This is the guide I was waiting to write for so long. I’ve got the idea while talking on the phone with a friend interested in visiting Sri Lanka. His question was loud and clear, should I go for Sigiriya or Pidurangala. The question was remarkable. After a few minutes of thinking, I was sure of my answer.
We have been hiking both, Pidurangala for the sunrise and Sigiriya in the early morning. Both are considered good hiking in Asia and in Sri Lanka. It was hard but satisfying. An amazing way to start a new day, from over 200 metres above sea level and then go again on the road, climbing another monolith in the jungle to discover ancient ruins.
This guide will help you with some insight on your next trip to Sri Lanka, we have spent 10 days on an awesome itinerary. Check it out.
Sigiriya rock vs. Pidurangala rock | Which one should you hike?
What is Sigiriya Rock
This is the most famous Unesco World Heritage Site in the country. Sigiriya is today an ancient ruins site of a former Royal Palace.
The Royal Palace built on a rock over 200 metres above sea level, is today for many the 8th wonder of the world. Often called the Lion’s Rock for Lion’s paw at the entrance of the palace, was once a complete lion body with an enormous head. The ruins today are one of the most visited sites in the country, and well preserved.
Sigiriya was built by King Kassapa, who wanted to make his fortress unreachable but beautiful. The entire monolith is surrounded by amazing gardens, which are unique for the Epoque.
SIGIRIYA HIKE TIME | 2 to 3 hours Gardens and Palace Ruins included
What is Pidurangala Rock
While Sigiriya Rock is rich in history, Pidurangala Rock on the opposite side has a much more natural feel. Legend has it that the monks housed in Sigiriya were moved to Pidurangala by King Kassapa. He offered them a “pile of gold”, from which it takes the name Pidurangala in the local language. Check the intriguing history about Pidurangala.
Today the entrance to the hike of Pidurangala is by a Buddhist Temple and is the best viewpoint over Sigiriya Rock. It is becoming popular thanks to backpackers attracted here by the low entrance fee. Thanks to the 360-degrees view over the forest and jungle are taking its place as one of the most instagrammable spots in Sri Lanka.
What was fascinating to me at the most, was the hike to Pidurangala, all the way up you will be surrounded by nature and peace with an awesome landscape. I have been up for the sunrise, and it is still one of my favourites.
PIDURANGALA ROCK HIKE TIME | 45 minutes to 1 hour
Should I go for Sigiriya Rock climb or Pidurangala Rock Hike?
The choice between climbing Sigiriya or hiking Pidurangala is mostly up to you. Later in the post, we will go deeper into our analysis, now we will be happy to give you just some highlights about which is the best for us.
In the decision between two of the most significant places to visit in Sri Lanka, there are for sure budget-related reasons, the time you want to spend in the country and transportations.
To be honest, both rocks are amazing, and if you can, you should go for both. Sigiriya is amazing and unique. Above we have placed a video which will show you how this palace was built and gorgeous in ancient times.
Also, the formerly gardens are amazing to roam around. On the other side, Pidurangala is a more cosy hike. Something that will remain in your memories forever.
Making the decision to hike Pidurangala early in the morning to enjoy the sunrise over the jungle, was one of the best things in our trip, and I wish to make again the future.
Pro and Cons of Climbing Sigiriya
Despite climbing Sigiriya is something we highly suggest if you have time and budget to allocate in your trip to Sri Lanka. It is not always possible. Compared to Pidurangala, Sigiriya is easy to hike, but it is insidious. The way to the summit could be stressful because this place tends to get crowded quite often.
We suffered so much from the hot wave and humid temperature, that queuing was our last problem. You need to be prepared to climb the Lion Rock, bring water and a hat. On the other side, the top is awesome, and it was amazing to see the Pidurangala on the opposite side.
Cons and Pro of hiking Pidurangala
We often, talking with friends, associate the Pidurangala Trail to a mystic path. It was like that early in the morning while getting lost in the wild rock caves and paths. The trail is definitely not hard at all, but still a lot of steps depending on the direction you choose. There is not a fixed one, while this is a monks meditation rock.
The first trail me and my group get lost in the middle of the night. No lights and fewer signals will help you to find your way. Sigiriya is more a climb, sweating and with lack of shades points. Pidurangala is instead ideal in the early morning.
Like in the Lion’s Rock, please carry with you water and a torch to light up your way. Just the last part of this hike is hard when it becomes more a climb. There is a narrow passage between the flat part and the summit. In this part you have to climb, using your arms strength a lot.
