to enjoy a relaxed time while exploring the ancient city. Visitors can witness many historical sites, try local delicacies, and immerse themselves in the local culture during this period. Show more

What are the unique attractions of Polonnaruwa that are a must-visit for tourists?

While in Polonnaruwa, tourists must visit some of the unique attractions, including the Parakrama Samudra, a vast and ancient water reservoir. Another must-visit attraction is the statue of King Parakramabahu I holding a manuscript near a rock. Tourists can also explore several ancient Hindu temples, a 16m carving of Buddha, and the famous Gal Vihara, known for its four Buddha figures carved from granite. All these make Polonnaruwa an ideal destination for culture and history enthusiasts. Show more

How long does it take to tour Polonnaruwa and its cultural attractions?

Touring Polonnaruwa to understand its rich cultural heritage fully takes about 3-4 hours on average. Visitors may choose to hire a tour guide to understand the historical significance of every heritage site, extending their visiting time. For a comfortable visit, tourists should carry essentials such as comfortable footwear, sunscreen, hat, and water. Polonnaruwa is an extensive archaeological complex, and visitors who desire to explore all sites may need to allocate an entire day, especially history enthusiasts. Show more

What are the local festivals or events that take place in Polonnaruwa and how can tourists participate?

During Sri Lanka's Siva Ratri Festival held annually, mainly for the Hindu deity, Shiva, visitors can partake in PUJA (worship) rituals and processions. Apart from pilgrims, the event also attracts many visitors who can watch the celebrations, taste local food, and enjoy the festivities. Tourists who wish to participate in the celebrations may do so, but it is first essential to find out when the Siva Ratri festival is held since it does not have a set date and changes annually. Show more

Are there any unique souvenirs or handicrafts that tourists can buy in Polonnaruwa, and where can they find them?

Tourists have the opportunity to buy various souvenirs and handicrafts, including wooden masks, paintings, ancient statue or coin replicas, carved elephants, and batik clothes. Local shops, markets, and entrance points to heritage sites sell them. Visitors seeking unique handmade artifacts can buy them at the Handicrafts village, located in Polonnaruwa town. These souvenirs are specific to the region and are a perfect way for tourists to remember their visit to this ancient city. Show more

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Authors: Olha Savych