Not always has been that treachery brings destruction, Sigiriya was born out of it. In the tropical dense forest plains of Central Sri Lanka, this huge rock-fortress reaches out for the sky. A popular UNESCO site, Sigiriya, comes as an identity for the small island country in the Indian Ocean where legends and remains of an ancient civilization whisper stories and legends of past times.
Sigiriya was largely unknown in absolute nothingness before getting recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, a fortress engulfed between forests of Sri Lanka heartlands. Though today it’s well connected to major cities and capitals of the country, commercialization still remains at the bay.
How to Reach Sigiriya?
Opt for a bus from Colombo, Anuradhapura, or any major town, and it’s pretty much always easy to find one going in the direction of Sigiriya. You can hop onto one without any prior reservation. This is hands down the easiest and cheapest way to travel across the countryside, plus the distances are not really vast, so it is time-saving as well.
Sri Lankan railways have an outstanding reputation of complementary landscapes on its journeys. If you haven’t seen it already, probably a big surprise is coming for you, there’s no direct station at Sigiriya, but you can go to Habarana (15 km away) and then join the dots from thereon.
There’s a 3-tier booking system which is mostly the case with other countries too. Prior reservation may be needed, do note that it is very affordable.
Only domestic flights operate to Sigiriya, though it’s not the best way to choose, the fare is far too steep for a 30-minute flight, plus you don’t save a whole lot of time in the end. Better not go for this.
And if you want to avoid all the queues at the railway station and wish to travel comfortably, Taxi is the fastest option to travel by road. You can book a Taxi from Uber or other local taxi services. It would take you four hours to reach and typically cost 80-100 USD (15000-18500 LKR) from Columbo city to Sigiriya, while a taxi from Anuradhapura would cost you 30$ (5600 LKR).
History of Sigiriya Rock:
There are legends, many of them that tell about the capital of Sigiriya, its rise, everything in between, and the eventual (read quick) fall. It’s said that King Kashyapa betrayed his father, King Dhatusena, and killed him to acquire the throne. Though his brother fled to neighboring country India, King Kashyapa now feared vengeance; as such, he built this gigantic rock fortress with its very own civilization atop its roof. Virtually impossible to reach the top without passing through the main gates, thanks to its steep (almost perpendicular) walls.
The gates are gorgeously put to a show of power of gigantic lion paws right at the main entrance. Planned gardens, water tanks, and symmetry kept in mind, Sigiriya was a majestic beauty.
Legends say that Indian prince Vijaya was born as a lion’s grandson, his arrival to Sri Lanka, and union with Princess Kuveni gave birth to Sinhalese race (Sinhala stands for ‘of lions’). Thus, the lion paws!
King Kashyapa, though, failed his kingdom when his brother returned and defeated him; the short life of the Kingdom of Sigiriya came to an end.
What remains today is folklore, those lion paws at the entrance and ruins of a civilization on the roof, only addition today are the big beautiful jungles.
Getting around Sigiriya
The steady pace with which Sri Lanka started to enjoy its tourism boom in the early 2010s, Sigiriya gradually became the face of the country, and tourists began pouring in. More and more tuk-tuk riders came around the scene and continued being the best way to get around this little town. The other best way is obviously to walk and trek the jungles.
The main fortress has makeshift iron ramps (or may we say stairs) attached to the steep walls that you can climb. Ticket counter opens up at 7 in the morning, and since it’s relatively more refreshing in the morning, the stairs get clogged up by 9 AM already. The climb is steep, and crowds get overwhelming sometimes, not to forget that the top is hell sunny, and you must carry a water bottle, hat, and rub sunscreen all over.
What to do?
The Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya though is of extraordinary importance; the tours around it don’t span anywhere above half a day when here you can climb atop to watch how an entire civilization lived up and above, disconnected from the rest. From here, you can also see endless jungles and nothing but stark blue sky above. While on the climb, beautiful frescos and graffiti scratched on walls by pilgrims and monks who traveled to the fortress will definitely grab your attention.
Gardens and Museums
Practicality and urbanism at best, the architecture of gardens and pools around the rock is impeccably beautiful. It’s symmetrical built doesn’t go unnoticed, and you can enjoy a lovely shade on a sunny day and watch the huge Sigiriya rock rising out of nothingness, reaching for the sky from down there. The museum showcases remnants, art pieces, religious texts, and other articles of significance, which you might like to explore if you are a history lover.
For every one of those who avoid the overcrowded hotspots, there happens to be an equally gorgeous alternative with much more poise and calm. Pidurangala rock is that and more, with its stunning views of the Sigiriya rock at a distance in the jungle. It actually houses temples that predate those at Sigiriya, and you can even get a good homestay (obviously in more solace than Sigiriya), Pidurangala Homestay is where we stayed.
On midnights and all those sunny days when drones fly above the skies of Sigiriya, we’d watch from the ground the drama, when the milky way overshadows the lakes and pools, we’d come with a camera and the wild elephants of the jungle? Yeah, we’d sneak away from their eyes. More on the midnight jungle journey for a milky way shot and dodging wild elephants here.