Located near the town of Dambulla, Sigiriya Rock stood 200 meter amidst an expanse of jungle. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the ancient palace-fortress was comprised of a ruined fortress atop the rock formed by the magma of a volcano and an ancient garden.
More than 2,300 years ago, the top of the rock was a monastery which was turned into a palace by King Kasyapa in the 5th century. After the death of King Kasyapa, it turned into a Buddhist monastery once again. It has been abandoned since the 14th century.
To visit the rock, we went to the ticket office (for foreigners) and got our tickets first. The ticket ain’t cheap – it costs 30 USD each.
Tip: There are toilets at the ticket office. Do drop by before you set off for a climb! The climb takes about 2 hours both ways and there are no toilets once you start the climb. There is a snack/drinks shop near the gardens. Stay hydrated because there is no shade on the top of the rock and it will be hot if it is a sunny day.
Tip: If you wish to avoid crowds, start the climb as early as possible. We started at 7:30am and it was not too crowded. When we were climbing down, there were a lot of people shuffling their way up the stairs.
The first part of the climb was not too strenuous (and I am not at tip-top shape) as it was short. The caged stairs led up the walled frescos from the reign of King Kasyapa where we only took a brief look because it was a small space and people were piling in. The frescos consisted of nude females who were believed to be the King’s wives and concubines.
The mirror wall was next – it was believed to be polished so well that you could see reflection from it. Now you can read the poems written by ancient visitors dated back to the 8th century.
We reached the huge stone lion which the name Sigiriya came from – the Lion Rock. The upper part of the lion was gone. The feet remained. The lion gate must have been an impressive sit back in the day!
Beyond the lion’s feet the climb became a lot of more demanding but it only took 20 minutes. We walked on metal stairs that were anchored on the rock face all the way up the top. If you are afraid of height like me, looking at the rock face instead of looking down will help. There are locals who seemed to offer help to those who are struggling (hmm, me) but beware I heard they will try to your guide on the rock for money. Just politely say, no thank you, and they will leave you alone.
The fortress at the top of the rock is very impressive. We could see the jungle sprawl around us for miles.
There was a family of dogs living there and the puppies were surrounded by tourists.
Depending on how many selfies you take, it takes around an hour or less to tour around the fortress ruins.
After making our way down, we toured around the gardens and marvelled at how organized the anicent gardens were. They might be the oldest gardens in the world.
Tip: If you wish to watch sunrise with the Sigiriya Rock as a backdrop, you could climb the Pidurangala Rock which is nearby and the barren rock top offers a 360 degree view of the jungle.