Climbing rocks is not usually the kind of thing I get excited about. Being encumbered with short limbs and pathetically weak upper body strength, I’m not exactly built for it either. Long walks on the beach I excel at, but long walks up hills, through forests and jungles is something I am still getting to grips with! But here we were, up much earlier than usual so we could climb not one, but two rocks that day and wondering if our bodies had actually been invaded by hike-loving aliens in our sleep. Kidding, sort of. When you find yourself in Sigiriya, the thing to do is to visit the famous Lion Rock but if you are feeling particularly energetic, as we clearly were, you should also head up the less-frequented Pidurangala Rock as the views from there are just as breathtaking! We managed both in one day very easily; if we can do it, so can you…
Early Morning Climb Up Lion Rock
The locals have nicknamed this UNESCO World Heritage Site the eighth wonder of the world, and while it may not have that title formally, it sure does bring in the crowds. I think this may even be the most visited site in the whole of Sri Lanka, which means you should prepare yourself for a reasonably slow climb with a lot of people. Entry to Lion Rock is a two step process; make sure you first buy your ticket from the booths by the museum before waiting in the queue by the entry gate to the complex, then once in, you’re free to roam. The gardens and water features, some of the oldest examples of their kind, were pretty but with the ever-increasing temperatures and crowds to contend with, we made a beeline for the rock and started our ascent to the ancient palace.
There is a defined route the whole way up so you definitely don’t have to worry about rough terrain; your biggest challenges will be the heat and the heights if you’re scared of that kind of thing. We traversed several flights of steps, before a spiral staircase (I’m not terribly scared of heights but even this made my heart flutter a bit) leading to the Mirror Wall. Apparently this used to be highly polished so the King could see his own reflection in it! We wisely took a short breather at the stone paws of the Lion, because from here it got a tad hairier – the path that hugs the rock was narrow and my nerves got the better of me at times when I glanced down a second too long, but once you’re at the top, it’s all worth it. We found the ruins fascinating and the views quite magnificent – having seen it for myself, I was not at all surprised that King Kasyapa decided to create his palace up there!
Afternoon Climb Up Pidurangala Rock
In stark contrast to Lion Rock, Pidurangala Rock is far less crowded, significantly cheaper, and the hike to the top is a bit more intrepid! It took us about 20 minutes to walk from Lion Rock to the Pidurangala Rock Cave Temple where the hike starts, and we were at the top around 30 minutes later. The climb doesn’t take long and the path was obvious most of the way, but the terrain is fairly rocky and slightly challenging in parts. I found the end particularly tricky as there was a bit of actual rock climbing involved to get to the top… the aforementioned short limbs and poor upper body strength were not ideal but after a bit of clambering over the boulders, I got there! From the top you are rewarded with the spectacular sight of Lion Rock; it’s the perfect spot to take a few minutes to sit back, relax and enjoy the view with only a handful of other tourists and quite a few cheeky monkeys!
Where To Stay – Zinc Journey Sigiriya
After looking at a range of high end hotels and budget guesthouse options in Sigiriya, I settled on Zinc Journey Sigiriya which sat somewhere in the middle. Its main selling point was that it was within walking distance to the entrance of the Lion Rock complex but it was also comfortable and good value for money. The property has been recently renovated with a nature-inspired aesthetic and as a result the rooms feel fresh, tidy and functional. My only words of warning would be to expect a paltry speed for the wifi and avoid eating at the restaurant as the food was very average from both the buffet breakfast and a la carte dinner.
Where To Eat – Ahinsa Restaurant & Pradeep Restaurant
A short walk down the road from Zinc Journey Sigiriya are a handful of cheap and cheerful local restaurants. Most serve the same dishes, but as we discovered, the execution could be quite varied – one day we had the most pathetic, watery ‘curry’ while another night we actually had one with decent flavour, spices and heat! We would recommend Ahinsa and Pradeep restaurants; at both we had simple, well-cooked, hearty meals at bargain prices. I was so satisfied with my vegetable roti from Ahinsa that I went back the next morning for their Sri Lankan breakfast of string hoppers and dal, which was much more enjoyable than the hotel breakfast!
So Make a Move…
- Lion Rock – the complex is open from 7am – 5.30pm daily, entry costs US$30/£22 for foreign visitors. We would recommend getting there first thing in the morning or before the last entry at 5pm for a sunset view as it gets extremely hot and busy during the middle of the day.
- Pidurangala Rock – entry costs LKR500/£2.50 for visitors, buy your ticket at the small counter by the Pidurangala Rock Cave Temple. We would recommend wearing sensible walking shoes, taking plenty of water, and a raincoat if travelling during the monsoon season – we were caught in a sudden torrential downpour which definitely made the journey down more adventurous.
- On our way up Pidurangala Rock we spoke to a couple of tourists who had opted to do that instead of Lion Rock; while we understand that the entry fee to Lion Rock is quite high, we don’t think this should be a substitute. Each provides a different experience and interest so we would recommend people do both if time and energy levels permit!
- Zinc Journey Sigiriya – Sigiriya Rd, Sigiriya 21120, Sri Lanka, approximately £50/night for a double room.
- Ahinsa Restaurant & Pradeep Restaurant – both located on Sigiriya Road, a meal for two with drinks costs approximately £10.
Have you been to Sigiriya and visited either Lion Rock or Pidurangala Rock?
If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka, then you might want to try the Eat, Eat, Repeat Colombo Food Tour!
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