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Sigiriya Rock is as iconic as it gets in Sri Lanka.
Often referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder’ by locals, it’s a UNESCO world heritage site and somewhere I would highly recommend that you add to your itinerary.
If you can believe it, this rock used to act as a palace!
It was formed with Magma from an extinct volcano and since the 5th century, the royal families of King Kasyapa used to use it as a residence.
If the mystery surrounding the rock and its unique formation isn’t enough to lure you in, then the challenge of tackling it will do!
There was something so triumphant about reaching the top and when I got there, I was the only one!
Tourism has skyrocketed in Sri Lanka in recent years and this place gets thousands of tourists flocking here every month.
So, I’ve created the ultimate Sigiriya travel guide in Sri Lanka with top Sigiriya travel tips for climbing the lion rock.
This way you can make the most of your time and even, maybe, have the place to yourself!
Top Sigiriya travel tips in Sri Lanka
1. Buy your ticket at the opening time
I can’t explain the feeling of having a place like this all to yourself. It completely transforms a place from stress to yes! (haha).
Although it is a challenge to drag yourself out of your bed, it’s definitely worth it for the peaceful walk up to the top of Lions Rock.
I wasn’t even intending to do it, but after some misinformation from my hotel, I ended up getting there too early.
So, I was the first eager beaver in the queue for my ticket at 6.45 am. From here, it’s the long and steep walk to the top!
It felt so good being the first one through Lion’s Paws. Usually, this is absolutely packed.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I reached the top. Of course, I wanted amazing panoramic views of the Sri Lankan jungle from the pictures.
But, when you hear a palace, you get pretty excited. Unfortunately, most of it is in ruins now but it is interesting to imagine what it would have been like years ago.
Apparently, the lion’s paws stairway used to have a head above it which would have been epic to see. Kind of like the Sphinx in Egypt.
But, now they’ve put in a modern metal stairway.
Although I did get up there and have the place all to myself, this lasted around 5 minutes.
Just enough time to grab some Instagram photos! If you don’t care about beating the crowds, you most certainly want to beat the heat.
It gets stifling in the jungle and the walk alone will make you bathe in your own sweat! Just saying. Ticket prices for Sigiriya Rock are $30 USD per foreigner.
2. Come prepared for the arduous walk ahead
This walk was no joke.
Not only was I chased by dogs who wanted to play and monkeys who were monkeying around, I had the threat of a bee attack in the back of my mind.
There were a few hundred steps to contend with!
The walk is quite steep and depending on your fitness can take you anything from 30 minutes to an hour to reach the top.
From memory, there are a few queuing points as well to crowd control some of the ladders.
Things to pack for the Sigiriya Rock hike
As you can see from the picture above, it’s hard work. So, I would make sure that you bring the following;
- Lots of water – there are fountains on the way, but I didn’t drink the local water in Sri Lanka
- Sun cream/hat – the heat and sun are really harsh during the lunchtimes and afternoons so make sure you cover-up
- Good shoes – you’ll be climbing a lot of steps! Although it’s generally easy, I would recommend trainers.
- Your camera – for proof you made it to the top, but be warned you’ll have a red face!
3. If you’re on a budget head to Pidurangala, or just go anyway for the views
Pidurangala Rock is the perfect place to have stunning views of Sigiriya Rock.
If you’re on a budget, I’d go as far as to say skip climbing the Lions Rock altogether and just head here!
It’s honestly got a better view and it really highlights how unique the formation is within the deep Lankan jungle.
But, that’s not to say that these views don’t come with a price to pay. The walk here is actually harder than climbing Sigiriya Rock if you can believe it.
At first, it’s just some stairs through the jungle and you see these pretty cool views on the way, including the awesome sleeping Buddha below.
But then, it gets pretty crazy for the last 10 minutes or so…
Now, I read a few blog posts on this place and they all said you needed to have a ‘reasonable level of fitness‘.
But, what they didn’t say was the fact you had to transform into a parkour ninja to get to the top!
Forget stairs and forget a logical path, the last clamber to the top seems impossible.
But, with a few monkey moves and maybe some help from others, you’ll make it to the top and be greeted with the most epic view.
You can also walk around the rock to see what it has to offer but after my climb, I kind of just sat and stared at the view trying to catch my breath and get rid of my purple face haha! (Note: I did climb Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala Rock in one morning!)
Ticket prices for Pidurangula Rock are only $3 which is a fraction of Sigiriya. Best viewed at sunset.
4. Walk or cycle rather than take a rickshaw
Sigiriya is a big place and so it’s best to find a means of transport to get you around or explore it on foot.
The grounds and jungle surrounding the rock are free to walk and cycle around and there are a few trails that provide scenic views.
Most hotels in the area provide bicycle hire and there are even bicycle rental shops along the main road (Sigiriya only has one through road) for that purpose.
Auto-Rickshaws are available but I’d say use them for one-time-only journeys rather than hiring one for a whole day.
You’ll spend most of the time walking and not actually using the driver to make it worth the money.
4. See it from a different perspective
When I was walking around the area at sunset, I noticed that the sun was shining on the rock and turning the most beautiful shades of colour!
All of a sudden, I really wanted to head to a sunset point! It was a really lucky evening as due to it being a monsoon season in October, the sunsets were either rainy or dull in colour.
Most tourists head to the top of Pidurangala Rock but as I had already been through that ordeal in the morning, I decided to give it a miss.
Luckily, a rickshaw came to the rescue and showed me some pictures on his phone of a couple of sunset points so, I agreed to go and paid around $4 return.
I was so glad that I decided to head somewhere for sunset and what a view it was!
And, there was hardly anyone around. Sigiriya covers a wide area and the rock can be seen from all over.
It can be really nice sometimes to see it from a different perspective. Especially for photography.
I would highly recommend going a little off the beaten track here. It’s a wonderful experience.
6. Book a night at Zinc Journey to stay up close
There are so many options to choose from in Sigiriya to suit all types of budgets but Zinc Journey really caught my eye.
Not only was it a luxury hotel with a jaw-dropping view of the Lion’s Rock, but it was also pretty much within walking distance to the ticket booth which was ideal.
As I was there in rainy October, there would be a tropical storm almost daily in the afternoon. So, I was glad I had a beautiful haven to stay in while the madness was going on outside.
I would put on my robe, make a cup of tea, sit in the comfy bed and work on my blog or watch TV. It was lovely.
The facilities included a popular pizza restaurant, lounge, and bar.
Unfortunately, no pool but there were sunbeds in the garden if you wanted to relax.
Also, if you wanted to eat outside instead, it’s within walking distance of some of the top-rated restaurants on Tripadvisor.
The thing I found surprising for a hotel of this standard (it’s 4* but I’ve stayed in 5*’s which were worse!) was that the prices were so reasonable.
For a solo traveller, it was around £54 per night. But, always check how much tax is added to the initial room rate. In Sri Lanka, it’s 30%!!
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