Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, is perhaps Sri Lanka’s most remarkable former capitals and it is located in the Central Province of the country, in the Central Matale District near the town of Dambulla. A true landmark with majestic, sheer –side outcrop of reddish gneiss rising 200 meters above the surrounding plains and embellished with the extraordinary remains of one of medieval Sri Lanka’s most remarkable palaces, what makes Sigiriya so special is the unusual spot on which it was built, placed upon a massive, tall rock.
The city is very old, dating back to the 3rd century BC when a community of reclusive monks lived in the caves around the base of the rock but it wasn’t until the 5th century AD that Sigiriya rose to sudden and spectacular prominence in Sri Lankan affairs. The Sigiriya fortress was developed during the reign of King Kashyapa who wanted to move the capital of Anuradhapura to a more secure place, making the simple fort into a complex with surrounding defensive structures and wonderful gardens. The structure consisted of different elements: an ancient citadel, an upper palace situated on the top flat of the rock, a mid-level Plateau with the lion gate, and a wall painted with beautiful frescoes. Although the structure was abandoned after the fall of the king, nowadays the city is one of the most visited places in Asia.
Amongst the places to visit in Sigiriya are the Water Gardens which frame the rock and are very well preserved, like a tiny piece of Versailles transported to ancient Sri Lanka. The lawns are carefully tended, dotted with symmetrically arranged ponds, water channels and fountains. The Boulder Gardens are quite different from the Water Gardens and they comprise of small picturesque forests with winding pathways twisting between huge boulders and through quaint rock arches. The Sigiriya Damsels is also worth seeing and it is, perhaps, the largest ever attempted mural, painted onto sheer rock and featuring 21 beautiful, bare-chested women. The paintings are very unique in Sri Lanka where artists usually depicted Buddhist religious themes in their works.
The Mirror Wall is another special element of this site and it was made of brick masonry wall covered in highly polished white-plastered. The legend says that the wall was so highly polished that the king could see himself in it. After the fall of the capital the wall was covered in writings which date back to the early 8th century. To reach the city of Sigiriya you will have to catch the bus to the city of Dambulla, the last leaving at 6 pm sharp. Thanks to the beautiful position of the city there are other sites and surroundings to visit and many hotels nearby offer organized guide which is probably the best choice for first-time visitors.