Sigiriya frescoes, Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle Tour


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What is Sigiriya rock fortress?

Sigiriya rock fortress is an engineering marvel and remarkable achievement of ancient engineers.

“The story of Sigiriya rock fortress Sri Lanka: Thereupon the wicked ruler called Kassapa sent forth his groom and his cook. But as he was unable to slay his brother, he betook himself through fear to Sihagiri which was difficult of ascent for human beings. He cleared the land, surrounded it with a wall and built a staircase in the form of a lion. Thence it took its name of Sihagiri.” Sigiriya rock fortress is an engineering marvel and remarkable achievement of ancient engineers. The engineering skills hidden in the fortress take all modern engineers by surprise. Landscaped garden, swimming pools, natural fountains, the palace on the top of the rock and mirror wall, hard to build even today with modern machinery and know-how.

According to the geologists, Sigiriya (Sinhalese ‘Sihagiri’) rock was formed by hardened lava and the which was pushed through the surface due to a volcanic eruption. As per the geologists, the incident had taken place about two billion years ago. According to information ‘Sihagiri’ Sigiriya was named after its shape, which looked like the head of a lion. Over the last few centuries the top part of this lion has fallen apart and today only the two mammoth front paws are visible forming an entrance between them. A large number of boulders are still dotted around the Sigiriya rock, which is also considered to be the remnants of the volcanic eruption that created the Sigiriya lion rock.

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Bird’s eye view of Sigiriya rock fortress

Sigiriya Rock Fortress Sri Lanka and places to visit in Sigiriya

  • The distance from Colombo to Sigiriya rock fortress is 177 km via Ambepussa and Kurunegala.
  • Duration of the journey from Colombo to Sigiriya lion rock fortress: 4 hours 30 minutes.
  • Sigiriya rock fortress is not a place for people that suffer from Acrophobia (fear of height), backbone issues, knee problems and other ailments such as heart issues and blood pressure.
  • Sigiriya rock fortress hike is not suitable for pregnant ladies, small kids and old people.
  • Sigiriya hike last about 2 hours.
  • Sigiriya hike is a thrilling adventure.
  • There are 1200 steps to climb in Sigiriya rock.
  • The ruins of Sigiriya palace sits about 300 meters above the surrounding area.

Where is Sigiriya rock fortress?

Sigiriya is a remote village in the central province of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya rock fortress rock sits in this laid-back village. The population of Sigiriya is not exceeding more than several thousand. Sigiriya Village is located approximately 200 meters above sea level.

This laid-back village attracts a large number of travellers every day. What makes the tourist go there? It is none other than the Sigiriya rock fortress and also its strategic location giving easy access to the most tourist attractions in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka.

What are the places to visit Sigiriya? How do we go to the Sigiriya rock fortress? what is the importance of Sigiriya lion rock? Why is Sigiriya fortress important? Where is the Sigiriya mountain? These are some of the questions I receive from my readers very often. Sigiriya rock fortress is a hot topic when it comes to a place to visit in Sri Lanka for travellers.

Sigiriya rock fortress upper terrace

Importance of Sigiriya rock fortress

Sigiriya lion rock is inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1982, which considered being the most visited ancient monument on the island. In the same year, another 2 important ancient sites of Sri Lanka Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa also gained the status of UNESCO world heritage site. These three sites were the first in Sri Lanka to gain this distinction.

Sigiriya rock fortress can be described as another Hanging Bridge of Babylon. Sigiriya rock fortress shows many similarities to the hanging bridge of Babylon. However, the Sigiriya rock fortress is not among the  Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Sigiriya is one of the greatest inventions of engineers belong to ancient Sinhalese culture. Sigiriya rock fortress was consisting of a series of tiered gardens with a wide range of brick buildings, swimming pools, a palace, and many other constructions. Everything was accumulated on a large monolithic rock.

Unlike the Hanging Bridge of Babylon, plenty of evidence are available to prove the existence of the Sigiriya rock fortress. Written archaeological evidence such as chronicles, stone inscriptions and many other information sources available to prove its locations, functions and importance. Even today, a large part of the Sigiriya rock fortress can be witnessed during the cultural triangle tour of Sri Lanka.

The lower part of the Sigiriya rock fortress can be best described as one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, dating back to the 5th century AD. Once it was suggested to be the 8th world wonder in the world.

Sigiriya rock fortress is an engineering marvel and remarkable achievement of ancient engineers. The engineering skills hidden in the fortress take all modern engineers by surprise. Landscaped garden, swimming pools, natural fountains, the palace on the top of the rock and mirror wall, hard to build even today with modern machinery and know-how.

Only a part of the site is excavated so far and therefore, a large part of the ancient site is still unexplored. There is no idea to dig the rest of the site anytime soon and you may never what will be unearthed in the future.

Sigiriya rock fortress, the most important among the places to visit in Sigiriya

Sigiriya Rock Fort is a 5th-century landscaped garden with a monolithic rock and an engineering feat of ancient engineers. It shows the advanced knowledge of trigonometry and usage of hydraulic principles by the people, who built it. Sigiriya rock fortress is included with landscaped garden, swimming pools, palaces, fountains, paintings (with natural colour) and colourful verses. Sigiriya rock fortress is surrounded by walls and a ditch. Sigiriya rock fortress was even suggested to be named as the 8th world wonder in the world.

