There are many things to do in Sigiriya Sri Lanka – this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Most people travel here to visit the famous Rock of Sigiriya, but if you give it enough time you’ll discover a beautiful region, with lush nature and hidden gems that all deserve to be explored.
In this post, I highlight all the unmissable things to do in Sigiriya and share some practical information to organize your visit.
7 Great Things To Do In Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Climb Sigiriya Rock
One of the top things to do in Sigiriya is climbing/hiking the giant Sigiriya Rock. Upon seeing it, you will completely understand why this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s simply unique! If you decide to see just one of all the ancient cities and holy sites, make it this one.
Why is Sigiriya so special? This is a massive column of rock, around 200 meters tall, where a fortress was built right on top. Frescoes were painted around the fortress, as well as a huge mirror wall – though this is actually “just” a highly polished rock where apparently the kind could see his reflected image any time he walked by.
The Rock is located at the center of a beautiful garden which is very pleasant to visit, and from where you can reach the lion staircase that goes all the way up to the fortress.
TIP: I wholeheartedly recommend hiring a guide or joining a guided tour to visit Sigiriya, so that you can make sense of all there is to see and get useful information that will help you put everything in context.
These are some good guided tours:
Practical information for visiting Sigiriya Rock
The site is open daily from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM.
It costs $30 USD to enter. The price includes a ticket to visit the Sigiriya Museum.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is in the early morning, before the heat becomes unbearable and to lower the chances of being caught by the rain which will inevitably start dropping around midday (I only know too well!). Or else, try to go in the late afternoon, around 4:00 PM when it’s a bit cooler.
Climbing the rock
It takes around an hour to climb Sigiriya Rock, longer if you stop along the way. Climbing isn’t hard – it’s just a series of steps. It may take you longer when it is crowded, as a line will inevitably form and this will move much more slowly.
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Right in front of Sigiriya, Pidurangala is a smaller, less visited. and significantly cheaper site to visit (it costs less than $3 USD to get in). If the views from Sigiriya are beautiful, the ones from Pidurangala are breathtaking to say the least, especially if you can see Sigiriya from up there. Make sure to climb in time for sunset for a fabulous experience.
To be completely honest, much like the others off-the-beaten-path sites of Sri Lanka, Pidurangala is actually way more fascinating than its mainstream equivalent. If you have limited time and if you are traveling on a smaller budget, just go straight to Pidurangala.
TIP: While there are stairs leading up to Sigiriya, the path that leads to Pidurangala is much rougher and I recommend wearing a pair of good shoes to walk up there. You may also need a jacket as it gets very windy in the late afternoon.
Go on a day trip to Dambulla Cave Temple
Dambulla cave complex and the Golden Temple have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites and are a place of pilgrimage. They are very well preserved – in fact, one of the best-preserved cave temples in Sri Lanka. Since they are located at just a 20-minute drive, visiting is one of the things to do in Sigiriya.
In fact, depending on where you are coming from, you can visit en route on your way to Sigiriya Sri Lanka, as I did – I just left my bags in storage in the bookstore by the main gate.
I must admit that Dambulla was hardly my favorite place of all the ones I visited in Sri Lanka, and found the $10 USD entry fee a bit overpriced, but I guess that if you are in the area, you should visit. I actually recommend hiring a guide to make a bit more sense of what there is to see – I think that’s the mistake I made, actually!
You can book your tour of Dambulla (including a visit to Sigiriya) here.
And on one to Polannaruwa
Polannaruwa is one of the nicest sites to visit in Sri Lanka. It’s a lovely place to spend a few hours exploring the site – another UNESCO World Heritage Site, in fact! This used to be the royal capital of the Sinhalese and Chola kingdoms, a bustling commercial center, and a religious site around 800 years ago, and nowadays you can see what is left of its splendor in the many ruins of temples and religious buildings.
The site is about an hour’s drive from Sigiriya, so it’s an easy day trip. The entry fee is $25 USD, but considering that it’s much better to actually have a guide to take you around, I recommend joining a guided tour.
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Anuradhapura is actually a little bit further from Sigiriya compared to Polannaruwa and Dambulla, but it can still be seen on a day trip. It’s an interesting site to visit, with lots of temples and ruins, and locals are often spotted praying.
