Sigiriya: A Step Too Far

Trip Start Aug 07, 2013
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Trip End Aug 22, 2013


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Where I stayed
Princes Inn

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Friday, August 16, 2013

After the heights of Dambulla, Sigiriya (Lion Rock) was another huge feat. This time, too great for me. A sheer rock face with rickety, crowded steps plagued by hornets, it was not to be taken lightly. The climb was best attempted very early or very late in the day to escape the scorching sun as shade is non-existant. 

Originally a palace and capital city built for King Kasyapa around 1500 years ago, built on top of the rock hundreds of years ago, now pools and carved steps remain along with the breathtaking views. After his death, buddhist monks used the abandoned site as a monastery providing solitude and isolation for several hundred years. Designed as a secure retreat, the access was dangerous and has been improved recently to capitalise on tourism. Halfway up is small cave of fresco paintings of Sri Lankan women along with a 'Mirror Wall' so polished it dazzles. Also, the entrance to the main steps, after already climbing a quarter of the way up, are all the remains of the giant lion statue guarding the entrance.

An enthusiastic climber can ascend, take in the views and descend in an hour. By 9.30am after having done this, the sun was unbearably hot and the crowds overwhelming. It really is worth being there at 8am to climb not just for the shade but to avoid the masses. With no space to turn back/overtake/pause for photos without hindering others behind you, it can seem like a stressful spot of sightseeing. 
 
Pricey too, with foreigners being charged $30 and locals a few hundred rupees/3-5. Included in this is access to the gardens and ruins which surround the rock itself and the Sigiriya museum, charting the history of the palace and showing computer generated images of the buildings as they would have been atop the rock.

 Beware the local hawkers, desperate to 'help' you climb the rock...generally this means walking up with you and charging you for the pleasure. Most are insistent and need to hear no repeatedly before backing down. Even very early in the morning, this was an issue. Signage, as with most Sri Lankan tourist hotspots, left a little to be desired so wandering around the gardens and museums it would've been impossible to ensure you'd seen all you wanted without the help of someone- namely our driver Udayi.

Definitely a must-see, for its sheer size and historical relevance but be prepared and have sunscreen, water, shades and legs of steel!
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