Arrived here, you already know where you are travelling next. This unmissable guide to Sigiriya Rock Fortress will take you to the best World Heritage Site preserved in Sri Lanka. Thanks to this ultimate guide to Sigiriya Rock, you get covered with all the essential travel information. Visit Sigiriya should be in the list of things to do in Sri Lanka. Take note of what to see in Sigiriya, where to stay, what don’t miss and more recommendations. Sigiriya Rock Climb is not easy, but we will prepare you at the best.
SIGIRIYA ROCK CLIMB FOR AN INCREDIBLE ADVENTURE IN SRI LANKA
Quite often you will see Sigiriya is associated with the local name “the Rock Fortress”. This ultimate guide to Sigiriya will help you to organize your next trip to this amazing and unique spot in Sri Lanka.
A 200 metres monolith rock is pop-in from nowhere in the middle of the wild Srilankan jungle. Sigiriya Rock is taking your breath for glory and power.
It is among the 7 Wonders of the World, often referred to as the eighth wonder of the World. This place is still wrapped in myths and legends that trace its presence today. The ruins of a Palace in the Clouds built in the 5th century by King Kashyapa, who ruled the area and the country in times of fear and terror.
There are many legends and myths about Sigiriya Rock, from the King in complete isolation for the external world to the relocation of the Buddhist Monks to the nearby Pidurangala Rock.
Hiking to the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress will be the greatest experience to do in Sri Lanka. This place is in the middle of a cultural site of the country and an important Buddhist holy place.
From the top of Sigiriya, you will enjoy a beautiful view of the Jungle and Minneriya National Park. Hike the top of Sigiriya Rock Fortress to understand better the greatness of this palace built up into the sky.
VISIT SIGIRIYA | THE FORTRESS IN THE CLOUDS
SIGIRIYA ROCK FORTRESS | Essential Travel Information
In this guide to Sigiriya, you will know some essential information, really important if this is your first time travelling here. You will know how much is the entrance to Sigiriya, where to stay, what to wear and when is the best time to visit Sigiriya Rock.
SIGIRIYA ROCK ENTRANCE FEE | Not cheap at all
30$ per person is the ticket entrance to Sigiriya.
To visit Sigiriya is not cheap at all. Locals are paying just 100LKR the entrance fee.
You can buy the ticket at the local office, next to the main fortress entrance. The office will open from 6:30 am to 6.00 pm. During National Holidays the site will be closed.
You can buy the ticket just at the local office, and the payment is cash only. Make sure you have cash with you, the ATM next to the office is taking a high fee for withdrawal.
Sigiriya Ticket Office: Click for directions
IS THE SIGIRIYA TICKET PRICE WORTH IT?
Sri Lanka is for sure one of the cheapest countries in the world we have travelled to. Despite that, the ticket price for Sigiriya is really overpriced.
But, let’s be clear. To be honest I have hiked Sigiriya in the morning, after a night hiking up to Pidurangala, the monolith next to Sigiriya.
I was weak and tired from the early wakeup, but I did and enjoyed it a lot. Despite that many of my friends will argue about it, because of the price. This is mostly depending on the budget you plan for your trip.
Your ticket to Sigiriya will include not only the hike up to the fortress but also the entrance to the museum and the surrounding area. This is a proper dive in the past of the country, essential to understanding traditions and cultural heritage.
Many travellers prefer to have a different view over Sigiriya and hike up Pidurangala. This has a cheap entrance of just 500 LRK (Read our guide to Pidurangala).
Pidurangala rock hike, the best sunrise of Sri Lanka
WHEN TO VISIT SIGIRIYA ROCK | BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT SIGIRIYA, SRI LANKA
The best time of the year to visit Sigiriya is in March. During the dry season in Sri Lanka which goes from late December to early April you will enjoy your visit to the ancient ruins of Sigiriya. This is the correct time to plan a trip to Sigiriya also because of visibility conditions, nonless humidity or rain.
