Sigiriya Rock Fortress is an ancient rock fortress in Sri Lanka. It is a World Heritage Site and one of the eight wonders of the world by UNESCO. Located in Central Province, Matale District, Sigiriya is a place with archaeological importance. It is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. Thousands of tourists visit the rock fortress each year.
Sigiriya among “Eighth Wonder of the World”
There are several categories for the Eighth Wonder of the World. They are natural places, pre-1900 creations, post-1900 creations and popular culture. Sigiriya Lion Rock belongs to the category of “pre -1900 creation”.
History of the Lion Rock
Sigiriya served as a monastery since 3rd century BC. In the 5th century, King Kasyapa (473-495 AD) built Sigiriya as a rock fortress. He has chosen this place as the capital in Sri Lanka.
After the death of the king, Sigiriya got abandoned as the Capital City. But it remained a Buddhist Monastery until the 14th century.
The place was used as an outpost for a brief time during the reign of Kandyan Kingdom in the 18th century.
How to go to Sigiriya?
The rock fortress is located 17 km northeastern side of Dambulla. It may take a 30-minute ride from Dambulla.
If you are going to Sigiriya from Kandy, it is 92 km and will take two and a half hours.
When going from Colombo, the shortest in to go through Kurunegala. The distance is around 170 km and will be a 4-hour ride.
Walking up to the Sigiriya Rock
The visitors can park their vehicles at the new Sigiriya Town. It is more ideal to visit Sigiriya in the morning. Since this involves lots of walking, it is better to wear some comfortable clothes and bring a hat and sunscreen. Don’t forget to take a water bottle with you.
The site is open for the general public from 7.00 am to 5.30 pm. But the entrance will close at 5.00 pm
At the ticket counter, the locals will have to pay 50 LKR as the entrance fee. The foreigners have to pay 30 USD. This will also grant access to the Sigiriya Museum. After purchasing the ticket, the visitors have to walk for a kilometre up to the Sigiriya Rock. You will be passing through the Museum and some moats.
Visit Sigiriya Museum before Climbing
Sigiriya Museum is a research centre and a management office. It is one of the most beautiful museums in South Asia. The museum gives a good overview of the natural and cultural importance of Sigiriya.
Inside the museum, you can check out many interesting things.
- Copied Sigiriya Frescoes
- Recreated model of lion’s paw
- Bubble fountain
- Spiral staircase
- Prehistoric megalithic burials at Ibbankatuwa
- More artefacts excavated from the site
If one decides to visit Sigiriya Museum before climbing the rock it will be a good choice. The visitor could enjoy the rock more. It is more like a preview before visiting the actual site.
Interesting places to visit within Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Sigiriya is famous as a rock fortress. The rock is 200 metres (660 ft) in height. Although the fortress that has remnants of a ruined palace. Within the surroundings, there are fortification network, gardens, ponds, alleys, canals and fountains. There are many interesting places one should visit within the premises of Sigiriya.
On the gardens, there are moats, pools and fountains.
In the middle terrace, Frescoes, Mirror Wall and Lion Staircase is seen. They are interesting spots that will surprise you.
On top of Sigiriya, one can get a panoramic view of the surroundings of the rock fortress. It is where the King’s upper place is found. To reach the highest point of Sigiriya, the visitor should take the staircase with 1250 steps.
Here is the list of most-visited places within the rock fortress.
The Gardens of the Sigiriya city is one of the oldest landscape gardens in the world. It is an important feature in the site. There are many varieties of ponds, fountains and structures.
Within Sigiriya premises, there are three types of gardens such as water gardens, boulder gardens and terraced gardens.
The Mirror Wall
Mirror Wall is an interesting place you must not miss. In ancient times, the walls were polished thoroughly even the king could see his reflection.
It is built with Brick masonry and has a polished plaster finish. Most of the Mirror Wall writings belong to the period between the 7th and the 11th Centuries AD.
The wall is painted with inscriptions and poems which are written by the visitors of Sigiriya. It is said the ancient inscriptions dating back to the 8th century. These inscriptions are proof that the rock fortress was a tourist destination thousand years ago. Noways, painting in the wall is strictly prohibited.
The entire wall of the western side of Sigiriya is covered by frescoes. To witness the frescoes, the visitors have to take the spiral iron staircase. Eighteen frescoes were preserved to this day.
These Anuradhapura-era ancient paintings are unique and it clearly displays female beauty and the well-developed arts of the Sinhalese. The painted women are believed to be “Sigiri Apsaras” (celestial nymphs) or concubines of King Kasyapa. Among the paintings, there are no two similar figures.
These frescoes closely resemble the paintings in the Ajanta caves in India.
The Lion Staircase
The Lion Staircase is the main entrance to the rock fortress. It is on the northern side of the rock. In between the entrance of the staircase, two enormous rock-carved lion paws can be seen. It was designed in the form of a huge stone lion. But the upper parts have been destroyed. This stairway leads to the rock summit.
The palace is found on the summit of the Sigiriya Rock. To reach the summit, one has to go along the iron stairway. The summit terrain ranges around 1.5 hectares. On the summit, the visitors can check out the palace layout and landscaped gardens. Unlike other ancient places made of granite, the palace was constructed with timber. The foundations of the earlier buildings are still seen.
The visitors can check out the gorgeous looking landscapes from the top. The strong winds will give an unforgettable experience.
More places to visit within Sigiriya
- Water Gardens
- The ancient monastic Cave Complex and Rock Boulder Garden
- Audience Hall
- Cobra Hood Cave
- Snare Rock
- Sithala Maligawa
- Guard Cottage
- Moat (Diya Agala)
- Atapattam Pokuna
- Deraniyagala Cave
When you visit Sri Lanka, don’t forget to check out Sri Lanka’s eighth wonder of the world. It will be an unforgettable experience. When you reach the summit for the rock fortress, you will feel like you are on top of the world.