View of Sigiriya Rock from the top of Pidurangala Rock.

View of Sigiriya Rock from the top of Pidurangala Rock.

Jutting up out of the lush green countryside like a giant finger to the otherwise rather flat surrounding land is the enormous Sigiriya Rock. The soaring rock truly is a sight to behold and is a major stop off on the Sri Lanka tourist trail. Staying in nearby Sigiriya village, we were pleasantly surprised by how little the town had developed, sitting in the shadows of the massive attraction, only a few minutes away. Originally having planned to stay in nearby Dambulla, we changed our plans as soon as we had checked into our guest-house there. Situated along one main road, the small, dusty commercial town held no charm that we could see and so after wading through the tall tales of the  local auto-rickshaw mafia we finally found the right bus and soon arrived in quaint little Sigiriya town.

Cobra Hood Cave, Sigirya

Cobra Hood Cave, Sigirya

Waking early the next morning we rented bicycles and made our way to the famous rock with Mathias, a German backpacker whom we had met on the bus the evening before. Deciding to forego the expensive thirty dollar entrance ticket but not giving up on getting in to the sight altogether we looked for an ‘alternative’ entrance. Cycling past the main entrance where bus loads of tourists, accompanied by guides were walking in, we followed the moat (supposedly containing crocodiles!) around until we reached a service road which looked like we could use to sneak inside. Stashing our bikes behind a stone wall, we casually strolled inside and before we knew it we were amongst the other tourists, admiring the gardens, the views of the rock and the stone seats where monks used to sit and meditate in the shadow of Sigiriya Rock. Passing by massive boulders, we noticed some of them had very rudimentary steps carved into them and imagined short monks from days gone by climbing to the top of these rocks to pray in solitude. Sprinkled throughout the garden area in the shadow of the massive Sigiriya Rock, a number of small stone chairs, which looked more like small platforms, were dotted around where monks used to pass the days away long before the rest of the world knew of this place. Continuing our walk around the grounds, ticket-free, we soon found ourselves climbing stone steps, with beautiful views out over the lush green countryside and then all of a sudden we were at the foot of a spiral staircase

One of the 'Lions Paws' at the foot of the stairs to the top of Sigiriya Rock

One of the ‘Lions Paws’ at the foot of the stairs to the top of Sigiriya Rock

leading to the frescoes in caves inside the rock. Unfortunately for us a man was checking tickets and so we backed away slowly and went in search of the famed ‘Lion’s Paws’, carved out of two huge mounds of stone. Unknown to us this turned out to in fact be the exit point for the rock and so moving as quickly and inconspicuously as we could we made our way up the ‘down stairs’ to the Lion’s Paws. One paw stood at either side of the main stairway to the top of Sigiriya Rock and the stairway itself once was topped by a lion’s head with visitors passing through the open mouth of the lion. This final staircase was all that stood between us and the summit of the rock and so with our heads down, we ploughed on until a few minutes later scrambling up the rickety metal staircase we were standing on the summit! A fresh breeze rewarded us as we reached the top and the views around the otherwise relatively flat countryside were beautiful. Pidurangala Rock, a similar sized rock stood to the north facing us and the plan was to head for there next for views of the rock which we had just climbed. Skipping back down the steps, care-free after our ninja-like ascent of Sigiriya, our bubble was burst as a man with very little English and a security badge asked us for our ticket. Not believing stories that a fourth friend was gone ahead with our tickets he pulled out his phone and said “come now, police”. Frantically trying to make him believe our story, we walked on ahead and with no sign of him behind us we made a run for the way we came in, unlocked our bikes and pedalled away delighted with our mornings work.

On top of Sigiriya Rock

On top of Sigiriya Rock

With hunger getting the best of us and the sun blazing we decided to delay our plan of climbing neighbouring Pidurangala Rock until the next day. Instead we decided on an alternative plan of trying to spot wild elephants from our bicycles, a daft idea in hindsight but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Cycling to Minneriya National Park, trying to spot wild elephants

Cycling to Minneriya National Park, trying to spot wild elephants from our bikes!

