Tour of Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Being the most popular historic site in Sri Lanka, a tour of Sigiriya Rock Fortress is highly recommended. The ancient rock fortress is an imposing column of 650 feet tall rock which dominates the surrounding landscape.
Given its unique characteristics it is little wonder King Kasyapa selected the rock in the fifth century BC for the location of his new capital. The king built a palace on top of the rock and had the rock face ornamented with vivid frescoes which remain to this day.
Roughly half way up on your Sigiriya rock tour is the famous Lion Rock, a gateway fashioned in the form of a giant lion. Only the lion’s enormous paws remain intact to this day but their scale given some sense to the intimidating stature of the original gate which greeted visitors in centuries past!
Surrounding the rock fortress are the famous water and boulder gardens – believed to be among the most ancient landscaped gardens in the world and a magnet for visitors given their beauty and historic significance. Here is a great place to stop and relax before and after your tour up the rock fortress, taking in the beautiful kept garden flora and wildlife.
Sigiriya tour: A history of two royal brothers
The history of the rock fortress and palace is really the history of two royal brothers, Kasyapa and Moggallana. As mentioned, Kasyapa become king but did so illegally and his brother Moggallana, the rightful heir, fled to India.
Forever fearful of an attack by his brother, King Kasyapa moved the capital of his Kingdom to the centre of the island where it was less vulnerable to attack and the natural Sigiriya rock plateau provided the perfect location for his new royal palace. The palace was built using the latest technologies and the side of the rock fortress decorated with beautifully coloured frescoes which you can still see during your tour.
Despite his best efforts, King Kasyapa’s attempt to keep himself safe were in vein as he lost his life in battle against his brother who regained the Kingdom and moved the capital back to Anuradhapura. The palace was destroyed and the site once again became a Buddhist monastery, as it was before the construction of Kasyapa’s palace.
Getting to Sigiriya
To get to Sigiriya follow the A6 to Dambulla. The site is connected via a bus route from Dambulla which roughly takes 40 minutes. Buses are available every half an hour.
The site is open between 7am and 5:30pm, but given the walking involved it is generally advised to visit the site in the morning to avoid the higher mid-day and afternoon temperatures.