Sunrise at Pidurangala and Sunset at Sigiriya
If you are willing to go for both Sigiriya and Pidurangala, experiencing the best of Sri Lanka, you should plan a Sunrise hike to Pidurangala and a Sunset climb to Sigiriya. You will see two faces of the same landscape from two different points of views and time of the day.
To make it happen, you have to get up early, depending on your accommodation position, and reach Pidurangala at opening time. The gate of the temple welcomes you at 5ish, every day. You will reach the top in about 1 hour depending on your fitness. Time to rest for breakfast and lunch, maybe an Elephant Safari in Minneriya National Park, close by.
The afternoon is time to climb Sigiriya for sunset. Show up at the ticket office not later than 5ish pm, it will give you plenty of time to reach the summit of Sigiriya in time for the sunset.
Adjust this itinerary depending on the daylight, check when there are the sunset and sunrise here.
YOUR BUDGET MATTERS
This is the hot topic on any trip. Budget matters. Both sites are coming at different prices. While the transport fees are almost the same, with Sigiriya obviously going slighter higher, it’s the entrance fee that varies a lot between Pidurangala and Lion Rock.
Depending on how much you budgeted for your trip you will be able to choose which of the two rocks in the Matale District you have to go for.
The entrance to Sigiriya is really high, the equivalent of 30 $ USD in the local currency, about 5800 LKR. The entrance to Pidurangala is costing a fraction of Sigiriya, 500 LKR, which is about 3$ USD.
This is one of the reasons behind the success of Pidurangala nowadays among backpackers. Pidurangala has been a hidden gem of Sri Lanka for long, but now is becoming so popular among travellers.
Going more deep in the guide on which you have to choose between Pidurangala and Sigiriya, we have to consider the hike difficulties. While we started our hike during the night, in order to be on top of Pidurangala for the sunrise, it was hard to find the right trail.
If you are considering hiking up Pidurangala Rock, you should be more prepared than what we were. I was using my phone torch to light up the path, and because of the numerous group doing the same, it was easier. The Pidurangala trail is dusty and disconnected. To be honest, my flimsy knees were painful on the way down, but I saw many hikes it up with flip flops. But they are crazy. Don’t do that.
Sigiriya on the other side is a well-maintained hike. The stairs are perfect for everybody. Sigiriya is more a stairs hike than Pidurangala. We heard people talking about wasps attacks, due to many nests in the area. We didn’t have this problem, instead, we were suffering from the heat so much.
We visited Sigiriya around 10 am in the morning and it was super hot and humid. The place was overcrowded, and to get in the fresco’s cave was a nightmare queueing close to other visitors. The way to the top of the rock, where the ruins are, was a nightmare too, on the way up and to get down as well.
Despite that we have enjoyed Sigiriya so much, it is an awesome spot, worth visiting. Carry with you a lot of water to make your hike in both sites better.
Our tips for your hikes in Sri Lanka
- Carry a lot of water
- Wear comfortable shoes, hiking boots or trainers are fine. No flip flops!
- Cover your knees and your shoulders
- If you don’t have a cover you can borrow a Sari for a donation at the temple entrance.
- Bring a torch with you
- Hike up Piduranga in group
- Wake up early and be at the top for the sunrise
- Carry a lot of water
- Wear comfortable shoes, it’s not a hike so trainers are more than enough
- Be at the ticket office at the opening time, or 2 hours before closing
- Don’t get close to the wasps
- Don’t litter on the way, travel in a sustainable way
- Organize your transportation in advance
PIDURANGALA AND SIGIRIYA OPENING/CLOSING TIME
In order to help you as much as possible in planning your next hike in Sri Lanka, those are important information to know. The ticket office of Sigiriya is opening at 7 am, so you can buy your ticket not before. Alternatively, you should book a guided tour here.
Pidurangala entrance is at 5 am, we were at the entrance really early and an old monk was welcoming us in the temple.
PIDURANGALA TEMPLES RULES
While we have said many times before in this post, Pidurangala Rock is the top of a sacred area. You have to enter a Buddhist Temple, before starting your path up to the rock.
The Pidurangala Raja Maha Viharaya needs respect, entering in the temple you have to remove your shoes, which you can wear again before starting the hike. Cover your knee and your shoulder. If you don’t have anything to cover, there is an old monk at the entrance where you can borrow a sari. Pay your respect by giving a donation.
Once you step in the Pidurangala Trail, you can remove the sari, and make yourself comfortable and ready for the hike.
How Long Does the Climb Take?
How Long Does It Take to Climb Sigiriya Rock?
