Sigiriya The Lion Rock

Picking up from where I left off in chronicling the Sri Lanka holiday – we saw the beautiful Sinhala frescoes and Buddha statues in Dambulla Caves – we continued to move on to Sigiriya, only just 30 minutes drive from Dambulla.

Sigiriya is a massive rock of 600 feet high and top of the rock was once a palace of King Kasyapa dated back to 5th century, The King built a gateway to his palace in the form of a lion, hence Sigiriya is also called the Lion Rock in Sinhala.

sigiriya the lion rock

The entire site was built as a palace and fortress. There were gardens, moats, mirror wall with frescoes. The Lion Gate was built at a mid-level terrace and the palace itself was on the flat top of the rock. Sigiriya is a UNESCO site and apparently was one of the best examples of urban planning in ancient times. Unfortunately, the fortress and the palace were abandoned after the king’s death.

sigiriya landscape canals moats

We arrived there in the afternoon and boy, it was hot. And I wasn’t really in the mood of climbing rocks or hills in that kind of heat but we went anyway. Our host, George advised us that we might not be able to climb all the way to the top as 12 tourists were attacked by wasps 2 days before. We didn’t think much about it – perhaps we were hoping no wasp attack on our day – but we saw signs at the ticketing booth cautioning visitors about the attack. Regardless, we went ahead, hoping that things would change once we arrived at the Lion Gate.

While I climbed up the rock a little slower than my friend who is more, erm, agile than me, I managed to take some pictures of the site and the magnificent view from above.

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My friend urged me to carry on to Lion Gate, and I would never forget her comment, “C’mon, Kath, let’s go all the way to the top! If the old aunty can walk up without any shoes, then we can definitely do it!” I love her optimism 🙂

And so we did reach at the Lion Gate…but there was some kind of restlessness going on at the mid-terrace. The authorities had set up a shack containing hooded jackets. The jackets must be given to visitors who wished to continue to climb to the top, knowing full well that there were many wasps flying around. We saw visitors climbed up the stairs but hesitated and stopped halfway. Some came down immediately. Those already at the top wanted to climb down but waited too. And it was all because of the wasps. There were many wasp nests on the rock – huge ones (see black dots on the rock in pic) – we overheard conversations from those who gave up climbing that they could not continue because the wasps were flying straight at them.

sigiriya lion rock lion gate steps

sigiriya lion rock lion gate


My friend desperately wanted to climb while I opted to wait for her at Lion Gate – under the shade 🙂 She took the hooded jacket and waited for the right moment to climb. But when she saw people stopping half way and returning back, she didn’t want to take the risk. As optimistic as ever, she said, “It’s ok, perhaps next time!”


Useful Information:

Visiting Hours: 7.00am-5.30pm daily

Entrance Fee: US$30

It takes about 3-4 hours to climb the rock.


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sigiriya the lion rock katpegimana

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    1. Hey Dan, thanks for your comment on this old blog post of mine haha…that trip to Sri Lanka was in 2014 and apparently those wasp nests are no longer there now 🙂 But the nests were huge and scary looking!

  1. Hee hee, I love your friend’s encouragement you old aunty! 🙂 I can imagine climbing that in the searing heat though wasn’t fun… but well worth it in the end! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  2. OMG 3 to 4 hours to climb it? Wow, it is really a long way up!
    It looks pretty high! hahah I like how optimistic your friend is.
    Shame about the wasps… I wouldn’t risk going to the top either.

    Happy to have you on #MondayEscapes

    1. I think I would have been able to climb up the rock at a much faster pace if I was more fit and if the climb took place in the morning..sigh, excuses, excuses…hahaha!

  3. Definitely an impressive place! Your story about those wasps is crazy. That is the last thing I would expect. But, those nests look enormous!

  4. Oh what a shame you couldn’t get to the top – it was one of my favourite sights in Sri Lanka. I don’t think I would have braved the wasps though. And I definitely made the most of the views as an excuse to stop for a breather during the climb #MondayEscapes

    1. Yeah it was a climb especially in the hot sun and silly me, I left my water bottle in the car 🙁 But actually am not so adventurous lah, tried mountain climbing before, never again will I climb a mountain! Hills ok hahah..

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