Sigiriya (Lion Rock, Sinhalese - සීගිරිය, pronounced see-gee-REE-yah) is located in the central Matale District of the Central Province, Sri Lanka in an area dominated by a massive column of rock nearly 200 meters high. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa the site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 AD) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace were abandoned after the king's death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.
Sigiriya today is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. It is one of the best preserved examples of ancient urban planning. It is the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka.
In this region, India is home to the most inscribed sites with 28 sites. The first sites from the region were the Sagarmatha National Park and Kathmandu Valley, both in Nepal. Each year, UNESCO's World Heritage Committee may inscribe new sites on the list, or delist sites that that no longer meet the criteria. Selection is based on ten criteria: six for cultural heritage (i–vi) and four for natural heritage (vii–x). Some sites, designated "mixed sites," represent both cultural and natural heritage. In Southern Asia, there are 41 cultural, 10 natural, and no mixed sites.
The World Heritage Committee may also specify that a site is endangered, citing "conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List." Three sites in this region are currently listed as endangered, one site (Kathmandu Valley) has been listed previously and possible danger listing has been considered by UNESCO in a number of other cases.