Stunning Sigiriya Rock
I was next slated to visit my third UNESCO site in as many days, Sigiriya Rock. This rock is so imposing that I could see it from the road of my homestay. Measuring over 200 meters high, it towers above the surrounding area. The fact that it is a giant plateau versus a mountain makes it that much more alluring and different.
I had read a few travel blogs that recommended getting there early to beat the crowds and the heat. As it is a giant plateau, there are no trees or anything to block the hot Sri Lankan sun. It was about a 2 kilometer walk from my homestay, and I set off a little after 6am. In true Sri Lankan fashion, the entrance price for foreigner was an inflated $30 USD. There was a small museum by the ticket booth, but I chose to visit it later after climbing Sigiriya.
Walking towards the rock is nothing short of breathtaking. The Sri Lankans did an excellent job of paving a path leading straight towards it. I found my jaw dropping as I admired the uniqueness of this natural wonder. It literally rises up out of nowhere! Sigiriya rock is now outfitted with steps, so it is not so much of a “climb” anymore.
Sigiriya Rock was used as the kingdom for King Kasyapa in 400 AD. The height provided a lot of protection against enemies. He had a massive lion erected as an arch right before the summit of the rock, but only the lion’s paws are still visible today. I can only imagine how majestic and imposing the lion must have looked back in the day. There are a few rock paintings still visible of what were thought to be some of the King’s concubines. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in order to preserve them.
I clocked myself at about an hour to reach the summit of Sigiriya, going at a leisurely pace with stops for pictures. The views from the top are not that great in my opinion, as are you can see are a steady line of green trees extending out into the distance. At the top there were a few remnants of buildings and water wells which were interesting to walk around for a bit. Sigiriya Rock is known as one of the best early examples of urban planning. Even though it was only a little after 8am, the sun was already out and beating down on the plateau. As I began to descend, I came across large tourist groups slowly making their way up. I’m glad that I was able to beat the rush!
On my way out of the complex, I stopped briefly in the museum. Like most developing countries, the museum was not well set-up nor was there much to see. After a quick walk through, I headed to my next destination, Pidurangala rock. This rock is a much less popular site than Sigiriya. However, the benefit of Pidurangala is that it is cheaper, less crowded, and offers arguably one of the best views of Sigiriya Rock.
The base of Pidurangala was about a half hour’s walk from Sigiriya. The entrance fee for Pidurangala is much cheaper than Sigiriya, only 500 LKR for foreigners (~$3 USD). The climb only took me about 25 minutes, although it was definitely more strenuous than that of Sigiriya. There were a couple complex passes, and the final few meters you have to climb almost straight up. I recommend people of only at least moderate fitness to attempt this. But boy is it worth it!
There were only about ten other people at the summit when I arrived, as well as one dog. I was curious how he managed to get up there. There were several large boulders that provided shade, so I sat back to relax for a bit and admire the amazing view of Sigiriya.
I returned back to my homestay around mid-afternoon and grabbed my things to head south back to Kandy. So far, I was greatly enjoying my time here in Sri Lanka!