For sure this is the best time of the year to visit the country for weather reasons, but the main landmarks are crowded. This is the busiest season for travellers, with queues up to the rock. We visited Sigiriya Rock in August and had to queue a lot to go up.
If you don’t want Sigiriya Rock to become a 2 or 3 hours climb, be ready to wake up early. An easy 1-hour Sigiriya Rock climb can become a stressful day out.
SUNSET AT SIGIRIYA
If you are wondering at what time of the day you should climb Sigiriya, we will say, after our experience at the sunset.
The ideal plan will be to hike up Pidurangala in the morning for the sunrise and be ready at the top of the opposite monolith of Sigiriya in the afternoon. Check at what time there is sunrise and sunset in Sri Lanka.
The entrance of Sigiriya is open from 7 am to 7 pm, to go up for the last entrance you have to show up at the ticket office before 5 pm when it closes.
We suggest you climb to the top of Sigiriya at the sunset for many other reasons. The site is not open for sunrise. It just opens from 7, so you will miss it because you need to calculate 1-hour climb before reaching the top. Heat and Sun are not your friends while climbing, neither crowds nor tourists. Visiting Sigiriya in the afternoon will help you to avoid crowds and also share your space with fewer people, enjoying the view more.
VISIT PIDURANGALA AT SUNRISE
If you don’t want to miss an epic view over the jungle, we suggest you hiking Pidurangala Rock. This place is basically in front of Sigiriya and is the cheapest way to see the Rock Fortress from faraway.
I have done it, driving in the night from Habarana to Pidurangala, and hiking up the rock. The ticket office, inside a Buddhist Monastery, opens at 5 am, and the hike is about 30-45 minutes. The entrance fee is just 500LKR, around 3$. Check our guide on how to climb Pidurangala Rock.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CLIMB SIGIRIYA ROCK
The way up is about a 60 minutes climb. This time relies on many factors, like weather conditions, time of the day and so many crowds. The over 1000 steps are worth to be completed, even if it means to take it longer.
While climbing Sigiriya Rock, remember that there are ways to skip crowds, avoiding to stack in the middle of stairways. We went a long way to skip the other tourists visiting the site. This was a bit harder, but you will pass by important spots of this enormous park.
Following the routes to the other attractions of the site, you will see the King Throne, Mirror Stone and Squares, and the Cobra Rock.
HOW LONG IS THE LION ROCK HIKE
As you can understand you should allow extra time to your plan, and don’t stick with the common one hour straight to climb up. You should allow you to stay at least 30 minutes to 1 hour on the top, and then another 30 minutes for your descent.
How to spend 10 days in Sri Lanka | Itinerary of Sri Lanka
HOW TO GET TO SIGIRIYA
There are many ways to reach Sigiriya from Dambulla, Colombo, Kandy, Anuradhapura or from nearby Habarana. The best and easiest ways to get to Sigiriya is from Dambulla e Habarana.
If you want more suggestions on how to include a visit to Sigiriya in your Sri Lanka Itinerary, see our guide to Sri Lanka in 10 days.
Below is the easy guide to Sigiriya from the nearby cities.
GETTING TO SIGIRIYA FROM DAMBULLA
BUS | There is a direct service from the Dambulla Main Bus Station to the entrance of Sigiriya Rock, which takes one hour. The buses are running from 6.45am to 6.00pm every half an hour.
The ticket costs around 50LKR per person and leaves you a 10 minutes walk from the Ticket office of Sigiriya.
TUK TUK | If you want to make your plan less strict on timing, you should go to Sigiriya by tuk-tuk. The most attractive way to travel in Sri Lanka is this time the most expensive. You can negotiate a deal for 1000-1500 LKR.
FROM KANDY TO SIGIRIYA
Let’s say this is not the smartest way to visit Sigiriya. Kandy is away around 2 hours and a half from Sigiriya. In the middle way, there is Dambulla, where you need to change buses in order to reach the historic site. But let’s see the details.
