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Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day

Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day

Is it possible to visit Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa on one day Sri Lanka trip? Yes, but starting the tour from Dambulla or Sigiriya is very important in order to explore Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa in one day, because you have to travel around 150 km on this trip (suppose you start the tour in Sigiriya or a nearby place), the journey takes around 3 hours. And you also need around another 6 hours for the sightseeing; it means the entire tour lasts 9 hours…

In case you start the Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa trip from Colombo or any other beach resort on the west coast or south coast, it would be a daunting task to complete the trip successfully. It is due to the long journey from Colombo which lasts at least 4 hours. If you based in Colombo or in a beach resort on the west coast, it is best to plan a 2 days cultural triangle trip to visit Sigiriya Dambulla and Polonnaruwa.

Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya

Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya are UNESCO world heritage sites. Visiting Dambulla, Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya are top priorities for most travellers, especially for foreign travellers. All 3 cities are highly important tourist attractions in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and included in most Srilanka trip packages such as Sri Lanka 5 days tour to the cultural triangle. The trio hides some of the oldest monuments on earth E.g Dambulla cave temple dates back to the 5th century BC while Sigiriya rock dates back to the 5th century AD. Polonnaruwa was the second most ancient capital of Sri Lanka dates back to the 10th century AD.

Visiting Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day: is it possible?

The cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, some people call it the golden triangle Sri Lanka, includes many iconic tourist attractions such as Sigiriya and Dambulla. Visiting the cultural triangle allows you to see hundreds of crumbling historical monuments dating back to the 3rd century BC. But it is not only cultural and historical monuments to be explored on the island, but there are also so many other important places as well. 

It is a common practice among travellers to allocate a few days for sightseeing in each part of the island. E.g the travellers plan 3 nights in the cultural triangle to visit historical monuments, then move to Sri Lanka’s upcountry to enjoy the breathtaking scenery. Later the travellers move further south to take part in Sri Lanka jungle tours and visit wildlife reserves. And ultimately wind up their trips by visiting the west coast and south coast beaches.

Due to this common habit, most travellers visit as many sites as possible when they are in the cultural triangle before more to their next base. The travellers choose the best and most popular places to visit.

Why visit Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa

Visiting historical monuments in Sri Lanka is a popular activity among foreign visitors. Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa are UNESCO world heritage sites and important historical monuments. Therefore, all three places are included in most Sri Lanka road trips.

I receive many emails every week with a question like “Can we visit Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya in one day?”, “Can you arrange a tour to visit Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya? ”, “How long does it take to visit Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya?”. That’s why I thought of crafting this blog post, in order to give a complete picture one the day tour to Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya.

Even though there are hundreds of crumbling ancient structures in the cultural triangle by far Sigiriya, Dambulla cave and Polonnaruwa are the most popular places in the cultural triangle.

When is the best time for the Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa trip?

If you are wondering what the best time of the year for the Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa trip, I would say this trip can be done throughout the year. Dambulla, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa are located within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka and all of these paces are in Sri Lanka’s dry zone. The rainfall in the dry zone of Sri Lanka is limited and most part of the year remains dry, which means the travellers can have nice sunny weather most time of the year. However, weather can be very wet during the rainy season and travellers need to keep an eye on the weather in teh area especially in the month of October, November.

5 Most important cities in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa tour in a nutshell

Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa tour in a nutshell

  • 07.00 am – Start the hike at Sigiriya rock fortress
  • 09.45 am – Finish the Sigiriya rock hike
  • 10.00 am – Drive to Polonnaruwa
  • 11.00 am – Arrive at Polonnaruwa and start the Polonnaruwa city tour
  • 01.00 pm – Leave Polobnnaruea historical city
  • 01.20 pm – Lunch
  • 03.30 pm – visit Dambulla golden cave temple
  • 04.30 pm – end of the one-day Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla trip

Visiting Cultural triangle

Visiting the cultural triangle is a minimum 2 days affair but with a tight schedule and if you like to explore the cultural triangle at a normal pace with a bit of leisure you need to allocate 3 days minimum. Venturing on a cultural triangle tour such as 4 days Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour is an interesting thing to do because it allows you to see remnants of a well-developed culture in the past.

The stupendous Dagobas, interacting wood and stone carvings, gigantic granite statues and centuries-old paintings are the proof of this civilization. You will encounter many dozens of cities, parks, palaces and temples in historic cities.   


Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle Tour, Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day, Dambulla to Sigiriya
Polonnaruwa Parakamabhu palace

One day outing to Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa, is it possible?

In this article, we are concentrating on one particular question that many travellers have in their mind as they plan a Sri Lanka trip.  The question is, can we visit Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day? As far as my experience is concerned visiting the trio is possible in one day, in fact, I have done it many times. Here I’m going to show you step by step how to do it.   

Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya in one day tour – how to travel

I presume you have private transport to move from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa and later to Dambulla because it is very important to have a proper way of travelling between those sites in order to save time. If you resort to public transport it might be a daunting task visiting Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya in one day. Usually, public transport is slow and behind the schedule.

Starting place of the trip to Dambulla, Polonnaruwa Sigiriya

You have to start the journey from a nearby place in order to explore Dambulla, Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day, because you have to travel around 150 km on this trip (suppose you start the tour in Sigiriya or a nearby place), and it takes around 3 hours. And you also need around another 5 hours for the sightseeing; it means the entire tour lasts roughly about 8 hours. Of course, you also have to calculate some time for a couple of rests (for lunch, to have a drink, to use the toilet etc) and therefore you will not be having much time to do anything else.

If you plan the trip from a faraway destination like Colombo or Kandy you have to start the trip very early (around 4.00 am) and the tour ends late at night. Therefore if you like to explore Dambulla, Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day from Colombo, Kandy or the west coast it is recommended to make it a 2 days tour. By making a 2 days tour you are not only able to visit Dambulla, Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day, you can also add few other interesting things such as safari, visiting the Pinnawala elephant orphanage, visiting a spice garden, and take part in Sigiriya village tour to the trip.

Sigiriya rock fortress, visiting sigiriya, visiting Dambulla, visiting polonnruwa, Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day
Sigiriya rock

Visiting Sigiriya: the first activity on Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa one day trip

In this one day tour I suggest you start the tour as early as possible (around 7 am) and I suggest you visit the Sigiriya rock fortress at the beginning. You might wonder why I’m suggesting you visit Sigiriya early morning. First thing because you can avoid the strong sun rays and the heat, you are well exposed to the sun on the Sigiriya hike, since the hike at Sigiriya is an outdoor activity. You may find it inconvenient, if you do the hike during the midday, it makes you sweaty and tired. In fact, a visit to Sigiriya involves with few hours of steep climbing on 1200 narrow steps.  

The early morning visit to Sigiriya rock also enables you to avoid the horde of tourist, who start to gather at the entrance at around 8 am and then continues until about early afternoon.

If you caught in the tourist traffic you may have to spend a few hours more for the climb, as there is only one narrow stair to climb the rock. Unusually the climb at Sigiriya lasts around 2 hours (both upward and downward journey) however this can be prolonged up to around 3-4 hours on very busy days.    

Time management is important on this trip as you have to visit 3 major tourist attractions and travel around 250 km on the day. Try to limit the time spent on the Sigiriya hike to 2 hours, it makes the rest of the trip easier. Usually, it does take about 2 hours for most travellers at Sigiriya.

Early morning climb allows you to explore the archaeological site when there are fewer people on the site, which means you can explore the monument at your own pace (no rush) and most importantly no waste of time in the queue.  

Drive from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa

The drive from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa takes around 1 hour and the distance to cover is 55 km.

Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa bus

However, if you opt to travel by public transport (bus) it might take up to 3 hours to reach Polonnaruwa from Sigiriya due to the few transit points. The first transit point is at Inamaluwa and the second transit point is at Habarana. There is no direct bus to travel to Polonnaruwa from Sigiriya, therefore you need to travel to Inamaluwa junction from Sigiriya and take a Habaran bound bus from Inamalkuwa. You will be able to take a direct bus to Polonnaruwa from Habarana.

Ask your driver/guide to take Moragaswewa-Illukwewa Rd, better known as Sigiriya shortcut from as you drive from Sigiriya rock to Polonnaruwa, If you take the main road (via Habarana) the journey will be prolonged by about 40 minutes.

Minneriya Elephant Safari with Sigiriya Lion Rock from Colombo-1 Day

Visiting Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa is the 2nd most ancient capital of Sri Lanka dates back to the 10th century AD. Polonnaruwa hides a large number of historical monuments and most monuments are still in good shapes. Here you find many dozens of palaces, parks, temples, audience halls and many other historical structures that date back many centuries. Unlike in Sigiriya, there are no steps to climb in Polonnaruwa, but the monuments are scattered over a large area, in the ancient city. Therefore you have to walk or drive from one place to the other.

Since there is a large number of monuments to visit, a walking tour cannot be recommended in Polonnaruwa, however, you can rent a bike, and ride on two wheels in the ancient city. It is one of the best ways of exploring the city, which is cheap and most importantly you can enjoy the beautiful surrounding as you move around the historical city.

But most travellers are using their vehicles to travel between places and it is fast and convenient. The Polonnaruwa city tour lasts around 2 hours if you explore the city on a cycle and the tour lasts about 1 hour 30 minutes if you have a taxi.  

Polonnaruwa is also located in the north-central province of Sri Lanka and share the same climate zone as Sigiriya, which means the weather in Polonnaruwa is similar to the weather in Sigiriya. Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya have the same weather conditions with less rainfall, high humidity and high temperature.

Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day
weather pattern sigiriya, Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day

All activities in Polonnaruwa is also outdoor activities (except Polonnaruwa museum), but the green cover in the historical city of Polonnaruwa is much greater than in Sigiriya, that’s the difference between Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. Therefore you are not exposed to the sun in Polonnaruwa and shady trees give you the cover. Artefacts in Polonnaruwa spreads over a large area and people are also scattered and you don’t feel the presence of a big crowd.

Cultural triangle tour-4 days

The last temple to visit on the Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa in a one-day tour

I like to suggest visiting Dambulla golden cave temple towards the end of the one day tour of visiting Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa. The climb at the Dambulla cave temple is not as strenuous as in Sigiriya. With an easy hike that lasts no more than 10 minutes (maximum) you can visit Polonnaruwa at any time. It is quite easy to climb on Dambulla steps than in Sigiriya rock-cut stair, the latter is narrower.  

The hike at Dambulla was much more strenuous and lasts much longer than today, a few years back when the travellers start the hike near the A9 main road. But later the management of the temple was given to another temple in the same area; thereby a new entrance came to be making the hike easier. The best time to hike at Dambulla is in the afternoon or in the morning due to the heat. Usually, the tourist traffic in Dambulla is much less than in Sigiriya; however, there are instances, in which a couple of hundred travellers flock into the cave.  Most travellers visit Dambulla in the early hours and there are only very few people in the afternoon, it is due to the temple visit arranged in Sri Lanka tour packages.

The visit to Dambulla cave temple lasts about 1 hour with visits to all 5 caves and upward as well as downward journeys.

Tooth relic temple and the nearby Kandy Lake. The tooth relic temple first used as the royal palace during the reign of Kandy King and it was converted to a sacred temple as the tooth relic was transferred Kandy.
Tooth relic temple and the nearby Kandy Lake. The tooth relic temple first used as the royal palace during the reign of Kandy King and it was converted to a sacred temple as the tooth relic was transferred Kandy.

Sigiriya to Dambulla

The travellers can easily drive from Sigiriya to Dambulla by using public transport. However, you do not get trail transport on this route. The distance from Sigiriya to Dambulla is 17 km and it takes between 20-40 minutes depending on how you travel. If you have a private vehicle you can save time and drive Sigiriya to Dambulla in 20 minutes. If you opt for the public bus it would take at least 40 minutes.

Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa day trip in a nutshell

You need to adjust timing according to any other extra time that you required on travelling E.g. if you stay in a hotel in Habarana or Dambulla you have to add another 30 minutes for the drive from the hotel Sigiriya, which means you have to leave the hotel at 6.30 am.  

  • 7.00 am: Start the climb at Sigiriya rock
  • 8.00 am: reach the summit and explore the ruins
  • 8.30 am: start the downward journey
  • 9.15 am: Reach the vehicle at the park
  • 9.15 am: 30 minutes rest (near the Sigiriya rock you can find dozens of cafeteria and having a cool drink will be a good reward after the strenuous climb)
  • 9.45 am: start the journey to Polonnaruwa
  • 10.45 am: reach the archaeological museum and purchase the ticket subsequently see the valuable artefacts in the museum
  • 11.30 am: visit the historical city of Polonnaruwa
  • 01.30 pm: finish sightseeing tour of Polonnaruwa and leave the site
  • 02.00 pm: Lunch
  • 03.00 pm: Drive to Dambulla cave temple
  • 04.00 pm: visit Dambulla cave temple
  • 05.00 pm: leave the temple

End of the Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa one day trip

Apart from Dambulla, Sigiriya Polonnaruwa there are many things to do and see in Sigiriya and Dambulla. Safari at Minneriya national park, Habarana village tour, Pidurangala temple is some of them. But with the fully packed itinerary, you hardly have extra time to do other things on this one day trip. So it is recommended to plan a 2 days trip with 1 overnight stay in a hotel in Sigiriya or Polonnaruwa, thereby you can visit many inter resting places in 2 days along with Dambulla, Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day.

Visiting Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa in one day without the Dambulla cave temple

Visiting Sigiriya and Polonnaruwamin in one day is quite easy but you don’t save much by omitting the Dambulla cave temple from the Dambulla, Sigiriya Polonnaruwa day trip. You don’t lose much time by visiting Dambulla golden temple compared to Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa. And if you drive to Sigiriya, Dambulla is not far away from you, it is just a matter of 20 minutes drive to reach it. Unlike the hike at Sigiriya, the Dambulla hike is quite easy and it takes only 10 minutes to go up on the stairs.

Visiting Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa with Seerendipity tours

Seerendipity tour is a fully locally owned travel company with the head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity tours and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka.

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When you book a tour with us, you directly book the tour with the local company, it means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see.

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