Saturday 27 July 2019

Climbing Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka

An enormous boulder in the midst of flat land the heart of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya Rock is the site of a  fortified settlement, dating back over two thousand years. As a foreign visitor, you'll pay a hefty $30 entrance fee, but you can save a few bob by turning down the persistent, but unnecessary, guides that congregate near the car park. It is easy enough to follow the paths and staircases that cut their away through the gardens and ruins at the base of the rock. Soon you are climbing steeply, surrounded by red earth, thick stone walls, shrubs, monkeys and bees nests. A diversion via a nineteenth century spiral staircase takes you up to an enclosed ledge where you can admire some surprisingly well-preserved rock paintings of 21 "damsels" dating from the fifth century.

Back on the main route, you work your way up to the Lion Platform where two huge feline paws act as a gateway for the final climb up to the top. This involves negotiating some fairly narrow metal staircases hewn into the side of the rock. There are guard rails, but if you suffer from vertigo, you might not feel too comfortable on this stretch. Fearless monkeys run up and down the handrails, adding to the drama. Once you complete the ascent, there is plenty of space from where you can admire the remains of the Royal Palace around you and the distant views of lakes and mountains beyond. Once you have soaked up the vistas, make sure you explore the caves and chambers on the route down. If you choose a quiet time to visit, climbing Sigiriya Rock can be very atmospheric - you'll feel like Indiana Jones as you work your way around the nooks and crannies that make up this extraordinary site. 8/10