Sigiriya rock fortress, places to visit in sigiriya
Here is the rock fortress, which is a granite monolith and kings palace (5th century) was built on the top of the rock, dons the rock was the landscaped garden, fountains, swimming pools, some rock paintings.

Top 5 popular Sri Lanka tour packages to visit Sigiriya rock

How to visit Sigiriya rock?

Sigiriya lion rock sits in Sigiriya village, Sigiriya lion rock is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka, it is also known as SIGIRIYA ROCK FORTRESS. Usually, the travellers who take part in a Sri Lanka road trips visit Sigiriya rock.

According to my experience, there is hardly any foreign traveller, who miss this iconic tourist attraction. Venturing on a Sri Lanka tour to a cultural triangle or taking a multi-day tour with the cultural triangle is the best way to visit Sigiriya.

Sigiriya can be visited on a one day trip from Colombo. However, most travellers prefer to visit other important cultural places in the cultural triangle among with Sigiriya rock fortress. Therefore most travellers go for 3 days Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour or 2 days Sri Lanka trip to the cultural triangle.

If you are on a Sri Lanka beach tour package, now it is possible to visit the Sigiriya rock fortress from all major beach resorts on the west coast and southern coast. With the completion of the southern expressway, the journey to Sigiriya from the beach resort has been reduced nearly by half.

The archaeological importance of Sigiriya rock

The Sigiriya archaeological site is the main reason for the popularity of Sigiriya among world travellers. In terms of historical value and contribution to tourism, the Sigiriya rock fortress ranks among the most important alongside Kandy, Anuradhapura, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa.

Sigiriya is located within the central cultural triangle, providing easy access to major archaeological attractions in Sri Lanka. Sigiriya rock fortress attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. It is declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO due to its historical importance.

View of Sigiriya rock fortress form pidurangala rock
View of Sigiriya rock from the Pidurangala rock

History of Sigiriya rock

Dhatusena (459-477) ruled from Anuradhapura and had two sons, Kassapa by a wife of unequal birth, and Moggalana born of the anointed queen. The king also had a charming daughter to whom he devoted to. She was given in marriage to Dhatusena’s sister’s son, Migara, who had been appointed the commander of the army. One day Dhatusena noticed the blood-stained garments of his daughter and learned that her husband had brutally whipped her on the thigh although she was blameless.

In high dudgeon the king ordered the general’s mother, his own sister, to be burnt to death. From then on the army commander resolved to wreak vengeance on the king, and planned with Kassapa to conduct a coup d’état. The king was kept a prisoner, Kassapa assumed kingship and proceeded to purge the kingdom of the loyalists. Meanwhile, Moggalana, the rightful heir, escaped to India to raise an army there.

The army commander bent on further revenge induced Kassapa to believe that Dhatusena was hiding his treasures from his son Moggalana, and he obtained orders to have the ex-king put to death. This, Migara, cheerfully proceeded to do by having Dhatusena plastered, in a wall.

Why King Kashyapa built the Sigiriya rock fortress?

Kassapa, fearing the inevitable return of Moggalana whom he had unsuccessfully attempted to have assassinated decided to seek refuge in the inaccessible stronghold of Sigiriya, as recorded in the Mahawamsa quoted above “ He collected treasures and kept them there well protected and for the kept by him he set the guard at different laces.  Then he built there a fine palace, worthy to behold, like another Alakamanda and dwelt there like a God.”  Hoping to atone for his crime Kassapa patronized the cause of Buddhism in Anuradhapura and founded a monastery there.

It is quite understandable that King Kashyapa decided to build his palace complex in this isolated boulder-filled garden as it was a perfect hideout from the future invading army coming from Indian with righteous king Moggalana. The palace of the king was sitting on top of the gigantic monolithic rock, which was accessible only to the king and his retinue.

In the eighteenth year of his rule, he received tidings that Moggalana had returned from India and was preparing for war. Kassapa, feeling assured of victory, set forth from Sigiriya to engage his brother in battle, but an unforeseen manoeuvre caused the tide to turn against him.

The demise of King Kassapa

A stretch of marshy ground lay across the path of advance and Kassapa turned his elephant to take another course. His troops misunderstanding this move as a sign of retreat gave the alarm that their lord was in flight, lost their morale and broke up in disorder. Kassapa seeing his army in flight realized that his capture was imminent and slashed his throat with his own dagger, “raised the knife on high and stuck it in the sheath”.

Moggalana attended to his brother’s obsequies and came to Anuradhapura, where he established himself as king. He handed Sigiriya to the priesthood and this fortress disappear from the public record for about a century; in the early 7th century two kings were executed in order or near Sigiriya. The village Sigiriya is mentioned in the 16th-century book of Sinhalese verse entitled Mandarampurapuwata.

sigiriya lions paw

Jungle reclaimed its territory

With the demise of King Kashyapa (The founder of Sigiriya fortress), Sigiriya was assailed by the slowly advancing jungle and was caught in the demolishing hand of time. In the 19th century, it was rediscovered by British-Ceylon archaeologists. According to the information, the first visitor of Sigiriya was Major H.Forbes, who came across the mighty fortress in 1833. He recorded his impressions of these visits he made to the base of the rock and the walled gallery.

