When in Sri Lanka: Sigiriya Lion Rock

The Sigiriya Lion Rock is probably the most visited tourist site in Sri Lanka as it holds a rich historical significance, named as one of the 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country.
Found in Matale district in central Sri Lanka, the Sigiriya Lion Rock is a visibly enormous rock plateau that's 370 meters above sea level. It's said to have formed from a magma of an extinct volcano. The monks first created a monastery on top during the 3rd century. Two centuries later, former Sri Lankan ruler King Kasyapa turned it into an ancient kingdom that consisted of a palace, fortress, several gardens, and a complex hydraulic system.
As it's obviously elevated, getting on top of the Sigiriya Lion Rock requires some climb. The first part is on cemented paths and stairs, followed by climbing the narrow and spiral-shaped metal staircase leading to the western wall of Sigiriya Lion Rock. The west side is an important area of the complex, called the frescoes, that display ancient paintings on the rock wall. All these paintings are creative representations of female art. As to who these woman were, they're said to be the wives and concubines of King Kasyapa.
Photo from lanka.com
Taking pictures isn’t allowed at the frescoes, regardless of whether it's phone or professional camera, with or without flash. The authorities take the no-photo policy seriously as the entrance is tainted with big signs. Rumors even said that past violators got their gadgets confiscated and were brought to the police.
After the frescoes, the detour leads back to continue the rest of the climb. The next significant attraction is the feet and claws of the lion, which marks the entrance to the palace. Back then, it had a complete carved image of a lion, but only the feet and claws have survived the test of time. It's so significant it's where the name “Sigiriya” originated. The Sinhalese word “sighari” actually means “lion rock” in English.
History aside, Sigiriya Lion Rock is also well-visited as it's a testament of an awesome ancient water engineering. The complex had several pools, canals, dams, and fountains that collected and kept water especially during the rainy reason. Back then, these were distributed throughout Sigiriya, proving early innovation in building and running a complex hydraulic system.


The Sigiriya Lion Rock is surrounded by lush green, which is why a visit to the rock, despite the difficulty in climbing, offers relaxation and a breathe of fresh air. At the top, the province of Sigiriya can be seen in 360-degree view. The beauty at the top is beyond amazing, and makes the climb all worth it.
Climbing the Sigiriya Lion Rock should take around 45 minutes, but depends on the volume of visitors. At times, it could get very crowded you cannot climb the stairs. The best time to climb is early in the morning at 7AM to avoid the crowd.

A challenge I experienced was the strong wind situation. Note that the windy season in Sri Lanka runs from May to September.
I have to mention the very friendly Sri Lankans who made the climb fun and well-accompanied! Thank you so much!

What to bring

Make sure to bring bottled water before you climb. Ambulant vendors aren't allowed in the climbing area, so nothing is sold along the way. Also, wear sunscreen and insect repellent. Sri Lanka has a very humid temperature, especially in June. Unlike other tourist sites in Sri Lanka (especially in temples), there's no dress code to enter Sigiriya Lion Rock so just wear modest comfortable clothes and shoes.
Entrance fee: USD 30
Paying in local currency (LKR) is allowed. The amount depends on the day’s conversion rate (I paid LKR 4470).

Hours: The site is open from 7AM to 7PM, but the ticket counter is only open until 5PM daily.

How to get there

There are several ways to get to Sigiriya coming from Colombo where Bandaranaike International Airport is at. The cheaper (but longer) route is to get a train at Colombo Fort station in Colombo, and then alight at Habarana station. Note that are only 2 train schedules daily (6:05AM and at night) of this route, so make sure to be at the train station early.
Once in Habarana, Sigiriya is around 30 minutes away with a distance of less than 20 km. There are buses with a Habarana-Sigiriya route, but not all the time. Tuk tuk is a more frequent transportation that can bring you to Sigiriya. The rate varies (haggle as much as you can!) but for reference, the rate is around LKR 50 per kilometer for cities outside Colombo.





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4 comments:

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