the beautiful sigiriya or the lion rock How to reach the Lion Rock

Sigiriya Rock entrance tickets are $30 USD per foreigner. The ticket office is located on a side street next to the main fortress entrance. It is open from 6:30 am – 6 pm. Payment is by cash only. Reach early to avoid the crowd and insufferable heat of the day.

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How to save the entrance fee and still enjoy Sigiriya?

The steep entrance fee of the Lion Rock puts off many travelers and a lot of visitors find the site very overrated. In my opinion, Sigiriya is a one-of-a-kind spot and not to be missed in Sri Lanka. However, if your budget or interest does not make you inclined towards Sigiriya, then head over to neighbouring cheaper Pidurangala for epic views of the Lion Rock. What Pidurangala lacks in history and architecture, it makes up for stunning views. Read the Pidurangala guide here.

views from the lion rock hikeBest Time to visit the Lion Rock

The dry season from late December to early April is the best time to visit Sigiriya. Keep in mind that it is also the hottest part of the year, with peak tourist season. Expect stifling heat and large crowds.

What Time of the Day to visit Sigiriya

Sigiriya is open daily (except for official holidays) from 7 am – 7 pm. The ticket office closes at 5 pm. Most people either recommend climbing Sigiriya in the early morning or at sunset. Climbing to the top of Sigiriya in the late afternoon/evening means avoiding the harsh sunlight of the day. Crowds are at their peak in the mornings at Sigiriya and evenings are quieter. Visit the wilder and cheaper Pidurangala at sunrise for epic views of the Lion Rock and the central plains. In case you visit Sigiriya at sunset, make sure to buy the entrance ticket before 5 pm.


steps to the top of the lion rockHow long does it usually take to climb the Lion Rock

For most people with reasonable fitness, it takes around 45 minutes to one hour to reach the top of the Lion Rock. Keep approximately 3 hours to explore the site and take in its stupendous views.

What to see at Sigiriya

  • Sigiriya Museum – The hefty 30 USD Sigiriya Rock entrance fee comes with the entrance to the museum. Most travelers spend around 3 hours enjoying Sigiriya completely and the museum is worth a visit to understand the intriguing history of the monument.
  • The Royal Gardens – These are the pleasure gardens laid out at the foot of the Lion Rock. Complete with picturesque terraced gardens, lovely water fountains and features, and a number of natural boulders, the Royal Gardens is a peaceful place to get some rest. They are also believed to be the oldest landscaped gardens in the world.
  • The Water Gardens – These are a pretty network of pools, ruined pavilions, artificial streams, and islands. In the olden days, the Water Gardens were fed by an ingenious system of underwater channels and a gravity-based hydraulic system. The Water Gardens are the first to come your way once you enter the Sigiriya Lion Rock complex.
  • The Boulder Gardens – These gardens are a polar opposite of the symmetrically laid our Water Gardens. Set with narrow winding paths and scattered natural boulders of a rich tawny hue, these rocks once were a part of the monastery that pre-dates Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
  • The Sigiriya Frescoesor the Sigiriya Damsels – This is my favourite part of the Sigiriya complex. Supposedly, the most famous of Sigiriya’s attractions, Sigiriya Damsels are a series of vivid frescoes of busty, bejeweled of nymphs and royal women performing pretty chores. Photography is not allowed here.
  • The Mirror Wall – It is one of those parts of Sigiriya that are aesthetically not appealing but loaded with historical importance. The Mirror Wall was thought to be so highly polished that the king could see his own reflection there. Today, it is a gallery showcasing ancient graffiti left by the thousands of visitors visiting the Lion Rock over the centuries.
  • The Lion Platform – On this platform, two gigantic lion paws guard a narrow staircase that leads to the summit. It is also the mid-point to the top and is a great place for taking a break or photo stops.
  • The Sigiriya Summit – The climb to the summit is nerve-wracking to those with fear of heights. The narrow metal staircase nailed to the rock face leads to the flat-topped summit and the views from there are stupendous. However, there are not many architectural remnants there and the lack of impressive ruins at the summit of the Lion Rock often makes many travelers feel deflated. The views of the surrounding plains, jungles, and the Pidurangala are worth the hike up 1,000 steps.

the beautiful sigiriya or the lion rock What to carry for your Lion Rock hike

Here is a list of recommended items for your Lion Rock hike.

  • Water: Bring your own water bottle for the hike or buy it from the shop near the bus station.
  • Proper Shoes: You will be walking and climbing quite a bit, so wear comfortable trainers, sneakers or hiking boots for the hike.
  • A fully charged camera: The views from the summit of Sigiriya are epic, so don’t forget to get your camera fully charged.
  • Sun Protection Gear: I cannot recommend this enough. It can get blazing hot in Sigiriya so be prepared with a sunhat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
  • Comfortable clothes: It is hot in Sigiriya and you will be climbing. Wear comfortable clothes made of breathable fabric for extra comfort.

Would you climb all the way to the top?

Day trips from Sigiriya

  • Dambulla-Sigiriya-Polonnaruwa – If you are not visiting the Lion Rock as a day trip from Kandy, then the chances are that you are based in Dambulla. Sigiriya is a part of the ‘cultural triangle’ Sri Lanka with Dambulla and Polonnaruwa being the other two. Using Dambulla as a base, you can visit Sigiriya and the cave temples of Dambulla in one day. Use the next day to visit Polonnaruwa. The ruined city of Polonnaruwa is just an hour’s drive by tuk-tuk and I found this archaeological site to be very impressive. The UNESCO World Heritage Royal rock temple complex of Dambulla is also quite breathtaking and the site is home to some of the most beautiful frescoes in Sri Lanka.
  • Sunrise hike at Pidurangala Rock – Located only 3km from the Sigiriya Fortress, the Pidurangala Rock offers a historic cave complex, incredible views of the Lion Rock, and fewer crowds. Go there for sunrise and watch the panorama of the misty forests and villages of the vast central Sri Lankan landscapes getting bathed in golden light.
Views from the Lion Rock hike

Views from the Lion Rock hike

A lone lotus growing in one of the moats

Keep an eye on the cheeky monkeys and wild bee hives at the Lion Rock

Keep an eye on the cheeky monkeys and wild beehives at the Lion Rock

View from the top of the lion rock

View of Sigiriya’s pleasure gardens from the top

The wild surrounding flatlands of Sigiriya

Panorama from the top of the Lion Rock

Panorama from the top of the Lion Rock

One of the surviving frescoes of the celestial beauty at the Lion Rock

One of the surviving frescoes of the celestial beauty at the Lion Rock

Another fresco at Sigiriya

The resemblance to the frescoes of Ajanta caves in India is uncanny

Sigiriya or the Lion Rock is definitely worth a visit

Sigiriya or the Lion Rock is definitely worth a visit

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NOTE: In view of the security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, the updated travel advisory states that the security situation in Sri Lanka is gradually returning to normal with the lifting of curfew & restrictions on social media and the opening of schools. Foreign nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.