Re-discovery of Sigiriya rock fortress

In the 19th century, the vestige of the glory that was Sigiriya was explored and rediscovered by British officers and administrators. The earliest recorded visit paid to Sigiriya in modern times was by Major H.Forbes who rode in search of the fortress in 1831 and revisited the rock in 1933. He recorded his impression of these visits he made to the base of the rock and the walled gallery.

What A.Y Adams and J.Barley saw in Sigiriya in 1853

Forbes was not able to climb to the summit but this feat was achieved in 1853 by A.Y Adams and J.Barley, two young civil servants. An anonymous writer has published an account of his visit to Sigiriya in 1852, describing the walled gallery, and the rock which faced it as being plastered and “covered all over with fresco paintings chiefly of lions, which is said to have given it the name of Sinhagiri, Sihagiri or Seegiriya”. These paintings are now no more nor were they ever referred to by any other writer.

What T.W Rhys Davids saw in Sigiriya in 1875

T.W Rhys Davids described the rock and ancient remains that were visible in 1875 and related how he saw the paintings halfway up the rock on the western side with the aid of a telescope. He also referred to ornamental patterns on the wall of a terrace higher up the rock. These paintings too were not to be seen at the time the Archeological Department undertook work at Sigiriya towards the close of the century.

The first paper published on Sigiriya rock in 1876

T.H Blakesley published a paper in 1876 describing in greater detail the gallery and wall alongside, the paintings in the fresco pocket, and other recognizable remains on the western side below the rock, which was then covered with forest.

The few sites recognizable as surrounded by moats in the western low lying area below the rock and the defences in the west and east were also briefly described. Blakesley published the first plan of the ancient remains to be seen in the neighbourhood of the great rock.

Climbing Sigiriya rock for the first time in 1889 by A.Murray

In 1889 at the request of Sir William Gregory, a Governor of Ceylon, A.Murray of the Public Works Department succeeded in climbing into the pocket and taking a tracing of thirteen figures therein. For this purpose, holes were bored into the rock at regular vertical intervals and stout iron jumpers were fixed in with cement, to which wooden staging was secured.

Within the pocket, iron stanchions were set on the rock surface and a working platform was arranged above the steeply sloping floor of the pocket. When a week’s work of tracing the paintings while lying on his back on the makeshift trestle was over, Murray decided upon the deposition of a memento within the pocket. A bottle containing a newspaper, a few coins of the day, and a list of friends who had visited the chamber, was sealed and cemented into the pocket.

Sri Lanka Culture Cocktail Tour-Special Price US$ 390 P.P

  • Duration-6 Days
  • Regions-Cultural triangle, Upcountry, Beach
  • Places-Sigiriya rock, Dambulla temple, Minneriya National Park, Royal botanical garden, Tooth relic temple, Tea country, Bentota beach, Colombo
  • Start/End-Colombo
  • Transport-Private vehicle
  • Accommodation 4-star hotel
  • Meals-Breakfast and Dinner
  • Age range-all ages
  • Availability-From Nov 2019 to Nov 2020

Exploration of Sigiriya rock: H.C.P Bell

The long concavity to be seen high up on the eastern face of the rock was explored once by H.C.P Bell, the first Commissioner of the Archeological Department, who arranged for a brave Sinhalese lad to receive recognition as the first-ever to gain access to it.

There were no signs of this sheltered area ever having been occupied in the past and, as an encouragement for future exploration at some distant date, Bell reported having placed in a niche his sealed record of the daring exploration of this cavern. The clearing of the jungle upon and below the rock was commenced in 1894 and from the following year the survey, excavation, conservation and research has been pursued at this ancient monastery and fortified capital of Ceylon.

The pathway of the 2000 years old palace and garden complex that leads to the fortress, is paved with granite stones and still in very good shape. Another interesting feature of this garden is the 20o0 years old natural fountains that still bubbles out and goes through the waterways. Giving the impression that this fortress is built to last!

Sigiriya rock fortress height

The summit of Sigiriya rock fortress is situated nearly 300m above the ground, and it resides at about 500m from sea level. The climbing of the Sigiriya rock fortress proved to be a tiring task for many people who are not familiar with mountain climbing. The staircase of the fortress is dating back to the 5th century AD but some parts of the steps are recently done using iron.

View from Sigiriya summit

Sigiriya rock is rising 300 meters from the surrounding ground level, enabling the visitors to have a breathtakingly 360-degree panoramic view of the adjacent jungles, farmlands, villages, countryside, lakes and paddy fields. The Sigiriya rock shows a unique and harmonious blend of nature and human imagination. It was also of strategic importance because any enemy army moving in, can be detected and defensive measures taken.

sigiriya rock Discovered in 18s, places to visit in sigiriya
This is the summit of Sigiriya rock fortress, it is believed that King lived here. On the summit, the travellers can find a foundation of a 2 storied palace, granite throne, swimming pool and remnant of other constructions. The breathtaking views from the summit of the Sigiriya rock are the most memorable reward for travellers.

People, who book a Sigiriya tour can look forward to having a memorable and unique experience. The tour to Sigiriya is not merely a visit to a historical site but it gives you plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature.

