Polonnaruwa is second of importance as royal city to Anuradhapura. In the 11th Century the capital was moved from Anuradhapura to Polonnaruwa, as it was hoped that this new residence in such a difficult accessible area would be better protected from the notorious raids from the Indian Sub-Continent. As a result Polonnaruwa became a splendid residence and capital. During the reigns of the kings Parakrama Bahu the Great (1153 – 1186) and his successor Nissanka Malla 1187 – 1196 the Sinhalese kingdom reached its last golden age, of which the splendour of its buildings and palaces the impressive irrigation system with artificial lakes, tanks and channels give clear evidence.

As in Anuradhapura the monuments and ruins are situated in a lovely tropical area, surrounded by paddy fields and jungle. The buildings are less grandiose and imposing dagobas are missing, with the exception of the Gal Vihara, a group of monumental Buddha statues, belonging to the most famous periods of Sinhalese sculptural achievements. But many of the buildings and constructions are in a much better sate of preservation than in Anuradhapura.