Day 4 (3 of 3).
Anyone who has done travel research on Sri Lanka would probably come across the dramatic image of the Sigiriya Rock rising above pristine jungle. Appearing on many travel literature and tourist promotions, the UNESCO World Heritage hilltop fortress atop Sigiriya Rock is on most tourist’s itinerary. Climbing the nation’s most popular attraction is best done in early morning or late afternoon to avoid getting stuck with the crowds on the narrow stairways. We decided to visit the hilltop fortress early in the morning. In the late afternoon prior, we opted for climbing the lesser known Pidurangala Rock.
Rising in the jungle across from the famous Sigiriya, Pidurangala Rock has been gaining huge popularity in recent years because of the impressive view of Sigiriya it offers from the top. Some travelers even suggest that climbing Pidurangala is more worthwhile than visiting the actual Sigiriya Rock. After arriving at the village of Sigiriya from Polonnaruwa and had a quick lunch at Chooti Restaurant, we hopped on a tuk tuk to the trailhead for Pidurangala Rock.
A short tuk tuk ride took us to the trailhead in the midst of thick dense forest. The trailhead is actually located behind Pidurangala Rajamaha Viharaya, a historical Buddhist monastery at the foot of Pidurangala Rock.
The 20-minute hike up the rock was relatively easy. Near the top, we reached a large reclining Buddha. In fact, Pidurangala Rock has been occupied by Buddhist monastery since ancient times.
The tricky part of the hike came at the very top, when we had to scramble up boulders in order to reach the top.
All the sweat of hiking up was more than worthwhile when we saw the scenery of Sigiriya Rock right in front of us.
The top of Pidurangala Rock is an open plateau, a perfect spot to watch the sunset.
We could hardly see the fortress on Sigiriya from Pidurangala Rock.
The colour of Sigiriya gradually changed as the sun set.
Rice paddy fields beyond the dense forest.
Apart from hikers, a few small dogs wandered around the top of Pidurangala Rock.
We picked a spot to sit down among other tourists to watch the sunset.
Watching the sunset on Pidurangala was one of the most calming experiences we have had among other sunset watching locations we have been to around the world.
Like most visitors, we stayed till the sun was gone before descending.
It got pretty dark by the time we returned to Pidurangala Rajamaha Viharaya at the base of the plateau.
We exited the monastery and reunited with our tuk tuk driver, who had been waiting for us at the trailhead.
For dinner at Sigiriya village, we picked Kenoli, a restaurant recommended by quite a few travelers online.
The friendly restaurant owners invited us to check out their kitchen, and showed us their cooking techniques.
We ordered a chicken kottu, a popular Sri Lankan dish with chopped rotti and chicken meat to complete our eventful day.
Day 2 (5 of 5).
Since most attractions in Anurādhapura are covered by the one-day Cultural Heritage Ticket, we decided to visit the two obvious exceptions on our first day: Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, and the rock temple of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya, and leave the rest covered by the day ticket for the following day. On the east coast of Tissa Wewa, the reservoir built by King Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC, stands a group of giant granite boulders, where for the past two thousand years had been served as a small Buddhist temple, the Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya. Constructed under the reign of Devanampiya Tissa in the 3rd century BC, the vihara was used as a Buddhist monastery to the house 500 ordained children. Renovations and additions in later centuries continued to transform the temple into its current form, which is consisted of the old rock shrine, the new shrine, the lily pond, and the rock cliff on which visitors can climb atop to check out the stupa and a rock engraved footprints of the Buddha. The temple is famous for its stone carvings, but unfortunately much of the complex, including the small museum, was under renovation during our visit.
From Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, we followed Google Map and walked towards Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya. On our way, we passed Dakkhina Stupa, a brick stupa constructed in the 2nd century BC.
Unlike the ancient stupas in town, Sandahiru Seya near Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya is in fact a modern construction commissioned by President Rajapaksa in 2010. Once completed, the modern stupa will reach a height of 85m. Slow funding and construction means Sandahiru Seya won’t be completed anytime soon.
Near the entrance of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya, we passed by the Buddhist monastery Sri Sarananda Maha Pirivena.
Beyond a bridge over a beautiful lotus pond, we arrived at the entrance of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya.
Lotus ponds are common all over Sri Lanka.
It was almost sunset when we reached the magnificent rock temple. Just like the shrine of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, we had to take off our shoes before entering the compound of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya.
Set in front the backdrop of granite boulders, the Isurumuniya Temple and the adjacent pond are the most prominent features in the complex.
Splendid stone carving of Isurumuniya Rajamaha Viharaya is one of the main reason why foreign visitors come.
The shrine of Isurumuniya Temple contains a Buddhist image behind glass.
Unfortunately the small museum on site was closed for renovation. We left the temple and walked over to the stair at the back side.
Behind the Isurumuniya Temple, a series of steps led us to the top of the granite boulders.
Top top of the boulders is dominated by a stupa and rocks with carvings.
The white stupa is actually a relatively recent addition to the complex.
Late afternoon sun cast a peaceful aura onto the stupa.
At the top, ancient carvings, including a pair of Buddha’s footprints.
What seems to be a designated area of money offerings at the top.
Looking down, we could see the pond and more incoming visitors.
Behind us to the west, the sun sett over the peaceful reservior Tissa Wewa. It was time for us to head back to the hotel for a Sri Lanka supper to conclude the day.