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Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day

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 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 8 hours…

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

Cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, some people call it golden triangle Sri Lanka, includes many iconic tourist attractions such as Sigiriya and Dambulla. Visiting cultural triangle allows you to see hinders of crumbling historical monuments dating back to 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.  Therefore it is a common practice among travellers to visit as many sights as possible within a day; thereby they can cover the most number of places during their Sri Lanka holiday.

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 more insight about one day tour to Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, and Sigiriya.

Visiting historical monuments in Sri Lanka is a popular activity among foreign visitors and 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. 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.

Sigiriya and Dambulla one day trip

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Dambulla golden temple
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Sigiriya rock fortress
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Pinnawala elephant orphanage

Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa program in a nutshell

  • 7.00 am – Sigiriya rock fortress
  • 10.00 am – Polonnaruwa
  • 3.00 pm – Dambulla cave temple

Visiting Cultural triangle

Visiting cultural triangle is minimum 2 days affair but with a tight schedule and if you like to explore the cultural triangle in the normal pace with a bit of leisure you need to allocate 3 days minimum. Venturing on a 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.   

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Polonnaruwa Parakamabhu palace

Visiting Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day, 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 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 trip

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 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 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 pr 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 Pinnawala elephant orphanage, visiting a spice garden, and take part in Sigiriya village tour to the trip.

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Sigiriya rock

Visiting Sigiriya first on the Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in 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 Sigiriya rock fortress at the beginning. You might wonder why I’m asking you to go to Sigiriya early morning. First thing because you can avoid the strong sun rays and heat, you are very well exposed to the sun since at Sigiriya as everything takes place outdoor. You may find it inconvenient if you face the strong sun rays, it makes you sweaty and tired.  In fact, a visit to Sigiriya involves with few hours of steep climbing on 1200 narrow steps.  

Early morning visit 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 4-5 hours on very busy days.    

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

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


  • Sigiriya rock fortress
  • Jeep safari at Minneriya National Park
  • Entire ground transportation
  • All entrance fees
  • English speaking guide
From USD 35.00 P.P

Visiting Polonnaruwa second in the row of attractions

Polonnaruwa is the 2nd most ancient capital of Sri Lanka dates back to 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 dates back to 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, walking cannot be guaranteed 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 in the city. But most travellers are using their vehicles to visit places and it 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 with Sigiriya, it means the weather in Polonnaruwa is similar to the weather in Sigiriya, YES; Polonnaruwa and Sigiriya have same weather conditions with less rainfall, high humidity and high temperature. All things at Polonnaruwa is also take place outdoor (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


  • Anuradhapura historical city
  • Polonnaruwa historical city
  • Sigiriya Rock
  • Dambulla golden cave temple
  • The tooth relic temple
  • Entire ground transportation an air-conditioned and modern vehicle
  • All entrance fees
  • English speaking tour guide
  • 3 nights accommodation with daily breakfast and dinner

Sketch of the program

  • Day 1 Colombo-Anuradhapura-Dambulla-Habarana
  • Day 2 Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa
  • Day 3 Habarana-Kandy
  • Day 4 Kandy-Colombo

The last sight to encounter on the Dambulla Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day

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 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 main 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.

Here is the rough itinerary to explore Dambulla, Sigiriya Polonnaruwa in one day.

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 to Sigiriya, 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.


Sanjeewa Padmal (Seerendipity)

This blog is all about travelling in Sri Lanka, I am trying to illuminate my readers with a wide range of information related to Sri Lanka travel. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you need more information. Furthermore, we can organize your holiday package or any travel related requirement in Sri Lanka. Please contact us on read more

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