Polonnaruwa is the second historical capital of Sri Lanka from the 11th – 13th Century AD. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is 215km from Colombo, approximately a 5 hours drive, passing through Minneriya National Park. The South Indian invaders called Cholas destroyed the Kingdom of Anuradhapura and moved to Polonnaruwa, making it their administrative capital until 1070 when King Vijayabahu the 1st defeated and chased the Cholas away to make Polonnaruwa the 2nd historic capital city of Sri Lanka.Even though the hot sun makes it a bit tough to walk around, Polonnaruwa is one of the most loved historical cities in the country for many visitors due to the spectacular and well preserved statues, remains of historic buildings with splendid architecture and religious buildings with great character and charm.Another great attraction is one of the largest man made reservoirs, the Parakrama Samudraya.
The Lankatilake, Tivanka and Thuparama are the most beautiful and largest Image Houses and Tivanka has the best examples of wall paintings of the Polonnaruwa period. The Gal Vihara is arguably the most famous and impressive attraction in Polonnaruwa. It is a Buddhist shrine with four different statues of the Buddha carved out on the same rock. There are two seated statues where one is smaller in size and is carved inside a small cave in the main rock.
Of the other two statues, one is a standing Buddha statue and the other a reclining one resembling the passing away of the Buddha.
These four statues along with the standing statue of the sage Pulasthi, but popularly known as King Parakramabahu the great, found in a different location of the city illustrates the enormous skill of the ancient Sri Lankan stone carvers. Lesser in size to the Dagobas (Stupas) found in Anuradhapura are the Stupas in Polonnaruwa. Rankoth Vehera and Kirivehera are good examples for the well preserved large Stupas done during this period. The remains of the seven storied palace of King Parakramabahu the 1st, Vata–Da-Ge (Circular Relic House) and the Council Chambers of King Parakramabahu and King Nissankamalla are impressive examples of the architecture of Polonnaruwa period.The medieval capital of Polonnaruwa was fortified with inner & outer moats and inner & outer walls. The Parakrama Samudra (ocean created by King Parakramabahu) is a classic example of the advanced irrigation system of the time, which is located on the western side of the city. The Royal Palace, Audience Hall and other buildings in the inner city were enclosed by another tall wall for extra protection.