Ready to be wowed by an ancient masterpiece that lies over a thousand feet in the air? Journey to the tropical isle of Sri Lanka, home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, not least of which is the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
The History of the Fortress
Standing at well over 1,000 feet tall, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is a 2-millennia-old sky fortress that was constructed in the 5th century by a Sri Lankan king, Kashyapa I. King Kashyapa I was a ruler of the Moriya Sinhalese dynasty.
The Many Names of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress
The Sigiriya Rock Fortress is perhaps the most iconic of all of the island’s historical attractions. The remnants of a highly organised citadel carved into a soaring rockside present an unforgettably distinct view, and there are plenty of aerial shots of this attraction circulating the internet to prove it. With so many unique features, it’s almost a given that over the years, this landmark would have gained many monikers; and it certainly has.
If you’re setting out to do your research on this historical site, here are some of the popular names to look out for:
- Sigiriya Rock Fortress
- Sigiriya Rock
- Lion Rock (you’ll see why when you reach the base).
- The Fortress in the Sky
- Sky Fortress
The Beauty of the Fortress
The Fortress’ beauty is breathtaking, and presents itself in many forms.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress on the Horizon
Firstly, there’s just how splendorous it looks on the horizon: the ruins that sit atop a giant rock that towers on the horizon, majestic in its rustic majesty as you approach it.
The Sky Fortress from Up in the Air
From up above, if you’re seeing aerial views, it looks exactly like what it is, a relic from the past / what’s left of an ancient dynasty.
Sigiriya Rock at the Base
When you walk up to one side of the base, one thing that hits you is the majesty of the enormous lion’s paws that have been carved into the rock side. A pair of fierce-looking paws with extended claws stand guard on either side of a stairway that is built into the rock face.
Another beautiful aspect of Sigiriya Rock Fortress is the remains of geometrically designed water gardens around its base, some of which once served as a bathing place for royal concubines. The beauty of the water gardens lies not only in their aesthetic appeal but also in the ingenuity of their engineering, so many centuries ago: in a marvel of ancient engineering involving underground tunnel networks, hydraulic power, and gravitational force, the water for the gardens were designed to be sourced from a neighbouring reservoir as well as from the ponds at the top of the fortress, which filled with rainwater.
The Mirror Wall and the Frescoes
As you ascend the steps and make your way up into the sky, you will reach a section of the Sky Fortress that is much spoken of – the mirror wall. The full wall of the cave is believed to have been polished until it was so smooth that it was reflective, hence its name, the mirror wall. This wall is also famed for bearing ancient frescoes of beautiful Sigiriya damsels.
The Stunning View from the Top
Another beautiful aspect of the Sky Fortress lies in the rewarding view that it offers to those who make the effort to reach its summit. The top of the rock is flat and holds ruins of the upper palace, and from there, you are treated to sweeping views of Sigiriya’s lush countryside.
Pro Tip: To bask in the beauty of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress from another angle, scale up Pidurangala Rock which is located nearby. Some of the most spectacular selfies with the Sigiriya Fortress in the background have been taken from atop Pidurangala.
The Best Way to Explore the Fortress
A great way to explore the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is to base yourself out of a hotel that’s located in Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, whether that’s in Sigiriya or cities in the region such as Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa. This is also a great way to combine tours of multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Alternatively, if you have plans to tour the east coast, you can discover Sigiriya Rock Fortress with Uga Ulagalla or another hotel based on the east coast. From an east coast hotel such as Uga Bay, Sigiriya Rock is under a 2.5-hour drive away. So you could set aside a day in your east coast itinerary to take a break from the sunny shores to travel inland for a day trip to Sigiriya.
Convinced that you need to add the Sigiriya Rock Fortress onto your Sri Lanka travel itinerary? You won’t regret it!