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When thinking about attractions in Sri Lanka, Sigiriya Rock probably springs to mind. It’s one of the country’s most awe-inspiring sights and attracts flocks of visitors every day to gaze upon the 200-metre high rock rising majestically from the jungle. At the flat-topped summit lies an unexpected enigma - the remnants of an ancient sky palace. There are some amazing views too, but you’ll have to break a sweat and scale a series of steep staircases first.
While the panoramic vistas are - understandably - a major draw for tourists, the rock’s fascinating history also deserves some attention. Archaeological evidence suggests that Sigiriya was used as a religious retreat for Buddhist monks in the 3rd century BC before it was transformed into a royal residence for King Kasyapa a few hundred years later.
Sigiriya has some extraordinary features - the most notable being the huge pair of lion’s paws guarding the entrance and the exquisite frescoes. The surrounding water gardens, terraces, ponds and canals are equally impressive, and together with the main fortress have been hailed as some of the finest examples of ancient architecture, art and engineering in Sri Lanka.
Considering its historical significance, it’s no surprise that Sigiriya rock is an UNESCO-listed World Heritage site and dubbed by locals as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. And yes, this is one attraction that really does live up to the hype!
A visit to Sigiriya Rock offers the chance to glimpse into Sri Lanka’s fascinating past and see one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. Begin your adventure by exploring the landscaped gardens at the base of the rock - it’s a great place to escape the crowds and ponder over the creativity and ingenuity of the ancient water systems.
There’s no denying that Sigiriya is a fantastic sight to behold from the ground, but if you climb to the top, you'll appreciate the citadel in its full splendor.
On your journey to the top, marvel at the iconic lion’s feet that gave the rock its nickname ‘Lion Rock’, admire the gallery of painted female figures (believed to be concubines of King Kasyapa) and be amazed by the enigmatic Mirror Wall. The frescoes are particularly astonishing - you’ll be suprised by the level of detail and vivid colours still visible today.
When you've conquered the 1250 steps and reached the top, you’re in for a real treat. Although the remains of the fortified palace are barely visible, you can’t help be feel awe-struck by the spellbinding vistas from this lofty outcrop. The sweeping green blanket of foliage makes for a great photo-op - and if you time your trip to coincide with the sunset, you’re onto a winner.
For more mind-blowing views, head to the less-touristy Pidurangala Rock, located about 1 kilometre north of Sigiriya. Make the 20-minute ascent to the top, passing historic temples and a reclining Buddha along the way. From the summit, you’ll get some fantastic views of Sigiriya Rock in the distance.
Sigiriya Rock is located near the town of Dambulla and can be reached from the main road that links Colombo and Habarana.
The ancient site is open to visitors from 7am to 7pm everyday - although tickets won’t be sold after 5pm. The views from the top are particularly spectacular in the misty mornings - and you’ll also avoid the crowds and sweltering heat as an added bonus.
It’s about a four-hour drive from the capital city and just shy of 30-minutes from Habarana.
Although there’s no dress code as such, bear in mind that the climb to the top is quite long and steep, so comfortable shoes are a must. There’s little shade at the top, so remember to bring a sunhat and sunscreen too.
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