The ancient city of Polonnaruwa is one of Sri Lanka's most popular heritage sites. And, like Anuradhapura, the Buddhist pilgrimage site to the north, a must-visit Sri Lanka holiday destination. Situated on the shores of the Parakrama Samudra reservoir, the ruined city was Sri Lanka's capital for two centuries and the centre of a reunited country after the invasion by the Chola dynasty of India in the 11th century.
Today, Polonnaruwa's extensive ruins are some of the countries best preserved. The Royal Palace and Quadrangle are especially impressive, with frescos and rock carvings intricately decorating each building's facade. Elsewhere on the site is the sublime Gal Vihara - the Cave of the Spirits of Knowledge - a temple adorned with four excellent images of Buddha, including a 14-metre recumbent Buddha, carved into a large slab of granite rock. The site is one of the best examples of Sinhalese rock carving and a major Sri Lanka travel highlight.