Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Things to do in Sigiriya;

* Visit the Sigiriya Rock

* See the Sigirya Frescoes

* Visit the ancient citadel and the cobra hooded cave 

* Visit Pidurangala Rock, Sigiriya's lesser known neighbour

* Hiriwadunna Village Trail

* Visit Sigiriya Craft Village

* Elephant back safaris around the Kandalama Lake

* Bird watching around the Sigiriya Sanctuary

* Visit the Cave Temple in Dambulla

* Minneriya National Park

* Polonnaruwa Ancient City

Sigiriya or the Lion Rock is Sri Lanka's single most visited tourist attraction and with good reason. With its history lying in family feud and patricide, this lone sentinel of reddish gneiss rising 600-feet from the rolling central plains, is a magnificent rock fortress and palace, built in the 5th Century by King Kasyapa. A World Heritage site, the rock citadel and the grounds that surround it demonstrate astounding feats of hydro-engineering and a level of urban planning difficult to imagine for the period.

Historical records indicate a gruesome tale behind the establishment of Sigiriya. Kasyapa was the son of King Dutugemunu by a non-royal consort, but the naming of Mogallana, his half brother by the Queen, incensed him. In a bid to attempt King Durtugemunu to change his mind in making him the heir, Kasyapa engineered a coup and imprisoned his father. Over time realising that the King's mind would not be changed, he had his father walled up in a chamber and left to die. Mogallana, fearing that it would be his life next went into self-imposed exile in India. Kasyapa knew reprisal would come from the rightful heir and shifted the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya, using the imposing rock to help build his fortress.

The gardens that extend from the base of the rock are one of the oldest examples of landscaping in the world and consist of three parts - water gardens, boulder gardens and terraced gardens. The water gardens are laid out in three sections and are connected to the outer moat and fed by a man-made lake by way of a complex system of channels, gateways and underground conduits. Some of its limestone fountains work to this day, especially during the rainy season. The boulder gardens feature a series of paths linking a cluster of large boulders leading upto the base of the rock. The terrace gardens are at the base of the rock and are formed by a series of brick walls at different heights built around the perimeter of the rock.

Beyond the terraced gardens, protected by the moat, lies the remains of the lower palace, which was believed to have been used when the upper palace was inhabitable due to inclement weather. A stairway in stone leads towards the summit passing mirror wall. Made of brickwork and highly polished plaster, it is said that the surface was once so shiny that King Kashyapa could see his reflection in it. Over the centuries, travellers have used the mirror wall to pen their thoughts and these inscriptions are still discernible. Along the passage, 21 frescoes of a bare-breasted maidens in an unique style adorn the rock walls. This is all that remains of what was once believed to have covered most of this face of the rock.

Further up the rock, at a mid-level terrace lies the entrance to the upper palace. Carved into the rock, the lions mouth would have presented a most imposing fortification, although what remains today are just the fore paws of the granite beast. What was the mouth, forms a narrow entrance to the summit and palace grounds. At the top of the rock lie the ruins of the upper palace, which is recorded to have been a gleaming white structure.

A list of attractions and some of the best things to do in Sigiriya;

Image of Pidurangal rock and along with the famouse sigiriya rock accross the waterMinneriya national park in closer to PolonnaruwaImage of Lord Buddha in the cave temple in DambullaPlonnaruwa Ancient city in Sri Lanka

Best time to visit Sigiriya is from February to October 

Distance and travel times from Sigiriya to some key cities; 

Distance from Sigiriya to Polonnaruwa is about 57 km and travel time is 1.0 to 1.5 hours.

Distance from Sigiriya to Kandy is about 92 km and travel time is 2 to 2.5 hours.

Distance from Sigiriya to Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) is about 150 km and travel time is 3.5 to 4 hours.

Distance from Sigiriya to Colombo is about 173 km and travel time is 4 to 4.5 hours.

For any other location you can use the distance calculator on the side bar.

Written by Jonathan Roelofsz for

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