SIGIRIYA – CLIMBING THE LION

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The history of Sigiriya is perhaps one of the oldest in Sri Lanka and around it, there are still many doubts about the true nature of this place.

Legend has it that King Kassapa (477-495) would have chosen this mountain to build on the top his palace and gardens, making it difficult to access. This happened after having overthrown and killed his father, King Dhatusena of Anuradhapura.

However, archaeologists have been discovering new evidence that, contrary to what’s said, Sigiriya may well have been a monastery and not a fortress-palace.

Whether it was to protect the king or isolate monks, the truth is that the access to the top of this monument is indeed a challenge.

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First look over Sigiriya

Conquering Sigiriya

We followed Lonely Planet’s suggestion and went early to Sigiriya, but although we arrived at 9:00 am, the site was already full of visitors who rushed to buy the ticket (it costs 30 USD) and set off on their way to the top of a small mountain.

The first view on this site is fabulous. A long trail that leads us through ditches and pools, which suggest that in times this would be magnificent water gardens, immersed in luxuriant vegetation, and culminating at the foot of a hill, cut by long stairs to the top.

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Let’s face it. I’m a person who believes that she’s relatively in shape, but climbing Sigiriya has made me more modest about my physical condition. It’s no piece of cake! We began full of energy but quickly descended into reality as we began to climb the endless flights of stairs, one after another.

This place isn’t suitable at all for those with physical difficulties or low mobility. Beyond the hundreds and hundreds of steps – 1200, to be precise! – there are many that are irregular or steep and make the course even more difficult.

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The views are absolutely amazing

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My suggestion: make the climb calmly! There’s no timer counting. Also, on the way to the top, there are many platforms where you can rest and enjoy the view that, by that time, is already incredible.

Another very important tip is to take plenty of water, comfortable and adherent shoes and a cap because at the top there’s little or no shade.

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Completely red from the climb 😉

Hidden treasures in the way

Reaching the top was the goal, but during the ascent of the mountain, we found three very special places.

The first is the Frescos Room. At this location, it’s not possible to take pictures or film, and there are even those who certify that we have the machine turned off.

It’s a small division immersed in the rock that holds the paintings of female figures that some believe to be celestial nymphs and others believe to be portraits of the king’s concubines. No one knows for sure when these images were put there.

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Mirror Wall

From the Frescos Room, we continue the ascent, passing by the Mirror Wall. Don’t think that it contains mirrors or that you can see your reflection in him. On the contrary, it is a high wall that accompanies the rippling of the mountain, with what at first sight we thought was some scribbling or vandalism created by other visitors.

I learned later that those “graffitis” conceal sentences written between the 6th and 14th centuries with considerations on the women drawn in the Fresco Room. Love at first time and a case study to date.

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The last climb

In the last stage, we reach a large plateau and one of the most symbolic places of Sigiriya: Lion’s Paws.

English archaeologist HCP Bell discovered these giant paws in 1898. It’s said to have been the only thing left of a monumental lion that was carved on the face of that part of the mountain, marking the last step of the ascent, with the stairs starting through the middle of the legs towards the animal’s mouth and the top.

It’s also from here that comes to the name Sigiriya or as it’s also known: Lion Rock.

Of course, being one of the most impressive sites of the monument, it’s a real adventure to get a photo without having dozens of visitors passing in front of the camera. 😉

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Is that a wasp nest?…

Unwelcome visitors?…

Also here we found some very curious signs alerting the tourists to make little noise in that place and during the last climb … because of the wasps!!

Have I told you that I have a real fear of bees and wasps?! …

Not only were the signs completely alarming, but also on this platform there is a structure with a net, leading to the belief that it’s a safe haven for people to take refuge from the wasps.

Trembling on the inside, I thought what I always think in these situations: with so many thousands of people passing by on a daily basis, it would be very unlucky if it happens to me… Anyway, I deceived myself and moved on, thinking that perhaps this was a security device created by King Kassapa to deter unwanted visitors.

One of the most amazing sights you’ll ever see

On top of Sigiriya lays an imposing archaeological site where the palace (or monastery) had once been installed and where we can distinguish the various divisions of the property.

But the true fascination here is the 360º view we have over the region. A breath-taking scenario.

