Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

The journey begins at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
The journey begins at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Sigirya in Sri Lanka showcases the grandiose ancient civilization built by King Kashyapa around 400 CE. A skyscraper like boulder in the middle of the island, puts modern architects to shame. Elaborate remnants of the royal palace, gardens, pool, baths and structural buildings stand the test of time on top of this towering structure in the middle of the island. Like many past rulers, this monarch demonstrated his magnificence through impressive sophisticated building prowess.  After his death, the grounds were used as monasteries for ascetic monks. Sigiriya now echoes the elation of past glories, though its beauty not withered by time passed.  The enormous rock structure still demands full attention, energy, and admiration upon its encounter. The entry to this protected site, as well as most of Sri Lanka’s heritage marvels, costs a steep $30 for foreign visitors, but often times can be embedded in the price with a few days tour and driver around various sites in Central Sri Lanka (including room and partial board).

Regular opening times begin at 7am and end officially at 5:30, following standard Sri Lankan custom of rising with the sun and ending the work day promptly around sun down. As I first cast eyes at the rock formation from afar, I had to wonder, how did people of the past climb these mega heights? Beginning my journey toward the skies, I realized that a lot of sweat, blood, and tears went into building and reaching the peaks of the Sigiriya stone. You begin your journey toward the mount and gradually hike up stone steps engulfed in green moss, catching the occasional monk dwelling in the many cave crevices leading up the rock formation. The total visiting time depends on your individual pace and patience. I took 4 total hours to reach the top and climb back down again, taking plenty of time to document the journey via my curious camera lens. To scale up, you climb hundreds of stone steps, a metal spiral staircase attached to the stony cliff, walk around the side you first set your eyes on, and finally climb extremely steep metal stairs upward and over.

Frescos in cave dwellings at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Frescos in cave dwellings at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Don’t let this deter you from hiking up, though, because on the way you enjoy momentary pauses of varying activities. You pause to admire frescos on protected cave walls aged thousands of years old. You break to be entertained by playful monkey friends. And you slow down to gaze at the carving of a lion in a sitting pose called ‘Lion’s Gate,’ right before taking the last set of staircase to the top. Do however, mentally prepare yourself for a physically exerting feat, and use the bathroom and buy water before embarking on this venture, as no vendors sell water inside the ancient city gates, and there are no bathrooms anywhere to be found. Once you reach the top you can finally stop to take it all in, and beem proud of the hike you undertook. Then realize from afar that where you just came from sits the “Sigiriya gardens,” the oldest gardens known to this planet! The climb back down poses a different set of challenges, especially with those afraid of heights. The unbelievably narrow stairs are no easier going down as it feels like backward lunging (eek!). On this trip to Sri Lanka, Sigiriya takes the number one spot of “must-do” in Sri Lanka. All the dangerous drawbacks concerning the climb are nothing compared to the breathtaking beauty that is this ancient wonder. Even if you don’t like history or museums, any fellow adventurer can appreciate the natural and lush beauty of Sigirya, with the added bonus of a full body workout to the top. Don’t believe me? They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.

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