Sigiriya and Dambulla Cave Temple – 19/2/2015



Sigiriya is located on a rocky plateau that was formed from the magma of an extinct volcano.  Sigiriya served as a monastery during the 3rd century BCE before King Kasyapa constructed a royal residence during the latter half of the 5th century.  After the king’s death it served as a Buddhist monastery until it was abandoned during the 14th century.

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As you enter the site you walk through the remains of gardens which are some of the oldest in the world.  The gardens encompass canals, bridges and locks.  The fountains were believed to have been added during the 5th century.

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The entrance leading up Sigiriya

The remains of the city are on both the rock’s slopes and on the summit, which stands at 370 metres. On your way to the top you pass the western wall which is covered with frescoes that were created during King Kasyapa’s reign.  The frescoes are depicting nude females and are thought to be either the portraits of Kasyapa’s wives and concubines or priestess performing religious rituals.  Eighteen of these frescoes still exist today.  To reach the frescoes you do have to climb the steep spiral staircase, which freaked Tristan out a bit as he hates heights.

Above are some of the frescoes and the spiral stair case.  Below is a fresco and people making the long and crowded walk up.

Sigiriya is also referred to as the lions rock and you understand why when you reach the base of the rock. During King Vattagamini Abhaya reign a huge lion statue was created from brick and plaster, today all that remains of the statue that has weathered away over time is its feet.

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The lions claws


The final part of the climb to the top.

After the final lot of steep stairs you reach the top, with a magnificent view over the surrounding area and the remains of the palace.

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We made it, all hot and sweaty!

Max and Ava reaching the top of Sigiriya Rock (569x800)

These two were particularly pleased with themselves

The view from the top

One of the most attractive sites in Sigiriya is the mirror wall. In the past, the king had it polished so thoroughly until he could see his reflection in it. The mirror wall is inscribed with poems and inscriptions that are written by the visitors to Sigiriya.  I personally could not see that it had been a mirror, but perhaps you will.

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The view from among the palace ruins

At the bottom of Sigiriya there are tourist shops and monkey, who kept us entertained.  After our experience of monkeys in Indonesia, Max and Ava weren’t too keen on getting close.

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Dambulla Cave Temple.

This temple was not on my list of places to visit, but our guide thought we should.  The complex is comprised of 5 caves situated under an overhanging rock, which contains 153 statues and paintings that document Buddha’s life.  The monastery itself dates from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE.

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Ticket booth and entrance to the Dambulla cave complex

To get to the Buddhist caves you have to climb a lot of stairs. The kids were not happy about more walking, especially after having walked up Sigiriya. There were monkeys on the way up, stealing flowers to eat from people taking them to the caves. 

The flower steeling monkeys.  Tired and grumpy kids and we haven’t even reached the caves yet.  Which is worse?

The cave temple was first constructed during King Vattagamini Abaya’s rein. There are actually some 80 caves in the complex but the first five contain the paintings and statues.  I have included the first four caves which were the most interesting.

Cave of the Divine King or Cave 1 is dominated by a fourteen metre statue of Buddha carved out of rock.  The Buddha has been repainted many times, most recently in the 20th century.

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Cave of the Great King (Maharaja Viharaya) or Cave II is possibly the most spectacular of all the caves, measuring 52 metres length wise and 23 meters wide.  The cave is named after the statues of the two kings it contains.

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The New Great Temple (Cave 3) was converted to its current form by King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe in the 18th century.  Its filled with Buddha statues but the one that is unmissable is the beautiful reclining Buddha. 

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Pachima Viharaya (Cave 4) is a fairly small cave with the central Buddha in a meditative pose.  There is a small dagoba which was broken into, you can see the cracks in it, by thieves who though Queen Somawathie’s jewellery was contained inside it. 

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Would I recommend Dambulla Caves?  I think that would depend on whether you have travelled much in South-east Asia.  If this is your first time, then yes I would visit.  As we have spent 2 1/2 years in the area, we have seen a lot of wats and temples and it didn’t hold a lot of interest for the kids, it was an ABW (another bloody wat)  I would skip it.  I also think that after having climbed Sigiriya, we were all hot and tired and to climb more stairs to see the caves was probably too much.

Tourist Information:

  • Sigirya – Go early as it is exposed to the sun and gets really hot.  For foreigners the entrance fee is $30 USD, this also includes the Sigiriya museum. For locals the entrance fee is Rs50. The site is open from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM (the last entrance is at 5:00.) For more information see this website:

  • Dambulla Caves – The costs for entering for adults are $10 U.S. and for children it is $5 U.S. The opening hours are from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. For more information see this website

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