Built 1600 years ago, Sigiriya is an exquisite example of ancient Sri Lankan art and architecture. Wander around its ruins. Climb to the Sky Palace, stopping on the way to admire the Frescoes of the ladies of the king's harem, then continue to the on summit and be astounded by the panoramic view that awaits you.
Painted 100 meters above ground 1600 years ago, the Sigiriya Frescoes still appear to float effortlessly among the clouds. These ladies of king Kasyapa's harem are richly adorned and dressed in fine garments which barely conceal their graceful bodies.
Climbing to the top of Sigiriya Rock is an experience you will never forget. The ruins and the view for the top are stunning. The climb is strenuous but not hard. There are about 1200 steps. That's roughly equivalent to climbing 60 flights of stairs in a 60 story building.
But don't panic. It's a lot easier than climbing sixty flights of steps in a building. The best times to climb are early morning and late afternoon.
Sigiriya has a hot and humid tropical climate. The weather in general is unpredictable. Torrential downpours occur frequently. These are usually short-lived and tend to be in
The best time of the year to visit Sigiriya is January to March (February is the best month). The best time to climb Sigiriya is early in the morning, before the day warms up,
or in the late afternoon when it cools down.
The maximum daytime temperature ranges is 28 - 32 degrees Celsius (82 -90°F). The maximum UV index through the year is 11.
The Sky Palace, built 200 meters above the surrounding plain, gleamed magnificently atop Sigiriya Rock. Standing at ground-level it is hard to comprehend the sheer size of the place or the human effort needed to create nearly 1600 years ago. It was described by ancient chronicles as being a palace fit for the Gods.
The Mirror Wall, built over fifty meters up the vertical side of Sigiriya Rock, once gleamed lustrous white, its surface polished to such a fine shine that you could see your reflection in it. Even today, in some places, you can see your reflection.
$30 - Foreigners (Rs50 - locals)
7:00 AM – 5:30 PM
(Last entry 5:00 PM)
3-4 hours for site tour
60-90 Minutes to the top
Main Entrance (Bottled Water)
Exit (Juice Bar is Excellent)
Toilets at Main Entrance & Exit only
Ride a lumbering giant bareback or in the safety of a sedan chair. A detour through the lake is fun, especially when the elephant spouts water out of its trunk.
Shop for curios, woodwork, textiles, jewelery, quirky knick-knacks and your supply of genuine Ceylon tea.
There are no restrictions in taking photographs. Most people don't mind you photographing them. If you are visiting any temples, remember it is very rude to take photographs posing next to religious statues and objects. It is especially rude to do so with your back towards them or leaning on them. This is the only time you are likely to get a comment from a local.
Some museums charge extra fees to take photographs of their exhibits.
The Lion Staircase, situated half-way up Sigiriya Rock, was an impressive gatehouse which protected the entry to the Sky Palace on the summit. Built in the shape of a crouching lion it had hidden entrance through its chest. Brightly colored, eyes ablaze and its mouth agape it appeared ready to swallow anyone who dared approach it. For added effect large fires may have been lit within to illuminate its eyes in the night making it a majestic spectacle visible from miles around.
Scribbled by ancient tourists over a period of 1500 years, it is a living records of the evolution of language. Some verses are and very poetic and demonstrate a very high level of literacy amongst the people at that time.
Ramparts & Moats
The Sigiriya Citadel built by King Kasyapa 1600 years ago was surrounded by three massive ramparts and three moats. The citadel had four entrances of which western entrance had an ornate multi-storied gatehouse.
Gardens & Ponds
Because Sigiriya was meant to represent an earthly paradise, it was constructed with lavish ponds, fountains, flower beds, and flowering and fruit-bearing trees. The whole grounds was festooned with brightly decorated pavilions. Every rock had a pavilion on it. You will still see grooves craved into many rocks to provide the footings for these buildings.
The Dambulla Cave Temple is located 24 km (30 miles) from Sigiriya. Built in about 80BC It is the largest and best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka.
Inside are 153 Buddha statues in various reposes, three statues of ancient kings, and four other statues including those of Vishnu and Ganesh. The ceiling and walls have been repainted over the centuries contain a juxtapose of imagery including those of royal life.
The climb to the temple is rather strenuous. Photography is allowed but don't offend local sensibility by posing with the statues.
Get on board an open-topped jeep and head off on safari to find wild elephants at the "The Gathering". This spectacular congregation of up to three hundred wild elephants occurs at Minneriya National Park a 45 minute drive (41km) from Sigiriya. The best time to see this phenomenon is usually during the dry season (July – September) when water is scarce and these animals congregate around the Minneriya Tank (lake) to socialize, bathe, drink and feed.
Pidurangala, just 2 kms away from Sigiriya is is often overlooked. The area has been inhabited by monks who lived in the caves for over 200 years.
