In Sigiriya, right in the centre of Sri Lanka, you’ll find one of the most impressive landscapes of the island: a giant and steep granite rock that rises from the surrounding jungle. Climb to the summit and let history and nature do the talking…
Sri Lanka means ‘brilliant island’ in Sanskrit. It’s easy to understand why when you travel to Sigiriya. It’s a bit like the Uluru of Sri Lanka: people from all over the world travel large distances to see this giant rock in the middle of the savannah plains. Some say the rock resembles an elephant, others say it looks like a lion. Personally, I thought it had the shape of a hippo… Either way, it’s massive, it’s climbable and it’s there for you to explore for 30USD. The climb to the summit is long but well worth it thanks to the phenomenal view: 360 degrees of vast jungle, extensive gardens and if it’s not too foggy you can spot a river flow and a big white buddha statue in the distance. But it’s not just the natural phenomenon that draws people to Sigiriya. There’s the history, too.
There once was a king named Kasyapa
A long, long time ago (at the end of the 5th century) King Kasyapa ruled the country of Sri Lanka. But to become king, Kasyapa first had to kill his father (who was buried alive) and ban his brother, who was in fact the rightful successor, to India. Once crowned king, Kasyapa was so frightened that his brother would one day return vowing revenge, that he built himself a fortress right on top of a 200 meter high rock, with 9 meter thick brick walls. His brother returned with an army and the king and his soldiers prepared for battle. Kasyapa went to battle on the back of an elephant but the animal was afraid to cross a swamp – Kasyapa had no choice but to turn back and when his troops saw this, they thought their king had given up and tried to flee. So, the soldiers from their part stopped fighting. King Kasyapa felt let down and killed himself with a knife. His brother Mogallan then became king and moved the countries kingdom to Anuradhapura. Sigiriya’s rock was bacically left to languish and today, all that’s left of it is the ruins of the once spectacular palace complex. The fortress was ‘redicovered’ later on and remains one of Sri Lanka’s major attractions today.
- The pathway that leads to the rock. This is where you can enjoy the first view of the rock from a distance. Along the pathway you come across massive gardens that once were a part of the royal domain. You also pass one of the water gardens: an elaborate network of water pavilions, pools with pebbled or polished marble floors, courtyards and water courses.
- The climb. It will take you 430 steps to get to the summit, with different plateaus along the way to get some rest. Make sure you have plenty to drink because it can get excruciatingly hot out here.
- The frescos. About halfway up the rock, you’ll find 5th century frescos painted on the walls. Apparently these paintings used to be all over this side of the rock, covering an area of about 140 metres long and 40 metres high. Of those, only 22 remain.
- The lion’s paw terrace. This is a plateau about halfway up the rock, facing north at the base of the ‘Lion staircase’: the gateway to the main palace on the summit. This entrance was built in the shape of a huge lion’s head: front paws, head and shoulders projecting from the rock with the open mouth serving as the entrance. Today though, all that’s left are the lion’s paws, but it gives you an idea of the immense scale of the whole construction.
- The view on the summit. The pictures speak for themselves…
More info: Official Sri Lanka Tourism website