Sigiriya is located in the Matale District in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. It is located within the cultural triangle formed by Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, which includes five of the eight world heritage sites in Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya is famous for its palace ruins on top of a massive 200 meter high rock surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures. The rock itself is a lava plug left over from an ancient long extinct volcano. It is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescoes), which are similar to those found at Ajanta Caves in India. It is generally agreed, however, that the Sigiriya Frescoes exhibit a uniquely Sri Lankan style.
Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees of the Buddhist Sangha.
The complex surrounding the famous rock was built by King Kasyapa (477–495 CE), who had seized power from the rightful heir, Moggallana, who fled to South India. Fearing an attack from Moggallana, Kashyapa moved the capital and his residence from the traditional capital of Anuradhapura to the more secure Sigiriya. Most of the elaborate constructions on the rock summit and around it, including defensive structures, palaces, and gardens, date back to this period. Kashyapa was defeated in 495 CE by Moggallana, who moved the capital again to Anuradhapura. Sigiriya was then turned back into a Buddhist monastery, which lasted until the 13th or 14th century.
Understand also that, even though Sigiriya is maybe the most famous tourist attraction in Sri Lanka, and must have been a truly amazing place in the past, right now the ruins are only the two-brick-tall foundations of the palace walls; absolutely nothing remains standing. You are not allowed to take pictures of the frescoes, which are the most interesting part of the visit. The "mirror wall" is barely shiny in just two small spots, and apart from the ones near the beginning, the graffiti are just modern vandalization scratches on the wall.
Sigiriya is connected to the city of Dambulla by a regular bus service. These buses run between 6:30AM to 6:00PM every day at intervals of 30 minutes and cost LKR45 (Apr 2018). Travel by tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw in local parlance) from Dambulla is LKR400-1000. It is important to note that Sigiriya is located about 25 km from Dambulla, the closest city, and it is recommended not to miss the last bus back to Dambulla at around 6:00PM in case you are not staying at Sigiriya itself.
Dambulla is served by most cities like Kandy, Jaffna and Trincomalee.
Getting into Sirigiya rock will set you back an eye-watering LKR5430 (30USD, you can pay in either currency). If you are on a budget, just skip it, and just go north to the other rock temple called Pidurangala, which costs 500lkr and allows you to climb to the top, from which you will have amazing views of Sigiriya. Nevertheless, Pidurangala can't compare to Sigiriya, it totally lacks the paintings, gardens, lion paws, boulder gardens, etc you will see at Sigiriya. The ticket office for Sigiriya is cash only and about a hundred yards before the first ticket check inside the museum.
Air Taxi Cinnamon Air Cinnamon Air is a domestic air travel service in Sri Lanka that opereates daily scheduled flights to Sigiriya from Colombo. The destination can be reached within 30 minutes. One-way fare per person is listed as USD 199 (without tax).
Walking is probably the best option if you want to explore Sigiriya, its citadel and Pidurangala. In case you need a tuk-tuk, always agree on a reasonable price before entering.
- Sigiriya citadel. There are about 1200 steps or 200m up to the summit. You can probably walk up to the top and down again in 1.5-2 hours. If you are a completist, you might spend an additional 30-60 minutes exploring the various nooks and crannies in the gardens. Sarong is not necessary.
Important: Buy or take water with you before you enter the paid area. It's a long climb, and you will sweat and become very thirsty. Water and drinks are not sold inside, and are available only at the "tourist exit". Due to the length of the climb, also take a hat for protection against the sun. To avoid the heat, get as early a start as possible and head straight for the rock.
Biscuits and chips can be bought in the shack near the place where passes to the site are sold.
On the entrance, and also a bit inside, someone may offer his help as a guide for LKR1500 or even USD15, but probably also LKR1000 is fine depending on your bargaining skills. A guide is not necessary, but may be helpful if you are traveling alone and want to make pictures of yourself.
You can exit the paid area via the main entrance (the way you came in) or via the "tourist exit" that leads to souvenir stands and the tourist parking lot. The tourist parking lot is located on the south side of the site, with the road there from the main entrance going along the inner moat.
If you have a driver and if he agreed to meet you in the tourist parking lot, be aware that it is a long walk from the main entrance to the tourist parking lot (if you choose to exit that way), and when you get there, the parking lot guard may hassle you about re-entering the monument (at the very least, he will demand to see your ticket). You can also call your driver to pick you up at the gate or the guard might offer to do it. It is better in this case to exit via the "tourist exit". Sigiriya Museum shows photos of the excavation of Sigiriya, reproductions of the frescoes, examples and translations of some of the graffiti on the Mirror Wall, and artifacts excavated from the site. You can probably view the museum in about 1 hour. Since the museum is outside the main entrance, and nowhere near the tourist parking lot, you may want to visit the museum before you enter the paid area. The entrance to the museum is included in the ticket. LKR5430, Visitors from SAARC countries pay half. edit
- Pidurangala (Cave, Temple & Rock). A little less overpriced than the famous lion rock is this interesting alternative. Pidurangala rock is almost as high as its famous neighbor and provides a pleasant view onto its sibling as well as the surrounding area, which beats every postcard image you've ever seen. The scenery and the view is really something and well worth the effort, and the vegetation is of a rough, almost unearthly beauty. From there you can also see the mountains of Kandy, Pollonaruwa, Anuradhapura, and the rain forest.
