The World Heritage Site: Sigiriya’s Lesser-known Attractions

Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, is an ancient rock fortress in the Matale District of Sri Lanka. It was built in the 5th century AD by King Kashyapa, who demarcated this location as his new capital. There is evidence that the area around Sigiriya has been occupied since prehistoric times, as early as the 3rd century BC, by monks and ascetics.

Sigiriya is considered one of the most valuable historical monuments in Sri Lanka, a legendary architectural wonder of urban planning and engineering. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and is currently one of Sri Lanka’s most visited historical sites. The summit is 180 metres high, and the palace of the king was built in the shape of a lion atop the several acres of ground at the summit.

Attractions in Sigiriya

The Ancient Frescoes

The frescoes are a collection of vibrant and well-preserved paintings depicting female figures: celestial nymphs known as the Damsels of Sigiriya or the “Cloud Maidens.” These paintings are evidence of the artistic skills and techniques used and the cultural traditions of the time.

The Mystical Gardens of Sigiriya

The gardens at Sigiriya are some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. The gardens consist of three separate but interlinked sections. The symmetrical or geometrically planned water gardens, the asymmetrical or organic cave and boulder garden, and the stepped or terraced garden that circles the rock. The hydraulic system used to power the fountains in the garden is still functional today, which is an extraordinary achievement of these ancient engineers.

The Mirror Wall

The mirror wall is a magnificent parapet wall made of brick and plastered with a special mixture of lime, egg white, honey, and beeswax. The surface has been polished to attain a reflective sheen. The frescoes on the opposite rock face and the overall majesty of Sigiriya have inspired a collection of ancient graffiti on the mirror wall that dates back over a thousand years. The wall is now protected, and visitors are not allowed to touch or write on it. Images of the graffiti are on display in the museum for a closer look.

The Lion Gate

This impressive structure was once the main entrance to the palace. The stairway was between the lion’s paws, and the main door was the lion’s mouth. Unfortunately, only the paws and base of the head are still standing today. However, these remnants fully portray the scale and craft skills of this once magnificent work of men.

While these are the main attractions at Sigiriya, some of the lesser-known but significant attractions are:

The Sigiriya Museum houses artefacts, photographs, videos, models, and dioramas of the fortress. It consists of three floors and is located near the main ticketing booth.

Pidurangala Rock is a smaller but equally impressive monolith that stands at approximately 200 metres in height and is located to the north of Sigiriya. This is a famous site for pilgrims and tourists alike. It was once a monastery, and the cave temple is still in existence at the peak, adorned with ancient Buddhist murals. There is a 30 to 40-minute hike to the top, where you can enjoy a spectacular 360-degree view of the surroundings. As it is a site of religious significance, visitors should wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees as a sign of reverence.

An exciting opportunity for more adventurous travellers. The climb to the top can be quite intimidating and dangerous, since the climbing structures are old and some parts look quite rotten. But you will be rewarded at the top with a sense of accomplishment and magnificent views that will make each of the 1,200 steps climbed worthwhile.

It is hardly surprising that Sigiriya is one of the most visited places in Sri Lanka. To fully embrace the magic of Sigiriya, careful planning is key. Early mornings offer the coolest temperatures and minimal crowds, allowing you to enjoy the sunrise. Comfortable shoes are essential for navigating the uneven terrain, and a hat and sunscreen are necessities against the tropical sun.
For a convenient and enjoyable holiday, contact Apple Vacations. They are experts in travel and will provide you with a customised experience to enjoy the best of Sigiriya.