BUS | This is the cheapest way to get to Sigiriya from Kandy, but for sure not the smartest one. From Kandy New Bus Stands, that is in front of the main train station of Kandy, you have to take the bus direct to Dambulla. The 43-857. The route is 72 Km by bus, then in Dambulla, you have to change the bus with the one listed above.
The buses from Kandy are running every 30 minutes. For the fastest route we suggest checking for the express bus, which doesn’t stop on all the routes. The bus will cost 300LKR, around 3$ per person.
OTHER | We don’t recommend considering options like tuk tuk or train. The first because the distance is too long and it will be expensive. Don’t take the train, because you will have to travel for more than 4 hours, making at least 2 changes.
GETTING TO SIGIRIYA FROM COLOMBO
If you have just arrived in Sri Lanka and are staying in Colombo, take in consideration to move closer to Sigiriya, as Tour from Colombo. The distance between Colombo and Sigiriya is not ideal for a day trip.
To reach Sigiriya you have to spend almost your entire day travelling, changing many buses and trains, and taking expensive tuk tuk. It’s better to spend this money on accommodation in Dambulla, Habarana or Kandy.
The below details will show you why it is not recommendable to visit Sigiriya from Colombo:
BUS | From Colombo Fort you have multiple options, the bus 15, 87, 759. The ticket cost 200-300LKR, which is 2-3$. The journey will take about 6-7 hours, but allow more time because of one side road and many stops.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING SIGIRIYA ROCK FORTRESS
Below are some of the tips coming from our experience visiting Sigiriya Rock. Many travellers think that visiting a place and paying a ticket is everything’s allowed. Is well to know some good practices to observe while climbing up Sigiriya.
DO NOT DISTURB THE MONKS | UNLESS THEY WANT, THEY ARE FRIENDLY
Once to the top of Sigiriya, we discovered how the Buddhist Monks are friendly. There was a young monk on top of the rock in meditation. When he finished he was pleased to stay around and lend himself for photos.
Unfortunately many didn’t understand the way they have to interact with monks, appreciate kindness and be discreet. Bear in mind to ask if you can take a photo, and don’t be silly just shooting. They are not the attraction, and sometimes want to be left in peace.
FITNESS PREPARATION TO THE CLIMB
While I didn’t find it hard to climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Alessia neither had a few friends with problems, stopping more than once on the way to the top.
What can be hard to beat while climbing is not the hard path, but the heat and humidity? To be honest it wasn’t easy and ended up sweaty.
CARRY WITH YOU SUNCREAM, SUNGLASSES AND AN HAT
The heat is your enemy on the way up, more than the stairs. To beat it you should carry with you suncream, the risk of getting burned is high. Remember to have your sunglasses and a hat.
Drink water and remember that there is a fountain before the last stairs ramp.
PHOTOGRAPH NOT ALLOWED IN SOME PARTS
I was the only one in the group brave enough to get queuing to witness the priceless frescos. While there I have recognized some signs, one of the very important. No Photos allowed.
This area of Sigiriya Rock is really interesting and well surveilled. The signs are pretty hard to be missed (There is one every two metres).
SIGIRIYA WASPS AND MONKEYS
Have you read before that there is a fountain before the last path up to the rock? Well, it is full of wasps. Like for the photos in the whole area, there are notice warnings to don’t disturb the wasps.
It has happened that the ancient site needs to be closed for a wasps attack. I am serious. I have a fear of wasps and was carefully going around places that could be a nest. Despite that, I didn’t find any problem with wasps along the way.
While climbing Sigiriya you will see many cute monkeys. Please, behave like those animals are quiet and don’t bother you unless you do.
SIGIRIYA DRESS CODE
There is no dress code to observe in Sigiriya, despite most of the other cultures having it. This is because this site is not considered a temple or a religious site.
Despite that, it is well to dress modestly while Sri Lanka tends to be a conservative country. While men wear shirts and shorts, it is good that women wear long skirts at least to beat the heat.
