Sigiriya: More Than Just Lion Rock
Lion Rock is one of the must-visits during your journey through Sri Lanka. You’ll find the iconic Lion Rock in the town of Sigiriya. However, beyond this world-famous attraction, Sigiriya has much more to offer, such as ancient botanical gardens, the palace, and the stunning surroundings.
Sigiriya is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The locals also call it the ‘Eighth Wonder,’ and we understand why. So, what are you waiting for? Quickly add Sigiriya to your Sri Lanka route! This article provides all the tips for visiting Sigiriya.
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What to do in Sigiriya
Lion Rock isn’t just an exceptional viewpoint; it also holds a remarkable story. 1600 years ago, a palace was constructed atop Lion Rock by King Kassapa after he murdered his own father, entombing him alive in a wall! Yep, pretty extraordinary indeed. Though his half-brother was supposed to be the successor, King Kassapa banished him to India. To safeguard his position, he decided to build the palace atop Lion Rock. However, he could enjoy it for less than 20 years as his half-brother returned with an army. King Kassapa eventually committed suicide, allowing his half-brother to become king after all. He then left for Anuradhapura, leaving the palace vacant.
Climbing Lion Rock
Amidst the ancient botanical gardens surrounded by Sri Lanka’s jungle lies the magnificent Lion Rock. You can easily ascend to the top through 1200 steps. However, it’s not cheap. Lion Rock has now become an iconic symbol of Sri Lanka and attracts numerous tourists annually, with an entry fee of about 25 euros per person. Although you can enjoy a beautiful view and admire the remnants of the palace, you do miss the iconic view of Lion Rock itself as you’re already standing on it. Hence, many people opt to climb Pidurangala Rock instead.
We also chose to skip Lion Rock and climb Pidurangala Rock instead.
Tips for Lion Rock
- Ticket costs approximately 25 euros per person.
- It gets very crowded during sunset.
- Dress appropriately.
Climb Pidurangala Rock
A few kilometers from Lion Rock, you’ll find Pidurangala Rock. This rock is almost as tall as the world-famous Lion Rock, offering a magnificent view of Lion Rock from the top. You make a small donation to climb the rock (about 2-3 euros). There are a few steps, but for the most part, it’s a natural trail upwards, occasionally involving a bit of a climb. Pidurangala is no longer an undiscovered spot, but it’s a lot quieter than Lion Rock.
Many people choose to climb the rock around sunset. However, we decided to go in the middle of the day, so unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy a beautiful sunset, but we had almost the entire rock to ourselves. On the way back down, it became incredibly crowded. We were glad to visit Pidurangala Rock at a different time.
Tips for Pidurangala Rock
- Dress appropriately, as at the foot of Pidurangala Rock, you’ll find a sacred area where you must take off your shoes in the first part and have your knees and shoulders covered. You can borrow a sarong for free at the entrance.
- You pay about 2-3 euros to climb the rock.
- During sunset, take a tuk-tuk and avoid walking in the area, as elephants are very active during this time of the day.
- Wear good shoes, as some parts involve a bit of a climb.
- It gets very crowded at the rock during sunset.
Take a Bike and Explore Sigiriya’s Surroundings
In Sigiriya, you can rent bikes at various spots, and we highly recommend it! There are several botanical gardens surrounding the Lion Rock where you can cycle around, and the area itself is beautiful. We found Sigiriya to be a quiet little village and thoroughly enjoyed cycling through it. Just make sure to park your bike somewhere during sunset. Elephants from the surrounding area are quite active during this time, so it’s advised not to cycle or walk around Lion Rock.
Also, there are often crocodiles around the water. Just so you know before you dip your toes in! ;p
Dambulla Cave Temple
We decided to book a tuk-tuk from Kandy to Sigiriya and planned several stops along the way. One of these stops was at the beautiful Dambulla Cave Temple, personally the most beautiful temple we visited in Sri Lanka and an absolute must-visit. You’ll find the Dambulla Cave Temple about half an hour’s drive from Sigiriya. As the name suggests, the temple is built within a cave and comprises five different caves housing numerous gigantic Buddha statues and stunning wall paintings. The temple dates back to the first century AD.
Not only is the temple a sight to behold, but the surroundings are also stunning. During our trip through Sri Lanka, it cost us about 1500 Sri Lankan rupees, approximately 7.5 euros.
Hotspots & food in Sigiriya
Don’t expect trendy hotspots like those in Ella in Sigiriya, but fortunately, you can find good food everywhere in Sri Lanka. These were our favorite restaurants in the area:
- Kenoli Restaurant
- Sigiriya Cool Place
- Sigiriya Wew Thawulla Restaurant
Best time to travel to Sigiriya
The best time to visit Sigiriya and Lion Rock is from January to March and December. During this period, there is little rainfall, and the temperature ranges between a high of around 31°C in March to a low of 29°C in January.
Which budget do i need in Sigiriya?
Sri Lanka, and thus Sigiriya, is a great budget destination. We visited Sigiriya for 2 nights and 3 days and spent approximately 124 euros. That’s a daily budget of 42 euros for 2 people.
|– Transport from Kandy to Sigiriya + tour
Practical information about Sigiriya
- Bring change for temple and rock entrances, as well as for a tasty snack along the way.
- The hike isn’t very strenuous, but good shoes are handy.
- Take a tuktuk to the rocks, especially during sunset when many wild elephants roam.
- Carry sunscreen; there are many open spaces in Sigiriya.
- For a tuktuk ride, it costs about 100 – 300 rupees (around 1.50 max). This is for a ride of about 5 – 15 minutes.
- They drive on the LEFT side in Sri Lanka. Don’t forget!
- Most restaurants charge an additional 10% service fee. It’s still customary to give 5 – 10% tip (depending on the food and service). It might sound like a lot, but on average, a dinner with drinks costs less than 10 euros including service charges. So, you can spare that one euro ;p
- If you want to visit a temple, consider your clothing. Both men and women should cover legs and shoulders. Get a nice sarong from somewhere and make sure you always have it with you.
What are nice places to stay in Sigiriya?
From luxurious villas to charming homestays, Sri Lanka offers it all. We booked all our accommodations during the trip, and it went really well in Sri Lanka. Many popular accommodations tend to fill up quickly, but there’s still an enormous choice available.
- € = Below 15 euros per night
- €€ = 15 – 25 euros per night
- €€€ = 25 – 50 euros per night
- €€€€ = 50 euros and more per night
How to get to Sigiriya?
Sigiriya is situated near the bustling city of Dambulla. We visited Sigiriya from Kandy. Since we wanted to explore a few places along the way, we decided to travel from Kandy to Sigiriya by tuktuk. On the way, we stopped at three different temples, including the Dambulla Cave Temple. This made the travel day not feel like a “lost” day and made the journey quite quick. Normally, it’s about a 3-4 hour drive by car, but with the tuktuk and the various stops, it took us about 6 hours.
If you want to save some costs, you can also travel from Kandy to Dambulla and then take a tuktuk from Dambulla. This way, you’ll be traveling for about 4-5 hours.