Man-made beauty meets Mother Nature in Sri Lanka
Resembling the rough, protruding foot of a giant, complete with forested heel and tree-capped toes, Sigiriya (also known as Lion Rock) looms above tangled jungle in Sri Lanka, about 165 kilometres north-east of Colombo. This World Heritage-listed site is remarkable not only for its 200-metre granite cliffs but also the industrious architects and labourers who constructed a fortified royal palace, complete with extensive irrigated gardens, atop its lofty summit in the fifth century. Formed from the magma of an extinct volcano, Sigiriya served as an ancient monastery for centuries before King Kashyapa fixed his eye on it (and it resumed that function after his death in 495 CE). Today, the climb to the top of Lion Rock is a daunting one. But if you do tackle the seemingly endless stairs, two enormous clawed paws – all that remains of the imposing statue that once marked the entrance to the final ascent – will greet you halfway up on the northern side.