Days 3-4 – Polonnaruwa
The name Polonnaruwa is such a mouthful that we initially refer to it as “Polyblablabla”. But, it’s worth learning how to pronounce the name of this UNESCO World Heritage site, which is located about three hours north of Kandy by taxi. We take the rickety, cramped public bus which is only supposed to take three to four hours, but thanks to traffic we arrive in Polonnaruwa almost six hours later. While we chose the public bus, we’d opt for the taxi next time.
Dubbed Sri Lanka’s “Lost City”, Polonnaruwa is the former royal capital of the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms, and somewhere to indulge your Indiana Jones or Lara Croft fantasies. Its jungle-fringed collection of ruined temples, tombs, palaces and Buddhist carvings date back almost a millennium, and there’s also an archaeological museum brimming with monuments and statues. While some tourists explore Polonnaruwa with a guide in a minivan, we prefer a leisurely pedal around its picturesque relics on bicycle. Whenever it gets too steamy, we retreat to shady trees where cheeky monkeys frolic and affable vendors machete open coconuts for us to sip from. Essentially, Sri Lanka is an early-to-rise and early-to-sleep country with minimal nightlife. This suits us just fine because 7am starts and busy days in the heat mean we’re usually blissfully asleep by 10pm.