Sigiriya & Dambulla
Visiting Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock):
Step back in time as you step onto the grounds of Sri Lanka’s medieval capital. UNESCO declared Sigiriya (also known as “Lion’s Rock”) a World Heritage Site in 1982.
You’ll enter the ancient city through beautiful garden ruins well-maintained with bright green grass, ruddy brick walls and complicated, beautiful old trees. Pass through imposing stone gateways and climb the well-worn steps and a set of spiral staircases to a sheltered cave where you can gaze at the beautiful frescos of the Sigiriya Damsels.
A short climb past the painted consorts, you find yourself at the feet of the lion – literally. On Lion Platform, two enormous paws carved out of rock stand guard at either side of the final staircase that leads to the top of the rock. Centuries ago, travelers needed to climb directly into the mouth of the Lion to gain access to the royal city.
The final climb is not for the timid! Sturdy steel staircases bolted to the sheer rock face allow safe passage for all able-bodies adventurers – while allowing for a breath-stopping view of the heights you obtain with each step.
Once you stand on the summit of Sigiriya, the stunning views in all directions and unexpected expanses of palace surprise and delight you. Take a little break under one of the few shady trees for a drink of water and a snack, then explore the stone ruins, golden-bricked staircases and glimmering water tanks to your heart’s content.
Visiting Dambulla’s Golden Cave Temple:
A short drive from Sigiriya, you’ll find Dambulla and the Golden Cave Temple. This popular tourist attraction or local and international visitors alike consists of five magical grottos decorated with exquisite murals and home to hundreds of Buddhist statues.
You must climb an enormous granite outcrop to visit the Golden Cave Temple, but the walk is easy and brief. Warm, dim lights illuminate the different caves, allowing you glimpses of the intricate Sinhalese Buddhist frescos that cover almost every square inch of stone. The painted scenes depict important moments in Buddha’s life – such as his attempted temptation by Mara’s demons and even of his first sermon.
These caves date all the way back to the reign of King Vattagamini (89 – 77 BC). Vattagamini took refuge in the caves when invaders forced him into hiding for fourteen years. Once he reclaimed his throne, King Vattagamini commissioned the construction of the temples in gratitude for the shelter they provided in his time of need.