Our base whilst in the Cultural Triangle, was Aliya Resort & Spa, and you would have to be blind to miss the impressive view of Sigiriya Rock in the distance. Sitting there alone and majestic in the heart of the island, I couldn’t help but liken it to our own red rock in the middle of Australia. With one significant difference. You can climb it.
In fact, anyone can. Regardless of age or fitness level. There are plenty of stairs to help navigate visitors through frescoes thousands of years old, a mirror wall and gigantic rocks precariously leaning on columns that could be removed if attacked by enemies.
Ancient and new stairs
The stairs though are not for the faint hearted or those with fear of heights. At first, it starts gradually with the ancient steps which have been carved from the rock itself. These stone steps are narrow, perfect for kids and those with small feet, and at a good height. They can however be quiet steep at some parts, so hold onto the sides or handrails if needed.
The handrails sure came in handy on some of the metal stairs. “All the metal steps are new” we were told. By new it meant that they were first built by the British colonials during the 1940’s. Thankfully they have been maintained since, so they are in good condition and where needed, were surrounded with metal grates for safety.
At the halfway mark is the Lion’s paw with plenty of seats to pause and rest before you continue your climb to the summit of the 200m tall rock. It would be a good idea to stop here and take a drink because here in central Sri Lanka “there is no cool season and it’s always 40 degrees (celcius)” our guide tells us.
It was here that I took one look at the metal stairs gripping the side of the rock and thought “Nope!”. My brain with it’s mild fear of heights just said “leave me here for a few minutes whilst I stop hyperventilating and until my knees regain from their jelly state”.
As usual, my face must have said it all because Eddie suggested I take a seat and whilst he and Izzy continue on. So off they went, father & daughter climbed to the summit.
Some handy tips
I sure had plenty of company whilst waiting at the Lion’s paw, as it was a Saturday and there were plenty of people visiting. I was grateful for the short time alone to appreciate the fantastic view of the Matale district as well as the moats and gardens that extend from the base of the rock.
Whilst there I thought of a few quick tips to share …
- Leave early to avoid the heat at midday – we left relatively early at 8.30am and was on the way back down just before midday, but boy was it hot! The climb is exposed to the elements. So, whilst there are some cool breezes, you are essentially walking most of the way under the blazing sun.
- Pay a quick visit to the museum – Our Selective Asia guide gave us a history brief on the drive there but without one it would be worthwhile to pay a visit to the museum before you start, to get an insight into the history and to view a large scale model of what the place would have looked like. So why did we go? … because it is also the last stop for the loo until your return from the 2.5 hour climb.
- Bring plenty of water – Despite what I mentioned about there being only one toilet in the whole place, do bring plenty of water as it is the kind of dry heat that would probably dehydrate a camel. Take small sips on the way up and save most of it for when you finish and a little closer to the bottom.
- Be sun smart – even with our brown skin and despite doing the walk in the morning, we slapped on plenty of sunscreen, wore our hats and sleeved tops. And you know what? .. we still came back a little red.
- Don’t rush it … it’s not a race, so take your time and enjoy the climb. Break it up into the lower, middle and upper sections of the palace and take plenty of rest breaks if you need it.
As I type this, 2 months after we did the climb, I am laughing at myself because I was apprehensive about this climb at first. I didn’t know a lot about it so the thought of climbing a 200m rock using the stairs seemed hard and dangerous! But it was an opportunity too hard to pass up. So I hope this has now proven that it is neither hard nor dangerous and that you will visit Sri Lanka and this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site with your family.
Have you come across any too hard to resist experiences in your travels? Have you taken the plunge and done it anyway? Please comment below as we would love to hear them.
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