Don’t prepare to encounter tourist attractions such as theme parks here on your trip to Sigiriya. And the nightlife in Sigiriya is almost non-existing. So, what are the attractions you get on a tour to Sigiriya? Undoubtedly, the Sigiriya fortress is the major highlight of the trip.

There are many other tourist places to visit in Sigiriya with the rock such as Polonnaruwa, Dambulla cave temple, Minneriya national park that you can explore along with Sigiriya rock fortress.

Sigiriya weather

Sigiriya is in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, which is a part of the north-central province of the island. The rainfall of Sigiriya measured to be between 1250mm to 2500mm a year and categorized under the dry-zone of Sri Lanka. The rainfall of Sigiriya is considerably increased in the months of April, October, November and December.

Being a city in the dry zone of Sri Lanka the temperature of Sigiriya is measured to be around 30C throughout the year.

The rainfall pattern of Sigiriya
Temperature fluctuation in Sigiriya

Sigiriya rock fortress: the rampart

To the east and west of the rock are two areas enclosed by ramparts, the section to the east being more obviously rectangular than that on the western side which approximates to a square. The evidence for the existence of a moat on the outer side of the eastern ramparts is a barely perceptible depression in the ground.

The major fortification on the western side consists of three ramparts and possible three (but definitely two) moats. the outermost rampart which may have had a moat ahead of it was constructed of earth, the middle rampart was of brick, and the innermost rampart, which was the most massive and longest was built of rubble with brickwork facing on a core of the earth.

This rampant and moat can be traced in its entirety on the western, northern and southern sides together with short projections which serve as eastern arms from the latter two sides.

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Sigiriya steps

Places to visit in Sigiriya – the Gates

Archaeologists have discovered five approaches to the fortified areas of Sigiriya rock. The western gate being most elaborate had been the main entrance, and it consists of a ramp across the second moat, a gateway flanked by guardhouses in the middle brick rampart, a possible drawbridge arrangement across the inmost moat, then a flight of steps over and across the great innermost rampart to give access to the city on that side.

There had been two entrances to the city from the northern direction. The rock can also be reached by two gateways in the southern direction. One of these entrances which is much in use at present is a gate set towards the middle of the south arm of the great rampart to the west of Sigiriya rock.

The western area of Sigiriya rock

In 1947, Paranawithana excavated the ramparts, moat and walled area to the west of Sigiriya rock. The conservation of the exposed structures was carried on to reveal in fair detail a vast pleasure garden within the city in the western direction of the fort. The road, which is being used today was discovered during this excavation in 1966, and travelling along this way visitors can enjoy the full majestic view of the line lofty Sigiriya rock rising against the eastern sky.

Sigiriya Garden

Anyone, who explore the Sigiriya rock fortress come across the Sigiriya gardens immediately after entering the archaeological site, from the western gate, which is the main entrance at the moment. The visitors that enter through the western gate is greeted by the royal gardens, interspersed with pools and fountains. These gardens exclusively served as the pleasure garden for the royal family.

The garden holds every sort of plants and trees, irrigated running water, fountains, swimming pools, picturesque huge boulders, paved pathways, and ancient brick constructions. The pleasure garden of Sigiriya is full of greenery, which was a direct outcome of a sophisticated irrigation system that existed within the fort, however, the surrounding area of Sigiriya rock is nothing but parched earth and rugged mountains.

The water management system of Sigiriya rock fortress

Like with every ancient civilization, water was an essential part of the Sri Lankan kingdom. Sri Lankan society is still depending largely on agriculture and water is an essential component of the society. The ancient engineers of Sri Lanka invented sophisticated irrigation system with the use of man-made tanks and canal system. This irrigation system is dating back to the 3rd century BC. Sigiriya was yet another ancient city on the island, which was using the water to fulfil many purposes from cooling the king’s palaces to protect the fortress with a water ditch.

The king had built the Sigiriya tank, which was the main source of water of the fortress. The water was directed to the fortress with underground terra cotta pipes, which was laid more than 500 years ago by ancient engineers. The fountains, which are located within the fort of Sigiriya are still functioning, where the water level of the lake is high. These fountains are fueled by hydraulic principles. Apart from the fountains, Sigiriya lake was the main source of water for the swimming pools.   

The advanced irrigation system in the fort was not only provide drinking water, and fed fountains and swimming pools, it also helped to lower the indoor temperatures. In the dry-zone, where Sigiriya rock is to be found can be stiflingly hot, therefore the ancient engineers kept water flowing constantly around the king’s palace, in order to control the indoor temperatures.  

Read more about ancient irrigation system of Sri Lanka with

Sri Lanka 2 Days Tour, Places to visit in Sigiriya- the paintings
Places to visit in Sigiriya- the paintings

Places to visit in Sigiriya- the paintings

Sigiriya frescoes paintings in Sri Lanka are exquisitely painted in brilliant colours and these paintings resemble the Ajantha painting in India. The paintings do not show any religious influence and they represent King Kashyapa.

Sigiriya paintings take an important place among the exhibits resides in the archaeological site. The pleasure garden extends a few hundred meters from the main western gate to the base of the rock. From the base starts the ancient stairs built using huge stones, that leads to the summit. The ascent is a bit strenuous and cannot be recommended for the faint-hearted. The stairs ways lead in a zig-zag to spiral stair (recently built), which gives access to the gallery, where the majority of paintings to be witnessed.