The Pidurangala Temple, which is the entrance to the rock, is about 1 km north of the Sigiriyda citadel. Alternatively, a tuk-tuk is LKR200 from the Sigiriya citadel entrance. Enter the temple terrain and walk to the new building in the back. 500 LKR donation/entrance for the rock. The trail starts to the right and going up. Further on this will become a rocky stairway also leading to the meditation bunks of the monks. Just a After the Buddha follow the arrows to get to the top.
View of Sigiriya rock from Pidurangala Top
Sigiriya rock, its complex and Pidurangala are the main attractions in Sigiriya. In addition, the Elephant Corridor Hotel offers tours from LKR2000 into the nature surrounding Sigiriya. Also, you might also just ask the friendly tuk-tuk drivers what else there is to do here, they will most certainly come up with some idea.
- Sigiriya Rock is the main attraction, one of the most famous sites in Sri Lanka. Entrance costs 4800 per person
- Pidurangala: this rock is located ~1-2km from the Sigiriya rock and offers nice views over Sigiriya rock. Entrance costs 500 per person. Take a tuk tuk or cycle to the entrance, from where you need to hike up for 30 minutes. The 20 first minutes are easy stairs. The last part is a bit more complicated through some rocks, easily feasible for most people but not necessarily the best idea for young kids or older/unfit people. Take water as there isn't any on the way. If you go or up before sunrise or after sunset, take a light as the way is very dark.
There are some very expensive batik shops on the road to Inamaluwa and Dambulla. If you need cash, there is an ATM at Kibissa, 2 km from Sigiriya on the road to Inamaluwa.
If you are staying at the guest-houses near the lion rock, there are a number of restaurants. Ahinsa Hotel is a good spot to meet other travelers. Chooty Hotel Restaurant and the New Sigiriya Cafe are on the other side of the street. All have good meals, Sri Lankan and western, at reasonably cheap prices. There is a great view of Lion Rock at the back of the Chooty.
If staying at the guest-houses in Sigiriya and want a beer, there is a beer shop just out of town. A tuk-tuk ride there and back is about LKR100. If you get a receipt, your guest house should let you keep them in their fridge. The local cafes might be able to help if you ask nicely.
Some guesthouses clutter around the road from Sigiriya to the Inamaluwa junction. The choice for budget accommodation in Sigiriya itself is limited but available. Alternatively, just have a look at Google maps. Following the road from Sigiriya to Dambulla you will find plenty of accommodation and referring links. Although the budget options will probably have no website or link.
- Hotel Sigiriya, ☎ +94 66 2 286822 ([email protected]), . Located under the shadow of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, within the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Sigiriya Nature Reserve and in the heart of the Cultural Triangle - Hotel Sigiriya is the perfect vantage point for travellers looking to step back in time. The rustic "one-with-nature" feel of the hotel is brought to life by the Resident Naturalist who will walk you through the bird trails, through the jungle or when you safari through the National Parks; all in close proximity to see the magnificent elephants in their natural habitat. $54. edit
- Sigiriya Village hotel, ☎ +94 66 22 86 803, . The other hotel of the first generation of buildings, very near to the rock. Built as a huge garden full of trees and wildlife, and the rooms as spacious bungalows placed all over the garden. Also with large pool. From USD 50/night. edit
- Flower Inn, ☎ +94 66 5672197. A family run business with 8 neat, tidy and kitschy rooms near a garden in the back well worth the money. Dinner at 7.30, invariably rice and curry, is a great opportunity to meet fellow travelers. Dinner is LKR450. It is located on the main road some 500 m before the sandy road to the ruins. LKR1800-3000 double room wo/with a/c. edit
- Nilmini Lodge, ([email protected]). Across the road from the Flower Inn, Nilmini has good clean rooms in a garden setting. Friendly family run place and walking distance to the lion rock. Breakfast is LKR300. Cafes and grocery are near by. LKR1800-2500 (2014). edit
- Sigiriya Paradise Inn Guest House, 125/D Kayanwala Road, 21120 Sigiriya, Srí Lanka, ☎ (+94) 072 433 7890 ([email protected]iyaparadiseinn.com). Clean, new guest house with friendly staff and free wifi. Excellent food. US$35 (double) US$62 (5-bed family room). edit