A BIT OF HISTORY OF SIGIRIYA ROCK
We have started to talk about the history that made this rock a World Heritage Site. The tale starts in the 5th century from King Kashyapa I. A legend of murder and battles is behind ancient ruins and heaps of dust.
This monolith was home of Buddhist monks, often referred as the City of Gods, or Alakamandawa. All this before King Kashyapa murdered the father and exiled the brother to succeed on the throne.
Once Kashyapa, King of Sri Lanka, moved the ancient capital from Anuradhapura to the new fortress area. He restyled the area with immense gardens, an amazing palace on the top, and the imposing stairs with lion pow on the base.
All this was in preparation for a possible war against his young brother exiled in India. He tried to close himself in a fortress area. The Kingdom of Kashyapa lasted only 18 years though; The reason behind this is still a mystery.
The legend wants Kashyapa to close himself in a golden palace to escape from guilt for murdering his father. Also, the myth is that he surrounded himself with young girls not to think about his sins, and had the frescoes painted, to escape from the murder of his father even when he walked through the palace.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO AT SIGIRIYA ROCK | What to see in Sigiriya
A 3D RECONSTRUCTION OF SIGIRIYA
THE SIGIRIYA SUMMIT
This is the part most of the people are interested in, but we will assure you that all the way to the top is interesting too.
A narrow steel staircase will take you to the top, climbing like ivy to the mountain rock. If you have fear of heights you should be really brave to go to the top. It was safe to go to the top, but you barely will trust the solidity of those stairs. However, reaching the top is worth all the way up and fear.
The 360° view on the top will reward you for the 1000 and more stairs you have climbed. While it is windy up there, the heat can drain you down. Carry with you water and suncream.
LION PAW STAIRCASE
Arriving half-way to the top you will be amazed by the Lion Paw Staircase in front of you. The name Lion Rock is coming from this particular staircase. You will face two big lion paws that welcome you to the staircase way to the summit of Sigiriya Rock.
Originally the figure was complete with a giant lion heat on the top. A while ago the head collapsed, leaving only the paws today and the first part of the oldest stairs.
THE ROYAL GARDENS
A part that is often relegated to oblivion is the Royal Gardens. Despite this area being in ruins today, it is not difficult to imagine the majesty of the past.
A peaceful area with many spots where relax and stay in the shade. The terraced gardens have lovely fountains and an interesting water system, unbelievable for that time, that will leave you speechless.
THE WATER GARDENS
Once entering the Sigiriya area you will encounter the water gardens. The advanced water refreshment system of the Epoque made it possible to build a range of symmetrical pools with water games, all connected to each other.
THE FRESCOES OF SIGIRIYA | Sigiriya Damsels
The Frescoes of Sigiriya are themselves a World Heritage Site. Within the complex of Sigiriya, this particular area of the formerly royal palace is today one of the most incredible and unique attractions to visit in Sri Lanka.
Referred often as the “Sigiriya Damsels”, are 21 beautiful women painted in different positions and times of the day. You can clearly spot women with ample bosom, fruit and petals trays.
The first Damsel once you step in the narrow corridor, is the most important. The position of the hand of this woman has been used as a symbol of the Sri Lanka Tourism Board. Peace and relax symbol.
Legend wants King Kasyapa to paint his concubines to get away from the guilt for killing his father. Other stories want them as Figures of Tara, Buddhist tantric figures.
Photography is banned here to protect the frescos. Our guide warned me to don’t try to snap any photo, otherwise, they have the right to confiscate it.
THE MIRROR WALL | Or the Poem Wall
This is often an area of Sigiriya complex left behind. Once upon a time, this stone wall was so shiny that the King could see his own reflection in it, like in a mirror.
Today this rock is the leftover of visitors who passed by the site in the past before it became an attraction. On the not-shiny anymore wall you can read visitor poems, tributes and phrases, like in an older guest book.
NOTE | It is not possible to leave your own memory on the wall, don’t try to do it and respect the collectivity.
