We spent just two nights in Polonnaruwa in North Central Sri Lanka, to visit the ancient city ruins – another UNESCO heritage site.
The site spans a huge area and we hired bikes to get around (as many do; there’s a bike hire place opposite the main entrance). We were unaware that within the site we’d be sharing the road with coaches, cars, mopeds and tuk tuks – it got pretty busy in places and unpleasant with all the vehicle fumes. The roads here really ought to be aimed more towards pedestrians, cycling, and access for the disabled or elderly, preferably using electric vehicles as they have done around the Taj Mahal in India. Along the route there are parking areas with food and drink on sale and toilets.
The ruins nearest the entrance were the busiest and are the least interesting though they include the royal palace and council chambers which date back to 1153 AD. Further north are more impressive and intact structures such as the large Stupas shown below and the impressive Gal Vihara rock temple. Openstreetmap shows the various paths through the site and identifies many of the structures, see here for the northern most part of the site. We often find openstreetmap (which can be used off-line through various apps such as maps.me) gives more information than google maps (note that we have no affiliation with OSM or maps.me – these are just recommendations).
At the temples you have to take your shoes off, but for some of them the sandy ground was so hot it was very uncomfortable to look round for long. We sometimes had to sprint across the ground to reach shade. Those with forethought, or possibly just luck, wore socks. The rest of us got scorched feet.
The kids especially enjoyed our hotel as it had a pool – the perfect antedote to a hot day’s sightseeing. I think they enjoyed the pool more than the ruins!
From Polonnaruwa we caught the Batticaloa train, alighting at Valaichennai for a few day’s coastal stop in Pasikuda.