Sigiriya Rock Fortress

A UNESCO World Heritage Site and sometimes known as the 8th wonder of the world, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is a timeless example of just one of the many remnants of the great kingdoms that existed within Sri Lanka. Boasting a unique architecture, one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world, frescoes that depict a society long gone and also a mirror wall that chronicles the stories of many travellers that made the climb to the fabled rock. Sigiriya is, arguably, considered the most visited place in Sri Lanka due to its historical and cultural significance.

Best Known For

Culture and Heritage:

  • The entrance to the rock fortress takes you through one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world that has not changed since its construction in the 5th century CE with many canals, locks, lakes and fountains that sustain the beauty of it.
  • The rock fortress showcases architectural ingenuity since the fortress is, in fact, built by using the natural rock plateau as the foundations and is elaborately decorated with notable features such as the lion’s paws that was carved out of the granite rock.
  • The stone stairway that leads to the ruined royal palace that belonged to King Kassapa of the Anuradhapura kingdom (5th century CE) on top of the granite rock still serves as the main entrance since ancient times and takes you through a myriad of unique archaeological features.
  • The frescoes depicting religious rituals and the mirror wall filled with literature further showcase the cultural significance of the country due to its elaborate depiction of the society that existed during the 5th century CE Anuradhapura kingdom and how the society was perceived by outsiders.

Interesting Facts

  • According to the ‘Culavamsa’ chronicles (a chronicle that documents the history of Sri Lankan monarchs since the 4th century), it is believed to be the capital of King Kassapa who seized the throne by murdering his father King Dhatusena in the 5th century CE Anuradhapura Kingdom.
  • King Kassapa decided to create the rock fortress fearing his older brother, Mogallana, would launch an attack in order to gain the throne which was rightfully his.
  • The rock fortress entrance was carved in the form of a lion, however, its grandeur has somewhat diminished due to erosion that destroyed the lion’s head. Its paws are the only remnants of the grand entrance today.
  • After Mogallana launched a successful attack against King Kassapa, the rock fortress was converted to a monastery and it was eventually abandoned in the 14th century CE.
  • It was again reused by the Kandyan Kingdom as an outpost in the 16th century.
  • It was eventually recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 as it is considered a fine example of ancient urban planning displaying the unique society that existed at the time.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The best experience can be obtained when visiting the rock fortress between the months of February and April since the weather is moderate.
  • The Sigiriya Rock Fortress is opened for visitors from 7:00am - 5:30pm and will cost you USD 30.
  • You might get thirsty or hungry while climbing the rock due to the hot weather you experience during the season. A backpack containing water, some snacks and some medicine (just for precaution) would come in handy.
  • It is important to respect the rules that have been laid out by the authorities in order to preserve the notable features, especially the frescoes where pictures can only be taken without a flasher.
  • The dress code too has to be conservative since the fortress is also a Buddhist monastery where many religious rituals are performed.

In conclusion, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress is an unmatched combination of urban planning, water engineering, horticulture and arts that has been and still is admired and recognized to be the 8th wonder of the world.

Title image by: Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau

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