Sigiriya (170 km from Colombo.)
This UNESCO World Heritage Site, a spectacular Rock Fortress, is one of Sri Lanka’s major attractions. The most impressive facets of the unique complex are the Water Gardens, the Frescoes of beautiful maidens, the Mirror Wall with ancient graffiti, the Lion platform and the Summit of 1.6 hectares, which was completely covered by buildings during the period of Sigiriya glory. Built by King Kashyapa (477-495 A.D), the “Lion Rock” is a citadel of unusual beauty rising 200m from the scrub jungle. The rock was the innermost stronghold of the 70-hectare fortified town and the base is ringed by a moat, rampart, and extensive gardens. The world-renowned frescoes (originally 500, of which only 19 remain today) which are in a sheltered pocket of the rock approached by a spiral stairway are painted in earth pigments on plaster. The old stairway to the top led through the mouth of a crouching lion but today only the huge paws remain giving an indication of the massive proportions of the head. Remains of the handsome royal citadel are on the summit and several caves for meditation, audience platforms and baths complete the unique site.