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Updated by Joanna James on Feb 11, 2018
Headline for Things to do in and around Sigiriya - take a walk back in time
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Joanna James Joanna James
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Things to do in and around Sigiriya - take a walk back in time

Sigiriya evokes thoughts of palaces, gardens and murals of celestial women. There are so many things to see, that it's hard to know where to look first. Here are a few to help you choose.

1

Tour the Sigiriya gardens

At the base of the towering black rock is a beautiful landscaped garden which includes ponds, water fountains, and terraces. Symmetrical water gardens on either side of the walkway lead visitors toward the base of rock fortress, along with bathing pools and little island pavilions. The pavilions were said to be once covered, and exclusively used by the king's harem. Closer to the base of the rock is a captivating boulder garden, which is best viewed as you descend the rock. According to historians, before the king moved his court to the rock, it was inhabited by Buddhist monks, and the massive boulders formed the base of a monastery. Explore the boulder garden and you'll many depressions in the boulders which formed the foundations to walls. In addition, the king's audience hall is also located in the boulder garden; the surface of a large rock has been flattened out and a stone seat carved out.

2

Admire the beautiful Apsaras

Midway up the rock is a sheltered gallery where along the sheer rock surface are several frescoes of beautiful women. Known as the 'Sigiriya Frescoes' the doe-eyed women are depicted wearing only tiaras, flowers and gems, and appear to be floating on clouds. There are around 21 women, but no two women are the same, and historians are unclear where they are depictions of the king's queen's and concubines, or celestial nymphs (asparas). it is believed there were once hundreds of these damsels painted across the rock fortress, but due to weather conditions and damage to the rock, only a few can be seen today. The frescoes are separated by an enclosure from the rest of the rock, with one staircase leading into it and another out. Due to the limited standing space, queues to see the paintings can be long. Visitors staying at a nearby hotel in Sigiriya will find that with properties such as Jetwing Vil Uyana, an early morning trip to the rock will be much beneficial to avoid crowds.

3

Explore the Sigiriya palace ruins

On the summit of the Sigiriya rock was once a huge white palace that overlooked the plains below. Covering around 1.6 hectares, this palace was where the notorious king held court for several years, before abandoning the rock. Today, only the foundations and gardens are left to captivate visitors who are left wondering what it might have been like before. Highlights on the summits include a stone seat which is said to the throne, the ruins of a dagoba, and a large water tank, hewn out of solid rock. The summit also provides spectacular views of the surrounding landscape, as well as proving a platform to really take in the beauty of the landscaped garden below.

4

Climb Pidurangala

Situated 2kms from Sigiriya rock, is another less famous rock, the Pidurangala rock. Nowhere near as grand as Sigiriya, and much harder to climb, it is often overlooked by travellers as simply another mountain. Yet, according to historians, Pidurangala shares a long history with Sigiriya, and its solid rock surface and rocky wilderness provide a glimpse of what Sigiriya may have looked like before it was turned into a royal citadel.

5

The Dambulla Cave Temple

Less than an hour's drive from Sigiriya is the oldest cave temple in the island. Dating back over 2000 years, the cave temple consists of 5 large caves, high u on a mountain side. Inside each cave are hundreds of stone and wooden statues of Buddha, Hindu gods, and kings. The ceiling and walls are covered with intricate murals depicting Buddhist imagery.

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