THE SIGIRIYA MUSEUM
Last but not least, the Sigiriya Museum. The costly ticket to the Sigiriya complex gives you access to the Museum of the site. This will give you more insight about Sigiriya and ancient history.
DAY TRIPS FROM SIGIRIYA | DISCOVER THE CULTURAL TRIANGLE
While you are looking to visit Sigiriya it is well to know that this place is part of the Cultural Triangle. With the closest Dambulla and Polonnaruwa, the old Capital of the Kingdom is the perfect way to explore the cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.
PIDURANGALA ROCK HIKE
Located a few kilometres away from Sigiriya there is another huge monolith looking at the valley. Pidurangala Rock is for many the cheapest way to experience Sri Lanka, compared to Sigiriya. From the summit of Pidurangala, you can enjoy the best view over the ruins of the fortress of Sigiriya and the Minneriya National Park.
This rock is opening early in the morning allowing you to hike in time for the sunrise. When the Monks were thrown out from Sigiriya, Pidurangala became their monastery. King Kasyapa offered the monks piles of gold. From that is becoming the name Pidurangala, “Aran Gala”. Today this is also referred to as the “Golden Monastery”.
We highly suggest to hike up Pidurangala for an adventurous experience in Sri Lanka.
READ | A guide to Pidurangala Hike
VISIT THE DAMBULLA ROCK CAVE TEMPLE
Another amazing landmark in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka is the Dambulla Rock Cave Temple. We suggest to book here your accommodation, or at least pass by in your tour of Sri Lanka. Dambulla is a perfect city to stay and find good accommodations. The Rock Cave Temple could be the perfect adventure to associate with a visit to Sigiriya in the afternoon.
This must-see sightseeing in Sri Lanka is another World Heritage Site for Unesco. This Buddhist complex hosts five separate caves and over 2,100 square metres of murals, with 150 Monks statues. The studies revealed that some of those can be dated back over 2,000 years ago.
You can see Sigiriya in the distance while admiring Buddha’s life chronicles painted on the stone. The entrance fee to this site is cheap compared to Sigiriya, costing 1,500LKR, which is around 8$ USD.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Location | Dambulla cave temple complex
Opening hours | 7am – 7pm every day (ticket office closes at 5pm)
Entrance Fee | LKR 1,500 – 8$ USD
Less known, but no less interesting there is Polonnaruwa, the ruins of an ancient powerful city of Sri Lanka, once the capital of the Country.
You can visit Polonnaruwa in combo with Sigiriya, while the two sites are just half an hour away from each other.
This site was built between the 10th and 12th centuries, when it was an important epicentre of the life of the country, being a commercial hub, and access and exit route for merchants and politicians. Polonnaruwa was also a site of important religious buildings that today can be explored through the ruins.
With a bit expensive entrance fee, compared to Dambulla Rock Caves, but still cheaper than Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa is an interesting site to don’t miss visiting Sri Lanka.
There are many tours taking you to Polonnaruwa, which are costly wise, making the whole offer a good deal for the value. Check those on a budget recommended tours from us below.
YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Location | Polonnaruwa
Entrance Fee | 3,750LKR – 20$
ELEPHANTS SAFARI AT MINNERIYA AND KAUDULLA NATIONAL PARK
Hands in front, Sri Lanka is well known for using Elephants in Religious Festivals and Celebrations. We were a bit reluctant to go on an Elephants Safari in the wild because we want to be sure there is no business using animals and making them suffer.
We have witnessed how the drivers and the guides are conscious of over-tourism consequences. We waited a lot in the parking space for our spot to enter in the wild park of Minneriya a few kilometres away from Sigiriya.
Sri Lanka has by far the wildest country I have seen in my life, and we were so amazed by the biodiversity we have seen in our safari. You will be taken by expert and conscious guides inside the green meadows, elephant spotting.