You can visit independently if you go there by bus and then rent a bike, but I honestly recommend a guided tour or at least hire a guide once there to avoid getting lost (the site is actually very big) and to make a bit more sense of what you are seeing.
Make sure to read my post “A Great Guide To Anuradhapura Sri Lanka.”
Visit Minneriya National Park
Minneriya National Park is the site of the largest Asian elephant gathering that occurs every year between July and September. You may not visit Sri Lanka at that time of year, but if you want to see elephants in all their glory, one of the things to do in Sigiriya Sri Lanka is visiting Minneriya. It’s at less than 30 minutes drive, and you’ll be able to see many of them, as well as lots of other wildlife (especially birds).
Once you get to the park, you have to hire a jeep to take you around. I wholeheartedly recommend doing some research beforehand to hire a responsible company, as too many are sadly known for driving recklessly around national parks or getting too close to the elephants causing them discomfort.
Visit Sigiriya Village
Villages in Sri Lanka are usually very rural, but the people are so welcoming and the culture is so interesting that it’s nice to visit some of them. One of the things to do in Sigiriya is exploring the village. If you manage to arrange a guide you will have higher chances of conversing with the locals, who at times speak little to no English. In some cases, for a small fee, you can even have lunch with a local family.
Practical Information To Organize Your Trip
Where to stay in Sigiriya Sri Lanka
You won’t really find many good places to stay in Sigiriya village, but the surroundings have some excellent accommodation options with boutique hotels, resorts, and some fantastic eco-lodges where you can completely immerse yourself in nature and disconnect from the rest of the world. Picture places with lush vegetation, no wifi or phone reception, good food, animals roaming about, and just the right amount of pampering.
This is a selection of excellent places to stay in Sigiriya:
- Back of Beyond Dehigaha Ela is a fantastic eco-lodge where beautiful, comfortable rooms are built on trees or around boulders. It is completely immersed in nature and runs in a sustainable way.
- Aliya Resort and Spa is a fabulous hotel at about 5 km from the site, featuring beautiful rooms and a magnificent outdoor pool.
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Since a lot of people visited Sigiriya from Dambulla, I thought I’d also select a few good places to stay in Dambulla:
- Dambulla Rock Arch is a nice hotel close to the center of Dambulla. All rooms have a balcony.
- Jetwing Lake is a fantastic luxury resort a bit outside Dambulla, where you’ll be fully pampered.
How to get to Sigiriya
Sigiriya is only a small village so the only buses you’ll find will be those to Dambulla, which is well-connected to Kandy, Jaffna. and Trincomalee.
There are direct buses to Sigiriya from Dambulla that run between 6:30 AM and 6:00 PM. The bus ride is very cheap and should take you around 30 minutes. The bus will drop you off on the main street and from there you’ll have to take a tuk-tuk or walk to your accommodation.
Alternatively, you can take a tuk-tuk directly at Dambulla – the ride should cost you around 1000 rupees, depending on where you are asked to be dropped off. Make sure to bargain the prices and triple-check that the drivers actually know where to take you. Oftentimes, tuk-tuk drivers are very keen on offering you a ride but they don’t actually know the address of your hotel and you may be stuck for a while before they find the way there!
How to move around Sigiriya
Chances are you will be staying in one of the many marvelous hotels around Sigiriya rather than in the village itself, which doesn’t have much to offer. If this is the case, you will have to rely on the transportation offered by the hotel in the form of tuk-tuk or private car services to take you around to the best places to visit.
When to visit Sigiriya Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, and you can break your head trying to plan your trip to avoid them but to make a long story short you won’t be able to. December to March are good months to go, with higher chances of dry weather and sun, but the other side of the coin is that places may be more crowded and prices higher than you’d hoped for.
Having said that, just go ahead and do your best trying to avoid the rain, but by all means, go. In any case, keep in mind that it usually starts raining in the early afternoon around 12:00 or 1:00 PM, so if you plan to leave early in the morning for your visit, you will be done when it starts raining!
Please be aware that you need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can easily apply for your visa online here.
As for any other trip, I also recommend getting good travel insurance. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need Good Travel Insurance.”
Make sure to read my other posts about Sri Lanka