Polonnaruwa

In the 12th century AD, the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa was one of the great urban centers in South Asia. Today, the well preserved ruins give you the chance to experience the grandeur of this period and marvel at the artistry of the island's early craftsmen.

Located 142km from Colombo, Polonnaruwa was the island's second ancient capital. Many of the existing ruins owe their construction to Parakramabahu the Great, the last in a sequence of warrior-kings, who developed the city on a lavish scale. He is also credited with the massive artificial lake that lies to the west of the city, The Sea of Parakrama.

At the heart of the ancient city are the remains of the Royal Palace and Council Chamber. Nearby is the vatadage or relic house, a beautifully decorated circular structure with an uncanny resemblance to Stonehenge. Among the other sites are the gal potha (stone book) - a 9m-long granite slab inscribed with the feats of a king - the Lankatilaka shrine and the supremely graceful Buddha statues at Gal Vihara, the pinnacle of Sri Lankan rock carving. The site also hosts many distinctly South Indian-style Hindu temples.

Polonnaruwa's ancient splendour cannot fail to inspire. Set amongst gently undulating woodland, the monkeys, giant lizards and birdlife in abundance seem tamer than elsewhere in the island. Even 1980s pop group Duran Duran were obviously impressed, featuring Polonnaruwa in their music video, Save a Prayer.

King Maha Parakramabahu united Sri Lanka in the year 1153. After his death the Sinhalese kingdom began to fall apart, due to civil war and foreign attacks. At the end of 13 century the glory of Sri Lanka faded. For 70 years Sri Lanka was ruled by the Cholas.Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Remains one of the best planned Archeological relic sites in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and greatness of the Kingdom's first rulers. Its beauty was also used as a backdrop to filmed scenes for the Duran Duran music video Save a Prayer in 1982. The ancient city of Polonnaruwa has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Polonnaruwa is the 2nd largest city in north central province. But it is known as one of the cleaner and more beautiful cities in the country.