Rocky Hideaway! On the rocks at Pidurangala.
Simply stunning! That’s my first impression as I step into this massive reception area of the Aliya Resort & Spa at Sigiriya. The sight ahead is incredible. The Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the Pidurangala Rock Temple are perfectly aligned in the centre of this space with the azure waters of the infinity swimming pool and lush green manicured gardens in the foreground.
On either side of the large and spacious reception hall are two artistic interpretations of the Asian elephant: one designed with steel and the other a massive close-up painting. These are just two of the numerous elephant interpretations to be found at this Resort.
Greeted with all the warmth of local traditional hospitality, I am escorted down a winding cobbled path that encircles a vast garden with trees adding to the surroundings. My chalet is one of a cluster of four. The room is well laid out with the elephant lovingly depicted in various art forms on the walls, table lamps and even the creatively twisted towels on the bed. A private terrace gives me a perfect view of the magnificent artsy life-size elephant replica that stands out in the garden beyond. And the privacy is complete. For anyone opting for a room with a difference, luxury tented rooms are set up on wooden decked platforms.
Amongst the resort’s unique features are the four dining options. The Alaka is the main restaurant with absolutely stunning views of the two rocks; the Makara serves Chinese cuisine; and the Migara has an extensive coffee shop menu. I head off to the fourth, the Nagula which is located adjacent to the unique Paddy Museum that houses an interesting collection of well preserved ploughs, rice boxes and artifacts used for harvesting rice fields over a 100 years ago.
Soft traditional music adds to this unique ambiance as a voice-over explains the historical significance and various ways in which these agricultural utensils were used. Encircling the museum is the Nagula restaurant, which serves authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. I am served scrumptious rice and curry accompanied with refreshing king coconut water.
And then, I am ready to be pampered at the Ayur Vie Spa, another aesthetically designed space. Soon I am under the spell of kneading hands and aromatic oils and enjoy 45 minutes of sheer bliss.
Invigorated, it is time to explore and having climbed the Sigiriya Rock Fortress just last week, I opt to discover the less frequented Pidurangala Temple and Rock located about a 20-minute drive from here.
Having paid a Rs. 300 entrance fee, I am directed to a nondescript path leading upwards. I climb through some beautiful, serene forest areas set amongst massive boulders and rocks, up relatively manageable stone steps and around the massive rock. In less than 30 minutes, I reach the giant 42-foot reclining Buddha statue made out of brick, clay and lime under the rock promontory.
According to historical reference, this is the largest statue designed during the Kasyapa era and despite the centuries gone past, this statue is in good condition and a sight to behold.
The history of this Rock Temple dates back to the reign of King Kasyapa (477-495AD). When the King first arrived at the Sigiriya Rock, he relocated around 500 monks therein to the Pidurangala Rock. And for this purpose, he built new dwellings and a temple.
As I climb higher and higher, the panoramic view of the 5.5 hectares surrounding this Rock is absolutely atmospheric! Across, I see the majestic Sigiriya Rock Fortress standing tall.
Back down, and a short walk from the entrance to Pidurangala is another beautiful archeological site comprising a Bodhigaraya’ (Bo tree chamber), ‘Image house’, ‘Chapter house’, ‘Dagoba’ and the meditation chamber built according to the ‘panchavasa’ model. As I wander around this site, I am deeply humbled by its historical significance and the serenity of this land.
According to stone inscriptions and archeological information, during a 1951 excavation of this site, scholars found a coal layer at this dagoba and presume this was where King Kasyapa was cremated.
Feelings overwhelmed after all this historical information and adventure into the past, I return to the Resort and as the sky turns dark, the solar lights hidden under the low ramparts of the pathways in the garden are turned on creating a wonderland of special effects.
Just recently, the Aliya Resort & Spa received the Gold Award in GREEN Rating System of New Buildings, from the Green Building Council of Sri Lanka (GBCSL) for abiding by eco friendly measures like eco huts, optimum day light utilization, proper environment management plans, landscaping with indigenous flora and fauna, the artificially created lake to store waste and storm water, a water treatment plant, utilizing grey water to sustain the landscaped gardens as well as the agro-areas, and energy efficient lighting This is a first for any hotel in the local hospitality industry and is, naturally a great honor.
All too soon, it is time to head home and I am compelled to tick off the guest comment card with five stars for service, cuisine and accommodation. This is definitely one of the nicest properties to be seen within Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle and I can certainly say, a place worth a visit.