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Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

A mystical fortress built over the Lion Rock


Sigiriya rock and fortress is one of the seven World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka. At different times throughout history it served as a royal palace and a Buddhist monastery. It is also home to some of the oldest landscaped gardens in history. Climbing to the top of Sigiriya Rock is not an easy take, but definitely doable. There are nearly 1,200 narrow steps that lead up. The climb can take about three hours, so make sure you arrive to the mountain early in the morning or in the afternoon to avoid crowds and midday heat.

Sigiriya Citadel was built in the 5th century by King Kasyapa, serving as a marvelous example of ancient Sri Lankan architecture. If you climb to the Sky Palace, you can see a glimpse of king's life.

King Kasyapa ruled between 477 and 495 AD. He murdered his father and was rejected by his people so he had to flee and build himself a new capital with lush gardens and palaces on a rigid black rock. The harem was decorated with beautiful frescoes of semi-naked nymphs. There is also a massive gatehouse in the form of a lion to keep the king safe in his palace. Kasyapa lived in isolation and committed suicide later on.

Best months for climbing the rock fortress are from January to March with more sunny days to accompany you, while May to September is also a good time becase it is the dry season there. On rainy days steps could be slippery, hence it's not advised to climb it.

Practical info

When was Sigiriya Citadel built?

Sigiriya Citadel was constructed during the 5th century, serving as a royal palace and later a Buddhist monastery. King Kasyapa was behind this marvel of ancient Sri Lankan architecture, building it between 477 and 495 AD. These days, Sigiriya Citadel still stands proudly as a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, towering high above Lion Rock. Show more

What is the significance of the Lion Gate?

A key Sigiriya Rock and Fortress landmark is the Lion Gate. The gatehouse was built in the shape of a lion, with the objective of keeping the king safe in his palace. Although the Lion Gate is not in the same condition as it was previously, with the lion's head having been destroyed, visitors can still recognize the brick entrance and paws, which symbolize the beauty of ancient Sri Lankan architecture. Show more

What is the story behind King Kasyapa and his palace?

King Kasyapa, who killed his father and was rejected by his people, fled and constructed a new, magnificent capital with stunning palaces and gardens encircling a rigid black rock. Sigiriya Rock Fortress is home to some of the world's most ancient landscaped gardens. In addition, Kasyapa adorned the harem with frescoes of beautiful semi-naked nymphs. Kasyapa committed suicide after residing in isolation for some time. Show more

When is the best time of year to climb the fortress?

For those looking to climb the Sigiriya rock fortress in Sri Lanka, it is highly recommended to do it from January to March when there are more sunny days. Another ideal period is during the dry season between May to September. On rainy days, the steep steps leading to the fortress could become slippery, posing a hazard. Moreover, if you visit early in the morning or late afternoon, you'd get to avoid the heat and crowds, making the climb much more comfortable. Show more

What are some tips for climbing the nearly 1,200 steps to the top?

To scale Sigiriya Rock's peak, you'll need to traverse nearly 1,200 narrow steps, which can take up to three hours. For maximum comfort, it is best to wear comfortable shoes and clothing while bringing a plentiful water supply. To steer clear of crowds and the midday heat, it's ideal to begin your climb early in the morning or late afternoon. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin