Sigiriya (Lion Rock) / සීගිරිය

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Sigiriya

Sigiriya (map) is a city in the Central district of Sri Lanka. The “Ancient City of Sigiriya” is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sigiriya is famous for its high red stone fortress and palace ruins which are surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures. The fortress is 200 metres above the surrounding plain (370 metres above sea level). The rock was a Buddhist monastery between the third century BC to 477 CE.

Around the rock is a walled citadel covering an area of about 15 hectares. This citadel presents an irregular, broadly elliptical plan, which defines the outer limits of the hill slopes around the base of the rock.

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The area to the west of the citadel is laid out as a symmetrically planned royal park or pleasure-garden with elaborate water-retaining structures and surface and sub-surface hydraulic systems. It is surrounded by three ramparts and two moats forming a rectangle whose inner dimensions are about 900 by 800 metres.

Ancient City of Sigiriya. Guides charge around 1,500 LKR. Guides would be helpful if you are travelling alone and want someone to take pictures of you, but otherwise the services of a guide would not be required as the path up to and including the climb to the top of the rock are well defined. There are notice boards along the way that give details of the structures and landmarks around. There is a straight pathway from the entrance to the complex till the rock. The gardens and other features are located on either sides of the pathway.

The Apsara paintings. One of the most famous features of the Sigiriya complex are the fifth-century paintings found in a depression on the rock face more than 100 metres above ground level. These paintings can be reached by a spiral staircase. These paintings are fragmentary survivals of an immense backdrop of paintings that once extended in a wide band across the western face of the rock. The painted band seems to have extended to the north-eastern corner of the rock, covering thereby an area nearly 140 metres long and, at its widest, about 40 metres high.

Bring lots of water as the walk through the gardens and the climb to the top of the rock takes about one and half hours. There is no water available inside the complex.

There is very little to see in Dambulla and ideally you want to climb Sigiriya for a sunrise so if given a choice, you should avoid staying in *Dambulla altogether and try to stay locally at Sigiriya.

Public transport

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 BUS >   Sigiriya is located about 25 km (16 mi) from Dambulla, the closest city, from there buses run between 06:30 to 18:00 at 30 minutes intervals. No direct bus from *Polonnaruwa (map) to Sigiriya, so you’ll have to go first to Inamaluwa (Inamaluwa junction) by bus, where you can change for the bus to Sigiriya.

For those on a budget buses are everywhere. They’re sometimes crowded and uncomfortable, but they get you around for almost nothing.

 RAIL >   Sri Lanka has an extensive railway system serving all major towns and cities in the island except for the North. Travel by train is itself a journey to remember, be it travelling to Central Sri Lanka or travelling on the coastal line is just amazing.

Highly recommended to travel by train outside Colombo. The Hill train to Badulla is an amazing journey. Preferably choose the express trains, and try to get a reservation beforehand, if you can. >> Sri Lanka Railways. (+ more info: seat61.com)

 AIRPORTS >   airport.lk.

 WATERWAYS >   –

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