During my time living in Australia, I was so fortunate to travel a lot. I had lots of breaks from uni that allowed me to explore more of Australia and some of the surrounding countries. In addition, some of my friends and family from home took advantage of my position and either came to visit me or met me somewhere. Admitted, it was one of the best things about living abroad.
In late March, my mum and I met for two weeks in Sri Lanka. Our first destination there was Sigiriya that I had read so much about when planning our trip and instantly decided that we had to see.
Sigiriya that means Lion Rock is a giant rock that is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. According to the Sri Lankan chronicle, King Kasyapa (477-495) built his palace on top of the 200-metre high rock and named it the country’s capital. The king and his people lived on Sigiriya until the king’s death, after which the rock was abandoned. Afterwards, the rock has served as a Buddhist monastery and nowadays, it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. And with good reason, because Sigiriya is not just a rock.
At 6 o’clock in the morning on a beautiful day at the beginning of April, my mum and I were driven to the entrance of Sigiriya with the purpose of climbing the enormous rock. Our driver, Justin, had told us that the best time to go was early in the morning, so even though we had looked up that they opened at 7 am, we trusted Justin when he said that they opened at 6 am. They didn’t, and the first hour we spent waiting. However, we were first in line for buying tickets when they finally opened, so it didn’t matter.
After buying the tickets, we were allowed to enter the Royal Gardens that lead up to Sigiriya at the end. It’s a very beautiful passage and maybe the best spot to take photos of the rock from the ground. And because we were first in line, we almost had it all to ourselves in the beginning.
Climbing Sigiriya isn’t as easy as going for a walk in the park (but much easier than climbing Mount Kinabalu in Borneo though). There are 1200 steps where some of them are very steep. My mum was a little worried that it would be too hard for her especially because it was already very hot that day. But when we approached the rock and started the climb, she realised that it was possible for her.
We slowly moved up, and everything went fine until we came to a spiral staircase that was mounted on the side of the rock. Neither my mum nor I am particularly fond of heights, and we both found that specific passage unpleasant. However, we were rewarded with a beautiful view when we reached the plateau at Lion Gate shortly after.
Sigiriya has gotten its name because the king had got a lion carved in the rock. At Lion Gate, you find the lion paws and in between the giant paws, the few last stairs lead to the top.
Standing on top of the rock
It takes between 45 minutes and one hour to reach the top of the rock. From the top, the first thing that meets you is the incredible 360° view of the whole area. Especially the mountains in Matale and the surrounding Royal Gardens are amazing sights when they’re covered in haze and viewed from 200 metres in height. However, also the many old ruins of the palace’s foundations and basins are very interesting to see.
The top of the rock was much bigger than I expected, and you can easily spend a while exploring the palace’s many different levels and imagining how it was to live up there. It’s quite fascinating and rather unbelievable!
After around an hour of exploring and taking lots of photos from the top of Sigiriya, my mum and I decided to begin the descent. We were prepared that it would take a while but before we looked around, we were on the ground where lots of sellers were ready to sell us all kinds of Sri Lankan souvenirs.
We didn’t buy anything. Instead, we found Justin who drove us back to our hotel where a well-deserved dip in the pool was all we could think about.
Climbing Sigiriya is one of the most popular attractions in Sri Lanka and the price reflects that. The entrance fee is 4500 LKR, which is very high for Sri Lankan standards. If you find it too expensive, you can climb the smaller Pidurangala Rock from where you’ve got an amazing view of Sigiriya. The entrance fee to Pidurangala Rock is 500 LKR.
When climbing Sigiriya, make sure to bring lots of water and be aware of bees that inhabit the area around the rock. They can be aggressive, so be careful.
I can highly recommend staying at Hotel Sigiriya (affiliate link) during your stay hereabouts. The rooms are fine and they have nice facilities including a large pool from where you’ve got a great view of Sigiriya. We had two nights at Sigiriya, which was perfect.
Climbing Sigiriya was definitely one of the highlights of our two weeks of exploring Sri Lanka, and I can highly recommend it to everyone.
Read more posts from Sri Lanka here.