- Lion Lodge, ☎ +94 71 4793131, . Clean, quiet guest house with free wifi set back away from the main road. Aji is very friendly and will do his best to make your stay comfortable. He'll even loan you his bike and give you empty bottles for a Lion beer run which is 1 km away. There's a sign on the main road into the small town as you head east (past the park entrance). From LKR2000. edit
- The Elephant Corridor Hotel, ☎ +94 66 2286950 51 ([email protected]), . All-suite luxury accommodation. From US$ 310.81. edit
- Sigiriya Hotels, ☎ +94 66 22 86821 2, . edit
- Lal Homestay (Lal Home Stay), 209 Ehelagala, Sigiriya, ☎ +94 777 045386 ([email protected]), . Comfortable friendly family homestay only 10 minutes walk from the beautiful Sigiriya rock. A warm welcome guaranteed with delicious food too. From LKR2000. edit
- Sigiri Lodge (sigiriya), main street,Pothana,Sigiriya (from Sigiriya to Dambulla main street), ☎ +94778443304. checkin: 11.00-22.00; checkout: 6.30-10.30. Sigiri lodge is 5 minute drive to Sigiriya loin rock. Very quite place off from city by bus road $30-45. edit
- Aliya Resort & Spa, Audangawa, Sigiriya, ☎ +94 066 2040444 ([email protected]), . Located in close proximity to World Heritage Sigiriya Rock Fortress, This mid range Resort offers Unique variety of accommodation options, Spas and Excursions. The resort consists of deluxe rooms, deluxe rooms with attic, wooden chalets and suites. edit
- Jetwing Vil Uyana, Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, ☎ +94 114 709 400, . Jetwing Vil Uyana is located in a city with a lot of cultural and Sri Lankan history embedded in it. Rates vary from LKR20000 to LKR28000 edit
- Water Garden Sigiriya, Water Garden Sigiriya Indigaswewa, Sigiriya, ☎ ++94 66 493 3000, . Water Garden Sigiriya has ushered in a new chapter of dynamic and novel experiences in unsurpassed luxury. It is a unique boutique hotel in Sigiriya Sri Lanka that gives convenient access to the Cultural Triangle. The guests can soak up legendary beauty with fascinating landscapes and scenery. Natural seclusion and modern comforts offer an unparalleled authentic private haven at an enchanting getaway with remarkable experiences. edit
- Sigiriya Jungles, Audangawa Road, Kimbissa, Sigiriya 21122, ☎ 0114 508 508, . Overlooking an iconic rock fortress, Sigiriya Jungles is set amidst lush green landscapes and is an ideal Sigiriya hotel from which to discover the Cultural Triangle. $ 85 upwards per night. (7.9518,80.7426) edit
- Cinnamon Lodge Habarana, PO Box 02, Habarana (From Colombo - 176KM), ☎ +94 662270011 ([email protected], fax: +94 662270012), . checkin: 2pm; checkout: 12pm. Offers rooms with a private balcony and features a large outdoor pool, a butterfly garden and 3 dining options. Starting from USD 86. (8.034794,80.748855) edit
- Habarana Village by Cinnamon, Habarana, Sri Lanka (From Colombo - 176KM), ☎ +94 0662270047 ([email protected], fax: +94 662270012), . checkin: 2pm; checkout: 12pm. A 15-minute drive from Minneriya National Park and features an outdoor pool and facilities for tennis, volleyball and badminton. Starting from USD 69. (8.036825,80.749996) edit
Wild elephants roam around at night and they are not friendly. Every year there are fatal accidents and incidents involving elephants. Make sure you make it back to your guest-house or hotel before 6.30PM.
Wild bees have their nests next to the last stairway before you reach the top of the rock. (Black spots in the rock) These bees can attack people when they feel disturbed, and they will usually attack as a swarm making it pretty dangerous. They are disturbed by loud behavior. If you are on the plateau in front of the stairway during a bee attack go into the provided cage as soon as possible. If you are on the top of the rock during an attack run away from the stairway and go to windy places at the rocks edge as no protection cage is placed there. Avoid the vicinity of other people who seem to be followed by a couple of bees. Do not try to leave the rock until the bees have calmed down even if you see other people trying to do so. If you are on the stairway during a bee attack, you are in a bad situation, so try to avoid climbing these stairs when there are loud travel groups such as teenagers or local school kids around.
When visiting the Sigiriya citadel and rock it is important to carry enough water. The trek to the summit takes roughly 45 minutes from the entrance and there is no place to buy water inside the complex. There is a small shack that sells water, soft drinks and ginger beer near the place where passes to the site are sold.
There are seldom but direct buses from here to Habarana. The better choice is going back to the Inamaluwa junction (LKR25) and taking a bus from there.
Generally, all directions are served from the Inamaluwa junction or Dambulla itself. Try to catch a bus before 7PM to make sure you will reach your destination the same day.