Just the perfect breather from our beach hopping stint (and for my salty frizzy hair and sun-kissed skin), me and my buddy devoted two full days to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites inside the so-called Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. As usual, I had no idea on where we were going and what exactly we’re doing which actually works for me; setting no expectations on places we discover.
Sri Lanka was the third country on our two-month Beach Hop Asia 2016 backpacking trip. After exploring Malaysia and Thailand, me and my buddy headed to Colombo before we explored Sigiriya, Dambulla and Polonnaruwa.
We had a rented car from JNW Lanka Tours which made our transfers stress-free. We were collected from our home in Colombo, Clock Inn Colombo, at around ten in the morning. The six-hour ride was smooth and first thing we did upon reaching Sigiriya was to look for a nice play to stay for our four-day jaunt. Karu, our driver, brought us to Grand Regent Holiday Resort and Spa (check discounted rates here), which I must say is not that grand, in the strict sense of the word. The cottage resort had this rustic feel to it and our room faced a lovely sunset area. They also provide room for drivers for free which made everything convenient. We just battled most of the time with some deadly mosquitoes around which are quite common in this part of Sri Lanka.
|That mosquito net was literally our safety net|
|Our private veranda/beer place/sunset spot|
I asked my buddy regarding our first stop, he just told me that there’s just a hardcore climb, on a huge rock. I freaked out for a few seconds for I detest all forms of hiking, unless if it’s really needed. Nonetheless, we took our leisurely breakfast and waited for our driver to finish his. The resort was just five minutes away from Sigiriya Rock so we needed not to hurry.
|Sigiriya Rock was an ancient citadel with a palace on the flat top of the rock|
Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock in Sinhalese language) is an ancient rock fortress built in 5th century A.D. under the reign of King Kashyapa. Rising 660 feet above the ground, the rock citadel is a complex of terraced gardens, man-made pools, massive boulders and ancient rock paintings. It was as if a huge rock was carved to form a castle, concealed from what I imagine was a thick forest below it; a good strategy for conquerors at that time.
|I've never seen so many green in my life!|
What I love most about the arduous hike was the great view of lush greeneries. Another thing I noticed was the carved steps on the rocks. I suppose, these were used as ladders to go up and down the rock walls; quite clever.
|Final assault at the Lion's Paw|
|I suppose people back then used these carved steps to go up and down the rock fortress|
The view from our standpoint was breathtaking. I’ve never seen so much green in my life. I climbed up of what seemed to be the apex of a fortress and enjoyed a panoramic view of Sigiriya. Standing on top of this great marvel, and one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka (inscribed in 1982), was definitely one of the highlights of our Sri Lankan adventure.
Dambulla Cave Temple/Golden Temple of Dambulla
Right after our Sigiriya Rock exploration we headed southwest, around 20 kilometers away to our next destination. Again, I had no prior knowledge about our itinerary so I wasn’t expecting that much.
The afternoon sun pierced my skin as we entered the temple complex. There were no entrance fees or whatsoever so we just went inside and wandered around.
A concrete arch that looked like one of those entryways to theme parks revealed some steps leading to, well, we don’t know where. We followed it and realized that it was the way to our point of interest. It was a struggle, the hike. After the grueling climb hours ago, here we were stretching those leg muscles again to our next destination. Plus, stray monkeys around the area made it more challenging.
|Dambulla Cave Temple - largest and best-preserved cave temple complex in Sri Lanka. There are 153 Buddha statues |
and murals covering an area of 23,000 sq.ft. on the five caves underneath an overhanging rock.
|The carvings and murals were dictated primarily by the size and structure of the cave itself.|
Old tiles, uneven walls and ceiling, carved stupas, images of Buddha, ancient paintings and more. It was crude yet you wouldn’t want it in any other way as it totally captured the ingenuity of the past era. Without any signs on what’s next and what’s inside, it felt like I was on a hunt for something. The other doors revealed more caverns with more Buddha figures.
After visiting all the caves, I sat under a tree with so much admiration to this, yet again, marvelous gem of Sri Lanka (same as the great Hindu Temples in Bali,Indonesia). It is underrated but totally captured the glorious ancient days.
It was the third day of our cultural discovery in Sri Lanka and we woke up earlier than usual for our excursion to Polonnaruwa.
|One of the ruins around the Royal Palace which is believed to be a place for rituals and entertainment.|
|Ruins of the Royal Palace|
|Vatadage - round structure enclosing a stupa at its center.|
Getting around the area is easier with a rented car, just like what we did, but if you have more time, you may opt to hire a bike to get a good grip of the whole area. Just be ready to bear the punishing afternoon heat.
|Pilgrims going to the Colossal Dagaba of Rankot Vihara|
|Gal Vihara - a rock temple with four relief statues of Buddha carved on a single rock.|
The reclining Buddha image is one of the largest in Southeast Asia.
JNW Lanka Tours
*JNW Building, 67 Maligakanda Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka
*Arrival Hall, Travel Service Counter No.6,
Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, Sri Lanka
Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, Sri Lanka
Contact Number: (+94) 777.396983 | (+94) 11.2698334
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check here for discounted hotel rates in Sigiriya