About Sigiriya Sri Lanka

Located in the northern Matale District in the Central Province, between Dambulla and Habarana, Sigiriya stands in all its grandeur. Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock, is an ancient rock fortress built on an enormous rock plateau which is 200-meters (660 feet) high. Dubbed by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World, Sigiriya has a superfluity of remnants that are of significant archeological and historical importance: ruins of a palace, a complex network of fountains, canals, and ponds, massive gardens, and frescoes. In 1982, UNESCO declared Sigiriya as a World Heritage Site. Here us our mini-guide about Sigiriya Sri Lanka.

To this date, Sigiriya is considered one of the finest examples of urban planning in ancient times. This astounding fortress was the brainchild of one King Kashyapa who ruled the country in 477 CE. Legends say that King Kashyapa built his fortress on top of the rock to protect himself from his half-brother who intended to dethrone Kashyapa. The remnants on top of Sigiriya still manage to exhibit the signs of the extravagantly lavish life King Kashyapa lived at his fortress.

Sigiriya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, so it is a must-see place for all who visit the island. This is your mini guide to Sigiriya, Sri Lanka.

How to Get to Sigiriya

Sigiriya is approximately 165 km away from Colombo, which would take around 4.5 hours by car. There are no means of public transportation that you can take directly to Sigiriya, which means that you will need to take multiple modes of transportation in order to get to Sigiriya if you decide to go by train or bus. You can also get a rented vehicle which would be faster and more expensive, and if you are really ready to splurge, you can book an Air Taxi to Sigiriya.

If you do end up taking the bus or the train to get to Sigiriya, you can take a Tuk Tuk from where you get off. Sigiriya is 15 km away from Habarana and a tuk would (and should) charge about Rs.350/= (~ USD 2).

ModeDurationCostNotes
Train5-6 hrsRs.480-600 (< USD 4) for reserved seats+Transport from Habarana to SigiriyaNo direct trains to Sigiriya are operated. You will have to take the train to Habarana which is 15 km away from Sigiriya. Trains to Habarana operates daily from Colombo Fort Station.
Bus4-5 hrsRs.190-210 (< USD 2)+Transport from Habarana to SigiriyaNo direct buses to Sigiriya. You will have to take a bus from Colombo Central Bus Station to Anuradhapura (Route No:15) or Kaduruwela (Route No:48), and get off at Habarana.
Rented Car/Cab3-4 hrsApprox. Rs.8000 for a 4 passenger-cabDespite the high price, this is the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Sigiriya.
Recommended local cab services:
PickMe
Kangaroo Cabs
Air Taxi30 minsUSD 215Cinnamon Air operates daily charters to Sigiriya. The aerial view would be unbeatable. Find the schedules and fares on Cinnamon Air website.

Haven’t taken a ride in a Sri Lankan Tuk Tuk before? Learn all you need to know from our guide on Tuk Tuk 101 in Sri Lanka!

Things to Note

Attire

There are no restrictions for attire. But it is best if you wear something light and comfortable as you are to climb up the rock. It can be very hot during the day, and there is no shelter on top of the rock. So remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

Entrance

The entrance ticket to Sigiriya costs Rs.50 for locals, and USD 30 for foreign tourists, which also covers access to Sigiriya museum.

Note: Try to head to Sigiriya early in the morning since it tends to get hot during the day. And to avoid crowds if you are traveling on a weekend.

Top Things to See in Sigiriya

1. The Lion Gate

On the northern side of the Sigiriya rock is the main entrance to the fortress. The stairs leading up to the top of the rock lie between two massive paws of a Lion, intricately carved out of the rock itself. Historians believe that the paws are the only parts to survive over the years from a full form of a lion. Consequently, this lion was the reason the rock fortress to be named as Sigiriya, i.e. Sihagiri, which means Lion Rock.

2. Sigiriya Frescoes

Sigiriya frescoes can be considered one of the main reasons for Sigiriya to be globally popular. The western wall of the Sigiriya rock was said to be covered with these beautiful and historically significant paintings, but only 18 frescoes have survived until now. The frescoes show nude women who are believed to be King Kashyapa’s wives or high priestesses, seemingly performing some religious activity. The reason Sigiriya frescoes are renowned is the way these unknown, ancient artists have captured the intimate and alluring details of the female beauty.

3. The Mirror Wall

Another prominent feature of Sigiriya, is the Mirror Wall. Known among the locals as Ketapath Pawura, which translates to Mirror Wall, it is a portion of rock polished to be smooth as a mirror. It is believed that in ancient times, this rock wall was polished so well that the King could see his reflection. Hence the name Mirror Wall. Visitors to Sigiriya from as early as the 8th century, have filled every inch of the wall with carved poems and inscriptions. But as a preservation measure, it is now strictly prohibited to do any of the sorts.

4. Sigiriya Water Gardens

The palace gardens of Sigiriya consists of a number of ponds, bathing pools, and even fountains. Archeologists and scientists are baffled to this date, about the engineering and architectural skills that were required to bring water up to the top of the rock. The gardens are on the western end of the rock, and consist of a complex network of underground pipes that had apparently brought water to ponds, canals, moats, fountains and to the palace. Archaeologists have also found that Sigiriya has an impressive rain water drainage system which would circulate rain water around the fortress.

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Image Source: Unknown

In addition to water gardens, Sigiriya hosts terraced gardens, cave gardens, and boulder gardens. These gardens play a huge role in Sigiriya being known as one of the best examples of ancient urban planning in the world.

Places to Visit Around Sigiriya

  • Dambulla Rock Temple: A Buddhist temple built on a rock, adjoining a cave. Famous for its history, cave paintings, and abundance of monkeys.
  • Pidurangala Mountain: The trek to the top of this mountain is perhaps as famous as Sigiriya itself, which offers unparalleled views of the Sigiriya rock and the surrounding landscape.
  • Anuradhapura Sacred City: This city is the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, and houses a plethora of historical and religious monuments and shrines from the ancient times.
  • Minneriya National Park: Closer to Habarana, Minneriya National Park is ground zero for the largest wild Asian elephant gathering in the world.
View from Pidurangala
View of Sigiriya from on top of Pidurangala – Image Source

Places to Stay Around Sigiriya

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