Places to visit in Sigiriya – pleasure garden

Flights of steps built over two stones banked terraces that project westwards from the massive rampart lead into the pleasure garden within the city, it served exclusively for the royal family. The pleasure garden consists of 3 parts,

  • A Rectangular area confined by brick walls
  • Fountain Garden
  • Octagonal Pond

A Rectangular area confined by brick walls

The thickness of the walls is 5t ft on average and measuring 660 ft from north to south and 396 ft from east to west. A door on the western side provides access to the enclosure which is in turn divided into three sections by cross walls extending east to west. The central part consists of a tank or reservoir with an inland 75ft square in the middle and having approach causeway in the four directions dividing the surrounding moat into four ponds.

On the island, there had been a pavilion, the remains of which consist of flights of steps in the four directions. There is a surrounding ambulatory, 16ft wide between the tank and the four confining walls. The causeway, ambulatory and the sides of the island are faced with brick, and flights of limestone steps go down the causeways into the tank.

To the north and south of the central part are walled-in areas containing two pavilions each rising from sunken ground paved with limestone slabs with flights of steps leading into and out of it. On the two sides, between the two pavilions, there is set another sunken pavement, while in the area between the outer walls and the pavilions are a number of cisterns the sides of which are lined with brick and the floors paved with limestone slabs.

these cisterns were connected to each other by underground channels, there are two passages formed of corbelled arches in the walls separating the two side enclosures from the central enclosure.

The entrance of the Sigiriya rock Fortress, Entrance to the Sigiriya fountain garden
Entrance to the Sigiriya fountain garden

Fountain garden of Sigiriya

The second part of the pleasure garden extends eastward as a long, rather narrow enclosure, 500ft, in length and 78 ft wide, laid out in two levels. The lower half is a fountain garden on either side of which are two raised more or less rectangular sites surrounded by broad moats, now appearing rectangular, in which the water collected to an appreciable level.

Underground channels and cross channels were built to supply water under pressure to the fountain in the form of circular limestone slabs with numerous perforations. there are four such structures at the eastern and western ends of a paved and sunken area.

Octagonal Pond

The third component of the pleasure garden is on a higher level than the eastern half of the second part referred to above. From the second enclosure, the brick boundary walls turn outwards at right angles, the southern wall having such bends before striking the revetment of stone masonry which forms the boundary of the pleasure garden at its highest level on the eastern side. The northern wall, on the other hand, is provided with only two bends before it terminates at the brick surrounding wall of an octagonal pond.

thus the third section of the vast pleasure garden is broader than the second, and the hitherto symmetrically laid out garden had been purposefully made irregular in the plan in this high-level area. seven sides of the pond are enclosed with brick walls and the eighth on the east is a huge boulder on either side of which, north and south, cuts in the rock rising vertically upwards and serving as keys to brickwork that once existed, indicate the original flight of the enclosing brick wall.

A few yards to the south of the pond are two brick built platforms, one circular and the other octagonal. The former was probably a terrace from an ornamental three and the latter which was provided with steps leading up from the west have been a small pavilion.

between the boulder of the point and another to its south, a narrow passage leads eastward to a small cave with a drip ledge and bearing a donative inscription. This is the only cave in Sigiriya which has its walls of brick built in a batter intact. It is an interesting example of an ill-ventilated cave with a single narrow doorway adapted for purposes other than religious or for habitation. It may well have been used as a store.

A view from the top

Places to visit in Sigiriya-the Mirror wall

The pleasure garden sandwich between the western gate of Sigiriya and the base of the rock, where the climb to the summit of the rock begins. The ascent is a bit strenuous and which is not for the faint-hearted. The massive brick stairways lead in a zig-zag to the Mirror Wall, which is the first important stop on the climb to the summit from the base.

According to the sources, the outermost layer of the mirror wall is made of a special plaster comprising fine lime, egg white and honey. Later It was then buffed with bee’s wax to give a brilliant shine. According to the information it was so well polished that the King could clearly see his reflection as he walked by.

The Sigiriya mirror is among the popular places to visit in Sigiriya and it is located just behind the fresco pocket. A mirror wall is one of the most important fractions of the historical site of Sigiriya. The inner surface of the Sigiriya mirror wall is so smoothed; it shines even to this day (after 1500 years) and earned for it the popular name Kadapat pavura (mirror wall).

Apart from the boldly incised names of modern visitors that mar its polished surface, a close inspection of the mirror wall reveals a multitude of fine discovered to be scribbling left by visitors to the Lion Rock in centuries gone by. Whereas modern egoists have scraped their ignoble names in characters large and deeply incised, careless of the damage to a fine piece of ancient building construction, the visitors of a millennium ago had taken care, in writing their piece in neat small lightly incised letters, to all only the least possible damage to the shining plaster.

Furthermore, while the latter-day visitor has only interested himself in inscribing his name and date of visit, his medieval counterpart has shown us that he was educated enough not only to appreciate works of art but also to be able to couch his admiration in poetic terms.

Many of these writings, attributed largely to the period 7th to 11th centuries AC, have been published in a major work by Prof. Paranawithana where he concludes that they are expressions in verse, some of a high poetic order, and they constitute the earliest extant examples of Sinhalese verse.