Even if Sigiriya Rock is easier to climb, it was hard because of the crowds. The way to the summit took us more than 2 hours, despite our guide taking us through the other sight of the rock, like the Cobra Rock, The mirror and throne, skipping the crowds. Unlike Pidurangala, Sigiriya is not opening before 7 am, which is when people start to come to the Unesco Site. Our suggestion is to take your time to climb Sigiriya Rock and stop whenever you can and find shades.
How Long Does it Take to Climb Pidurangala Rock?
While we were climbing Pidurangala in the dark of SriLankan night, it took us longer. The hike is about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on many factors, like busy, wrong trail and wrong fitness. When I was climbing Pidurangala, despite early in the morning, there was a little queue for the last part of the hike, the narrow climb passage to the summit of Pidurangala.
The hike might also vary depending on the time of the day, weather and temperature conditions. It might take slightly longer.
THE BEST VIEW OVER THE JUNGLE
View from the top of Sigiriya Rock
A spectacular view over the jungle, but what makes this view stunning are the perfectly symmetrical gardens below. In ancient times the entrance to the Royal Palace complex was from a gardens area with fountains and ponds.
You can discover the whole 200 metres Rock, exploring the view from different points. There is the side just in front of Pidurangala Rock, or you will see the enchanting Kandy green hills, and also a giant Buddha Statue on the distance. But what also makes great this view is the conjunction between the Kaudulla National Park and the Minneriya National Park with the Elephant Corridor running in the middle of two.
Landscape from Pidurangala Rock
In my personal opinion, the view from the top of Pidurangala Rock is better than the one from Sigiriya. Don’t know if it is the wild trail, or the view itself, but was pretty happy about the landscape and the soft daylights.
The dramatic shape of the monolith of Sigiriya Rock, seen from Pidurangala is insanely beautiful. The clouds on top and around Sigiriya, make it a perfect scenario for any photography enthusiast.
From the top of Pidurangala Rock, you will enjoy the green hills, rocky mountains, grasslands and the wild jungle.
Where to stay close to Sigiriya and Pidurangala Rocks
Roo Mansala Boutique Villas | Villa with patio, near Ancient City of Sigiriya
Jetwing Vil Uyana | Luxury resort with 2 restaurants surrounded by the jungle
Sigiri Asna Nature Resort & SPA | Awesome resort with outdoor pool
Fresco Water Villa | A stunning Villa Complex surrounded by nature, ideal for longer staying
Tours of Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala
Picnic on top of Pidurangala | An awesome trekking up to the summit, with a surprising picnic with a view.
From Colombo to Sigiriya and Pidurangala | A day tour to Pidurangala and Sigiriya from Colombo. Check availability and prices.
HOW TO APPLY FOR AN ETA TO SRI LANKA
So far Sri Lanka has opened the door to travellers, giving free visas to many countries in the World. We are Italian and had the chance to apply for a free visa, but unfortunately, we requested it before that was going on and paid 35$ for our access to the country.
Generally, a Visa for Sri Lanka will give you access for 30 days to the country but is renewable two times for another 30 days each. Even if your country is on this list of free visas, you must request it. Applying for an ETA to Sri Lanka is easy, Getting a Visa for Sri Lanka is easy. Just follow the steps on the local government website.
We did apply for our ETA online and within half an hour we had it accepted. It is so easy and quick that we suggest you do it prior to your trip. There is a chance that you can do a Visa on Arrival at the airport, but obviously it will cost you a bit more, 40$ and you should queue for it.
See all our posts about Sri Lanka
ESSENTIAL THINGS TO PACK FOR YOUR TRIP TO SRI LANKA
If you are packing your bags, there are a couple of things that you need to have with you.
COMFORTABLE SHOES | Those will save your life if you are looking to hike Pidurangala and Sigiriya Rock. But also strolling around the cities.
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE | Humid and Hot could be beaten just drinking a lot. Buy a reusable water bottle in advance of your trip to Sri Lanka.
SUNCREAM | Sun will be direct and you need sun cream to don’t get burnt.
TRIPOD | Everyone loves taking pictures and sometimes with a tripod it can be easier than asking someone else. We use this!
SANITISER WIPES OR HAND SANITISER | Spending your day always around you won’t be able to wash your hands frequently and this is why you should have a hand sanitiser.
POWER BANK | Your phone battery is very important especially if you love taking pictures with your phone. So, don’t forget to pack a power bank. Check this power bank for your next trip!
CAMERA | It can be the most incredible adventure of your life. Go on a safari in Sri Lanka could be the perfect time to take back that old dusty camera you wish always to use more. This is our Camera Gear, have a look.