Sigiriya is a village in the Central Province of Sri Lanka famous for its 200-meter-high rock. The complex, including a citadel, gardens and ponds, was built on the 5th century as a palace for King Kasyapa and, after his death, was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. It contains gardens, ponds and caves with colorful frescoes. This UNESCO listed World Heritage Site is also known as Lion Rock for its gateway in the form of an enormous lion.
How to get there: there are public buses every 30 min between 6am and 6pm from Dambulla for 40LKR (0,25€). Dambulla is reachable by public bus from Kandy.
Where to stay: I stayed at Lakmini Lodge, place that has been going through some renovations in the last two years and offers now a rooftop terrace with views over Sigiriya rock. Privates are available from 45€ per night including breakfast.
Things to do:
Sigiriya rock and Pidurangala are the main attractions in Sigiriya. While the visit of Sigiriya rock can be expensive specially for backpackers (the entrance fee is 4650LKR, about 25€), hiking Pidurangala is a popular alternative for its breathtaking views over Sigiriya rock and the neighbourhood moutains of Kandy and Pollonaruwa.
The best time to visit Sigiriya rock is early in the morning as the humidity and heat can make the way up a bit challenging, so bring plenty of water. I went there at 7am and found no queue to purchase the entrance ticket and just a few people around when I reached the peak. There is a stairway all the way up so it’s no necessary to have a high level of fitness to make it. It took me about 30 minutes to walk through the gardens and reach the lion gate, around 15 minutes to climb up the caves where the frescoes are, and a final 20 minutes to reach the top of the rock. The views from uphill are truly breathtaking, with a panorama of the nearby hills and rainforest.
The ancient cities of Anuradhapura (75km) and Polonnaruwa (55 km) are possible day trips from Sigiriya. This UNESCO World heritage sites are reachable by public bus or tuk tuk. I chose visiting Polonnaruwa during my brief stay in Sigiriya as is closer to the town and all the temples are in one compact area. Polonnaruwa is the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms and was the capital city between the 11th and 13th century. The entrance fee is 3500LKR, about 20€, and it must be purchased on the museum, not at the site entrance. Today the ancient city of Polonnaruwa remains one of the best planned archaeological relic cities in Sri Lanka, an example of the Kingdom’s first rulers’ greatness.