In simplest term, Sigiriya is a town with a large stone and ancient rock palace ruin located on the top (Sigiriya Rock).  Located in the Matale District of Central Province.  The nearest city to Sigiriya is Dambulla, which itself is of major significance.  Dambulla forms part of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle.

  • Dambulla – Visit Dambulla’s sacred temple – the Golden Temple – consists of 5 separate caves housing Buddhist statues and many paintings both religious and secular.
  • Anuradhapura – Visit the site of the oldest know tree in the world, The sacred Bodhi Tree “Sri Maha Bodhi” – a cutting of the tree in India where the Buddha achieved enlightenment.
  • Polonnaruwa – Get a lesson in history by visiting another part of the cultural triangle.


Zoom out on the below to see where Sigiriya is located in relation to Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

How Sigiriya Rock came to be

The thing is, Sigiriya rock isnt that simple in fact its pretty complex.  The fortress stands roughly 180m above an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and structural remains.  The site is one of the eight World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya Rock

Way back when, Sigiriya rock was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery, this was from about the 5th century BC.  The caves were prepared and donated by devotees of the Buddhist Sangha.  The complex is  estimated to have been built between 477 – 495 CE by King Kaskyapa.

Climbing to the top of Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya rock was probably my favourite bit of the cultural triangle, and I had to wait until the very last day of our mini tour before I could get my climbing boots on.  Our guide told us to allow  2-3 hours so I was readying myself for the worst but we motored up the rock and were looking out over the old fortress ruins within 30 minutes.  The climb is not that difficult, despite some steep metal stairs at certain points and unlike Adams Peak there are no leaches trying to get their nashers into you.

On the way to the top, there are few things you should look out for …


The term Fresco’s refers to the different illustrations and paintings that cover a large proportion of your climbing route.  John Still in 1907 suggested, “The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery… the largest picture in the world perhaps”.  Originally the paintings would have covered most of the western face of the rock, covering an area roughly 140 metres long and 40 metres high, pretty big. Sadly a lot of the fresco’s have been lost to the elements over time.

The frescoes, depicting (good word) beautiful female figures, point to the direction of the Kandy temple, sacred to the Sinhalese.  The true identity of the ladies in these paintings is still a mystery but there are various ideas about their identity. Some believe that they are the wives of the king.

Sigiriya Rock

Mirror Wall

It is said that this wall was so well polished that the king could see himself whilst he walked alongside it, hence how it came to be know at the mirror wall, smart huh.  Now well preserved, the mirror wall has verses dating from the 8th century on it. People of all types wrote on the wall, on varying subjects such as love, irony, and experiences of all sorts. Further writing on the mirror wall has now been banned.

Lions gate and palace/fortress on top of the rock

As I mentioned in the opening parahraph, Sigiriya rock has the remains of a palace located on top.  Make you way up the stairs and through the Lions gate to reach the top.  It almost looks like the set of a movie.

Sigiriya Rock, lions gate

Sigiriya Rock, fortress, palace