After taking some old bicycles from a nearby renter, we cycle around the moat, and get our first view of Sigiriya on the go. In an otherwise flattish landscape, the 180 metres high Sigiriya monolith certainly stands out. When we arrive at the entrance, we are once more amazed at the inefficient way of selling tickets, but do manage to get a note scribbled on our tickets which allows us to use them more than once. The crowd that is ready to enter at the base, disperses once we are in, and we walk past the ruins of buildings and through water gardens. The main pathway runs straight through the gardens towards the rock, that looms high above us, and which we know we will climb quite soon. We actually decide to go up first, then enjoy all there is to see at the lower level when we come back. We are back in a crowd, and make our way up slowly, our pace dictated by the ones ahead of us. A spiral staircase takes us up to a gallery where we find the famous Sigiriya frescoes, depicting attractive damsels in different poses. It is assumed that large part of the rock was once covered in paintings, which must have been an incredible sight. Even without those impressive paintings and with the gardens in ruins, Sigiriya is a worthy world heritage site.
Once we are down at the base of the staircase, we walk alongside the Mirror Wall, which runs parallel to the rock. It is a polished wall, and the sunlight makes it shine and reflect just like a mirror. It was also used by people to leave messages through graffiti, and they give us insights in the history and the looks of the rock centuries ago. For example, it refers to hundreds of damsels painted on the rock surface. King Kasyapa, who established his palace on the top of Sigiriya rock, clearly was a hedonist. After climbing another flight of stairs, we come to a terrace dominated by gigantic lion paws. Once upon a time, an entire stone lion stood on top, and the stairs leading up to the palace above ran straight through its mouth. Walking through the paws is still somehow exciting, and the going gets very slow again because of the thick crowd. On top of Sigiriya, we wander through the ruins, which are mostly the fundaments of buildings long gone. But what a spectacular location to build a palace and to reign from! The views on all sides are nothing less than breathtaking. From the west side of the rock, we now clearly see the meticulous planning of the gardens below, through which we walked just before. Even in this palace complex, we find several artificial ponds which once were part of the palace gardens. Overlooking them, we find a finely carved throne on which King Kasyapa once must have sat, and probably also meditated.
Once we are down, we explore the Boulder Garden, where stairs sometimes lead through natural arches, and we find more remnants of paintings on several rocks, notably the Cobra-hood rock with its peculiar cobra-like shape. We walk past the Octagonal Pond, and visit the museum for more background information. When the sun is on its way down, I return, and continue my exploration of the Boulder Garden with its many places to discover: ruins of a stupa, a square place specially made for the Bodhi-tree, a natural Audience Hall with thrones and seats carved out of the rock, other parts of the extensive garden system. When I walk up to the frescoes, they are now lit by the afternoon sunlight, and as there are much less people around, better to appreciate. The same goes for the Mirror Wall, and the lion paws higher up. I wander the ruins of the palace complex once more, and as I see that the sun is on its way down, I make sure to be back in the gardens below to enjoy the warm afternoon light reflected on the mighty Sigiriya rock. The next day, I cycle through the dark to Pidurangala rock, to the north of Sigiriya, and climb fast enough to make it for sunrise. Pidurangala is only marginally lower than Sigiriya, and seeing the sun rise over this monumental rock is the best way to end my visit of Sigiriya. I end it by cycling all around the base of the mountain, allowing for glimpses of the monolith on top of which I now know is one of the most amazing palaces on the planet.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Sigiriya (Sri Lanka). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Sigiriya. Read more about this site.