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Pawing Lion Fortress

By on Dec 12, 2011 in Sri Lanka | 0 comments

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Standing upon the top of the Lion Fortress or Sigiriya Rock as it is known by the Sri Lankans, will make you think of two things: Firstly it will convince you that elevators were the best invention ever to be created by man and secondly, it will make you question if Base Jumping is a viable method for bypassing the hundreds of stairs it will take you to get to the bottom!

The view from the top of Sigiriya

The view from the top of Sigiriya

Earlier that day Niki and I had travel by bus from Anuradhapura via Dambulla to Sigiriya, a small town nestled at the bottom of the dominant Lion Fortress. After being jostled between buses we came to a sudden halt at a small shrine on the outskirts of town. Our bus driver leaped out of the bus is a sense of urgency and fell to his knees before a small Buddha statue.  “Niki, has our bus driver just gotten off to pray?” It was more of a statement than a question. With a nod of her head, I could see in her eyes the same thing I was thinking, how bad was this bus trip going to be if the driver needed to pray for a safe passage? It was about this time I started to pray to any god that wanted to listen that a ‘safe passage’ doesn’t involve overtaking on blind corners and excessive honking.

Lion Fortress Rock, Sri Lanka

Lion Fortress Rock, Sri Lanka


Royal Gardens - Lion Fort

Royal Gardens – Lion Fort


Sigiriya Rock or Lion Fortress is a large complex built upon the top of a giant rocky outcrop surrounded by a moat, the impressive Royal gardens and the wild expanses of the Sri Lankan jungle. As we walked in from our guesthouse, there were large signs plastered everywhere telling us that if you’re brave or stupid enough to cross into the jungle, that pretty much you weren’t coming out alive due to the large inhabitants of hungry crocodiles, deadly snakes and the worse of all, abusive poo flinging monkeys. Needles to say Niki and I stuck to the main road like glue.

Golden Staircase - Sigiriya

Golden Staircase – Sigiriya


Climbing Sigiriya through the Lion Paws

Climbing Sigiriya through the Lion Paws

After gaining entry to the site, we spent the next three hours wandering the gardens, exploring ancient artwork and ascending the steep staircase to the summit. The complex of ancient ruins is similar to those of Machu Picchu, just on a much smaller scale. Many historians still argue whether the site was originally a monastery or a kick ass fortress built by a king who was afraid of retribution for taking the throne forcefully. Either way, as you scale the near vertical staircases around the mountain and climb between the giant lion paws carved into the rock, you can’t help but feel like you’re on a set straight from The Lord of the Rings. Then as you climb the final staircase to the small plateau dotted with ruined buildings and giant pools of water, you’re gifted with the biggest reward for partaking in this knee destroying climb, a 360 degree view over the central plateau of Sri Lanka.

Ancient Wall Paintings - Sigiriya

Ancient Wall Paintings – Sigiriya


The ancient ruins on Lion Fortress

The ancient ruins on Lion Fortress


For miles in every direction you can see the encroaching jungles, green rice paddies and small villages surrounded by the dominate silhouette of the hill country, a destination we were heading towards in the coming days. The ascent and decent of Sigiriya Rock, whilst taxing on the knees, is a great way to spend the morning and is well worth the visit. Try to avoid climbing during the middle of the day as the intense heat and limited shelter on the rock can take its toll. Sigiriya Rock is $25 per entry or is included in the Cultural Round Ticket.

This post is part of the India and Sri Lanka: The Search for the Forgotten Tree blog series.

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