Although being one of the less-visited countries in Asia, Sri Lanka still captivates travellers by its untouched beaches and perhaps one of the most distinctive cultures and enduring history in the region. As a matter of fact, this tear-shaped island possesses a total of 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, an impressive number for such a compact country (ranked 122nd globally in terms of size). But the most outstanding landmarks of them all must be the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, considered by some the 8th wonder of the world.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress: A must visit on your holiday to Sri Lanka
The year 473 sees a significant event in the history of Sri Lanka. The first king of the Mauryan Dynasty, King Dhatusena was overthrown, imprisoned and eventually executed by his own son, King Kashyapa I. In the process of coming to power, King Kashyapa I also usurped his brother, also the rightful heir to the throne, Moggallana. With the fear of vengeance from Moggallana who had fled to India, King Kashyapa I established his own capital city and created one of the most unique palaces in South Asia, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which he believed impregnable. As a matter of fact, one has to climb 1,200 steep staircases emerging from the mouth of an enormous lion to get to the top. However, 22 years later, his reign ended when he was defeated and killed by his brother during a short but brutal battle in 495. After the death of King Kashyapa I, the ancient city was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Although not as magnificent as the palaces in India, Sigiryia still stands out thanks to its bizarre location. The main part of it is situated on top of a massive 200-meter high rock in the middle of a lush forested area. The name of the ancient palace derived from the word Sīhāgiri or the Lion Rock. Sigiriya Rock Fortress is surrounded by an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and moats. They together cover an area of 40 hectares. Although most of the site now is just ruins, Sigiriya still remains one of the best-preserved examples of urban planning in the world and holds significant historical and archaeological values. The rock fortress can be divided into 3 levels. The lower palace is surrounded by protected walls, moats and lavish gardens. The mid-level terrace contains the famous Lion Gate (only the paws of the lion remains today) and beautiful frescoes on the wall. This stunning display of frescoes is another aspect that reinforces Sigiriya Rock Fortress’s rank as the 8th wonder of the world. It is believed that the paintings would have covered the rock’s western face which is 140 meters long and 40 meters high. Though most of them have disappeared forever, the remaining exquisite frescoes of 21 non-identified female figures are still very unique.
Colourful frescoes on the wall
The upper palace is on the flat top of the rock, includes cisterns cut into the rock. Once served as a water-retaining structure with sophisticated hydraulic systems, a park for the royals lied on the west side of the rock fortress. The southern part is a large man-made reservoir. The highest point of the rock is the royal residence where King Kashyapa I used to live. When you’re up here, the tiring climb will turn out to be a worthy endeavor thanks to a fabulous panoramic view of the surroundings. Soon you will feel like you’re on a flying garden.
View on top of Sigiriya