As a stunning mix of natural wonder and human artistic skills, Sigiriya is a must-visit UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka for all those travelers looking into the country’s rich heritage and culture.

But is Sigiriya worth visiting? Well, let us find out!

In this post, we will explore the captivating tale of Sigiriya, a place where history, culture, and nature come together to create an unforgettable experience.

Additionally, we will look into some travel tips to make the trip to Sigiriya a hassle-free experience for you! 

Sigiriya: Sri Lanka's Enigmatic Rock Fortress
Sigiriya: Sri Lanka’s Enigmatic Rock Fortress

What is Sigiriya?

King Kashyapa of Sri Lanka constructed the ancient rock fortress and palace in the 5th century BC. You have probably seen Sigiriya photos on Google when looking for Sri Lanka’s top tourist destinations! Sigiriya means “Lion’s Rock” in English. That is why it is commonly called the “Sigiriya Lion Rock” by travelers all over the world.

Where is Sigiriya Sri Lanka?

The Sigiriya rock fortress is located in the north-central plains of Sri Lanka. It stands boldly at a height of 200 meters, rising over the luscious jungles close to Dambulla.

What is the story of Sigiriya Rock Fortress?

King Kashyapa built the Sigiriya fortress in Sri Lanka during the 5th century BC. He was the son of King Dhatusena, who ruled the Anuradhapura kingdom of Sri Lanka.

However, King Kashyapa was not the legitimate heir to the throne because he was a prince from a non-consort of King Dhatusena.  This made him all jealous of his half-brother Moggallana and he desired to have the throne for himself!

According to the Chulavamsa (chronicle), Prince Kashyapa walled up his father alive before claiming the throne that belonged to his half-brother Moggallana, the son of King Dhatusena’s chief consort.

Prince Moggallana then made a promise to return and exact revenge on King Kashyapa before fleeing to India.

Therefore, King Kashyapa constructed the Sigiriya fortress for his protection and enjoyment.

But Prince Moggallana, who had brought an army with him from India, overthrew King Kashyapa. According to the records, Kashyapa’s army deserted him during the battle, and afterward, he killed himself by falling on his sword.

Then, King Moggallana went back to the capital, Anuradhapura, and converted Sigiriya into a Buddhist monastery.

What is the Sigiriya Rock Fortress today?

Major Jonathan Forbes discovered the Sigiriya rock in Sri Lanka in 1831. He was a soldier of the British Army’s 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, returning on horseback after a tour to Polonnaruwa.

However, it was the archeologist H.C.P. Bell who did considerable research on Sigiriya in the 1890s. Later, in 1982, “The Cultural Triangle Project,” an initiative of the Sri Lankan government, turned its attention to Sigiriya.

Lions Rock Sigiriya is now one of Sri Lanka’s most recognized archeological sites. It is also the eighth wonder of the world!

What are the Places to Visit in Sigiriya?

The Sigiriya Museum

You can learn more about Sigiriya by visiting its museum. The entrance ticket to Sigiriya contains the admission fee to the museum as well. You will get to know about its history, and the layout of Sigiriya through a 3D model, and see images taken during the late 19th century excavations conducted by archaeologist H.C.P Bell.

The Royal Gardens in Sigiriya

A stroll around the stunning royal gardens in Sigiriya is a must. Sigiriya has three different types of gardens: water gardens, terraced gardens, and boulder gardens. These serene-looking gardens are among the world’s oldest-designed urban gardens!

The Mirror Wall

The mirror wall gained its name because it was well polished, so much that King Kashyapa was able to see the reflection of himself in it. Visitors to Sigiriya have left many writings on the mirror wall which are still visible today. Some of these writings date back to the 7th century! However, writing on the mirror wall is prohibited and is punishable by law due to the historical value of Sigiriya.

“Aesimi dun hasun hasun seyin vil dut

Mula la ma saenaehi pul piyuman sey bamar dut”

“Like geese who have seen a lake, I listened to the message given by her.

Like a bee who has seen full-blown lotuses, the bewildered heart of mine was consoled.”

