Guidebook/Map Available, Photos Prohibited in Visitor Center Exhibits, Tour by Car During Hot Weather, Take socks
Polonnaruwa is a huge archeological site rich in cultural history of Sri Lanka dating from 900 years ago. I toured the grounds with my driver in early May and spent about four hours at the many, many different sites starting from the Visitor’s Center (then to the Palace ruins, Sacred Quadrangle, Golden Pinnacle Stupa, etc., all listed in the guidebook – see attached photo).
Having toured the grounds during the hot season, I could not imagine taking a bicycle or walking around the grounds with the pervasive heat. Having a car and driver allowed me to spend more time studying the sites, taking photos and less time travelling from one point to the other. Distances between major sites seemed large. From the southernmost point (the king’s statue) to the northernmost point (the Tivanka image house) is about four kilometers. While touring the grounds, I reminded myself that Polonnaruwa was once a thriving capital city and can only imagine it’s former grandeur. The visitor’s center/museum was extremely informative with the hypothetical architectural models of the palace, temples and audience hall, now only extant as ruins. I would recommend tourists to not miss studying these models before seeing the ruins (see attached photo).
--Take socks. When entering some of the temples (e.g. Vatage), visitors are expected to take off their shoes observing respect to the hallowed grounds. During hot weather, the stone tiles are like surface of a grill. Wearing sock could definitely mitigate the discomfort.
--Purchase the guidebook published by the Central Cultural Fund. The pictures suggest that the book was written probably two decades ago, but the information (and map of each important site) is still highly relevant. I purchased a copy at the small bookshop at the back of the visitor’s center/museum, near the toilets. I’ve also seen the guidebook for sale at the Sigiriya museum bookshop.
--Photography is prohibited at the exhibits in the visitor’s center.
--Watch out for packs of simians at the palace ruins. Some can be quite aggressive. One tried to snatch my camera from my hands.