Our accommodation here couldn’t have been more different to the tent where we had stayed on the previous two nights. We were in this location as apparently climbing up Sigiriya rock is ‘a must’ when visiting Sri Lanka. On arriving at the hotel we walked into a huge open lobby area with views of ‘the rock’ in the distance, and murals, sculptures and crafted elephants in varying shapes and sizes everywhere, which I loved.
Sigiriya rock is nearly 200 metres (660 ft) high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site.
Climbing the rock was very hard work, especially that I was battling a chest infection and kept coughing and struggling to breath. I made it to the top though and was pretty proud of myself, especially as I do very little exercise back home.
Whilst staying at Sigiriya, we also visited Dambulla Caves Temples, another World Heritage Site and another hike up loads of steps! This temple complex dates back to the first century BCE. It has five caves under a vast overhanging rock, carved with a drip line to keep the interiors dry. In 1938 the architecture was embellished with arched colonnades and gabled entrances. Inside the caves, the ceilings are painted with intricate patterns of religious images following the contours of the rock. There are images of the Lord Buddha as well as various gods and goddesses. It was too dark inside the caves to take any photos so I resorted to my usual wildlife ones!
Our third day saw us taking a day trip to Polonnaruwa, the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms and yet another World Heritage Site. We went via a TukTuk, which is my favourite way of traveling distances of under an hour when I’m in the Far East. The drivers always do a round trip, and wait for however long you are, even if it’s several hours. The ruins and temples are spread out over a large area, and the drivers always look out for you returning and drive their TukTuk up to you. Talk about ‘door to door’ service! These things turn on a sixpence too, and if it’s a hot day the breeze as you drive is always very welcome.