Climbing Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya is a rock fortress located in northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla. The fortress itself was built on top of a gigantic 200-meters high rock. Arround the rock, there are remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs and other structures. Sigiriya Fortress exhibits a great architecture of the past. No wonder it is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A bit flashback on Sigiriya history, this site was selected by King Kasyapa (477 – 495 CE) for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes. About halfway up the side of this rock, he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock. The capital and the royal palace was abandoned after the king’s death. It was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century.

The gateway to the Lion Rock

How to get to Sigiriya?

As we rented a car during our road trip we went to Sigiriya driving. It was approximately 30 minutes drive from Dambulla town.

However, another source informs that Sigiriya can also be accessed by public transportation from Dambulla. There is a regular bus service that connects Sigiriya and Dambulla. These buses run between 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM every day at intervals of 30 minutes. It costs LKR40.

Travel by tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) from Dambulla is about LKR800-1000. It is important to note that Sigiriya is about 25 km from Dambulla. Do not to miss the last bus back to Dambulla at around 6:00 PM in case you are not staying at Sigiriya itself.

Arrival at Sigiriya

It was not difficult to find a way to Sigiriya. The sign along Sigiriya Road is quite clear. From Sigiriya main road, we need to drive through a gravel road before reaching the main entrance car park.

It is advisable to arrive at Sigiriya as early as possible. When we arrived at 6:30 AM, the car park is still empty. So it is easier to choose a parking lot that is closer to the gate.

Upon arrival, we directly proceed to the ticket counter. It is located about 100 meters from the car park. When we reached the counter, there was already a queue of 8 people waiting for the counter to open at 7:00 AM.

Entrance Ticket

Ticket prices are different between locals and foreigners. We (foreigners) paid for LKR 4200/person (about US$30).Visitors from SAARC countries only need to pay half, but they have to present their valid passport. Ticket payments are by cash only.

There were 3 checkpoints along the climb to the top of Sigiriya rock to make sure that only visitors who have paid for the ticket can climb up. So, you need to keep your ticket with you at all times.

Climbing the Giant Rock

After we paid for the entrance ticket, the walk began. We need to walk through a huge garden before climbing the stairs. Beware of stray dogs. They were a lot!

Our entrance route crossing the huge garden

As this is a 200-meters high giant rock, do expect that there will be so many stairs (about 1,200 steps in total). Don’t be discouraged by the stairs. Keep going, because the view from the peak is amazing. Just don’t look down if you are afraid of heights.

The stairs to the entrance gate
Halfway to the top

Along the climbing journey, there will be some historical remains like mirror wall and frescoes. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to take pictures of the frescoes.

View from the top of the rock

Tips on Climbing Sigiriya Rock Fortress

  • Try to reach the site early and go straight to the summit. We arrived at the site at 6.30 am so we got beautiful pictures as the peak is still not crowded with people.
  • Don’t forget to apply sunblock before you climb. It got warm quickly at the top.
  • Bring enough water with you. No drinks are sold within the paid area. Climbing up is exhausting, and you need to drink lots of water.
  • There are monkeys at the Sigiriya peak. Take care of your belongings. Don’t bring plastic bags, as they assume you have food in it and they will snatch it.
  • There are also many stray dogs. They are not trying to attack us but keep following us most of the time and make us feel a bit uncomfortable.
  • Do wear comfy footwear and outfit. Bring hats/caps to protect you from the heat.
  • You may exit in different point from your entrance. It’s quite far away. We ride tuk-tuk for LKR 100 to take us from the exit to the other car park near ticketing office.

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