Sigiriya Rock

18:00 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

Nearly every country has their touristic icon - Big Ben & Parliament for UK, Aya Sofia for Turkey, Eiffel Tower for France.

For Sri Lanka, the icon is Sigiriya Rock. While I wasn't sure what all we would do while we were there, I knew that this place had to be on the list.

Besides it's unique look - a rock jutting out above the trees surrounded by a beautiful green plain - it has a unique history. Both of these probably contributed to it's addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list.  It's history is actually both short and long at the same time. Long, as it dates back to 477 AD when it was established as a palace for Kassapa I; short, as it's time as a palace spanned only 18 years before Kassapa was killed by his brother who wanted to take over the throne.

Called Lion Mountain, this was one of two of Kassapa's palaces - one at the top of the rock, and one at the bottom for winter & summer palaces. The palace was supposed to be impenetrable and protect Kassapa from his brother and other enemies, although that didn't quite seem to work.

We set out one day to climb to the top of the fortress for beautiful views of the surrounding landscape, as well as see the iconic terraced lawns on top. Even though it was the winter, it was warm so it is smart to get an early start to avoid the hottest time of the day, and the crowds.

 The first main attraction on the way up are the caves which hold the rock paintings of The Maidens of the Clouds. These paintings are now covered to protect the paint from fading although there has already been some damage, but you can still clearly see the reason for the name. You climb narrow, twisting staircases (originally from the London underground and obviously not part of the original landscape) to reach these paintings and the terrace built into the side of the rock.

 Next, the climb continues to the Lion's entrance. The rock has three entrances - the elephant, the cobra and the lion. The elephant and cobra are natural rocks named after their closest animal resemblances, but the lion entrance was man-made. It used to be entered through a lion's mouth, but now all that remains are the lions feet flocking either side of the entrance.

Above the Lion's Feet
From here, it's a short climb until you reach the top. This is where the king dwelled; his throne carved out of rock overlooking the pools and terraces.  It may seem like a rudimentary 5th century rock palace, yet when you look closer, you see lots of little things that show how sophisticated this palace was for its time. Waterways to both transport water and help cool the rock during the hot of summer, fountains that use the pressure of the water flowing down the rock to create a spray. While it's mainly ruins after over 1,500 years, you can still see traces of what used to be and of course, the view is still fantastic.

Take a moment, catch your breath, then reverse (or perhaps follow your guides directions and take a jumping photo up top).

Overall, it's my favourite thing we did in Sri Lanka, but it isn't for everyone. It's a tough climb, and while you don't have to be in shape, there aren't lots of places to stop and rest. It's usually one stairway up, and same back down so be prepared to keep on moving!






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