Sri Lanka’s Historical Cultural Triangle –  Rock Fortress of Sigiriya

I think it’s a fairly common fantasy of travellers to spend a week at a sunny destination such as exotic and mysterious Sri Lanka and think you could see yourself living there.  It’s quite another to actually know when you arrive that you’ll be a resident for two years, possibly four.

When we were informed that Sri Lanka would be our next posting, I must admit, I knew very little about it, apart from the tsunami disaster of 2004.  We landed in 2009, when the 25 year civil war between the Sinhalese and Tamil inhabitants was just coming to an end.  This transition, together with it being a bruised and battered third world country, sparked much apprehension in what would lie ahead for my family.

In these series I will share with you some of the amazing places to see and stay in this country that we recently called home.  After four years of exploring in our free time, we still left feeling like there was so much more we wanted to see and do.

Ancient Rock Fortress of Sigiriya

The story (argued to be a popular myth, rather than historical fact) behind Sigiriya, a massive site recognized by Unesco in 1982 is so intriguing, that even someone like me who despises heights, couldn’t resist making the climb of approximately 590 feet.  King Kasyapa I (also often spelled Kassapa) came into power by assassinating his father (about 477 AD), and built what he thought would be an impregnable fortress atop this rock.  Ruins of his palace, throne, and swimming pool, can be found overlooking the surrounding jungle.  The climb however, is somewhat unnerving as the stairwells at certain points consist of wire cage type structures that are open on all sides.  I was absolutely terrified, but the magnificent frescoes painted on the sides of the rock, the “Lions Paws”, and the view from the top are absolutely worth it.



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TIPS:  At certain times of the year large wasp nests form just above the Lions Paw area of the rock.  Over the years, visitors have been stung by these wasps that are provoked by windy conditions and disturbances caused by the sheer noise of tourists climbing the stairwell in great numbers.  Those that react from these stings can really suffer.  Luckily, we went during the off-season, but the nests were visible and the odd wasp could be seen flying about.

As you can see from the height of the rock, I would not recommend this climb for young children.

There are “guides” that will hassle you at the base of the rock to offer their services to tour you around the site and up to the top.  A guide is certainly not necessary.

Walk softly and slowly once you reach the final ascent after the Lion’s Paw to avoid disturbing the wasps.  Be sure to meet your driver at a previously agreed upon spot as the site surrounding the rock is huge, and you can easily get turned around.

Things to Do near Sigiriya Rock

Climbing Sigiriya Rock and visiting the surrounding gardens will take you a full day.  If you are looking to add another tourist stop in this area that is in close proximity, I would suggest the Dambulla Caves.

Where to Stay near Sigiriya Rock – Heritance Kandalama Hotel

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of looking out of the balcony of your guest room and seeing jungle all around you, and elephants roaming in the distance.

Heritance Kandalama Hotel is built on the side of the rock, this hotel simply blends into nature.  Long sinewy vines hanging from the roof and monkeys playing on your balcony while peering in.  Phenomenal.


This photo courtesy of Heritance Kandalama


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The Traveling With Children Tourist is a well traveled mom of two young boys who has lived around the world