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Sigiriya Rock is perhaps the most recognised Sri Lankan landmark and is on most travellers Sri Lankan itinerary. Sigiriya Rock makes for amazing photo opportunities and is a significant statement of history in Sri Lanka.
Listed as a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site, Sigiriya Rock is one of the best-preserved examples of ancient urban planning and home to many stories of the king.
This is a guide to visiting Sigiriya Rock, covering the cost, location, transport options, what to expect from the trail, cheaper alternatives and other travel tips.
The cost of visiting Sigiriya Rock
Hiking Sigiriya Rock is not a cheap activity for any backpackers or budget travellers, costing $35 USD per person. The great thing is that if you can’t afford it, you can always opt to hike Pidurangala Rock instead.
Pidurangala Rock offers better views, but you will miss the history and culture behind Sigiriya Rock.
Hiking Sigiriya Rock
As you enter Sigiriya, you will make your way to the ticket counter to purchase your ticket. Make sure you hold onto this as you will be asked for it mulitple of times on the hike. The first section of the trail is flat and passes a number of gardens. I suggest making your way straight to the top and saving a walk around the gardens for last.
As soon as you hit the stairs, you will be climbing till the top, 1200 + stairs to be exact. Expect is to take between 30 minutes to one hour to climb the stairs to the top of Sigiriya Rock.
The trail is steep and exposed, so make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat and pack lots of water for the journey.
Once you reach the top you can explore the ancient ruins and search for the perfect photo opportunities.
Location of Sigiriya
Sigiriya is located near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, approximately 2 hours north of Kandy.
Getting to Sigiriya
I recommend visiting Sigiriya on a day trip from Kandy. Sigiriya Rock is approximately a 2 hour drive (one way) from Kandy. The cheapest option to get to Sigiriya is by bus (you can’t take the train as there is no station). Another option is to hire a driver for the day, which will cost around 6000 rupees for the return trip. Having a driver from Kandy is great because you can make it there early to beat the crowds. If you do plan to take public transport and arrive early, you may be best to stay around Sigiriya. The closest town to Sigiriya Rock is Dambulla. From Dambulla, you can easily (and cheaply) get a bus to Sigiriya Rock.
The reason I recommend a day trip from Kandy is because other than Sigiriya and Pidurangala Rock, there isn’t a lot to do around Sigiriya / Dambulla.
The final option is to book a tour to Sigiriya from Kandy.
Pidurangala Rock or Sigiriya Rock
The answer to this depends on your budget and what you want to get from a day at Sigiriya.
If you don’t want to spend the hefty $35 USD to hike Sigiriya (I don’t blame you), Pidurangala is the perfect alternative. I preferred hiking Pidurangala Rock as it was a less crowded, shaded trail and offered amazing views of Sigiriya Rock itself, not to mention the fact that it was way cheaper. Hiking Pidurangala costs approximately $5USD.
If you are interested in history and culture, then a guided tour of Sigiriya would be the best option for you.
For me, I couldn’t go all the way to Sigiriya and not hike Sigiriya so I decided to do both.
Travel tips for visiting Sigiriya
- Arrive early, it gets REALLY crowded and the track up is narrow meaning you can get stuck behind a group of people for the entire trip.
- The trail is completely exposed to wear sunscreen, a hat, and pack water and snacks. See my hiking essentials.
- Hike Sigiriya Rock AND Pidurangala Rock if you have time.
Book a tour of Sigiriya Rock
If you want an easy day trip to Sigiriya Rock, a tour is a great option. This tour includes hotel pick up and drop off from Kandy and on the day you will:
- Visit the golden-hued rock fortress of Sigiriya
- Explore the Dambulla cave temple complex
- Go to a spice garden in Matale
- Take souvenir photos of the statues of Buddha and Vishnu
Find out more about this tour here.
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