Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle

Is two out of three enough? I decided to only see Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa instead of heading north for Anuradhapura. I read Polonnaruwa is more interesting than Anuradhapura. As much as I enjoy visiting archeological sites there’s only so many I want to see in a short amount of time. 

For both sites I used public transportation. Have I said how much I love the transport system here? It’s incredibly cheap and easy. There aren’t timetables or route maps. The bus stops are obvious as there’s a sign but that’s it. When a bus stops, ask if it’s heading in your direction then jump on. I went to Sigiriya for $0.60 each way and took the bus to Polonnaruwa for $0.50 each way. A couple I met told me they paid $25 for a tuk tuk to Sigiriya. Tourist attractions are expensive in Sri Lanka. Save money where you can.

Sigiriya is one of those places that would have been incredible to see in its prime. The palace ruins at the top are minimal. It can be hard to imagine what it would have looked like in its original form. I wish I could show photos of the frescoes but photography wasnt permitted. Thev view from the top is incredible. It was a little foggy and cloudy when I was up there. I travelling in the rain seasons so it rains everyday. It was interesting to see but not worth the $30 entrance ticket. 

Polonnaruwa was definitely worth the price of the entrance ticket. I love visiting archeology sites like this – Angkor Wat, Sukhothai, Machu Picchu. I can spend hours exploring and taking photos. We spent 4 hours at the site when other people recommended 2 hours. There werent many information signs around which made hiring a guide beneficial. Otherwise it can feel like youre staring at a pile of rocks. The detail and layout of the complex is beautiful and impressive.

Sri Lanka is still an emerging travel destination for people outside Asia. It’s also the off season which means there are fewer tourists. I’m the only person staying at my accommodation in Habarana. I went to Polonnaruwa with a woman I met on Facebook. Backpacker Facebook groups are incredibly helpful for solo travellers. There’s usually a group for every country and sometimes regions. I reached out to a traveller whp had posted she was interested in seeing Polonnaruwa. We were staying in two difffent towns yet Facebook brought us together to see the sites. We split the cost and had company for the day which is sometimes nice after traveller alone. 

Next up was Kaudulla National Park to see elephants. This is how elephants tourism is supposed to be. You don’t ride them, you see them in their habitat. Tourists head out on jeeps to national parks to see elephants. You’re not permitted to exit the vehicle or feed the animals. It’s amazing to see elephants in their own habitat interacting with themselves instead of tourists. 

The best place for sunrise in the area is Pidurangala. It’s a quick 20 minute hike up to get this incredible view of Sigiriya. There were only a dozen people at the top when I was there at 6:30am. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me at sunrise so I arranged a tuk tuk driver through my accommodation. It can feel a little sketchy going through the dirt back roads in the dark with so few people around. Another advantage of going that early is we saw a couple wild elephants wandering around the roads. 

I heard the path started off with stairs and ended with a few boulders. A few was an understatement.  There wasn’t a path, you climb over rocks to get to the top. A small hike, a little out of the way as there isn’t a local to to get there, but definitely itself worth visiting. It’s all about the views here. 

The path near the top
The oath near the top

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