Sri Lanka is Not Just a Stepping Stone
The Pearl of the Indian Ocean

Navigate the Reports


Pineapple for breakfast
(Click on any photo or map for a blow up)

Most yachts appear to bypass Sri Lanka without stopping. The harbour has a bad reputation (dirty, ricketty pontoons, rampant bribary etc) and the clearence fees are quite high. I am glad we stopped - Lanka was a pleasant surprise.

I have to confess I knew very little of Sri Lanka before. And I don't remember reading about Sigiriya either although, in my opinion, this would classify as one of the real wonders of the world. It reminded me a lot of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Rising 200 metres from the plain, the physical presence of Sigiriya is matched only by the enormity of the engineering undertaken by its creator. The summit of this almost unaccessible rock was the unlikely setting for a courtly paradise of elegant pavilions set amid gardens and pools. (citation from Insight Guides). In around 500 AD the rock was transformed into an immense recumbent lion by the addition of a brick-built head and foreparts, of which only the paws remain.

The Lion Rock Palace - an unlikely place
The Lion Rock seen from the Water Gardens
The rock is 200 metres hig.
Looking from the top, in the opposite
direction of the photo on the left
We joined friends from Finland on a trip to Sigiriya. Here we are getting a briefing from our giude

There are about 1,200 steps to climb. The photo below (left) shows the first part of the ascent.

The first part of the climb
The lion's platform on the north face.
Originally the whole cliff may have looked
something like the picture below.
Stairs from the plateau to the top.
The original stairs were inside the
head of the lion.

There is a half-way stage on a plateau on the northern side (middle photo above), where two lion paws are all that remain of the giant animal that gave the rock its name. The photo on the left (below) shows how it looks today, the photo in the middle (below) is an artists impression of how it could have looked 1,500 years ago.

The entrance to the top was originally
through the lion's mouth ..
.. which may have looked like this.
An Olympic sized swimming pool on the summit

1,600 year old frescos, of which only
18 remain. The monks who lived here
for a while destroyed several hundred
- probably the motive disturbed meditation!
High Five - 1,202 steps - I did it!
Cobra Head rock

We did two long tours by car, the first was to Sigiriya and the second to places in the Hill Country. The second tour started with a visit to an Elephant Orpanage.

Our guide Prasad with family
Malla started peeling the bananas, and the
elephants grew impatient
At the Elephant Orphanage

Visiting a tea factory

Malla is getting a herbal massage

The Hill Country is a world apart from the rest of Sri Lanka (or Lanka as the locals say). The slopes are blanketed in swathes of green tea bushes and waterfalls plunge over sheer cliffs into narrow valleys. On the way we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Peradeniya and were introduced to cultivation of herbal medicines at a Spice Grove near Kandy.

Mackwood's tea plantation in the Hill Country

Lanka has many faces, which we realised very quickly. This is a place where we could have spent a much longer time, but unfortunately we only had a week.

This photo is not from Cuba
Who said monks are not vain? This mobile
phone is tuned to the color of the robe!
Fishing kayak returning

Look at these and several more photos in this PHOTO GALLERY

Some external links: Sigiriya Wikipedia and