Sigiriya: visit the Lion's Rock

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Sigiriya Sri Lanka

Travelling to Sri Lanka is definitely an amazing experience. Despite being a very small country, with a total area of about 65,610 km2, Sri Lanka has a very interesting history.

When the Portuguese settlers arrived there in 1505, the name given to Sri Lanka was Ceilão, or Ceylon in English. After achieving its independence, the island changed its name to Dominion of Ceylon in 1948. In 1978, the name was changed again to “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”.

One of many places that tell the history of the country, and especially its love for religion, is the city of Sigiriya - the largest and most beautiful single construction in ancient Sri Lanka. However, unfortunately, the ruins of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress as seen today are less than 20% of the original structures that once graced the area.

The buildings with stone and brick that have survived give us an idea of the wealth and intelligence of the first residents. The Sigiriya Rock Fortress was constructed 1600 years ago, and it is one of the world’s best preserved examples of ancient urban planning.

You can also see the amazing gardens and the Sigiriya Frescoes, spectacular paintings on the rocks. The Sigiriya Rock is located nearly 370 meters above sea level and 200 meters above the surrounding plain. 

Another stunning place is the Lion Staircase, or Lion Gatehouse, built more than 1600 years ago to guard the final entrance to the Sky Palace, located on top of Sigiriya Rock. The name was given because the colossal gatehouse was built in the form of giant lion’s paws.

A semi-circular granite moonstone lies at the base of a narrow flight of limestone steps, leading up to an entryway which was once protected by cleverly disguised doors - which opened out from the mane on the lion’s chest.

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka Lion Staircase Sri Lanka

Just inside this entryway, there is another set of stairs which proceed in zigzag fashion inside the lion’s head and reappear behind the head. The stairs then lead up to a passageway to the Sky Palace

Sigiriya is about 4 houes away from Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. The best way to get there is by car, so it is advisable that you rent one. The entrance ticket costs about U$30.

Some important facts:

- The climate is that one of the hot tropics. Expect humid weather with occasional torrential rain. 

- The climb to the summit is strenuous. It should not be attempted by people who are in poor physical condition. Wear comfortable clothes, preferable made of breathable fabric, and a good pair of shoes.

- Depending on how well you have acclimatized yourself, you may sweat profusely in the hot and humid weather. Be sure to take a bottle of water and keep yourself hydrated. The last place to buy water is a canteen near the main entrance. There are no facilities inside the citadel.

- Hornets are a constant threat near the Lion StaircaseWhile attacks are infrequent, be cautious especially near their nests which are located on the rock, to the left of the Lion Staircase.

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