If you are a photography enthusiast you will be in wonderland, I was shooting with my 70-300 lens trying to spot more than just elephants. In fact, visiting Kaudulla National Park or Minneriya you would be able to see crocodiles, monkeys and even leopards, we were not lucky enough.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Where | Kaudulla National Park
DON’T TAKE ELEPHANT RIDES
We didn’t see any Elephant Rides places while visiting Sri Lanka. But unfortunately, we are aware that there are many without any scruple, threatening this amazing animal in poor conditions.
BOOK A GUIDED TOUR OF SIGIRIYA
If you want to experience the best of this part of Sri Lanka, you should book a guided tour that will help you to cut the edges. Booking a tour you will be able to have a knowledgeable guide, helping you to understand the history behind every site.
Booking a tour you will be taken to a few hidden spots. We are so glad that we take advantage of a guided tour while visiting Sigiriya. It helped us a lot to write this complete guide to visit Sigiriya for you.
Those are few suggested Tour to Sigiriya you should consider:
ESSENTIALS FOR SIGIRIYA CLIMB | WHAT YOU NEED TO TAKE WITH YOU TO SIGIRIYA
After experiencing the hot humid temperatures of Sri Lanka in August, we are happy to share with you a few tips that can make your Sigiriya climb much easier.
Those are some essentials to pack for your Sigiriya hike:
FITNESS SHOES | Honestly we are not huge fans of hiking shoes, but definitely you need fitness shoes. Comfy sneakers or trainers, while our friends will recommend hiking boots as well.
WATER | A lot of water. This is the second important thing to bring with you to your next visit to Sigiriya. Inside Sigiriya, you can’t take a bottle cap on top of yours. One more reason to be PLASTIC FREE. Please invest in a Reusable Water Bottle, we use this. If you have a bigger budget go for a water purification bottle, which allows you to refill from any water source without fearing. Check this!
SUNCREAM | My skin is used to the sun, but it was crazy. We suggested bringing with you suncream already in this post. One of our friends was completely burned by the sun. It wasn’t funny.
LIGHT TORCH | Like for Pidurangala Hike we suggest you carry a headlamp, alternatively you will use your phone torch.
CAMERA AND TRIPOD | The view from the top is insane and inspiring. We suggest you carry a camera and a tripod too. Please be aware that the hike is hard so don’t be overweight and pack just necessary things. The Tripod could be unnecessary if it is too windy, but if you have a lightweight tripod like us, it is absolutely worth it.
SUNGLASSES and a HAT | Alessia wants to never be out without sunglasses. Visiting Sigiriya, sunglasses and a hat is a must-have.
WHERE TO STAY AT SIGIRIYA
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT SRI LANKA? CHECK OUR GUIDES
SRI LANKA BACKPACKING ESSENTIALS
Backpacking the world one country at the time we have developed a way of listing what we need for each trip. From essential medicines to tools, kit and reusable stuff.
Our first trip to Sri Lanka wasn’t the same as the others, so we did a lot of preparation before. We are pretty happy on what we carried in our trip to the Pearl of Sri Lanka.
Those are our suggestions for your backpacker essentials:
Hand Sanitiser | We actually didn’t pack it but bought it at the local supermarket once in Colombo. This is essential for every trip.
Reusable water bottle | In our preparation for Sri Lanka, we ask much advice to our blogger friends who have been there before us. Everyone agrees in saying to carry a Reusable water bottle. We usually carry one of it in our daily life back in London, but because it is not suggested to drink from the tap, you can buy a filter water bottle, which allows you to refill from every water source. Check this is amazing.
Biodegradable wet wipes | Together with hand sanitiser, this is the essential kit of backpackers for every trip. You can carry with you and are low weight or buy at local supermarkets once landed. Remember to throw it away in the bins and respect the environment.
Reusable straws | Being environment friendly, and watching out for your own health, we suggest buying Iron Straws for your next trip. This allows you to drink from your own piece, clean it on the way and don’t throw away other plastic. Buy yours!
OTHER ESSENTIALS | Working more on our contents, recently we have come up with an entire list of essential kits for backpackers. This is the ideal list of things you need for the next trip to Sri Lanka.
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