Minneriya National Park, located approximately 40kilometers away and spanning 90 square kilometres, we thought if we could just get out to the area we’d have a good chance of spotting some wild elephants. A quiet back road led us away from Sigiriya and evidence of elephant activity was obvious with gaping holes in the bush, broken branches and piles of bowling ball sized dung at points along the roadside. Getting excited we pedalled onwards and before we knew it we were after travelling beyond the one entrance to the National Park, it was getting late in the day and we had a long ride back to Sigiriya where we were staying. Eventually deciding it was about time to turn back, we did, stopping for a short time at a large lake across from the park entrance. Locals had told us that elephants sometimes come here to drink late in the day but none showed up while we were there.

Wild white spotted Axis deer grazing

Wild white spotted Axis deer grazing

Cycling back towards Sigiriya in the dark wasn’t so bad until we turned off the main road. Now, with only the dim lights of our bike to guide the way and warnings that elephants sometimes cross the road after dark we were a touch nervous about the ride back.

Beautiful sunset over a lake on the Inamaluwa-Sigiriya Road.

Beautiful sunset over a lake on the Inamaluwa-Sigiriya Road.

It was just the three of us for the first few kilometres with not a soul around and not a sound but the rustling of trees and some animal noises from the jungle. After some time a few lights appeared along the road and we stopped for a few minutes at the tiny village to catch our breath, we had been cycling for more than ten hours at this stage and our legs were turning to jelly. Saddling up one final time we made a burst for home and after a few more kilometres we thankfully rolled into Sigiriya having seen some beautiful countryside, no elephants and a whole lot of road! Celebrating our successful return with a kothu and a beer, we said goodbye to Mathias and turned in for the night planning to climb Pidurangala Rock the following morning.

On top of Pidurangala Rock

On top of Pidurangala Rock, no tourists, place to ourselves- class!

Cloudy skies greeted us the next day but we pushed on and cycled out to Pidurangala hoping the weather wouldn’t obscure our views from the top. Parking our trusty bikes outside a large Buddhist monastery we paid the two hundred rupee entrance fee and began our climb up the steps through the shrub. Small caves lined the way and a huge reclining Buddha looked out over the countryside from the side of the hill. Upon nearing the top we tried a number of ways to overcome the last step and get up onto the rock and after a few wrong attempts we found the way and we were on top staring across at where we had been the day before. This for us was a much better experience, there were no tour buses, there were no people and there was no extravagant ticket charge to get here. The top of the rock was almost flat with one tiny cluster of trees in the centre. The views across the countryside were staggering and the sky turned blue long enough for us to get some decent photos on top of the rock. Having the place to ourselves made this such a more rewarding experience than Sigiriya and it was a nice way to finish our time in the area. Walking down the hill, we looked forward to lunch and then it was onto Kandy, Sri Lanka’s cultural capital.

