Famous for its remarkable elevated citadel, this ancient city is one of the many art and architectural wonders that grace the Cultural Triangle.
Visit Sigiriya to explore a magnificent feat of architectural engineering, which ranks among Sri Lanka’s most significant historical landmarks. See the remains of a millennia-old palace and fortress, browse examples of beautiful rock paintings and wander amid ornamental gardens. Sigiriya dates back to the 3rd century B.C., when monks inhabited the area. It grew to prominence under the rule of King Kassapa in the late 400s.
The city’s crowning glory is Sigiriya Lion Rock Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site perched atop a 1,200-foot (365-meter) tall outcrop. King Kassapa chose the outcrop as the location for his stronghold royal palace and pleasure gardens. Climb to the summit via the rickety staircase to discover the remnants of courtyards, pavilions and pools set around terraced gardens. Marvel at panoramic views of lush tea plantations and mountain ranges.
Find artistic treasures spread around the foothills. With symmetrical lawns, ponds and fountains, the Water Gardens evoke images of a miniature Versailles. Follow winding walkways through woodland and past rock-cut arches in the Boulder Gardens. At the base of the southern entrance is Cobra Hood Cave, which resembles the neck of a cobra flattened to an expanded hood.
Be sure to see the sublime Sigiriya Damsels frescoes, located halfway up Lion Rock. The paintings depict 21 topless woman, some tossing flower petals and others carrying fruit plates. Nearby is the Mirror Wall, a gleaming wall festooned with centuries-old graffiti.
Learn more about the fortress and the city’s trade history at the Sigiriya Museum. Elsewhere in the city visit religious landmarks such as Pidurangala Ancient Forest Monastery, Ramakele Stupa and Sigiriya Temple. Catch a rickshaw to Pidurangala Rock, where monks have lived for over 2,000 years.
Sigiriya is about a 15-minute drive by car from Dambulla. Buses travel regularly between the two cities but the trip may be a bit longer. Many people choose to visit as a daytrip. Stay overnight at a homestay or hotel and linger a while in the shadow of this extraordinary setting. Travel on to other destinations in the Cultural Triangle, including Kandy and Polonnaruwa.