The second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological cities in the country, standing testimony to the discipline and vision of the island’s first rulers. For three centuries it was the royal capital, of both the Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms. In 1070 the Chola dynasty was overtaken by the Sinhalese King Vijayabahu I, who kept Polonnaruwa as his capital. It was during this Sinhalese period, that Polonnaruwa reached its highest glory. In the early 13th century the city’s glory was fading, it was abandoned, and the capital moved to the western side of the island, where Colombo is today. A walk through this ancient city is not complete without a stop at the king’s Audience Hall, among the best-preserved structures in the Royal Palace Group, with its beautiful stone carved elephants on the walls. Another draw for travelers is the city’s quirky and cheeky population of toque macaques and black faced langurs. These monkeys have been living in the ruins since human occupation and continue to thrive among the temples and religious buildings and you can visit the Polonnaruwa Primate Research Centre to gain a better understanding of these fascinating animals.

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