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Brian Barry
Brian is a travel writer, photographer, blogger, travel addict and adventure junkie. Being outdoors, getting off the beaten track and outside his comfort zone is what makes him tick. Brian's the dreamer in the relationship; when he's not travelling, he's dreaming about it! Keeping fit, cooking, music and red wine take up the rest of his time.
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wanderingon37.6K followers☘ Irish Travel Couple - Brian & Noelle 🌍 Nomadic for 10+ years 🏞️ Hiking, Adventure & Inspiration ✈ Independent Travel 📍Edinburgh 👇🏻Travel Tips & Blog
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\"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.\"⁠ — Nelson Mandela⁠ ⁠ \"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.\"⁠ — Martin Luther King Jr.⁠ ⁠ “Never look down on anybody unless you\'re helping him up.”⁠ — Jesse Jackson⁠ ⁠➳⁠ 📷 Views from the first floor of the Hagia Sophia Museum looking towards The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey 🇹🇷⁠ ➳⁠ We understand that being white and therefore, inherently privileged, we can never truly understand this struggle, however, we completely stand with the movement and the idea that all human beings everywhere in the world should be treated equally and have the same chances and opportunities in life.⁠ ⁠➳ Unfortunately, this isn\'t the case and the thought that someone can be treated differently simply because of the colour of their skin absolutely breaks our hearts.💔⁠ ⁠➳ In our privileged position, we need to learn about and educate ourselves about these issues in every way we can and do our best to change the views of those around us.⁠ ⁠➳ To quote another great changemaker, Mahatma Gandhi, you need to “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ⁠ It starts with you, to move in the world with love and respect for all.⁠ ❤️✨✌ #BlackLivesMatter⁠
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“Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing.” —Dr. Seuss » Brian standing in absolute awe at the El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza!🗿🇲🇽 » Built by the Mayans sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries, Chichen Itza is a huge complex of Mayan ruins located on the northern half of Mexico’s beautiful Yucatan Peninsula.🗿🇲🇽 The complex is an inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. » Built from limestone, El Castillo stands at a height of 30m including a 6m temple on top. Each of the pyramid\'s four sides has 91 steps up it, making 364 steps total, with the temple topping the pyramid considered an additional step totalling 365, each step representing a day in the calendar.📆 El Castillo is also known as the Temple of Kukulkan as it served as a temple to the Mayan feathered serpent god Kukulkan, or Quetzalcoatl.🐍 » We visited this time last year, however, the spring and autumn equinoxes are the best days to visit to see the “descent of Kukulkan\".🐍 » According to legend, twice a year when the day and night are in balance 🌗, the pyramid is visited by its namesake Kukulkan.🐍 Thanks to the crafty and mathematically brilliant architecture of the Mayans combined with the natural rotation of the Earth on the equinox, an amazing eerie image of a giant snake crawling down the temple is created. Kukulkan returns to earth to provide blessings for a full harvest and good health before bathing in the sacred waters below and continuing on his way to the underworld. » If you can\'t visit on either equinox, don\'t worry! The phenomenon is recreated nightly during the Light and Sounds Show at 7pm in winter and 8pm in summer. » We love doing things independently as much as we can when we travel. As Chichen Itza is located just a couple of hours drive away from Playa del Carmen (and Cancun) we rented a car and drove there ourselves so we didn\'t get to stay for the light show as we had to drive back.🚗 » What\'s your travel style? Are you a DIY person or do you prefer to go on an organised tour? Let us know in the comments below!💬👇 » #WanderingOn #LiveToTravel #Mexico #ChichenItza #SevenWondersOfTheWorld
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“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, every day can end beautifully.” — Kristen Butler » The sun sets over Edinburgh from Calton Hill, one of the seven hills of Edinburgh.🌆 » Set right in the city centre, Calton Hill is unmistakable with its unfinished Athenian acropolis poking above the skyline, giving Edinburgh it\'s nickname, the \"Athens of the North\". » It\'s a popular sunset spot as it\'s easily accessed - it only takes about five minutes to get to the top of the hill from two staircases on either side, or you can drive up and park - and it offers panoramic views down the length of Princes Street and of Edinburgh Castle.🏰 There are also great views of the coloured cliffs of the Salisbury Crags, Arthur\'s Seat, and the slopes of Holyrood Park.⛰️ » On the last night of April, up to 12,000 people take to Calton Hill for the Beltane Fire Festival, an ancient Celtic fertility festival. 🔥 Traditionally, Beltane was the start of the pastoral summer where animals were taken from their winter shelter to the fields and \"Beltane\" is the Gaelic word for May. » In Edinburgh\'s revivalist celebration of Beltane, three hundred or so voluntary performers from the Beltane Fire Festival Society celebrate the ending of the \'dreich\' (Scottish slang for dreary and bleak) Scottish winter and the hoped-for season of warmth and new growth with drumming, fire performance, revelry, and a ritualised procession around Calton Hill. 🔥 As well as the fiery displays, acrobatics, pulsating drums, and body-painted theatrics, the Beltane Fire Festival Society retell an immersive story for the crowd. » The revival of this festival started in 1988 as a free event but is now ticketed. There is also a Samhuinn (Samhain) Fire Festival on Halloween night which traditionally marked the beginning of winter in the Celtic calendar. 🎃 We hope to catch the Samhuinn Fire Festival festival later in the year! » Have been to any interesting cultural festivals? Let us know!💬👇 » #WanderingOn #LiveToTravel #EdinburghScotland #CaltonHill
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