Monday-Friday:9:00am - 9:00pm
Saturday:9:00am - 8:00pm
Sunday:10:00am - 9:00pm
  • to
  • to
  • to

Explore Sigiriya Rock

Sri Lanka is a place of endless wonder; a place that offers some of the worlds’ most pristine and scenic landscape, as well as countless opportunities to experience the rich heritage and history of a fascinating ancient culture.

There are many historical sites that serve as a reminder of Sri Lanka’s colourful past, but none more so than the UNESCO listed World Heritage Site of Sigiriya. Sigiriya (the name of which means ‘Lion Rock’) is found in the island’s central province, between the towns of Dambulla and Habarane on a vast rocky plateau. This plateau was formed from the magma of an extinct volcano, and dramatically rises 200 metres above the surrounding jungle. It is here that, around 1500 years ago, King Kashyapa chose to build a palace like no other. The ruins that stand today serve as a reminder of the extensive fortifications, palace halls, vast gardens, canals, alleys and fountains that once made up this incredible ancient complex.

Explore Sigiriya Rock

Referred to by the locals as the ‘Eighth wonder of the world’, this ancient palace perfectly encapsulates the essence of Sri Lanka’s mystical ancestry. As such, it remains the country’s most significant and valued archaeological site, and is the most visited spot in all of Sri Lanka. 

The history of Sigiriya

According to archaeological evidence, Buddhist monks may have occupied the many rock shelters and caves surrounding Sigiriya as early back as the 3rd century BCE. However, it wasn’t until King Kashyapa made it his home in 477 CE that the site became the ancient fortified city we know of today. The story goes that Kashyapa illegally took the throne from his father, despite his brother Mugalan being the rightful heir. Fearing that his brother would one day attempt to claim the throne from him, Kashyapa moved the capital to Sigiriya and began fortifying it in anticipation of an attack.  

Explore Sigiriya Rock

Between 477 and 495 CE, Sigiriya was made into an elaborate fortress and city, which included defensive structures and fortifications, as well as ornate palaces and gardens to be enjoyed by himself, his loyal armies and his royal subjects.

After claiming his place on the throne, Mugalan moved the capital away from Sigiriya, which then became a Buddhist monastery for approximately 1000 years, before being abandoned. It was accidently discovered by the British army in 1831, and immediately attracted the attention of historians and archaeologists, but it wasn’t until the 1980’s that major excavations began.

Explore Sigiriya Rock

The key features of Sigiriya 

The Sigiriya site consists of the ruins of the palace that sat on top of the rock, the mid-level terrace that includes the Lion Gate, the Mirror Wall, and the frescoes, and the lower levels that include the gardens and moats. Most of the structures are carved from the very rock itself, and serve as a reminder of the intricate ancient balance between human ingenuity and breath-taking natural beauty.

The Lion Gate 

The main entrance to Sigiriya was designed in the form of a giant stone lion (hence the name Sigiriya, meaning ‘Lion Rock’). The feet of this lion have survived to this day, but unfortunately, the rest of the structure has long been destroyed.  

Explore Sigiriya Rock

Frescoes 

The western wall of Sigiriya was once entirely covered with paintings and portraits, with eighteen of them remaining visible today. The paintings depict images of female beauty, and have incredible historical significance, with some saying that the women are likely to be some of the many wives of the King.

Explore Sigiriya Rock

The Mirror Wall

One of the most fascinating features of Sigiriya is what is known as the mirror wall. Back in King Kashyapa’s day, he erected a wall of brick masonry and pristine white plaster, which was so highly polished that he was able to see his reflection it in. After his reign countless writings were inscribed along the wall, which are still studied today. Writing on the wall is now strictly forbidden in order to preserve these ancient words. 

Explore Sigiriya Rock

The Gardens

The gardens of Sigiriya are amongst the world’s first landscaped gardens, and are a prime example of ancient irrigation techniques. Situated along the western part of the rock, the complex hydraulic systems of canals, locks, dams, bridges, fountains and pumps make for a fascinating walk. The main gardens themselves are divided into three distinct areas; the water gardens, cave and boulder gardens, and the terraced gardens, which are all linked via the complex waterways.

Explore Sigiriya Rock

How to get there

Sigiriya is located roughly 100 miles north-east of the capital city of Colombo, and is accessible by road. If you haven’t hired a car, you can catch one of the regular buses that depart from Dambulla every 30 minutes.

Bear in mind when visiting the site that to reach the top of Sigiriya, it means climbing a staircase of approximately 1250 steps. Should accessibility prove a problem, however, the site is still well worth a visit for the lower levels and the stunning gardens alone. It’s best to arrive at the site as early as possible in the day when temperatures are at the lowest, and don’t forget to pack a sunhat and some water, and also take sunscreen with you.

Sigiriya is an unmatched monument to ancient engineering, which is enhanced by the incredible scenery and natural surroundings. The palace is recognised as one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning, and its status as an UNESCO World Heritage Site is testament to this. In many people’s eyes, a visit to Sri Lanka is incomplete without a visit to this remarkable place of wonder.

Similar articles you might like...

Sri Lanka's most delicious traditional dishes

Sample some of Sri Lanka's most delicious...Read More

A truly educational trip to Sri Lanka

Discover Sri Lanka through the eyes of our travel...Read More

A guide to Sri Lanka in pictures

With so much to see in Sri Lanka, we have...Read More

View all things to do in Sri Lanka

img02

Sri Lanka
Hotels

Choose from a great selection
of 3, 4 and 5 star hotels.

View more
3rd week free

Special
Offers

Unbelievable value guaranteed
when you book with us.

View more
img14

All
Inclusive

With everything included
there's nothing to do but relax!

View more
Singles

Singles
Holidays

Travel solo with no supplements.
Why pay more? Book today.

View more
2nd week free

Long   Stay
Holidays

Get an extra week FREE
with our long stay holiday offers.

View more