Sigiriya is a small town located in the North Central province of Sri Lanka. It is a popular stop for tourists on their way to Kandy. The famous Sigiriya Rock, aka Lion Rock, is the most famous attraction and thing to do in Sigiriya. But there are so many more activities to do in and around Sigiriya! We stayed for 3 days in Sigiriya and explored not only the Sigiriya and Pidurangala rock, but also did other activities. Read in this blog post all the best things to do in Sigiriya!
How to get to Sigiriya
Sigiriya is more-less located in the middle of Sri Lanka along the A6 ‘highway’. Depending on which side of the island you’re coming, these are the best options to get to Sigiriya:
- Car (Taxi or PickMe, the Sri Lankan Uber). This is the most comfortable and convenient way of traveling through Sri Lanka. However, if you’re traveling on a budget there are some great other options!
- Bus. Buses run regularly all across Sri Lanka from all major towns and cities. They are probably the cheapest option to travel through Sri Lanka. Eventually in combination with the train. Although the buses aren’t the best quality, you can get around pretty easily. Check Rome2Rio to find our more info about schedules
- (Rent) a Tuk Tuk during your time in Sri Lanka. Some travellers rent a TukTuk in Colombo to travel around Sri Lanka in a few weeks. The rent for the TukTuk is affordable when you compare it with a private car and fuel costs around $3-5 a day. There are pro’s and con’s about renting a TukTuk. They have the benefit that you can stop wherever you want. Visit places off-the-beaten-track and at your own pace. You never have to rely on anyone else and are completely free. But there are some cons. You can’t take the famous and beautiful train ride from Kandy – Ella and you can’t drive on the highway and can’t get that fast. Also, you have to deliver the TukTuk back in Colombo, otherwise there will be a huge extra fee.
We choose to combine our way of transport with a private car on some parts and the train ride from Kandy – Ella. We also rented our own car for $30 per day in Nuwara Eliya to explore the waterfalls and stunning area for 4 days.
Best time to visit Sigiriya
Sigiriya has a tropical climate with a humidity of 80% and temperatures around 31 degrees Celsius all year round. January to April is the best time to visit Sigiriya when the climate is moderate and suitable for day trips. May to August is the dry season in Sigiriya and October-December are the wettest months. We were in Sigiriya in September and had beautiful weather!
How to get around Sigiriya
The best way to get around in Sigiriya is by renting a scooter for around 2000 LKR per day. This gives you the freedom to go and stop wherever you want to! Of course it is also possible to take a TukTuk, there are plenty of them. But if you want to visit a few places during the day, you will end up cheaper with your scooter. It’s not really common to rent a scooter in Sigiriya, so you have to put in some effort to get one. But if you ask some locals or someone at the accommodation where you stay, it must be possible!
Where to stay in Sigiriya
There are some really nice home-stays in and around Sigiriya, but also some amazing luxury hotels with incredible view on the Pidurangala and Sigiriya rocks! So it completely depends on your budget and what you’re looking for. We stayed during our time in Sigiriya in Aliya Resort and Spa because we found a really good deal on booking.com!
Climb Pidurangala rock
You can’t leave Sigiriya without climbing the Pidurangala Rock! This moderate 45 minute hike is a must do, especially with sunrise or before sunset. Because you have a 360 degrees view, it doesn’t really matter which time you choose to go. In the middle of the day it will be too hot to go to the top, and with sunrise or sunset you have the best light for your pictures!
Just make sure you have a good torch or headlamp for your hike in the dark. It isn’t a tricky hike, the path is easy to follow and we’ve seen many different people do this hike. The entrance fee for Pidurangala rock is 500 rupees.
Go on a safari!
One of the best things to do in Sri Lanka is going on a safari! You can’t miss this activity! There are lots of beautiful National Parks where you can go for a safari. But it depends what kind of wildlife you want to see. The most famous National Park is Yala where you can spot Leopards (when in the right season!). But to spot many wild elephants you have to go to Kaudulla or Minneriya National Park. Both are closely located to Sigiriya. So this is a perfect one day adventure.
Read more about a safari to Minneriya National Park and the best season in this blogpost.
