Ascent of Lions Rock

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
Trip End Jul 22, 2014

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Sunday, March 10, 2013

In the middle of this vast plain a 200 m rock rises above everything. Originally there was a monastery built here but in 477 AD this all changed thanks to a power hungry prince called Kassapa. He was born to a non royal consort and realising that his younger half brother would inherit the throne he decided to take matters into his own hands. He then tortured his father to try and find out where all the royal treasures were and when his father would not release this information, Kassapa had him 'walled up' alive and naked in his own tomb. He then seized the throne and after trying to assassinate his half brother, the  brother ran off to raise an army in India. In the next 7 years, Kassapa built this amazing palace on top of the rock. Huge 3 story palaces and fortifications were installed and not one but two swimming pools were built and a sophisticated pumping scheme used to fill these from the lake at the base of the rock.. On the front of the rock he had a huge Lion was carved and built so that anyone visiting would start at the huge paws and ascend up the near vertical walls and enter the palace via the lions mouth. Unfortunately all that remain to day are the paws and the ruins of the palace on top. At the base of the rock there are some beautifully constructed water gardens which still have working fountains all supplied with water pressure from ancient hydraulic systems. These are some of the oldest surviving gardens in Asia. There are two large moats that could be flooded is invaders decided to attack.

In 495 his brother returned from India with his army and Kassapa descended from his heavily guarded fort to engage in battle. At one stage his elephant balked at a swamp and turned aside. At this his troops thought he was retreating and broke up and ran off leaving Kassapa defenseless. His last act was to draw his dagger and slash his own throat. Well now to the climb.

This time it is $30 entrance fee. This is crippling my budget but I think that this will be my only chance to visit here I might as well fork it out. I guess it is not too common to see 3 UNESCO heritage sights in 3 days.

Its starts off with a lovely walk through the water gardens and then up a few steps to a massive boulder garden. Some more steep steps then lead up to  two metal spiral staircases that are bolted into the cliff. Once you reach the top there is a small alcove that has some amazing wall painters of topless maidens. No one really knows when they were painted but are believed to be 1500 years old,and by whom but they predate the fort. Another interesting site is a wall that is covered in graffiti dating between the 7th and 13th centuries which was written by Pilgrims and is still well preserved. There is flat area at the half way mark and this is where you enter through the lions paws. It is a fairly steep climb up steel stairs that are also bolted onto the vertical sides. It is quite amazing as they run next to the original stone cut stairs and then you realise that this is where all the building materials and everything required for the palace was transported. After an exhilarating climb with fantastic views you reach the summit and see the remains of the ruins. It must have been quite something in its day with a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside. A really amazing ancient site and well worth the climb up and down. 

On returning to my guest house I meet a fellow traveler from France and he has a bottle of Ricard ( similar to Pernod) to which we do some serious damage. All in all another good day in Sri Lanka.

Photos to follow.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address


Lu on

When I read about structures like this, and see the pictures it makes me think about "progress". What are we going to leave behind? I've just been reading about the Dead Sea Scrolls ... fascinating ... in 3000 years are people going to marvel with the same sense of wonder at our iPads?

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: