Things to do
2-3h-Village Tour, Harbarana from Polonnaruwa
Experience rural Sri Lankan life during your visit to Habarana, lasting around three hours. Explore the local forest and bush by bullock cart and on foot, followed by a scenic canoe ride on a picturesque lake where you can see farmers working in the fields. After, have authentic lunch at a charming village house for an authentic experience. Your English speaking guide will also point out birds and local flora.
1h-Dambulla Rock Cave Temple from Polonnaruwa
The Dambulla rock caves are the largest, best preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka, dating back to the 1st century B.C., converted into residential quarters for monks, thus becoming a Buddhist temple. Be amazed by 5 caves (converted into shrine rooms) under a vast overhanging rock, containing images of the Lord Buddha and bodhisattvas, as well as various gods and goddesses. One of the most important centres of Buddhist pilgrimage in Sri Lanka, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Day visit to Sigiriya from Polonnaruwa
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ancient city of Sigiriya dates back over 5,000yrs to the Mesolithic period. Sigiriya (Lions Rock), lies on the steep slopes and summit of a granite peak standing 180m high (‘Lion’s Rock’- dominating the jungle on all sides). In the 5th century AD, King Kassapa I left Anuradhapura for Sigiriya to build a palace and city modelled on the mythical abode of ‘Kuvera’- God of Wealth. Visit Sigiriya Rock Fortress..identified uniquely by its shape, recognizable from great distances. See the Sigiriya Rock Paintings or Frescoes of Sigiri Damsels, locally called ‘Sigiri Apsaras’, painted on the western rock face cavity, 100m above the rock base. See the Mirror Wall here, covered in graffiti from the 7th-10th centuries.
Day visit to Anuradhapura from Polonnaruwa
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Anuradhapura is a sacred city with an over 1,000yr old illustrious history..once the ancient Sri Lankan capital. Explore this secret city portraying an amazing picture of Sri Lanka’s ancient civilization. An important Buddhist pilgrimage centre, it has some of the largest Dagaba’s found in the country. Visit the sacred Bo (Bodhi) Tree, grown from a sapling of the very tree under which lord Buddha found enlightenment over 2500yrs ago (recorded as the oldest tree in history); observe huge bell-shaped Stupas built of small sun-dried bricks, temples, sculptures, palaces and, ancient drinking-water reservoirs. Visit Isurumuniya Vihara Temple and the Carving of the Isurumuniya lovers, situated between 2 rocks..a beautiful temple famous among locals and foreigners for the stone carving of a couple located there; see the image house having a reclining Buddha cut from the rock; marvel at surrounding lakes, paddy fields and rocks.
Set out on a Wild Elephant and/or Birding Jeep Safari’s to Minneriya Park, ideal for the ‘off season’ safari enthusiast. Situated in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka betwixt 4 ancient cities, it spans 8,889 hectares. Be lucky to see large herds of over 100 elephants together. Look out for birds like the Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot; mammals like Sambar, Spotted Deer, Leopard, Sloth Bear; and endemics like the Toque Macaque and Purple-faced Langur.
City Highlights of Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa..the Medieval Capital of Sri Lanka, was the second capital of the country after the destruction of the ancient city of Anuradhapura in 993 (from 10th-12th century AD). Observe ancient Sri Lankan architecture from the 12th Century..see Brahmanic monuments built by the Cholas and the monumental ruins of the garden city created by Parakramabahu I in the 12th century. Visit the ruins of the King’s Council Chamber, the Royal Citadel, the Kumara Pokuna, the Royal Pavilion, the Vatadage Relic House, Kiri Vehera and Gal Vihare; see Art, Architecture and Sculpture at Gal Viharaya,Thuparamaya Image House and Lankatilaka Image House.