Planning an Itinerary
With sites located relatively close to one another and a host of accommodation options spread across the sites and nearby towns, there are endless possibilities for touring itineraries. One option is to base yourself at one of the major sites - Dambulla or Sigiriya - and spend a few days exploring the various monuments or another good option is to use the large village of Habarana as your base. Well-located on an intersection of two major roads, Habarana offers a number of upmarket hotels and works especially well if your itinerary includes Minneriya National Park. The village of Giritale, situated between Minneriya National Park and Polonnaruwa, is another good option.
It's possible to cover the major sites of the Cultural Triangle in as little as three days covering Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla and Kandy, and disregarding travel time to and from Colombo. Such a time frame would allow half day tours of each site so if you want a more leisurely pace then allow yourself four days minimum. Anuradhapura deserves a full day with so many monuments spread across a large area though within this day of touring you can also include a visit to Mihintale. If including Anuradhapura in your itinerary it's worth spending a night here to allow a full day of touring and then transferring to Dambulla or Sigiriya the following day. It's possible to take either morning or afternoon game drives in Minneriya National Park so you could visit for just half a day though if seeing elephants in the wild is important to you then it's definitely worth allowing a full day.
The lesser-visited sites recommended here can easily be worked into an itinerary visiting the major sites. For instance, the rock fortress of Yapahuwa and the Aukana Buddha can be visited on the drive from Colombo to Anuradhapura (allow a full day) while the cave temples of Aluvihara can be visited on the drive to Kandy. The forest hermitage of Ritigala can be combined with Dambulla and Sigiriya in a full day of touring.