Sigiriya: Sri Lanka’s Ancient Rock Fortress

Sigiriya, also known as Sinhagiri or Lion Rock, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Matale District of Sri Lanka’s Central Province. Almost a million people visit this historic rock castle and old royal palace each year, making it one of Sri Lanka’s most popular and well-known sites.

History of Sigiriya

Sigiriya’s history dates back to the late 5th century CE, when King Kasyapa I built a fortress atop a towering monolithic rock pillar. The king’s palace, surrounded by lush gardens and water features, was designed to be impregnable, with walls made of brick and stone and fortified gates. Kasyapa I ruled from Sigiriya until he was defeated by his brother in a battle for the throne, and the fortress was abandoned soon after.

The site was largely forgotten until the 19th century, when British archaeologists rediscovered it and began excavations. Today, Sigiriya is recognized as one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning and engineering in the world [1].

The Fortress and its Features

The fortress of Sigiriya is an impressive feat of engineering, with a network of water gardens, fountains, and moats that are still functional today. Visitors can explore the ruins of the palace and its gardens, marveling at the intricate designs and engineering of the ancient Sri Lankan civilization.

The fortress’s most iconic feature is the lion’s paw gateway, a pair of enormous stone paws that once flanked a grand staircase leading to the palace. Unfortunately, only the paws remain today, but they still evoke a sense of awe and mystery in visitors.

Visiting Sigiriya

Visitors to Sigiriya can explore the site at their own pace, taking in the breathtaking views from the top of the rock and wandering through the gardens and ruins of the palace. There are also guided tours available that offer a more in-depth look at the history and engineering of the site.

It’s important to note that Sigiriya is a popular tourist attraction, and it can get crowded during peak season. Visitors are advised to arrive early in the day to avoid crowds and the midday heat.


Sigiriya is evidence of the inventiveness and innovation of prehistoric Sri Lankan culture. The rock fortress and its gardens are a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Sri Lanka, offering a glimpse into the country’s rich history and cultural heritage.


  1. What is Sigiriya known for? Sigiriya is known for its ancient rock fortress and former royal palace, which is recognized as one of the finest examples of ancient urban planning and engineering in the world.
  2. How old is Sigiriya? Sigiriya was built in the late 5th century CE by King Kasyapa I.
  3. How do I get to Sigiriya? Sigiriya is located in Sri Lanka’s Central Province and can be reached by car or public transportation from major cities like Colombo and Kandy.
  4. Can I climb to the top of Sigiriya? Yes, visitors can climb to the top of Sigiriya to enjoy breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
  5. Is Sigiriya crowded with tourists? Yes, Sigiriya is a popular tourist attraction and can get crowded during peak season. It’s best to arrive early in the day to avoid crowds and the midday heat.