Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock), an ancient fortress, is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. People come to see this crazy 660-foot rock that juts out of the ground and dominates the skyline. Our trip here taught us that it is actually the Pidurangala Rock Hike that is the real treasure of Sigiriya.
Pidurangala Rock is located just over a kilometre away from Sigiriya and the summit is just slightly lower than that of Lion Rock. This makes it the perfect platform to get the best views of Sigiriya as the sun rises and basks it in a golden glow. To be honest, we weren’t expecting that much from our time here. It felt like one of those places that you just had to go to when you were in Sri Lanka, but Pidurangala Rock changed that for us.
Getting to Pidurangala Rock
It is really easy to take the public bus from Kandy to Sigiriya. Grab a bus to Dambulla from the main bus station which is located just behind the train station in Kandy’s city centre. The bus costs approximately 200LKR ($1.14 USD) and took around 2 hours 15 minutes. Busses leave for Dambulla every half an hour from Kandy. From Dambulla take the bus to Sigiriya for 40LKR ($0.23 USD) which took us 30 minutes.
Entrance to Pidurangala Rock
When we started to research Sigiriya we found out that the entrance fee was $30 USD per person which is absolutely nuts in Sri Lanka, where everything else is so cheap. The only other large expense during our month in Sri Lanka was our Yala National Park safari which cost us $35USD per person. We weren’t psyched at the idea of spending that much money on Sigiriya Rock. We talked to our homestay owner and she suggested we climb Pidurangala instead. The entrance fee is just 500LKR ($2.84 USD) making it a much cheaper alternative for people travelling on a tight budget in Sri Lanka.
When to Hike Pidurangala Rock
To get the best experience at the top of Pidurangala you want to be at the top for sunrise. That means setting the alarm very early, but it’s definitely worth it. At that time in the morning it is actually pretty dangerous to walk to Pidurangala due to elephants in the area so it is recommended to rent a tuk tuk. This cost us 500LKR ($2.84 USD) one way and took 10 minutes from the town centre. You will need to arrange this the day before you go. Apparently, once it is light out and later in the day, elephants aren’t as active, meaning it is safe to walk back, just not there.
What to bring
Women are requested to cover their legs and shoulders for the start of the hike, due to the Buddhist temple located near the entrance. As it can be so hot even at that hour, a sarong is a great option as you can easily remove it once you have passed the temple. Don’t worry if you forget to wear long clothes before you go as the ticket office provides scarves to help cover up. Proper footwear, bug spray and a large bottle of water are also highly recommended.
Hiking up Pidurangala Rock
The Pidurangala Rock hike should only takes around 20 minutes but it is a short and steep route. The first half of the hike is all stairs so you’ll get a good bum workout, while the second half is easier but is a bit of a bouldering experience. It isn’t too difficult but there are a couple of large boulders to climb that may require a helping hand.
Once at the top find yourself a perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
There are unreal 360 degree views from the top of the surrounding countryside and an amazing view of Sigiriya Rock. Low lying fog filled the valley below us and made for a dramatic and beautiful sunrise.
The awesome views on offer and much cheaper price have made this quite a popular place for tourists. We were surprised at how busy it was so don’t expect to have it to yourselves. We did find that the majority of people headed past the Sigiriya viewpoint and opted to watch the sun rise over the valley. As a result, the lower level just 20 feet further down from the top had almost nobody else there and unobstructed views of Sigiriya, so we chose to spend most of the sunrise there.
Once the sun has risen you can make your way back down and take in all the sights you missed climbing up in the dark, including the reclining Buddha nestled into the rocks.
Many people who come here will obviously want to climb Sigiriya Rock. To make the most of your time in Sigiriya, a lot of people actually do both hikes as there isn’t much else to do in the area. As Sigiriya Rock doesn’t open until 7am, after sunrise, it is recommended to climb Sigiriya at sunset due to the overwhelming heat during the day. This means if you’re up for it, you can do both hikes in one day. As mentioned, there isn’t a whole lot else to do here, so knocking both hikes off your list in one day can make the most of your time here.
One thing we really recommend doing while you’re here is to go to the pool at Hotel Sigiriya and lap up some luxury for a couple of hours. The view of Sigiriya from the pool is insane and you are able to swim at the pool even if you just grab a drink at the bar. The prices for drinks are extremely high but it is a small price to pay to spend the day at this amazing pool.
Where to Eat in Sigiriya
Pradeep Restaurant – A huge selection of curry and some of the best service we received in Sri Lanka. Rice and curry with roti for 400LKR ($2.27 USD) including some fruit for dessert.
Shenadi – Rice and curry with roti for just 225LKR ($1.28 USD). Crazy cheap.
Kings Food Corner – Another cheap and tasty spot for a rice and curry for just 250LKR ($1.42 USD).
Ahinsa – Good sandwiches, 400LKR ($2.27 USD), and fruit salad, 200LKR ($1.13 USD).
There isn’t a huge choice of different foods in Sigiriya but everything was super cheap.
Where to Stay in Sigiriya
We stayed at Kalana Homestay which is located in the town centre. It cost 1740LKR ($9.90 USD) per night for a large double fan room with a private bathroom. Sigiriya is quite spread out so we advise looking for a place right in town. Look for Pradeep Restaurant on Google Maps to get an idea of where the centre is.
If you are looking for something a bit more luxurious, then we suggest staying in Hotel Sigiriya. While it was out of our price range it is definitely the best place to stay in Sigiriya.
Find other great places to stay in Sigiriya here.
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We ended up having a very different experience in Sigiriya than we had expected but it also ended up being way better than we could have hoped for. The Pidurangala Rock hike was an unexpected surprise and the sunrise views of Sigiriya were absolutely outstanding.
Next stop, Trincomalee!
*Please note, prices are a reflection of our experiences while traveling Sri Lanka in March 2019 and are subject to change. Prices quoted in LKR were the exact prices we paid and USD conversions are listed for your convenience.