Sri Lanka: Sigiriya and Pidurangala

Sigiriya rock is one of the most famous sites in Sri Lanka, once home to King Kasyapa. The rock appears to rise out of nowhere in an otherwise fairly flat landscape and used to be covered with a grand fortress, the remains of which can still be seen and reproductions and artists impressions of what it could have looked like are on display in the museum.

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The rock is pretty much a cliff edge, so the only way up is a network of steps and scaffolding structures. As its one of Sri Lanka’s top attractions, it does get very busy, but there’s a pretty good one-way system to get up and down the rock. On the way up there’s a wall of frescoes depicting Sri Lankan women and it hasn’t been confirmed why they were painted or who they were, but they’re absolutely beautiful and it’s amazing how well they’ve been maintained considering how old they are. They would originally have formed part of a much bigger wall of paintings that must have been stunning!

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When the fortress was first built, there was a “mirror wall” that covered much of one side of the rock. Apparently it was polished so much that it was like a mirror, hence its name. As you climb the rock, you walk through a section of the original mirror wall (although it doesn’t still have its original shine), and you can make out some ancient graffiti and some of it is translated in the museum.

Before you start the last ascent, there’s an amazing entryway where there are brilliantly preserved stone lion’s feet either side of the original staircase. It’s thought that there used to also be a lion’s head above the entrance. The final staircase gets really busy and can be slow going, but once you get to the top it’s incredible to see the incredible views and the remains of the huge fortress that once sat atop the rock. We spent a while walking around the ruins and enjoying the amazing views.

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But who wants to just climb one rock in a day? You can get incredible views of Sigiriya Rock from the nearby Pidurangala Rock which is a short drive away. There’s a small temple at the bottom of the climb, but if you’re climbing the rock you don’t need to leave your shoes. There are steps for much of the way, and good paths and far fewer people than Sigiriya so it’s really peaceful and part way up the climb there’s a statue of Buddha carved out of the rock.

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It gets pretty hairy as you get closer to the top, so you need to be wearing decent footwear and clothing. There are some big rocks and boulders that you climb to get to the viewing point, so if you’re wearing flip flops be prepared to lose one! There are arrows that mark which way to go which really helps and it’s totally worth it for the incredible view you get once you’re at the top. I’ll leave you with this…

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