Sigiriya (Lion's rock) is an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin situated in the central Matale District of Sri Lanka, surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. A popular tourist destination, Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescos), which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves of India. The Sigiriya was built during the reign of King Kassapa I (AD 477 – 495), and it is one of the seven World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka
Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees to the Buddhist Sangha. The garden and palace were built by King Kasyapa. Following King Kasyapa's death, it was again a monastery complex up to about the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. . The Sigiri inscriptions were deciphered by the archaeologist Senarath Paranavithana in his renowned two-volume work, published by Oxford, Sigiri Graffiti. He also wrote the popular book "Story of Sigiriya".
The Mahavamsa, the ancient historical record of Sri Lanka, describes King Kasyapa as the son of King Dhatusena. Kasyapa murdered his father by walling him alive and then usurping the throne which rightfully belonged to his brother Mogallana, Dhatusena's son by the true queen. Mogallana fled to India to escape being assassinated by Kasyapa but vowed revenge. In India he raised an army with the intention of returning and retaking the throne of Sri Lanka which he considered was rightfully his. Knowing the inevitable return of Mogallana, Kasyapa is said to have built his palace on the summit of Sigiriya as a fortress and pleasure palace. Mogallana finally arrived and declared war. During the battle Kasyapa's armies abandoned him and he committed suicide by falling on his sword. Chronicles and lore say that the battle-elephant on which Kasyapa was mounted changed course to take a strategic advantage, but the army misinterpreted the movement as the King having opted to retreat, prompting the army to abandon the king altogether. It is said that being too proud to be surrendered he took his dagger from the waist band, cut his throat, raised the dagger proudly, sheathed it and fell dead. Moggallana returned the capital to Anuradapura, converting Sigiriya into a monastery complex.
Alternative stories have the primary builder of Sigiriya as King Dhatusena, with Kasyapa finishing the work in honour of his father. Still other stories have Kasyapa as a playboy king, with Sigiriya a pleasure palace. Even Kasyapa's eventual fate is mutable. In some versions he is assassinated by poison administered by a concubine. In others he cuts his own throat when isolated in his final battle. Still further interpretations have the site as the work of a Buddhist community, with no military function at all. This site may have been important in the competition between the Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist traditions in ancient Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya consists of an ancient castle built by King Kasyapa during the 5th century AD. The Sigiriya site has the remains of an upper palace sited on the flat top of the rock, a mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate and the mirror wall with its frescoes, the lower palace that clings to the slopes below the rock, and the moats, walls and gardens that extend for some hundreds of metres out from the base of the rock.
The site is both a palace and fortress. Despite its age, the splendour of the palace still furnishes a stunning insight into the ingenuity and creativity of its builders. The upper palace on the top of the rock includes cisterns cut into the rock that still retain water. The moats and walls that surround the lower palace are still exquisitely beautiful.
Recommended review time for sightseeing: 2 h 30 m
a must - see
should go with a guide otherwise the beauty and intricacies of this place may be lost on you
This was one of the best places we visited in our 2 weeks around Sri Lanka. Moderate fitness level is best but, if not, by taking your time, resting regularly along the way, and drinking plenty of water, making the top should be achievable by most. Allow about 2 hours as there is plenty to take in along the way and views from the top offer a full 360 degree view of the landscape and countryside below. Going earlier, leaving the carpark by around 9am, should afford the clearest views from the summit. You start with a very pleasant walk along a flat well maintained path, surrounded by nice grassed gardens bordered by man made water canals. As you head towards the rock, you take in wonderful views of it. Once you have reached the base of the rock, it is a fairly steady and continuous stairway climb to the top but with plenty of places to rest as you take in nice views of the park below. Along the way you will also nice natural archways and interesting rock formations and caves plus areas man made, sculptured out for priests, the kings and guests. Frescos are in a closed in area on side of mountain to preserve them and must be seen. All of women and in very good condition. Beyond the frescos it is another climb of around 15 minutes to the stone lions' paws at the base of the final staircase to palace ruins on top of the rock. Take a rest here and motivate yourself to make the final ascent up the staircase to the top. As well as the ruins, the views are outstanding if you have a clear day. We didn't find crowds a problem and most people are prepared to stand aside if holding others back, but there will be the odd selfish individual likely to be encountered. There are toilets in the carpark area only.
After climbing the rock fortress more than a 100 times let me break down its importance for you readers.
Look for 4 outer defense systems, Understand the beauty of the system of ponds, fountains, and system of waterways, climb more than1300 steps to the summit (199 meters), don't miss the giant pocket where you view the paintings of the beautiful maidens of Sigiriya, Walk pass the mirror wall and understand the ancient scriptures, be silent at 'lions paw' do not disturb the bees, enjoy the summit, sit where the king sat to view the surrounding, descend to the guard cave look out, come back down through the so called cobra head caves, refresh (300-450 per glass of fresh juice) and purchase local souvenirs by the coach park area where there are rest rooms (toilets), and try to understand this world heritage site which one exile king called Kassapa grabbed from the monks and built his kingdom and enjoyed only for a very short time, where he fell foolishly in battle against his step brother prince Mugalan in a lake in Habarana. Best times to climb 0700-0900hrs or 1500-1700hrs, costs $ 30 per foreign visitor also includes the museum, enjoy your climb and if this helps say YES!
Brilliant trip, guided by our driver Kumar. 3900 rs and you get access to the museum as well as the rock itself. The frescos are out of this world and the views from the top stunning. A must do if in Habarana.
This is a very beautiful rock fortress which was built by the ancient king of sri lanka with many water parks and ancient paintings and remains of the old palace please make note to all sri lankans have your srilankan when you visit this site or you will have to pay the tourist rate
This is a spectacular attraction. It is a hard climb and not for those with a problem with heights but it is well worth the effort. The views from the top are fantastic and when you think about a fortress on the top it must have been an amazing place in its time. A Sri Lankan must visit sight. Highly recommended - take water with you, you will need it.
we had a gret trip sigiriya it,s was amazing this rock fortress was built by king kasyapa in the 5th
century it is regarded as the 8th wonder of the ancient world
We took a guide that got us through a few bottlenecks on the climb up . Artwork on the walls of the cave on the way up amazing
Got caught by a hornet attack which happens from time to time so unable to get to the summit but our guide was good and got us down safely
Bring a small umbrella , go early , get a guide , bring water
Definitely worth a visit
Starting early (0730) we made straight for the rock first to beat the crowds and climb in the cool.That worked well and all the sights made it worth effort. We took in all the gardens on the way back and then went on to the museum. It all took about 4 hrs, so if you can, allow enough time because like all the tourist places it's expensive(3900LKR). There people around doing the gardening but otherwise not sure where all the money is going.
Take your time, don't rush, the ruined royal palace and the views all around are spectacular. Try to go as early in the day as possible before it gets too hot!
Yes its very crowded, and yes some people clearly visit it just to tick it off a bucket list but it is stunning. The walk up is very easy, and the views of the rock from all over the site are stunning. I'd recommend staying close to the rock and getting there early for some peace on the top.
Great, but ridiculously over priced!!!
Went up at 11am, back at 2pm
Would recommend earlier or later as too hot at this time.
The Sigiriya rock is impressive and beautifull, but beware of two things: it is a high climb and the tickets are expensive (around 30 USD).
Since I cannot climb all those steps (I am afraid of heights) the ticket was just too expensive just to see the gardens and that made me very sad (I was not the only one in this situation - authorities should think about selling less expensive tickets for those that want to see the site, but doesn't want or simply cannot climb the Sigiriya rock).
However, my husband did climb all the way up and was extatic - so it must be worth the climb.
I stayed outside and enjoyed the scenery that is peacefull and beautifull, watching monkeys and elephant (there is someone renting an elephant for a ride in the vincinity) and taking photographs. If you find yourself in this situation there is a good spot for photos by the lake, not far from the entrance road (a 100 m or so at the main road)
hire a guide ... it helps ... for the information one gets out of them is quite informative . its beautiful on top n a place for great pics !! esp if you lucky with monks as well :)
What an amazing site! To think that this was a majestic palace hundreds of years ago is unthinkable. The buildings would have been awe inspiring and a shock to the pre-fab construction era of today. We had a very good tour guide and a must if going up to the top otherwise you are just looking at slot of ruins and not understanding what use to be here and why it was built.
A lot of stairs to the top and if you are scared of heights this does test your wits. But you cannot go to Sri Lanka and not climb to the top of the rock. A breathtaking view and and an good snapshot of the geographical layout of the country. Dry, flat and arid in some parts while the central south, mountains and forests for as far as the eye can see.
Head off in the afternoon about 3pm and get to the top for just about sunset. But take water and a guide. Our tour guide for the trip arranged to meet someone there so not sure if you should just pay for someone there as You may get ripped off.
Lots of stairs, but worth the view! Go early in the day as it gets hotter as the sun hits the side with the stairs.
I rank this site as right up there with Rome or the Vatican as just as amazing!
We found that the 3 hours spent here was well worth the effort..and there is a huge effort required. If you are afraid of heights, you may suffer here as I did but gettign to the top and getting down was such a thrilling achievement! It isn't physically hard, if you are in decent shape but it is hot and you will need water!!
And Sun Block!
It is truly an amazing site, there are so many photo oppurtunities, subject material is abundant.
If you don't do Sigiriya Rock..then you can't say you have been to Sri Lanka!
Sigiriya is a fantastic and amazing place, to miss it is a big mistake.
This truly was a great experience. The walk was not as hard as i first thought, although I'm 21 and quite fit so that probably helped. I did see some 'larger' people and they seemed to struggle towards the end. I love my photography and this walk was perfect for it. Plenty of brown macaques and monitor lizards too. Costs roughly 40 pounds to go up it which is on the expensive side, especially since their are other climbs and walks which can match this view. However you get to see the religious importance of this rock, the paintings and the stories behind it which is cool.
Overall, a remarkable place. Great view from top, plenty of places to take refuge on the way up. Take a bottle of water and enjoy! Earlier would be better since Sri Lanka does get HOT!