View from the ancient Royal Gardens towards Sigiriya Rock, also known as the Lion Rock Fortress. The gardens date from King Kassapa between AD 477 and 485.

© Thomas Wyness/Shutterstock

Royal Gardens


The base of the Sigiriya rock is a beautifully landscaped area dotted with formal water features, terraced gardens and natural boulders that were once home to numerous Buddhist shrines. It’s a beautiful place to explore away from the crowds.

From the main entrance you pass a series of symmetrical water gardens, which extend to the foot of the rock and include bathing pools, little islands with pavilions that were used as dry-season palaces, and landscaped borders.

A series of steps continues up through terraced gardens to the western face of the rock, and then ascends it steeply.

The charming boulder gardens, closer to the rock itself and best seen on the descent from the rock, feature boulders that once formed the bases of monastery buildings. The step-like depressions in the sides of the boulders were the foundations of brick walls and timber columns. The cistern and audience-hall rocks are impressive, and the entire area is fun to explore.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Sigiriya attractions

1. Water Gardens

0.09 MILES

As you walk from the Sigiriya main entrance to the rock itself you pass a series of charming symmetrical water gardens, including curved tanks, bathing…

2. Boulder Gardens

0.18 MILES

At the base of the Sgiriya rock and most easily seen after a visit to the summit, this collection of natural boulders once formed the bases of monastery…

3. Main Entrance

0.19 MILES

This is where you have your ticket checked and enter the main site.

4. Frescoes

0.21 MILES

Halfway up the Sigiriya rock an open-air spiral stairway leads to a long, sheltered gallery in the sheer rock face. The paintings of the buxom, wasp…

5. Mirror Wall

0.22 MILES

Beyond the Sigiriya frescoes, the path clings to the sheer side of the rock and is protected on the outside by a 3m-high wall. This wall (not the actual…

6. Cobra Hood Cave

0.22 MILES

This rocky projection down in the Boulder Garden earned its name because the overhang resembles a fully opened cobra’s hood. The plastered interior of the…

7. Summit

0.26 MILES

The spectacular terraced summit of the rock covers 1.6 hectares. This is thought to be the site chosen by King Kasyapa for his fortified capital after he…

8. Sigiriya

0.27 MILES

Rising dramatically from the central plains, the enigmatic rocky outcrop of Sigiriya is perhaps Sri Lanka's single most dramatic sight. A set of near…