Climbing ancient Sigiriya (Lion Rock), a key landmark of the country’s Cultural Triangle, is an absolute-must for every Sri Lanka itinerary. It is one of only eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in the entire country, and, is an incredible example of how architecture can be integrated into a natural landscape.
At the summit of this gargantuan rock (660 ft high), formed from hardened magma, was the site of an ancient city over 1,600 years ago. Today, only a few ruins remain from the fortress of King Kashyapa’s reign.
Two monstrous lion’s paws (the Lion Gate), sculpted from the rock, served as an entrance to the palace. They are well-preserved and are located just before the last stretch of stairs, before the summit.
Things to Know
Sigiriya is open from 7 AM to 7 PM daily. Aim to get there for 7 AM, as it does become incredibly crowded (especially during peak season!). Tickets cost $30 USD for adults and $15 USD for children ages 6-12. You can only pay in Sri Lankan rupees, with the actual prices fluctuating according to these set USD prices.
Expect to spend 2-3 hours here, depending on your fitness ability (you’ll be climbing over 1,200 steps) and how long you hang around to marvel at the view below.
Wear comfortable shoes and pack a light jacket with you, as it can become wildly windy towards the top! Which, was quite refreshing, as it dried out the pools of sweat in my clothes pretty quick.
OH, right, and the wasps. Large wasp nests ominously hang all around the fortress. Could this perhaps have been one of the defence systems used by King Kashyapa? But, seriously. If you’re not into wasps, or have a severe allergy, consider if this is something you want to risk. I personally didn’t experience any problems with wasps, or see even a single one buzzing around. But, I most certainly did see a couple dozen, huge wasp nests hanging above me. You are not allowed to fly drones anywhere near the rock, in the event it accidentally crashes into one. And, according to sign, you should also be silent the entire time… you know, to avoid disturbing them.
From Habarana (read more about Habarana below), hire a tuk-tuk to take you to Sigiriya and back. The tuk-tuk driver will wait for you in the parking lot, as you explore the site. It will cost you about 1,000 Rs to 1,500 Rs ($8 to $12 CAD). If you want to tackle more sites from Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle, such as Anuradhapura, Dambulla Cave Temple, or Polonnaruwa, you can hire a tuk-tuk for a half-day or full-day tour. If you do decide to do this, be prepared for a busy day ahead! I would suggest doing Dambulla Cave Temple, as it’s fairly close to Sigiriya. But, feel free to tack on as many landmarks as you wish! You can negotiate the price for an extended journey with your driver, or have your accommodation arrange it for you.
Alternatively, if travelling in a larger group, you can hire a private car or van. Although, this will understandably cost more than a tuk-tuk.
Where to Stay
Habarana is a small city located 30 minutes by tuk-tuk from Sigiriya. It is well-situated for visiting other key points of interest from Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, and for visiting national parks to see wild elephants, such as Kaudulla National Park.
Cinnamon Lodge Habarana // $144 CAD
Starting at $144 CAD a night. Click here to check prices for your travel dates.
Elephant Watch Hut // $62 CAD
Starting at $62 CAD a night. Click here to check prices for your travel dates.
Habarana Hide Away // $23 CAD
Starting at $23 CAD a night. Click here to check prices for your travel dates.
Habarana Village by Cinnamon // $169 CAD
Starting at $169 CAD a night. Click here to check prices for your travel dates.
Mutu Village // $82 CAD
Starting at $82 CAD a night. Click here to check prices for your travel dates.
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