The Lion Rock (Sigiriya) is on many a bucket list for Sri Lankan tourists, and there are many reasons why. The incredible architecture, the puzzling inner workings of the citadel’s systems, and the breathtaking art it houses within it are just some of them.
But along with the citadel’s most notable attractions are its three royal gardens: the water gardens, the boulder gardens, and the terraced gardens.
As you step in through Sigiriya’s main entrance, you’ll notice the water gardens extending to the base of the rock. The first of the gardens comprises bathing pools that may tempt you to take a dip (but we’d advise you not to!). This garden was built in line with an ancient gardening layout known as ‘Charbagh’. It’s said that this Sigiriya water garden is one the oldest survivors adhering to this form. The other water garden is more free-form, with shallow streams slithering along, leading to the deep pools on either side of the garden’s path.
The boulder gardens are situated closer to the rock, and were once the foundation for the monasteries that were part of Sigiriya prior to King Kasyapa’s takeover. Numerous large boulders sit heavily along the garden, with winding routes taking you through the ruins. Though they were once the bearers of massive columns and walls, it’s believed that they were later used to crush invaders who attacked the citadel (though we can certainly appreciate their serene immobility at the present!).
Finally, we have the terraced gardens, which are actually a part of the hill that leads to the fortress. The terraces lead from the pathways of the boulder garden to the citadel’s staircases, and don’t, by definition, represent a ‘garden’, but it’s a beautiful sight regardless, with the limestone pathways bordering it.
The Royal Gardens are often less crowded compared to the rest of the fortress ruins, so if you’re looking for some tranquil sightseeing, you should definitely explore them!