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Home > Discovery Top Attractions > Sigiriye Rock Fortress

Sigiriye Rock Fortress

Arugam BayPart hedonistic pleasure palace, part fortress and part sacred complex, Sigiriya is one of the island's most awe-inspiring archaeological sites and a leading tourist attraction. In fact some consider it to be one of the oldest tourist attractions in the world with visitors recording their impressions in some of the earliest-known graffiti. Located north of Dambulla, 116km from Colombo, the site consists of a sheer rock that rises over 200m with the ruins of a palace on the top and a vast pleasure garden complex at the foot.

For just two decades in the 5th century AD, Sigiriya rose to prominence following a power struggle between two brothers, and an act of patricide that saw the then king walled-up alive by his son, Kasyapa.

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Fearful that his defeated brother would return from exile to extract vengeance, Kasyapa shifted the capital to Sigiriya and in 477 AD, he ordered the construction of the magnificent city around the base of the rock, and decreed that his palace should stand on top, a fortress that would keep him safe from retribution.Just seven years later, his astonishing palace in the sky was ready, complete with terraces and a complex system of irrigation.

The megalomaniac yet spiritual Kasyapa clearly had an eye for beauty. The pleasure gardens include a series of symmetric pools, channels and fountains that still spurt water after 1,500 years. Partway up the rock are the famous Sigiriya frescoes, featuring 21 bare-breasted damsels that may represent celestial nymphs, but were surely modeled on Kasyapa's own consorts. Halfway you'll encounter a pair of giant lion's paws, part of the original entrance, which required visitors to pass through the open mouth of a lion. The summit yields a dramatic vista of the surrounding jungle and contains the foundations of the palace complex, replete with bathing pool.

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