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Sigiriya rock stands 200m above the surrounding landscape and was originally inhabited by monks before King Kashyapa overthrew his father and fled to Sigiriya fearing reprisal attacks.
Visiting the impressive Sigiriya rock fortress, we enter the stairs between the giant stone Lion Gate, of which only the paws remain, and make our way up to the palace ruins perched on top of the flat rock. We admire ancient rock art and impressive engineering feats as we explore this sacred and unique part of Sri Lankan history. We also visit the stunning rock caves in nearby Dambulla, each containing a different representation of Buddha. As we approach Kandy, we visit a commercial spice farm and learn about the spices that once enticed many traders to Sri Lanka. This is followed by lunch in the nearby restaurant. Our arrival in Kandy allows guests to relax or create their own adventures in the afternoon and evening.
The amazing Sigiriya rock has been tempting us for a few days and today we take on this beautiful rock structure and all the history it contains in an early morning climb to the rooftop fortress. The climb is not for the faint hearted or those who suffer from vertigo, however our guide ensures that your visit to the site will be worthwhile, regardless of how high you climb.
The rock stands 200m above the surrounding landscape and was originally inhabited by monks before King Kashyapa overthrew his father and fled to Sigiriya fearing reprisal attacks. The kingdom was ruled from a palace on top of the rock for just under 20 years before falling and returning to Anuradhapura. Although short lived, the palace was an impressive complex with frescoes lining the walls and ornate water gardens sprawling around the complex.
As we approach the rock, the water gardens run in symmetry to an axis that flows from the rock centerpiece. Many of the gardens are complete with ancient fountains that still function during periods of high rainfall and are connected by a series of underground piping that was laid during the period of the kingdom, over a thousand years ago. Crocodiles and snakes still live in the area and if you look carefully you might see them baking in the sun near one of the many ponds.
A spiral staircase takes guests up to a fresco wall attached to the sheer face of the rock, adorned with ladies this wall represents only a fraction of what the wall originally contained. Historians estimate that the western face of the wall was a giant picture gallery during the time of the palace. The mirror wall, once polished so the King could admire himself during the walk to the palace assists some guests with overcoming the vertigo as it hides the height and sheer face of the rock, atop which lies the palace.
The entrance to the final staircase is guarded by the lion gate, with impressively large lion claws firmly planted at each side of the staircase. The original staircase has been replaced with a sturdier steel gantry which takes guests to the plateau of the rock where only the foundations of the ancient palace remain. After the Kingdom was defeated, the monks returned and practiced here until the 14th century, after which the jungle took over until rediscovery many centuries later.
Climbing the rock builds up an appetite so we return to our hotel for breakfast and to refresh before continuing our day. Most of our days don’t start before 9am, however to avoid the heat we recommend taking the climb when the site opens around 7am.
Revitalised after breakfast we depart Sigiriya and continue south towards Dambulla and the cave temples that have been used since the first century BC. The site contains over 80 caves and it is estimated that human burials have occurred in the area for over 2700 years. During our visit we explore 5 of the caves, within which over 150 Buddha’s can be found. Each of the caves were created during different periods and the style of Buddha and paintings that line each cave reflect the period of Sri Lankan history to that time. Our guide explains the significance of each period and the ornate Buddha’s that line each cave.
Our ancient history lesson gets a little more practical in the afternoon as we continue towards Kandy, stopping off to learn about how spices put Sri Lanka on the modern trading map. Visiting a commercial spice plantation the local guide explains the uses (both modern and historic) for various spices that were once the mainstay of the Sri Lankan economy. Guests can purchase local spices or herbal treatments from the gift shop (although we recommend checking that any purchases are not subject to Australian Quarantine requirements if you plan on brining it home).
A quick curry lunch is enjoyed at a neighbouring restaurant before we take our final drive into the last kingdom of Sri Lanka, Kandy. As we approach Kandy the climate changes with more vegetation along the side of the road, signifying the greater access to water in the higher and more central parts of Sri Lanka. On arrival in Kandy we check into our riverside hotel on the edge of the city where guests can relax or take their own journey into the city center for the evening.
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