Climbing Sigiriya Rock Fortress
I am a person who loves ancient times and wonders how fabulous living in those times must have been. Although traveling back to ancient times is something we can’t physically do (yet), visiting the majestic Sigiriya Rock Fortress in Sri Lanka can definitely create a bridge between those imaginations and the reality. Sigiriya being an ancient marvel, climbing hundreds of spiraling steps built on the rock towering into the sky from the ground, being amazed at the skilled stonework from ancient times, and immersing yourself in the breathtaking vistas will make you never forget this one-of-a-kind experience.
When I visited Sri Lanka, Sigiriya was on my list of things to see. When I reached the historical site, I was truly amazed—there, the gigantic hunk of stone standing on the ground, more than a hundred meters high.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress is categorized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical value and the ingenuity of design. From the 5thCentury BC, Sigiriya Rock has been used as a monastic retreat but its splendor came to light when it was developed into a fortress in the 5th Century AD by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD).
Climbing Sigiriya Rock starts out with a short stroll across the moat and through the water gardens on the ground. The moat and the water gardens appear were not built just for defense—Kashyapa and the designers wanted to make Sigiriya into a palace of mind-blowing beauty. At present, these are mostly in ruins although we can still easily imagine how brilliant those may have looked back in their heyday. After the water garden is the Boulder Garden where the stairs start. Rather than avoiding the giant boulders at the foot of the rock, the landscape of boulders is incorporated into the magnificent design of the Fortress. Past the Boulder Garden, the stairs get a bit steeper although the breeze around the rock is refreshing.
The stairs lead to the Mirror Wall which gets its name for its highly polished surface with remarkable reflecting capabilities. Then a spiral staircase leads straight up the cliff face, about 100m above the ground! Here’s where adventure gets strong—the spiral stair case hanging off the side of a cliff face with a hundred-meter drop if the stairs ever were to fail…
After the spiral stairs, I continued the climb along the mirror wall on the western face through a solid granite path with wonderful thick stone handrails. About half-way up the rock face, I came about a small cave into the rock, which when I looked inside, is still filled with skillful frescos on the rocky surface from centuries ago. These paintings are a key attraction in Sigiriya and they are considered as some of the most artistic paintings in ancient Sri Lanka.
With another steep set of stairs, I arrived at the western terrace, which is the entrance to the upper palace where a staggeringly huge lion gate had once stood. However, only the paws remain today—even so, the detail and the masterly skill found with all other art found on the Rock Fortress is still evident today.
(Photo Credits: The Radio Scout)
Once I reached the summit, the view and the ancient ruins are simply stunning! Looking outwards, the unobstructed 360° views of the surrounding lush terrain go as far as the eyes can see. The breeze at this height (about 180m above ground!) is battering against you making you feel powerful, combined with the view looking down from above. Looking inwards, the ancient ruins that have made the modern world left in wonder. A truly worthwhile climb!
Although the town Sigiriya is about 4 hours away from Colombo by land, Cinnamon Air, a premier domestic airline in Sri Lanka that operates daily scheduled flights to Sigiriya Airport allowed me to travel to Sigiriya in just 30 minutes. As an added bonus, I also got to see Sigiriya Rock Fortress from the sky moments before landing, a fabulous preview from a different view on what I was about to explore. After landing at Sigiriya airport, reaching the Rock Fortress site was only a drive of a few minutes.