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Central Sri Lanka : Sigiriya
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The Lion Rock as seen from the gardens of the complex

Sigiriya is a city 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 200 metre high red stone fortress and palace ruins which are surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures. It is also renowned for its ancient paintings (frescoes), which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves in India. 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 was built by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE), who had siezed 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.

Get in

The site 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 40 LKR. Travel by tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw in local parlance) from Dambulla is between 800-1000 LKR. It is important to note that Sigiriya is located about 25 kms from Dambulla, the closest city, and it is recommended not to miss the last bus back to Dambulla at around 6:00PM.

Entry fee to the site is $15 for travellers from India and Pakistan and $30 for travellers from other nations. Travellers from India and Pakistan are required to furnish passports as proof of citizenship, and hence it is recommended that passports for all visitors be carried along.

Get around


Entrance fee to the Ancient City of Sigiriya is 3600 LKR (or 30 USD) as of March 2012. Unfortunately, the round trip tickets for the cultural triangle (50 USD) are no longer available.

There are about 750 steps up to the top of the fort. 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.

Important: Buy or take water with you before you enter the paid area. It's a long climb, and you will sweat and be very thirsty and tired. Water and drinks are not sold inside, and are available only at the "tourist exit".

On the entrance, and also bit inside, someone may ask you for a guide for 1500 LKR or even 15 USD (but 10$ is fine as well). A guide is not necessary, but may be helpful if you are traveling alone and want to make pictures, so he can help you.

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.

If you have a driver and if they 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). It is better in this case to exit via the "tourist exit".

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.

  • Sigiriya Museum. The 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. included with entrance ticket.


If you are in for a something different, you might as well climb the nearby rock at the Pidurangala Temple, about 2 km north of the Sigirya citadel. The scenery and the view is really something and well worth the effort. To get there, follow the dirt road north of the Sigirya complex for 2 km (or take a tuk-tuk, 200 LKR from the entrance) till you reach the new Pidurangala Temple. Enter the the temple terrain (do not take the stairs 200 m before the temple complex) and walk to the new building in the back on your right side. Some 50 m further on there is a rabit trail slightly bending to the right and going up, which further on will become a rocky stairway. Higher up it leads to the meditation bunks of the monks and a giant reclining Buddha Sculpture. Still further on you will reach the top of the rock which is magnificent. The scenery and the vegetation is of a rough, almost unearthly beauty and the view on the surrounding beats every postcard image you've ever seen. From there you can see the mountains of Kandy, Pollonaruwa, Anuradhapura, the rain forest and of course, Sigirya itself. Some caveats: wild elephants are roaming at night and they are not always friendly, make sure you make it back to your hotel before 6.30 pm (count about 2 hours for the climb and back). There may also be a guide: agree on a price before the climb (400-600 LKR) If you try to get rid of him, he will probably warn the monks, who will expect a contribution. Anyway, you are in for some kind of payment and the guide knows where to watch out for cobras.


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 Sigirya on the road to Inamaluwa.


It is recommended that travellers have their food and come to the complex as there aren't any eateries near the complex. There is a shack near the place where passes to the site are sold where biscuits and chips can be bought.


It is important to carry water while entering the complex. The trek to the top takes roughyl 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.


Most guesthouses clutter around the road from Sigirya to the Inamaluwa junction. Best buy in Sigirya itself is probably "Flower Inn", a family run business with 8 neat, tidy but also kitchy rooms near a garden in the back. Dinner, at 7.30, invariably rice and curry, is a great opportunity to meet fellow travellers. Prices July 2012: double room 2000 LKR, dinner 450 LKR. well worth the mony. Flower Inn, on the main road some 500 m before the way to the ruins. 066_5672197

  • The Elephant Corridor Hotel, + 94-66-2286950-51 (), [1]. All-suite luxury accommodation. From US$310.81.
  • Sigiriya Hotels, +94 (66) 22 86821-2, [2].


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