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The king’s throne

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Some friends along the way
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The ticket also gives you a free pass to visit the museum

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Curious? Watch the video:

What did you think of Sigiriya? What was the tallest monument you ever had to climb? How was that experience? Share it in the comment box below.

Thinking about going to Sigiriya? See all available accommodations below. Surfer Girl has a partnership with Booking.com. If you book accommodation through one of the blog links you will be helping me out and you’ll not pay more for it! 😀

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38 comments

  1. Remember climbing this many many years ago. Tough one. I still wonder how a single rock is standing in the middle of nowhere – did someone bring it here or it was dominating enough to not let anyone other rock live around.

  2. Amazing monument! I have always had a great desire to explore the Buddhist heritage of Sri Lanka. I have not managed to do it so far despite living in a neighbouring country. Great photographs that capture the grandeur of the monument really well.

  3. What a beautiful place! I believe it was worth the effort to climb it. My most beautiful climbing experience was in Israel, there are several fantastic places to do hiking.

  4. What an incredible challenge! A big well done to you 😀 I honestly was expecting a shiny mountain when I saw Mirror Wall! I’m with you about bees and wasps… Can not deal with them..!!

  5. This’s be a great place to hike. Surely, will include this in my future hiking destination. The legend was as well informative and mind boggling. Truly, this is helpful for those cultural savvy as well. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. Some really stunning photos. You had me hooked until you mentioned stairs. I have a doggy knee that prevents me climbing too many stairs. The view would have been breathtaking. Thanks for the share.

  7. I hadn’t heard of Sigiriya before so thanks for sharing! The lions’ paws are amazing, I can only imagine how impressive the whole statue would have been. Glad that you managed to avoid the wasps!

  8. It looks hard to climb the 1200 steps but the view is more than worth, I can see it looking at your pictures, amazing!
    The tallest monument I ever been it was the Great Wall of China, stunning there.
    I really want to go to Sri Lanka because it looks a relaxing place, to enjoy nature and also surf!

  9. The sight is indeed incredible, but when I think about paying 30 USD only to get to climb all those stairs and risk dying before getting to the top to admire the view…hmm.. guess I would do it either way (even though those stairs look terrifying)! Will keep this in mind since I am thinking about going to Sri Lanka for my future long distance holiday.

  10. Sigiriya looks wonderful place to explore. We used to think Sri Lanka as more of beaches destination but your post presented a different side of it. Your pictures totally complemented your story about Sigiriya

  11. Those stairs always intrigue me..kind of challenge me. I don’t want to miss Sigiriya when I visit Sri Lanka. Because I just love the architecture and history rich places like these. But always wonder looking at those stairs – will I be able to conquer them

  12. Sigiriya seems interesting to me but those 1200 steps are equally scary for me. They too look quite steep. Your pictures are beautiful and the views from the top might be breathtaking. The kings’ throne look quite huge. I will check this out in my next Sri Lanka trip.

  13. A friend of mine just went to sri lanka and just by seeing those photos wanting me to book a flight and now this amazing rock formations. Wow! Its cheap in sri lanka right?

    1. Hi, Lee. It all depends on how you like to travel. There are lodging and food for all tastes and wallets. But if you keep things simple, you can make things with little money. However, visiting the main monuments such as Sigiriya or Polonnaruwa may be a little more expensive than we are expecting. But they are part of the world heritage monuments, so there are no escaping ticket prices.

  14. Well done you! That looked like… quite the climb. I admire your calf muscles hahaha. Views like this are always worth it I think. I hope you got a nice long rest afterwards though, haha.

  15. Ah, Sri Lanka, another item on my travel bucket list! Thank you for introducing Sigiriya to us. It seems like an adventurous and exciting climb. Maybe I need to condition myself before going there now. And oh no, the wasps! I have this irrational fear for wasps and bees. However, those views might be worth it so…

  16. This is a really crazy climb, I don’t think I would be ever able to do it due to my fear of heights. The first part of the trail looks very beautiful, through those pools and gardens. The views from the top of the rock are also breathtaking. I will probably don’t make any noise as well knowing that there are wasps around not wanting to be disturbed.

  17. I was flying with SriLankan Airlines to Maldives last year when I saw a video on Sigiriya. I found it quite interesting to know the history and the place. Its there on my list to visit. The view from the top of this sight must have been breathtaking.

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