The Sigiriya Frescoes

The Sigiriya Frescoes
The Sigiriya Frescoes

The most noteworthy of the Sigiriya attractions is its collection of frescoes. The Sigiriya frescoes depict attractive ladies with large bosoms clutching fruit baskets and flowers in their hands. According to experts, they represent “Apsaras” (celestial nymphs), King Kashyapa’s concubines, or Tara, a key figure in Tantric Buddhism. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures of the frescoes in Sigiriya because doing so can harm the century-old artwork.

The Sigiriya Summit

Before you finish climbing Sigiriya Rock, you will come across the Lion’s Paw Staircase. Sigiriya got its name because of this stairway with two lion’s paws on it! Sigiriya even had a lion’s head, but it was destroyed a long time ago.

You will have the chance to see stunning vistas at the summit of Sigiriya. The blazing heat, the difficult steps, and the fear of heights will all be worth it at this point, especially at sunset.

With the famous Pidurangala rock in the distance and the beautiful jungles of Sigiriya stretching as far as the eye can see…it will steal your breath away!

Travel tips to Sigiriya

Travel tips to Sigiriya
Travel tips to Sigiriya

Now you know what to do in Sigiriya. Let us take a look at some travel tips to Sigiriya to get the best out of your trip to this magnificent rock fortress!

  • The ticket price to Sigiriya is a bit expensive. Foreign travelers have to pay around USD 30 per person! However, considering the many things to do in Sigiriya, it can be a fairly good price.
  • The opening hours for Sigiriya are 6.30 am to 5.30 pm. However, due to the scorching heat, I suggest you not to start the climb midday.
  • If you want to catch the sunset, the best time to climb Sigiriya will be after 4.00 p.m. There are more than 1000 steps, and it will take around 1-2 hours to get to the summit depending on your fitness level.
  • However, if you plan to climb early in the morning, that is also fine! In that way, you can catch a beautiful sunset, and avoid the heat and crowds all in one.
  • The best time to visit Sri Lanka Sigiriya is during January to April, however, it can be quite hot. So, make sure to pack sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, and plenty of water!
  • You can wear anything you like to Sigiriya because it is not a religious site. However, there will be a lot of locals so you might want to dress up so there are no ‘frowns’ upon you!
  • Most of the travelers come to Sigiriya from either Dambulla (the nearest), Kandy, or Anuradhapura. So, if you are planning to go from Dambulla to Sigiriya, you can either take the bus (takes about 1-1.5 hours) or a tuk-tuk (takes about 30-45 minutes but this is expensive).
  • If you are thinking about how to get from Colombo airport to Sigiriya, well there is no direct route.
  • However, the quickest and cheapest option is to take a tuk-tuk/taxi from Colombo Airport to Colombo Fort Railway Station. Then you have to take train tickets for Habarana Railway station, and from there, it is a tuk-tuk ride to Sigiriya.
  • If you are searching for Sigiriya accommodation, I suggest you make reservations through www.booking.com.
  • However, if you want to indulge in the luxuries, consider booking “Heritance Kandalama Sigiriya Sri Lanka”. It is one of the best hotels in Sigiriya!
  • Some other places to stay in Sigiriya are EKHO Sigiriya, Hideout Sigiriya, and Hotel Sigiriya.

What are some nearby attractions to Sigiriya?

Pidurangala Rock

view of Sigiriya on Pidurangala rock
view of Sigiriya on Pidurangala rock

If you are staying in a Sigiriya hotel, then you can visit the Pidurangala Rock in the morning hours. You can see some Buddha statues and temple ruins here. In terms of historical significance, there isn’t much, but when you arrive at the summit just before sunrise, you are welcomed by stunning views of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress!

Dambulla Cave Temple

Alternatively, you can also first explore Dambulla Cave Temple in the morning hours on your way to Sigiriya. Dambulla Cave Temple became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. There are five shrines, 150 Buddha statues, and more than a thousand murals on the temple ceilings that show the life stories of the Buddha.

Final Thoughts…

Sigiriya offers a journey through time by allowing you to immerse yourself in a civilization that once flourished atop this magnificent rock! The conservation efforts at Sigiriya, which work to protect this famous UNESCO World Heritage site for future generations, make all of this possible. Fortunately, Sigiriya has something to offer everyone, regardless of whether you are an adventurer, a history buff, or simply a lover of incredible nature views! That is why, when visiting Sigiriya, you should always leave as little impact as possible on its attractions. So, are you ready to create lifelong memories with a trip to Sigiriya?