Sigirya and nearby places

by - June 04, 2017

From Kandy, you can take a day trip to Sigirya or the Lion Rock, which I highly recommend. It is northeast of a place called Dambulla, in the Matale District. Sigiriya is basically an ancient rock fortress, which according to some legends, was selected as the site  by King Kasyapa back in 477 – 495 CE for his new capital. 

It takes you around 2 hours to get to Sigirya from Kandy so plan accordingly. If you go by tuk tuk, it might be longer. The cost via taxi is around $50 round trip. Another option is to take the cheap and easy local bus to Habanara, which is an excellent  base to visit Sigiriya and Minneriya National Park. What is special about Sigirya is that at 200 meters, it stands out as a huge outcrop of gneiss rock that towers the entire flat countryside. 

Tickets for Sigirya are somewhat expensive; for foreigners, they are $40 per person and for South Asians a tad bit cheaper at $20. Regardless, it is still worth it. You may choose to go first to the museum. It is not much actually, but has some information. I would suggest go afterwards.

Once you enter the main gate, you will see the stone path that leads you to the top of the rock. It will take you perhaps 3-4 hours to get to the top and back down. The inscriptions in the caves at the base of the rock indicate that Sigiriya served as a place of religious retreat as far back as the third century BC, when Buddhist monks established refuges here.

What's really amazing is that the area around the rock is flat so this rock just sticks out The walk up to the rock makes for great exercise and good views. You will also climb over metal staircases and see original rock paintings. There is also another platform you will reach with two huge carved lion feet. This was built by the king as the  gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. It also makes for a great photo opp.

Another interesting thing is that it reminds you somewhat of Mughal architecture because of the terraced gardens. These terrace gardens have been created by the construction of brick walls, and are located in a roughly concentric plan around the rock. The path through the terraced gardens is formed by a limestone staircase. From this staircase, there is a covered path on the side of the rock, leading to the uppermost terrace where the lion staircase is situated.

Once at the top, you will be sweaty and tired so make sure to take lots of water, or better yet some fruit and drinks. You will also see some ruins at the top, which are suspected to be remains of a monastery or temple. It is believed that this was the palace of the kind, and it also consists of a number of  colourful frescoes. At the top, you can get an excellent view of the country side below. 

Our taxi driver was waiting at the exit and from there we decided to visit Minneriya National Park in the afternoon. The entire jeep safari cost us about $80 for two people but it was worth it. We went in October, and there were lots and lots of elephants we saw hiding everywhere. We went quite close to them. We also went through a thorny jungle and saw iguanas and lizards and different kinds of birds - However this was the best place to see elephants.

The jeep safari is long and takes up atleast 2 hours. Thus, with Sigiriya and Minneriya National Park  on one day, we were certainly fulfilled. I think that makes for a great full itinerary and you should certainly do this.

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