Sigiriya is a village in the middle of Sri Lanka and its biggest attraction is the Sigiriya Rock. This is a huge rock which, like six other sights in Sri Lanka, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There are two other popular destinations close to Sigiriya, namely Dambulla and Polonnaruwa. Both places are easy to visit from Sigiriya.
We stayed two nights in this nice town, in The Courtyard Villa.
Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock)
The Sigiriya Rock, also called Lion Rock, is one of the most famous sights of Sri Lanka. It is a large rock with a palace on top of it, which was built by King Kassapa I. The complex is 1,600 years old and is surrounded by gardens and canals. At the bottom of the rock, there are two huge lion legs and in the past, you could also see a lion head on the first floor. Hence the name Lion Rock! Unfortunately, the lion’s head has been demolished and now only the legs remain.
We didn’t climb this rock ourselves. The price to climb the Sigiriya Rock is approximately $ 30 per person and it is very crowded. We visited Sri Lanka in the low season and even then people walked up the rock in a traffic jam. Another option, which we opted for, is to climb Pidurangala Rock. This rock is about two kilometers away from the Sigiriya Rock and from the top of Pidurangala Rock you’ll have a beautiful view over the Sigiriya Rock.
As I told you above, we chose to climb the Pidurangala Rock. Although it’s cool to see the complex on top of Sigiriya Rock, you won’t get a view of the rock itself. However, you do get this view from Pidurangala Rock, because this rock is about the same height. The Pidurangala Rock is also a lot less crowded, allowing you to enjoy the surroundings and the view more.
The climb to the top takes about 20 minutes. At the start, you can follow the stairs to the top, but at some point this path is gone. Then you have to climb and clamber over huge stones to get there. Although there is no clear path, it was not difficult to find the way up. On the way you also come across a huge lying Buddha. On the top you are rewarded with a beautiful view! The rock is surrounded by green forests and provides a fantastic view over the Sigiriya Rock. You can climb up from the first plateau. This allows you to get to the other side of the rock and enjoy the view on this side.
The entrance fee for climbing the Pidurangala Rock is approximately $ 3. Quite the difference compared to Lion Rock!
Golden Temple – Dambulla
About 30 minutes’ drive from Sigiriya you’ll find Dambulla, a small town mainly known for the Golden Temple. The Golden Temple is also a World Heritage Site, just like Sigiriya Rock. We visited the Golden Temple in combination with the Cave Temple. We took a tuktuk from Sigiriya and paid 1,500 rupees.
The Golden Temple is a complex of historic Buddhist buildings. The enormous golden Buddha on the roof of one of the buildings is striking. The Golden Temple can be visited for free.
Note: Watch out for your stuff, because there are a lot of cheeky monkeys around here!
Cave Temple – Dambulla
The Cave Temple is within walking distance of the Golden Temple. However, according to our tuktuk driver it was better to climb to the other side of the complex, so he brought us here. From this point you have to walk up a lot of stairs before you reach the entrance. The Cave Temple is at an altitude of 160 meters! Once upstairs, you first have to take off your shoes and hand them over. You can pick them up after your visit. The cost for storage is 25 rupees per person. We paid 1,500 rupees entrance fee per person.
The Cave Temple is a complex that consists of 5 caves, containing all kinds of statues, pictures and murals of Buddha. Quite remarkable to see.
Note: It is forbidden to take pictures where you pose with a Buddha. So please don’t do this. This doesn’t only apply to this temple!
Spotting Elephants in Kaudulla National Park
Do you want to spot elephants in Sri Lanka? Then Kaudulla National Park or Minneriya National Park is the place to be! We were in doubt if we wanted to do a safari in Kaudulla Park, because we’d already visited Yala National Park. Because we had some time left in Sigiriya, we decided to go anyway. We booked a last-minute private tour including jeep, driver and guide via our accommodation. This was about 6,000 rupees per person, but it was definitely worth it! Kaudulla Park is very different from Yala. Yala is known for its great diversity, Kaudulla is the go-to for elephants.
We were lucky! After less than 10 minutes in the park we saw a large group of elephants. I think there were about fifty of them! It was great to see these magnificent animals in the wild. The chance of seeing elephants in the Kaudulla park is very big, because there is a big lake in the park. As soon as an elephant is spotted, countless jeeps will take a closer look at the animals. The same happened in Yala when a guide had seen a leopard. Nevertheless, it was a very special experience and definitely worth it!