SIGIRIYA – CLIMBING THE LION
The history of Sigiriya is perhaps one of the oldest in Sri Lanka and around it, there are still many doubts about the true nature of this place.
Legend has it that King Kassapa (477-495) would have chosen this mountain to build on the top his palace and gardens, making it difficult to access. This happened after having overthrown and killed his father, King Dhatusena of Anuradhapura.
However, archaeologists have been discovering new evidence that, contrary to what’s said, Sigiriya may well have been a monastery and not a fortress-palace.
Whether it was to protect the king or isolate monks, the truth is that the access to the top of this monument is indeed a challenge.
We followed Lonely Planet’s suggestion and went early to Sigiriya, but although we arrived at 9:00 am, the site was already full of visitors who rushed to buy the ticket (it costs 30 USD) and set off on their way to the top of a small mountain.
The first view on this site is fabulous. A long trail that leads us through ditches and pools, which suggest that in times this would be magnificent water gardens, immersed in luxuriant vegetation, and culminating at the foot of a hill, cut by long stairs to the top.
Let’s face it. I’m a person who believes that she’s relatively in shape, but climbing Sigiriya has made me more modest about my physical condition. It’s no piece of cake! We began full of energy but quickly descended into reality as we began to climb the endless flights of stairs, one after another.
This place isn’t suitable at all for those with physical difficulties or low mobility. Beyond the hundreds and hundreds of steps – 1200, to be precise! – there are many that are irregular or steep and make the course even more difficult.
My suggestion: make the climb calmly! There’s no timer counting. Also, on the way to the top, there are many platforms where you can rest and enjoy the view that, by that time, is already incredible.
Another very important tip is to take plenty of water, comfortable and adherent shoes and a cap because at the top there’s little or no shade.
Hidden treasures in the way
Reaching the top was the goal, but during the ascent of the mountain, we found three very special places.
The first is the Frescos Room. At this location, it’s not possible to take pictures or film, and there are even those who certify that we have the machine turned off.
It’s a small division immersed in the rock that holds the paintings of female figures that some believe to be celestial nymphs and others believe to be portraits of the king’s concubines. No one knows for sure when these images were put there.
From the Frescos Room, we continue the ascent, passing by the Mirror Wall. Don’t think that it contains mirrors or that you can see your reflection in him. On the contrary, it is a high wall that accompanies the rippling of the mountain, with what at first sight we thought was some scribbling or vandalism created by other visitors.
I learned later that those “graffitis” conceal sentences written between the 6th and 14th centuries with considerations on the women drawn in the Fresco Room. Love at first time and a case study to date.
In the last stage, we reach a large plateau and one of the most symbolic places of Sigiriya: Lion’s Paws.
English archaeologist HCP Bell discovered these giant paws in 1898. It’s said to have been the only thing left of a monumental lion that was carved on the face of that part of the mountain, marking the last step of the ascent, with the stairs starting through the middle of the legs towards the animal’s mouth and the top.
It’s also from here that comes to the name Sigiriya or as it’s also known: Lion Rock.
Of course, being one of the most impressive sites of the monument, it’s a real adventure to get a photo without having dozens of visitors passing in front of the camera. 😉
Also here we found some very curious signs alerting the tourists to make little noise in that place and during the last climb … because of the wasps!!
Have I told you that I have a real fear of bees and wasps?! …
Not only were the signs completely alarming, but also on this platform there is a structure with a net, leading to the belief that it’s a safe haven for people to take refuge from the wasps.
Trembling on the inside, I thought what I always think in these situations: with so many thousands of people passing by on a daily basis, it would be very unlucky if it happens to me… Anyway, I deceived myself and moved on, thinking that perhaps this was a security device created by King Kassapa to deter unwanted visitors.
One of the most amazing sights you’ll ever see
On top of Sigiriya lays an imposing archaeological site where the palace (or monastery) had once been installed and where we can distinguish the various divisions of the property.
But the true fascination here is the 360º view we have over the region. A breath-taking scenario.
Curious? Watch the video:
What did you think of Sigiriya? What was the tallest monument you ever had to climb? How was that experience? Share it in the comment box below.
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