Sri Lanka Tourism has always found its way to be on the spotlight on the global platform of travel and tourism. This year, Bloomberg revealed a new, post pandemic bucket list of seven wonders of the world, focusing on adventurous and crowd-free destinations. Being the only Asian country to be on this list for modern explorers, we were delighted to see Sigiriya Sri Lanka amongst the new seven wonders of the world! According to Bloomberg:
“Sigiriya is the perfect amalgam of human-made treasure and natural wonder”.
Built by King Kashyapa over 1500 years ago, the Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya is a splendid fortress built at the summit of a 660-foot-high rock. Located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, about 4-5 hours from Colombo, this attraction holds a special place in Sri Lanka’s cultural history. Featuring five gates and measuring about 3kms long, this palace and fortress complex also had lavish gardens constructed throughout the property and a moat with ramparts that gave protection to the complex. At the ground level there were lower palaces and the upper palace was protected by the carving of a lion’s paw, which served as the entrance to visitors and warning to enemies. Today, the Sigiriya complex is the earliest preserved example of how urban planning took place back in the days.
What other destinations made this list?
In preparing for a post-pandemic reality, Bloomberg caters to travelers with a thirst for adventure. In this list of new seven wonders of the world, they include other ‘archaeological and natural treasures’ such as:
- Antequera Dolmens, Spain: a Spanish Stonehenge that offers an insight into farmers that thrived during the Neolithic era and Copper Age.
- Baalbek, Lebanon: 2000-year-old ruins that mark the expanse of the Roman empire.
- Nahanni, Canada: one of North America’s stunning geological formations.
- Top End Rock Art, Australia: proof of the Aboriginal communities of Australia.
- Kelp Forests, South Africa: a shallow underwater jungle twice as big as the Grand Canyon.
- San Agustin, Columbia: about 500 statues at the base of mount hamlet, believed to be burial markings.
Why Sigiriya was chosen as a new world wonder?
An ancient palace, carved into a ghostly rock, keeping in mind protection from enemies, beautification with gardens, cleverly planned irrigation facilities, decorative paintings and frescoes, and a mirror wall is indeed a wonderful creation! While commending the sculpture of the Lion’s paw at the entrance of the upper palace, Bloomberg highlights Sigiriya as a new world wonder by claiming the following statement:
“Nicknamed Lion Rock—a reference to the paws sculpted into the base of the 660-foot-tall stone—it includes elaborate cisterns and gardens, frescoed caves, and a winding stairway to the crowning citadel.”
Historical significance of Sigiriya
The 5th century King of Sri Lanka, King Kashyapa built the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and imposed it as the capital of the Sinhalese Kingdom until he was defeated. The King believed that the elevated position and the 360-degree views from the top would give him a strategic advantage if attacked during war. Soon there were plans to build a city around the area and several years later, the Sigiriya complex was a bustling center for King Kashyapa and his troops. After the death of King Kashyapa, the complex was abandoned and used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.
What makes Sigiriya special?
On your way up to the summit, you can take a breather to observe the old wall drawings, also known as frescoes, painted on the western wall of Sigiriya rock. Back in the 5th century, these frescoes were a highlight of the complex but today, only a few paintings survive in a small sheltered depression about halfway up the rock.
- Mirror wall
A brick faced wall covered in highly-polished white plaster was able to produce reflections when initially built, thus resulting in it being called the ‘mirror wall’. With time, this wall became more of a graffiti board for inscriptions and poems written, some dating back to the 8th century CE. To preserve the existing ancient graffiti, officials then ‘closed’ the wall for inscribing.
- Landscaped Gardens
As one of the oldest landscaped gardens of the world, the lush green gardens of Sigiriya have received much attention as one of the most breathtaking features of Sigiriya. Three distinct components made up these grand gardens: the water gardens (on the western side of the rock complex, were an important part of the brilliant irrigation system), the terraced gardens (at the base of the rock, the natural incline was terraced and planted), and the cave and boulder gardens (have decorative pavilions constructed on each rock).
- Lions Paw Entrance
The Sigiriya rock got its name – The Lion’s Rock because of the giant lion’s paw carved form stone and served as the entrance to the upper palace.
- Water System
The commendable irrigation system built back then utilized surface and subsurface hydraulic systems. This mysteriously marvelous system still functions during the rainy season when the pools fill up at all ground levels, and brings water to all the landscaped gardens.
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
As the oldest surviving gardens in Asia, Sigiriya was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka, and is one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in the country.
Climbing the Sigiriya rock – what you need to know
In the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Matale District, Sigiriya is located just in between the towns of Dambulla and Habarana. From the capital city of Colombo, it is about 177kms away, and takes about 4-5 hours to drive there in a private vehicle arranged by tour operators in Sri Lanka. Day tours to Sigiriya are also possible from Colombo and other nearby destinations such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.
Best time to Visit
Sigiriya is tourist friendly for the most part of the year. If you are looking for pleasant weather conditions, December to April is a good time. From May to August, the weather is hotter and more humid, but climbing is still a breeze for the fit and fittest. The last quarter of the year sees some rain, but you can still squeeze in a morning or evening for a quick climb to the top of Sigiriya.
The climb to the ruins of the upper palace and back down is about 1200 steps, takes about 2-3 hours, and is doable by most moderately fit persons. Be sure to carry a bottle of water and wear cool clothes to let the perspiration out. You can hire a tour guide for a small fee if you’d like to be shown around all parts of the complex. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning 360-degree views from the top, showing you a glimpse of the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.
Places to Stay
Being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka, Sigiriya and Dambulla have plenty of accommodation options ranging from budget hotels to five-star hotels and boutique villas. Some well-known names that come up are Heritance Kandalama, Water Garden Sigiriya, Elephant Corridor Hotel, Jetwing Vil Uyana, Hotel Sigiriya, and EKHO Sigiriya, are just a few amongst several others.
Being a globally recognized tourist destination, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and now a Bloomberg seven wonders of the world nomination, Sigiriya is indeed a destination to be added to your travel list. Whether you are on holiday with your partner, friends, family, or business colleagues, a visit to the Lion’s Rock will quench your thirst for adventure and result in a day full of fun and excitement!