Climb Sigiriya rock fortress
The Sigiriya Rock fortress is one of the most valuable historical monuments of Sri Lanka. Depending on the view and experience you’re looking for, check if you want to climb Pidurangala rock and, or, the Sigiriya Rock aka Lion rock. There are pro’s and con’s about climbing Sigiriya rock. It is almost ten (!!) times more expensive (4500 Lanka rupee) than climbing the Pidurangala rock and you’re most likely with many other tourists and locals. The reason for that is, the Sigiriya Rock is an ancient rock fortress and historical and archaeological UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982. Also declared by UNESCO as the 8th Wonder of the World! So yes, it is something really special to see with your own eyes. The creators of this amazing architectural monument used unique and creative technical skills, and of course the beautiful vast landscape of the surrounded jungle is just amazing. But, on the Pidurangala rock you’ll get that same view together with a beautiful view on the Sigirya rock 🙂 And for ten times a cheaper price.. So it’s up to you!
When you’ve climbed the Sigiriya Rock, the entrance ticket to the museum is included in the ticket to climb the rock. It is very interesting to visit the museum so you’ll get more insight about what you’ve been, or will be seeing. You will learn bout the Sigiriya Rock, the history of the land, the paintings and much more!
It takes less than an hour to go through the whole museum. Of course everyone has it’s own pace. But I would say, if you have the time, visit the museum before you climb the rock. It will be much more clear for you what you will be seeing while climbing the Sigiriya Rock.
Explore the Dambulla cave temple
Another great thing to do as a day tour with Sigiriya as base is a visit to the Dambulla cave temples. Because Dambulla is a small town, you are limited in what to do there. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend staying in Dambulla, but visit the town for a day trip from Sigiriya. The Dambulla caves are unique with more than a hundred Buddha statues all perfectly carved and preserved inside of 5 individual caves. They all have their unique design and the view from the caves is beautiful! It’d worth it to visit this place and wander around the caves for some time.
Entrance fee for the caves is 1500 Lanka rupee per person.
Relax at a luxury hotel with incredible views on the rocks
In Sigiriya are some really nice hotels with amazing views on the Pidurangala and Sigiriya rock. Of course you have to have some more budget than for a guesthouse to stay in more luxury hotels. But still these hotels and resorts are affordable for around $60 per night. Some examples are:
- Sigiriya village
- Hotel Sigiriya
And if you have more budget than $60 per night:
- Sigiriya Water Garden
Go to Trincomalee for beach vibes
Travel to Trincomalee, the chill beach town on the east coast of Sri Lanka with beautiful pure white sand beaches. You can also go whale watching here, in the right season. And of course there are other awesome things to do in this laid back beach town.
Visit the ancient city Polonnaruwa
Polonnaruwa is considered as one of the best preserved historic cities in the world. Located on the east side of Sigiriya, it is one of the perfect day tours you can do in Sigiriya. Polonnaruwa is considered as one of the best preserved historical places in Sri Lanka and even in the world! It was Sri Lanka’s capital from the 11th – 13th Century. The ancient ruins are declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historic remains and archeological relic sites.
Polonnaruwa has both its ancient city, the “old town” as well as a the “new town” located about 6km away. The archaeological sites are located close to each other, so tours are easily arranged either on foot or more popular explored by bicycle.
Hot air balloon with sunrise
If you’re happy to spend your money and you’re into an unforgettable experience, go on a hot air balloon ride with sunrise over the Sigiriya jungle and rocks! The Sri Lankan ballooning season runs from November to April. A few companies operate throughout the Sigiriya area, each offering sunrise hot air balloon rides. The Hot Air Balloon ride in Sigiriya promises incredible views of Sigiriya Rock and the mountains in the distance on a clear sunny day.
Travel further south to Kandy
From Sigiriya it’s pretty easy and straight forward to travel further south to Kandy. There you can explore the city and take the famous train to Ella through the tea fields. You can also visit Knuckles Mountain Forest which is located before Kandy. You can do beautiful hikes to viewpoints and waterfalls in that area. Or maybe you want to relax in a luxury hotel after some days exploring in Sigiriya?
We stayed for 3 days in Aarunya Nature Resort and Spa with incredible views on the green valley of Knuckles Mountain Range.
More Sri Lanka travel inspiration
For more Sri Lanka inspiration, head over to these blog posts: