If you’re a traveler, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of the “Wonders of the World”. There are 7 wonders in the world but according to the Sri Lankan’s there are 8. The 8th wonder of the world is in Sri Lanka and it is Sigiriya Rock. Situated in the middle of Sri Lanka’s Cultural triangle made up by Kandy, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
Built in the 5th century AD by King Kasyapa, who fled after a failed attempt to kill his own father to take over the crown. He found the rock and built his castle in order to protect himself from invaders. Since the 3rd century BC Sigirya served as a monastery and after the death of King Kasyapa, it was once again used as a monastery before being abandoned in the 14th century.
The name “Sigiriya” is derived from the term “Sihagiri” which means Lion Rock. Name was given because of the Lion claws which were carved from the rock to make the entrance to the palace. In 1831 Major Jonathan Forbes of the 78th Highlanders of the British army while returning from a trip to Polonnaruwa rediscovered Sigiriya and there are many archaeologists have shown great interest in this man made wonder.
Sigiriya Lion Rock and Sigiriya Water Garden has been an ancient engineering marvel which attracts not only tourists but professionals who like to see the wonder with their own eyes. First of all, let’s see how you can get to Sigiriya in Sri Lanka.
How to get to Sigiriya in Sri Lanka
Situated 165kms away from Colombo, Sigiriya belongs to the North Central province. If you’re a budget traveler, it’s a bit of a hassle getting here.
The most convenient way of getting here is by vehicle. It’s easier because there are no direct busses or trains to Sigiriya. It will be 3-4 hour drive and would probably cost LKR 10,000 in an Uber or a local cab.
There are also air taxis that operate from the Airport to Sigiriya. It will take only 30 minutes and you can also have a beautiful view of Sigiriya from the sky. But, it comes with a hefty price tag which approximately cost LKR 30,000.
Sigiriya By Train
For budget travelers, it’s going to be a bit of a hassle to get here. First, the closest train station to Sigiriya is 15kms away. There is only one train scheduled everyday and it takes about 5 hours to get to Habarana train station from Colombo. The train leaves early morning from Colombo and it will cost your approximately LKR 600 for the ticket.
Sigiriya By Bus
Secondly, there are no direct busses to sigiriya. From Colombo, get on either a No 15 bus to Anuradhapura, No 48 bus to Kaduruwela or a No. 49 bus to Trincomalee and get off in Dambulla. These buses run throughout the day and the ticket will cost you about LKR 250.
From Dambula, there is a bus that goes straight to Sigiriya and it will take about 45 minutes and cost you LKR 50. You could also take a tuktuk from Dambulla which cost you about LKR 1200.
Many tourists travel from Kandy to Sigiriya. In that case, you can take the bus to Dambulla from Kandy and then another bus to Sigiriya. It will take about 2.5 hours to get to Dambulla from Kandy and it will cost you approximately LKR 150. This could be a perfect day trip if you are staying in Kandy.
Places to see in Sigiriya
Sigiriya Lion Rock
The entrance to the castle is through the lion rock. Back then, this was a structure where people would have to enter the jaws of the lion to enter the city within. Unfortunately, the rock has fallen apart and all that’s left are the huge paws of the lion sculpture.
The construction of the Lion Rock on a massive rock approximately 200 meters above the land, surely required advanced architectural and engineering skills. This is why Sigiriya is recognized as one of the finest ancient urban planning.
Also remember there is a hefty entrance fee, it will cost you about $30 if you’re a foreigner. Locals get it cheaper and foreigners from SAARC countries get 50% rebate of the price.
Sigiriya Water Garden
The gardens of Sigiriya are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. They are located in the western side of the rock and are with a hydraulic system, which consists of canals, locks, lakes, dams, bridges, fountains, as well as surface and underground water pumps.
In the rainy season, all are filled with water, which begins to circulate through the whole area of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. These Fountains of Sigiriya built in the 5th century, could be one of the oldest in the world.
The western side of the Sigiriya Rock is covered with frescos. It is believed that these were drawn during the reign of King Kasyapa. All the drawings, which have survived so far, are of nude women in vibrant colors. It could be Kings maids or even his wives.
These murals were supposed to cover the whole rock but through the years, many were destroyed due to various reasons. The few that survived and heavily guarded from all visitors.
On the western side of Sigiriya, you would find a orange shaded wall adjacent to the rock surface. It is believed that, during the reign of King Kasyapa, this wall had a highly polished surface which would reflect anything that walks by it. Back then, it was close to 200 meters long and it was so shiny that it even reflected the frescos on the rock surface. The mirror wall was intact for more than 15 centuries and it is indeed another example of sheer brilliance of craftsmanship back in the day.
Dambulla cave temple
It is called “Jumbukola Viharaya” in the “Mahavansa”, the principle Pali Chronicle of Sri Lanka. These caves were occupied by Buddhist hermits in the early days. There are four caves all together and the sculptures and drawings go back to First century A.C.
Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya
This hike has become popular since of late among visitors. Pidurangala Rock is adjacent to Sigiriya Rock and has the best viewing spot of Sigiriya Rock. It is a popular spot for sunrise as you can enjoy 360-degree views of not only the valleys but also Sigiriya Rock.
Many travelers hike up to see the sunrise on top of Pidurangala Rock and then climb up Sigiriya to witness the sunset. The hike will take about a half an hour and there is an entrance fee at the base which will cost you LKR 600.
Sigiriya should definitely be in your travel itinerary. Apart from the Lion Rock and all it’s wonderful, there isn’t much to do in this area so you might as well do a day trip while staying in Kandy or even Colombo.