The ancient fortress of Sigiriya lies on top of a giant granite rock in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. 180 metres in height,
climbing Sigiriya Rock, tops the to-do-list in the region.
Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sigiriya is one of the most extraordinary fortress palaces in the world. Originally used by Buddhist monks as a monastery, the Sigiriya Rock became a fortress, once King Kashyapa, fearing vengeance by the rightful heir to the kingdom, chose to build his palace at the summit making it his capital.
The Rock itself is visually stunning with steep sides and flat summit, standing amidst the jungles surrounding it. The palace built during the 5th century, sitting atop the rock is an engineering marvel of the era. The ingenuity and creativity used in the designs and construction is spectacular.
Sigiriya has roughly 1200 steps and can take from 1.5 to 2.5 hrs to reach the summit. The walk takes you through terraced gardens, a series of moats and boulders. Along the stone stairwell to the top, you encounter the Mirror Wall and the famous Sigiriya rock paintings (frescoes). These paintings have brought universal acclaim to Sigiriya.
‘The Maidens of the Clouds’; 21 non-identified female figures are compared to the beautiful creations of Ajanta in India. The poems inscribed on the Mirror Wall by ancient visitors to Sigiriya are known as ‘Sigiri graffiti,’ and are among the most ancient texts in the Sinhalese language.
At the mid level terrace is the Lion Gate consisting of the giant lion paws, which were once the entrance to the palace. From here, you can start the final ascent to the summit that holds the upper fortified palace, which has phenomenal views all around and of the symmetrical gardens down below.
Sigiriya can be done as day trip from Dambulla.