The hundreds of graffiti have been written by the same method of incising the letters on the plaster of the wall, very probably with a metal stylus that would have been a common possession of the ancient Sinhalese just as a fountain pen or pencil is carried by a modern educated person.

The verses composed by these early writers are eloquent of their impressions of the magnificent and delightful sights at Sigiriya. Many visitors had written their names and station in life and they are seen to have been persons belonging to various strata of society and hailing from different parts of the country; some had even visited the Rock from India. The verses thus do not exhibit a uniform literary quality.

There is, however, no doubt that many of the visitors were acquainted to some degree with poetic literature and assayed to distinguish, from among graffiti left by other visitors, the good verse from the bad. The refined sensibility indicated by the thought and language in most of the verses speaks highly of the education and culture of the ancient Sinhalese citizen.

Sigiriya rock summit

This terraced summit is approximately 1.6 ha in extent. Here can be seen a number of water tanks, baths and the remains of the Royal Palace. There is also a stone slab like a seat which may have been the remains of a throne. There is also a 27 m x 21 m rock-hewn water tank which was a water storage tank. The hydraulic systems, the landscaping, the terraces, all these indicate unique creative skills and technologies. Sigiriya is said to be one of the finest examples of urban planning of the first millennium.

Sigiriya steps

Travellers, who visit Sigiriya has to climb the Sigiriya rock on a stone carved steps, there are 1200 steps. You will encounter the fresco pocket on halfway up to the summit. Even though it is difficult to reach the summit of the rock, you are rewarded with the awe-inspiring scenery from the summit once you accomplished the climb.

Sigiriya mirror wall
Sigiriya mirror wall

Some Colorful phrases of Sigiriya Graffiti

The smooth inner surface of the gallery wall which bears a shine even to this day is dating back to the 5th century AD. It shows the advanced building techniques used by the ancient Sri Lankan engineers.

Sigiriya Graffiti is the neatly written incised phrases on the gallery wall. They describe the grandeur of the rock fortress and mostly the beauty of the damsels of the Sigiriya frescoes. Archaeologists have found hundreds of old Sinhalese verses and some of them are in high poetic order.

“how could anyone-write songs-about the unmoving eyes-while seeing the-tender breasts-of the golden-hued ones”
“the wall of moonstone-has borrowed its shinning splendour-from you-let’s enjoy the company of the beautiful ladies-who have come into our arms”
“wet with cool dew drops-fragrant with perfume from the flowers-came the gentle breeze-jasmine and water lily-dance in the spring sunshine-side-long glances-of the golden-hued ladies-stab into my thoughts-heaven itself-cannot take my mind-as it has been captivated by one lass-among the five hundred-i have seen here-our mind is sated-as we climbed Sihigiri-and saw the majestic lion-we have no desire now-to see the golden-hued ones on the wall”
“as evening comes-the golden-hued beauties-among those of the shade of the lily-appear like-vatkol flowers-entangled with katrol flowers”
“plucking a flower-from my mate’s dress-i place it-before the golden-hued beauty”
“like the hare drawn on the moon-may you live-for a thousand years-but for me-it would be like one day”
“seeing the golden-hued ladies-being washed away by wain-it is as if-King Kasub himself-had them-painted inside the cave walls”
“among the golden-hued ladies-look at this beauty-to your heart’s content-standing here unmoving, and-does the day be-just one instant in time?

How to go to Sigiriya rock fortress?

Dambulla is the nearest major town of Sigiriya and Sigiriya lies about 15 km from Dambulla. The travellers need to travel 7 km from Dambulla on Dambulla-Habarana main road before taking the turn to the right, which is the road that leads to the Sigiriya rock fortress. After taking the turn to the right from the Dambulla-Habarana main road the people need to travel another 8 km before arriving at Sigiriya.

The nature of Sigiriya climb

The Sigiriya rock fortress exploration tour begins at the western gate and there is a great deal of walking during this activity. The visitors need to walk through the beautifully landscaped garden about 1 km and then climb the rock-cut stairs that lead to the summit of the rock. The upward journey will take around 1-2 hours while the downward journey takes around 1 hour.

The trek to the Sigiriya rock is relatively easy, only the tail end of the trek becomes a bit arduous due to the steep climb. The first half of the trek is quite easy and it is just a walk on flat gravel, surface. The first part of the trek is about 1 km long. The surrounding area is fantastic with a lush green dry zone forest. You will walk around 1 km while passing many dozens of historic structures along the way.

About halfway down the trek, the things are getting more rustic with frequent rocks, granite caves and boulders, the elevation also increases gradually. From this point onward the trekkers using the steps. There are 1200 steps with varying sizes. A large part of the staircase was built by the ancient engineers in the 5th Century AD and originally used by the King and his retinue lived on top of the rock. Be careful the royal steps are very narrow.

As the upward march continues on the historical staircase the visitors come across frescoes, the mirror wall and the well-known landmark in the fortress known as the lion’s paw. The trek beyond this point is very steep, at some point it is a horizontal climb on very narrow steps. However, this part does not last for more than 15 minutes, which is about 20 meters in length.

The last part of the climb is narrow, flanked by the rock and has a 100-foot cliff on to the right side.

