Sigiriya, meaning ‘lion rock’ in Sinhalese, is an ancient rock fortress and palace surrounded by jungle in central Sri Lanka. The entrance to the tip of the palace was designed in the shape of a lion’s mouth.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and declared the 8th Wonder of the World, it is enclosed by the remains of an extensive network of gardens and reservoirs. These gardens are some of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world and include water, boulder and terraced gardens. From the 5th century BC the site was used as a rock shelter mountain monastery with caves prepared for the Buddhist Sangha. King Kashyapa built the remaining complex between AD 477 and 495. Sigiriya is renowned for its ancient paintings which would have once covered most of the western face of the rock.
The elaborate plan of Sigiriya combines man-made geometrical forms with the natural forms of its surroundings. It consists of an ancient castle and the remains of an upper palace situated on the flat top of the rock. The lower palace clings to the slopes below the rock and leads to moats, walls and gardens. The park even contains sophisticated working hydraulic systems. The famous Mirror Wall is so called because it was once so polished that the king could see himself whilst he walked alongside it.