Lion Rock Sigiriya

  • 2
Lion Rock, Sigiriya

Lion Rock Sigiriya

After spending our first wet night in Sigiriya, it was still raining the next morning. However, our plan was to climb to the top of the famous Lion Rock buddhist monument, and a wet day wasn’t going to stop us doing that.

Before that, we had a look around the grounds of our guesthouse – The Paradise Inn. It was all very lush and green, with a clear unobstructed view across to the Lion Rock. There were tall teak trees growing in the gardens, and extended areas of rice paddy fields which our host cultivated and his wife used to prepare our meals.

Lion Rock Buddhist

Water Gardens Surrounding the Rock

Lion Rock Buddhist Settlement

The name “Sigiriya” (literally “Lion Rock” in Sinhalese) refers to an ancient fortress palace built on top of a massive column of rock. The rock is nearly 200 metres high – so quite a steep climb. To climb up you need to be in reasonably good physical condition and obviously not afraid of heights.

The palace was built around 1600 years ago and is surrounded by picturesque water gardens and terraces. It was later abandoned, then used by buddhist monks as a monastery.

By the time we reached the main entrance to the huge rectangular Lion Rock complex, it was beginning to pour down. We had borrowed an umbrella from the guesthouse, so had some shelter from the heavier downpours. The entrance fee is $30 per person (open 8:30 am to 5:30 pm). Once past the main gate, the area is quite large: Including visiting the gardens and the rock climb, the whole visit took us around 2-3 hours.

Lion Rock Buddhist

Yep! It’s that time of day

There are a lot of monkeys roaming around the lower areas of the rock, doubtless attracted by handouts from the tourists. There are also lots of dogs, much less active than the monkeys. The dogs seem more interested in digging out a hole in the ground and then tucking themselves inside for a cool afternoon kip.

Lion Rock Buddhist

Pause between the Paws

On a small plateau about halfway up the side of the rock you arrive at a gateway in the form of two enormous lion paws. It’s from this point that the vertical ascent really starts.

Lion Rock Buddhist

Those monks got up without a nice walkway

There are narrow steel walkways across the sheer areas of the rockface. For the trickier areas, they provide double footbridges to allow for the 2-way traffic travelling up and down. It can also get quite windy higher up, and you can feel some movement in the walkways.

We stopped every hundred yards or so to catch our breaths and take in the spectacular views.

Lion Rock Buddhist

How on earth must the Lion Rock Buddhist monks have felt 500 years ago, climbing this rock without any of the stairs and safety rails that we were enjoying?

In some of the more protected areas of the rock face, there are colorfully painted frescoes: Mainly buxom ladies in skimpy attire. I assume it wasn’t the monks who painted these; there again, it must have gotten pretty lonely up on the rock for months on end.

Lion Rock Buddhist - Sigiriya painting

Lion Rock buddhist paintings

In this upper area, there is also a Mirror Wall. Apparently, it used to be so highly polished that the king could admire himself when he walked alongside it. Later, it became a place where visitors scribbled grafitti. There’s no longer much to see there.

Summit of the Lion Rock

When we emerged at the top of the Lion Rock we were greeted with panoramic 360° views of the countryside. To the West, you can see a single White Buddha emerging from the surrounding jungle. This marks a small temple which is well worth a visit while you are in the area.

Lion Rock Buddhist

I can see my guesthouse from here!

The top of the Lion Rock is a very pleasant place to relax and observe how the wealthy used to live back in the day. In the remains of the palace you can still see the water gardens and trappings of luxury in a place which must have felt impregnable. How long they could have survived a siege up here is another question altogether.

Build Your Own Stupa…

IMG_1390 - Copy
stupa

 

The Lion Rock buddhist monks clearly left their mark here, and you can also pay your respects by constructing your own little stupa.

After climbing down from the Rock, you can take several pleasant routes through the lower terraces and gardens, and gradually work your way back to the Main Entrance. Not far from the Main Entrance, you can find the Sigiriya Museum. Here you can view some interesting exhibits and dioramas (the entrance price is included in your Sigiriya Rock Fortress ticket).

Lion Rock Buddhist

Temple worshippers: Height is not an issue

Later in the afternoon we visited the Giant White Buddha temple that we had spotted earlier from the top of the Lion Rock. The temple featured rows of statues depicting praying monks. Apparently, each statue is unique, with a personalized face, build and height. The story is that they are all based on real individuals who first lapsed from the faith, and later became monks.

The Giant White Buddha himself is impressive, and must be one the the tallest in existence

lion rock

Inside one of the temple alcoves

Monkeys, Elephants and Crocodiles – What More do you Want?

The following morning, around 4am, we were woken by the sound of trumpeting elephants. Not far from our guesthouse is a lake where they come in the morning to wash, and from the sounds – boy do they enjoy it. Later in the morning we wandered 10 minutes down the path to visit the lake. On the way down, we spotted some black-face Grey Langur monkeys.

There were rice fields dotted around the area – another attraction for the elephants and a headache for the local farmers. Wild elephants are protected by law, and are free to wander wherever they want. If the locals interfere with them in any way, they face really strict prison sentences. Each year, villagers are killed by elephants: They are not allowed to harm the elephants, even in self-defence.

To try to protect their rice fields, farmers set up tall lookout towers. Whenever the elephants get near, they mount the towers and make as much noise as possible to deter the animals. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

lion rock

Sigiriya Rice Fields (Lion Rock buddhist citadel in background)

I was looking forward to a swim in the lake (now the elephants had gone). However, I was advised by our cute 12-year-old guide that it might not be a good idea: Maybe there were no elephants in sight, but you can’t see the crocodiles so easily.

In all, we spent 2 days in Sigiriya. It rained for most of the time, which limited our activities somewhat. If you’re travelling at this time of year (February/March), be aware that it can be very wet in much of the hill country. What’s more, when travelling on a budget, once you’re damp it can be hard to get your clothes dry again. Our guesthouse hostess very kindly ironed my wife’s trousers just before we left to remove the dampness.

Next, we were heading south to the capital  – Kandy. Again, we were planning an early start in order to reach our next guesthouse in daylight.


If you enjoyed Lion Rock Buddhist Citadel, check out our Sri Lanka Travel Plan. You may also like:

Lion Rock

2 Comments

Chocoviv

July 1, 2019at 1:23 pm

Impressive!

Hosting

October 11, 2016at 1:03 am

End of the trail. You are pretty much at the entrance of Lion Rock park. Quite nice I am told. Head left down the road.

Tell us what you think

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sri Lanka West & North

Sri Lanka Travel Plan Budget - Central & South
Sri Lanka Travel Plan Budget - Central & South
Our Sri Lanka travel plan was a 21-day rollicking rollercoaster of a ride to the World’s End and bey[...]
Ceylonica Beach Hotel Negombo
Ceylonica Beach Hotel Negombo
Our flight arrived in Sri Lanka in the early evening. Since Bandaranaike International Airport is ac[...]
Lion Rock Sigiriya
Lion Rock Sigiriya
After spending our first wet night in Sigiriya, it was still raining the next morning. However, our [...]
Paradise Inn Sigiriya
Paradise Inn Sigiriya
We set out in the morning from our guesthouse in Negombo. Our next destination was the Paradise Inn [...]

Central & Highlands

Kandy Lake Comfort
Kandy Lake Comfort
From Sigiriya, we travelled the short distance to Dambulla by tuk-tuk. We were in two minds whether [...]
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is located halfway between Colombo and Kandy.  Just for a change, w[...]
Polwaththa Eco Lodge
Polwaththa Eco Lodge
From Kandy, we had arranged a pickup by tuk-tuk to take us up into the surrounding mountain jungle t[...]
Beneath the Knuckle Mountains
Beneath the Knuckle Mountains
During our stay at the , we arranged several treks through the surrounding thickly-jungled mountain [...]
Temple of the Tooth - Buddha & Lotus Blossoms
Temple of the Tooth - Buddha & Lotus Blossoms
Before we left Kandy we took a few hours to visit the celebrated Temple of the Tooth. This is where [...]
World’s End Sri Lanka - Hotels & Hikes on Horton Plains
World’s End Sri Lanka - Hotels & Hikes on Horton Plains
The first stage of our journey through Central Sri Lanka would conclude with a visit to the hill tow[...]

Sri Lanka South Coast

Tangalle Beaches - Tantalizing Tangalle
Tangalle Beaches - Tantalizing Tangalle
Following our stay high in the mountains around Haputale, we took a morning bus for the 7-hour journ[...]
Palm Paradise Cabanas Tangalle
Palm Paradise Cabanas Tangalle
Palm Paradise Cabanas Tangalle is a medium-sized beach and garden resort located a few kms west alon[...]
Jungle Beach Unawatuna
Jungle Beach Unawatuna
After 6 days lounging around the beaches of Tangalle, we headed west up the coast by bus to the smal[...]
Where to stay and eat in Galle Fort
Where to stay and eat in Galle Fort
From Unawatuna, we moved a few kilometers along the coast to Galle. Here, we planned to stay for 2 n[...]
Sri Lanka 21-day Budget & Costs
Sri Lanka 21-day Budget & Costs
Our Sri Lanka 21-day round trip started and ended in Negombo. From there we traveled inland to Sigir[...]

________________________________________

iVisa.com