Sigiriya is the ancient town located in the Matale District, also known as Simhagiri. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Also, it’s one of the most visited historical places in Sri Lanka. It has a great historical and cultural value for the entire country. A long time ago, during the 5th century, it was a capital of the kingdom ruled by King Kasayupa, on his own demand. Later on, it became an important religious place, where Buddhists established a monastery.
Sites in Sigiriya
The Gardens of Sigiriya
If you visit Sigiriya, you should not miss the breathtaking gardens:
- The Water Gardens. These consist of three spectacular gardens. One of them resembles an island, with the water hooping the plot. Another one has two water basins in the center. The third one has an incredible octagonal pool. The third one is the highest of all of them. You will be impressed by the charming scenery.
- The Boulder Gardens. They spread towards the foot of Sigiriya rock. The rock is famous for its role during the wars. A long time ago, they were an important part of the defense system, with the pavilions ascending above them.
- The Terraced Gardens. These gardens surround the Sigiriya rock. They are the extension of the boulder gardens in the direction of the rock. Also, they provide a path to the lion staircase.
The Citadel of Sigiriya
The fortress was built of red stone and it rises above the flat land of the city. It’s abundant with the gardens and remains of various historical structures and 200 meters tall. During the history, the rock of Sigiriya which is a part of this historical complex has been a Buddhist monastery and the king Kashyapa palace. That’s why it has the remnants numerous defensive structures, frescoes, impressive gateways, and gardens.
The Pidurangala caves, monastery, and rock
Being the product of the volcanic activity, Pidurangala represents an enormous rock formation not far away from Sigiriya. The caves in the surrounding area were the place where the monks lived during a long period, especially in the time when King Kasyapa decided to move them from Sigiriya into this area.
The easiest way to approach the town of Sigiriya is to take a bus from the 25-kilometer away city of Dambulla, which transports the passengers every 30 minutes, every day. The line is active from 6.30 AM to 6.00 PM and the ticket costs LKR 40.
Tuk-tuk is also a great way of traveling to Sigiriya from Dambulla, although it is a more expensive option – you may pay from LKR 800 to LKR 1000.
If you are visiting another city in Sri Lanka but you want to explore this area, you should know that you can easily reach Dambulla from Kandy, Trincomalee, and Jaffna.
You can easily explore the city by walking but if you need transportation, tuk-tuk is the best option but be careful and ask for the price of the ride before entering the vehicle. Otherwise, you may have to argue with the driver asking for an unreasonable amount of money.
The climate of Sigiriya is mostly dry, which makes it a great travel destination throughout the entire year. However, you may want to avoid it during November and December because of the excessive rainfalls. The highest temperatures are registered during June and July and these months are also known for hot strong winds.
Eat and Drink
In the area of Sigiriya, you can find some pretty nice places to eat at and it won’t cost you much, no matter whether you are looking for Sri Lankan or international food. If you want to have both a meal and a view, you can choose between New Sigiriya Cafe and Chooty. They provide a beautiful view of Lion Rock. If you don’t mind a tuk-tuk ride, you can also have a beer in a beer shop near the town.
Things to Do
Visit Sigiriya Museum and learn about the history of Sigiriya
Visiting Sigiriya Museum is a pretty wise thing to do before moving on to the other sites of the town because it will provide you with some useful information that’ll make you have a better understanding of the historical importance of the greatest attractions of Sigiriya. Good thing is that if you buy a ticket for the Lions Rock visit, you will be able to use the same ticket when entering the museum – it is included in the price.
Climb all the way to the Citadel of Sigiriya (Lions Rock) and check out the Apsara paintings from the 5th century
Conquering the hill and walking down usually doesn’t last longer than 2 hours, and the exploration of the area may last for an hour. Note that entering the area should be paid (meaning you’ll need to buy a ticket) and that you can get a guide for USD 10 to 15 (although it is not necessary). Before climbing, be sure to get some water before entering the paid zone – you may get thirsty and there are no places where you can get some while climbing. Here you can get some souvenirs as well. The best part of the day to enjoy the beauty of the area is the early morning! Don’t miss the Cobra Head and the Mirror Wall.
Ride an Elephant and Explore the Nature
When your visit to Lions Rock comes to its end, you may be thrilled to take an elephant ride through the lily lake, exploring the wide variety of species living in this area, starting with birds and monkeys, all the way to water buffalos. The price of the ride is about USD25 but you’ll see it’s definitely worth it. People working there will take some photos of you and provide you with the valuable memories.
Experience the View from Pidurangala Rock
Pidurangala rock is probably the place that offers the best view of Sigiriya, letting you enjoy the magnificent view of surrounding area, such as the rain forest, Anuradhapura, Pollonaruwa, and Kandy. Located only one kilometer north from the Sigiriya citadel, it is easily approachable by a tuk-tuk which may cost around LKR200. Even though it is a bit more difficult to reach the top of the rock when compared to Sigiriya, the stunning view is definitely worth it.
Things to Carry
- Sun protection, sunglasses, hat, and light clothing are obligatory items because of the temperature going up to 35º
- Tracksuit and rubber shoes which will make your climbing experience way easier.
When it comes to accommodation in Sigiriya, some of the best places to stay in are Cinnamon Lodge, Hotel Sigiriya, and Elephant Corridor Hotel.
Being one of the ancient and therefore, historically most important centers of Sri Lanka, the city of Sigiriya will make you experience the rich and turbulent history of the country all over again providing you some really admirable places – not only the cultural and religious ones but the recreational ones as well. These facts make Sigiriya one of the most popular places on tourist routes in Sri Lanka that should not be skipped.