Sigiriya rock fortress climb
Sigiriya rock fortress climb

What is the best time to climb at Sigiriya rock fortress?

Morning and afternoon considered being the best time to climb the Sigiriya rock fortress. It would be difficult to climb the rock in the midday due to the heat. 

How do I find accommodation in Sigiriya?

There are many accommodation providers around Sigiriya rock fortress. Most of them provide easy access to the rock fortress. There are several start class properties also among the hotels in Sigiriya and same times many affordable accommodations such as guest houses, rest houses also can be found here.

The demand for accommodation in the Sigiriya rock fortress is very high due to the large influx of tourist to see the Sigiriya rock fortress, therefore it is best to book accommodation well in advance during the peak holiday season from November to April.

Sigiriya rock fortress entrance fee

Sigiriya is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites on the island and it is under the purview of the archaeological department. Entrance to Sigiriya archaeological site cost you 30$ per person.

Most Sigiriya steps are narrow and carved on to the natural rock

Other important historical places around Sigiriya rock fortress

There are several other important historical places to visit in Sigiriya and most of them are scattered around the Sigiriya rock. Pidurangala cave temple and Dambulla cave temple are the most popular historical places to visit in Sigiriya with a religious background and both of them are located within easy reach of the rock.

Ibbankatuwa burial ground, which is one of the most ancient burial ground in Sri Lanka believe to date back to pre Christian era. The historical importance of this site is very important, however, it is an off the beaten track tourist place in Sri Lanka and visited by only very few travellers.

8 Other important places to visit in Sigiriya?

Ther are a large number of places to visit and activities to do in Sigirya and surrounding area. But considering the historical importance and educational value, it carries. We recommend below mentioned 8 places to visit in Sigiriya on your Sigiriya tour.

  • Sigiriya Rock
  • Pidurangala temple
  • Sigiriya jungle
  • Sigiriya museum
  • Minneriya national park
  • Sigiriya Eco-park or Hurulu eco-park Sigiriya Mirror wall
  • Dambulla cave temple

Sigiriya things to do other than visiting Sigiriya rock

Sigiriya is a popular tourist area in the central province, where you can perform many recreational activities such as elephant ride, boating, trekking, bird watching, biking etc

Sigiriya is a small hamlet and there are no cities or shopping area to hang around. But, there are several small boutiques giving you the option to buy things such as water and other drinks, sun-cream, short eats etc, which most travellers are looking for.  There are several hotels around the fortress giving the travellers of affordable dining and lodging options.  As such budget-conscious travellers can find a place to stay without any trouble. Same times, there are many properties with luxurious facilities for travellers, who like to have luxury accommodation in Sigiriya.

Places to visit from Sigiriya rock fortress- archaeological museum

The archaeological museum is also located near the Sigiriya fortress and can be considered as one of the important places to visit in Sigiriya, in the expansive area between the outer moat and the middle rampart on the western side of Sigiriya.

In the archaeological museum, you have the opportunity to see a large number of artefacts discovered at the archaeological site such as Building materials, pottery and other small finds including metal objects. The copies of the Sigiriya frescoes are also been displayed at the museum for travellers, who find it difficult to go up to the Sigiriya caves.

Torsos of Buddha statues, guard stones, a limestone statue of a queen or goddess are also placed in the museum. Some of the valuable artefacts include a blue glazed amphora evidently of foreign origin and an elaborate lock which must have belonged to a massive door are presently exhibited in the national museum of Colombo.

Sigiriya fortress (some people call it Sigiriya castle) is comprised of many attractions such as the ruined palace, Sigiriya gardens, audience halls, fountains, and beautiful paintings. Sigiriya archaeological site is dating back to the 5th century AD; bricks and stones have been used for the constructions.

At Sigiriya lion rock you can learn about the advanced knowledge of Sri Lankan ancient engineers, who had accomplished one of the most sophisticated landscaped gardens in Asia.

Places to visit in Sigiriya-Sigiriya temple

From the main entrance (western gate) of the Sigiriya ancient site, a narrow gravel road leads to the eastern side of the ancient site. About 1 kilometre from the gate is on the gravel road you will find the Pidurangala temple. The temple was rarely visited by travellers in the past; however, it has been able to get the attention of visitors at present. Pidurangala temple is believed to be an old temple and dates back many centuries. The temple believed to be built by King Kashaya, the King, who built the Sigiriya rock fortress. The entrance fees for the temple is Rs 500 P.P.

Places to visit in Sigiriya- Sigiriya Sanctuary
Places to visit in Sigiriya- Sigiriya Sanctuary

Places to visit in Sigiriya- Sigiriya Sanctuary

The Sanctuary of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka located around the rock fortress is under the jurisdiction of the department of wildlife conservation. Surrounding the
Sigiriya rock is large patches of secondary dry zone forests, containing monsoon, riverine and scrub vegetation. Among this vegetation is a multitude of fauna, with birds being the most visible and audible denizens of these forests. Sigiriya is one of the most visited places with an interest in historical, cultural and natural. Sigiriya Sri Lanka attracts thousands of tourists every year, who make their holiday in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has always been listed as a bird’s paradise, because many different habitats lowland rain forests, mountain forests, wetland and monsoon forests – and their birds – are all easily accessible from the island’s capital. Of the 482 recorded species of birds in Sri Lanka, about 150 are common in the dry zone.

