Half an hour away from Dambulla (easy bus ride) lies another UNESCO World Heritage Site: Sigiriya.
This site of historical and archaeological significance built in the 5th century consists of a complex of gardens and buildings, with the most impressive part – the ruins of the fortress – located at the top of a granite peak about 200m high. The name ‘Lion Rock’ comes from the gateway built in the shape of a lion, on a small plateau halfway up the rock.
A visit requires you to walk to the summit via over 1,000 steps – staircases attached to the sheer walls of the rock. Given the forecast for another sunny and very hot day, I decided to make an early start and I began my ascent at 8:30am. Clearly everyone else had had the same idea as we quickly got stuck in a queue!
The climb itself wasn’t hard (mind you, I recently completed the BT Tower Climb in London – 842 steps – in 8 minutes, so I may not be a good reference point!). The excruciating heat in the final part made it challenging, though. Paramedics patrolled the area and I saw someone being taken away on a stretcher after passing out in the heat.
Once you reach the top, in addition to the ruins of the fortress you will enjoy amazing views over the surrounding landscape. Pidurangala rock is at a stone’s throw away too.
Back to ground level, do not miss walking around the gardens, another key feature of Sigiriya, and visiting the museum, with a lot of information about this amazing site.