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Polonnaruwa

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About Polonnaruwa

The island’s capital from the 11th to 13th century, Polonnaruwa remains one of Sri Lanka’s most famous sites, home to the ruins of an impressive ancient city. With guesthouses and hotels to suit a whole range of budgets, accommodation options here are broad and varied. Our pick of the best places to stay in Polonnaruwa offers you a superb spot from which to soak up the sacred city’s highlights in style.

UNESCO-recognised Polonnaruwa is home to soaring brick pagodas, sunken pools, striking Buddha statues and splendid carvings. Visitors can stroll or cycle throughout the sprawling archaeological site. Guided tours are easily arranged and it’s worth considering hiring a driver: there’s so much to see and the sheer size of the site can be overwhelming to those unaccustomed to the heat. Begin at the museum, before admiring the enormous man-made Parakrama Samudra lake — known as a ‘tank’ — and continuing to the Royal Palace, Scared Quadrangle and Gal Vihara. Monkeys swing between the branches, there are snacks and coconuts for sale, and endless 800-year-old ruins to discover.

Venture further afield to the famous rock fortress at Sigiriya (1 hour away), or to spot creatures aplenty — including elephants — at nearby Minneriya National Park (25 minutes away). The modern town itself is less memorable; this is a place for history buffs and nature lovers eager to explore. 

With the tranquil seas and stunning beaches of Sri Lanka’s east coast just two hours to one side and the historic sites of Dambulla and Anuradhapura to the other, Polonnaruwa is a brilliant cultural addition to any Sri Lankan itinerary. Whether you’re dreaming of discovering ancient ruins, elephant-spotting or simply putting your feet up alongside the lake, our pick of the best places to stay in Polonnaruwa has you covered.

The best places to stay in Polonnaruwa 

For lakeside views

  • The Lake House Polonnaruwa offers 14 beautifully-appointed rooms, many of which boast stunning views over the picturesque lake or the ancient city ruins. There’s a pool, a lake-facing restaurant, and plenty of scope for wildlife-watching. A gorgeous spot!

For self-catering

  • If you’d prefer to stay in an apartment or private villa we suggest that you visit our online partner booking.com.

Travel Information 

  • Polonnaruwa is around 4 hours’ drive from Bandaranaike International Airport. Most hotels will be happy to arrange an airport pickup with a reliable driver who knows the winding roads well.
  • Alternatively, hop aboard the train from Fort Station in Colombo for a slow and scenic journey. Tickets are cheap and this is a superb way to experience Sri Lanka. Regular local buses are also available, but can be an especially sticky and unreliable means of transport.
  • Polonnaruwa is a year-round destination but the heat reaches its peak in April and May, making for sweltering ancient city strolls. You’ll need to cover your knees and shoulders when visiting sacred sites (that goes for men & women!) and you’ll be asked to remove your shoes, so do plan your outfit accordingly!
  • This is a hugely popular spot and hotels fill up fast — especially during the European summer holidays and the Christmas period — so book your stay well in advance!

Still not sure? 

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Best Hotels in Polonnaruwa

  • The Lake House Polonnaruwa Polonnaruwa 14 rooms from £74

    Back to Nature  -  Overlooking the serene Giritale Lake it is immersed in nature
    Kayaking  -  Take a kayak out on the Giritale Lake
    Sights nearby  -  The ancient city of Polonnaruwa
    Views  -  Great views from hotel
    Air conditioningRestaurantViewsParkingNo pets

    Formerly known as Polonnaruwa Rest House this colonial bungalow has undergone much modernisation since the Queen stayed here in 1954. Overlooking Giritale lake bedrooms and dining areas boast marvellous views. Delicious Sri Lankan dishes are served. A great spot to explore historic Polonnaruwa. See More

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