Most of these dry zone species can be seen in the Sigiriya area. This area is regularly visited by few endemic bird species such as the endemic crimson fronted barbet and grey hornbill to residents such as the green imperial pigeon, Asian paradise-flycatcher and common lora, as well as migrants such as the Indian pitta.

A walk along a narrow path through dry zone forest up to Sigiriya lakeside permits you to observe many residents such as the pompadour green pigeon and common Ixora. Near the lake, you will see Brahminy kites, white-breasted kingfisher and little cormorants darting into the water.

During the migrant’s season, you may also see Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and Whiskered Terns. Look out also for butterflies as the Crimson Rose, Blue Momon and Lime Butterfly among others. Mammals such as Toque monkeys, Grey Langurs and Giant squirrels are also are common.

There are several tracks in the area of Sigiriya that are been used for bird watching. It covers the thick jungles, rice fields, other agricultural fields and remote villages such as Kibissa and Diya Beduma. One can see a great variety of vegetation along the way invariably means seeing the different species of Birds. For example, one can see the jungle fowl very often in the thick jungle while crimson barbet and common kingfisher are very common in the villages and farmlands.

Places to visit in Sigiriya- Minneriya National park

Places to visit in Sigiriya- Minneriya National park

Minneriya national park is located near the Sigiriya rock fortress, and it takes about 20 minutes to reach Minneriya national park from Sigiriya. Sri Lanka Wildlife tour at Minneriya national park is a very popular activity among travellers, and it is a very popular place to visit in Sigiriya. 3 hours jeep safari in the wildlife reserve enables you to see a large number of wild animals such as Elephants, crocodile, wild buffalo, jackal etc.

Places to visit in Sigiriya-Hururlu Ecopark

Sri Lanka’s Hurulu Eco-park is situated near Habarana, few kilometres from Sigiriya rock is another popular place to visit in Sigiriya. It has become a popular place for wildlife safaris during the last few years and a large number of travellers heading to eco-park to experience the rich wildlife of Sri Lanka. The park is home to many exotic and endangered animals species such as the Sri Lankan Jungle fowl (national bird of Sri Lanka), Sri Lankan elephant, Indian Star Tortoise and the Rusty-Spotted Cat.

What are the places to visit in Sigiriya at night

There is a big NO NO for night outing in the Sigiriya rock fortress area. Remember the Sigiriya rock fortress is located far away from the city and surrounded by jungle. Therefore there is a very high chance of wild elephant roaming at night in the area.

If you stay in a hotel close to the Sigiriya rock fortress refrain from all outdoor activities in the dark. But the rule is applied if you go beyond the border of the hotels. This is mainly due to wild elephant attacks. There had been many incidents in the past, in which some people were killed due to wild elephant attacks. Most of such incidents take place at night when the elephants come to the village area from the jungle.

Exploring the remote village of Hiriwadunna

Hiriwadunna is a remote village located few kilometres from the Sigiriya rock fortress. Monolithink rock with ancient constructions is the main draw in Sigiriya but it is worth exploring this remote village if you have time. Because it is a perfect opportunity to see the typical Sri Lanak village life, as the people of Hiriwadunna are still are relying on passed-down farming techniques, bullock cart, paddle boats, and large families to sustain their villages.

The people of Hiriwadunna like to share their traditional way of life with visitors, and welcome travellers (foreign as well as local) to experience their traditional life with village tour, farm tours, bullock cart ride, Tuk Tuk ride, paddle boating in the lake and cooking class feature traditional delicious recipes.

Meet our village guide near the Habarana junction, where you start the bullock cart rode, that cuts through the village, forests and farmlands. Later, visit a traditional farmhouse and 2 acres of farmland, a surveillance treehouse, as well as a traditional thatched house in the village. Towards the end of the Village tour, you can learn the traditional way of cooking in Sri Lanka and sample some delicious Sri Lankan food.

Why you should visit Sigiriya rock fortress with Seerendipity

Seerendipity tour is a fully locally owned travel company with the head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity tours and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka.

Best price for your Sri Lanka trip

When you book a tour with us, you directly book the tour with the local company, it means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see.

Local expertise and personalize service

Our staff make a personalized program for you, which you can change until you find the best package for you. You can also browse our existing tour packages for inspiration; all our ready-made tour packages are customizable and can be tailored to meet all your expectations. Write us on


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  2. “It’s hard to seek out educated individuals on this subject, but you sound like you already know what you’re speaking about! Thanks

  3. We visited this place on the second day of our trip. This was such an amazing way to start our vacation! Our tour guide Gamini was wonderful!!! He was so knowledgeable and very friendly! He kept us smiling all day! The company communicated to us the night before the trip, our driver/guide was on time, and our was great!

  4. We will be travelling to Sri Lanka in the next week and hoping to tour in Colombo. The article is a beautiful peace of work giving a complete insight of Colombo.

  5. Most tourists of our group were taken by surprise for its imposing size, marvellous landscaped garden and 5th-century.

  6. I came across this article as I was looking for some activities do in Sri Lanka during our upcoming trip. The article is nice and very descriptive and also capable of convincing the readers of the value of this tourist site.

  7. “It is truly a nice and useful piece of info. I am happy that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.”

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