The Sigiriya Museum is near the main entrance. The audio-visual show gives a good background of Sigiriya. The model of the site as it is today provides a good orientation of the area and its vastness. The displays are mediocre being predominately from times after the reign of King Kasyapa who built Sigiriya.
A number of reputable local operators offer all-inclusive tours of Sri Lanka including a visit to Sigiriya.
Viator, a TripAdvisor company, offers 100s of packaged tours in Sri Lanka including visits to Sigiriya. They also offer very reasonable airport pick-up and drop-off services.
The citadel is well sign-posted but tour guides can still be useful. They know the place well. This can save you a lot of time and frustration getting about. Negotiate the duration of the tour and its price (between $15-25) before you start. A good tour should take approximately 3-4 hours. Anything less than that will probably be a direct trip to the
summit and back. It is common courtesy to tip the guide.
Note: These guides can be persistent. If you are not interested, say "NO THANK YOU" courteously but firmly. They will probably try a few more times and
then give up.
The highly rated book The Story of Sigiriya provides an excellent account o f the site and its fascinating history. Paperback editions are available at the kiosks on the site. Both paperback and hardcover editions are available
from Amazon and other booksellers.
Getting to Sri Lanka
Many international airlines fly to Sri Lanka. Read the "Getting There" section of our Sri Lanka web-page for detailed travel information.
Sigiriya is located in north-central Sri Lanka. It is 181 kilometers from Colombo; a drive of 3.5 hours. The tourist resort of Negambo is153 kilometers (3 hours) away. It is 98 kilometers (2 hours) from the hill capital of Kandy.
Most hotels will arrange airport pick-up and drop-off. There are also local hire car operators who will provide transfer services.
Car: Sigiriya is 181 kms from Colombo,153 kms from Negambo and 98 kms from Kandy. A number of hire car operators can provide you with a vehicle and driver.
Bus:Intercity bus services run from major cities to Dambulla and Habarana both of which are 24 kms from Sigiriya. There are local bus services from there to the site. The ride is interesting,
friendly, safe but rough.
Train: There is a train service to Habarana 24 kms away. You will need to take road transport from there.
Plane: Cinnamon Air offers a flight from Colombo International Airport to Sigiriya. The flight takes approximately 30 minutes.
What to Wear
The is no dress code to enter Sigiriya. Dress in loose cotton, linen or breathable fabrics. Sunglasses are a good idea to protect your eyes. Any footwear suitable for the tropics is fine. Don't forget a broad brimmed hat and sunscreen. Also if you intend to visit the Pidurangala temple (actual temple only) you will need to wear "proper" clothing. This means your clothes must cover your shoulders and be below your knees. A sarong can come in very handy for this purpose.
Sigiriya, more than other historic sites in Sri Lanka, has a number of minor thrills and spills that a visitor should be aware of. These include the climb to the top, dehydration, hornets,
elephants and crocodiles. Use common-sense and you will be assured an incident-free visit. Visit our Sigiriya Safety and
Comfort page for more information.
Hotels/Restaurants: A tip of 10% or more is customary.
Sigiriya Site: Other than your tour guide, if you use one, there is no one else you need to tip while visiting the Sigiriya site.
Vil Uyana Hotel
This Eco-resort (5-star) is probably the most memorable hotel in Sigiriya. Set amidst a serene lake and paddy fields, the cabanas are huge, furnished tastefully and stand on stilts with their individual deck and outdoor dining area. Some cabanas have their own private plunge pool. The ambiance is superb and relaxed. The five course dinner is excellent and served with impeccable finesse.
An iconic hotel (5-star) built into a massive cave overlooking a large lake, this hotel is intended to blend into its surroundings. This gives it a somewhat surreal look. In keeping with its theme you will encounter bats fluttering about randomly and monkeys observing you with world-wary indifference. The buffet meals are sumptuous. The decor and ambiance is unique. The infinity swimming pool is lovely.
Aliya Resort & Spa
This resort hotel (5-star) is entered via an impressive staircase. As you walk up these stairs Sigiriya Rock begins to loam majestically in the distance. The facilities and food are excellent. The infinity pool offer s view of with Sigiriya and Pidurangala rocks in the distance. It has some very unusual "tent" rooms, with all the mod-cons one would expect in a regular hotel room, which is a unique experience.
Hotel Sigiriya (4-star) hotel offers a breathtaking close-up vista of the Sigiriya Rock from the hotel. What better way to enjoy breakfast or dinner while gazing up at the magnificent rock almost at your doorstep. The hotel cabanas are large and comfortable, the staff helpful and the food excellent.
The hotel (4-star) is located i n Habarana 12km from Sigiriya in lush tropical gardens with a lake and native flora and fauna. The staff are friendly and food and service excellent. The rooms are clean.
Back of B - Dehigaha
Back of Beyond Dehigaha is an Eco-resort (3.5-star) set amongst lush forest with a babbling stream close by. Sleep in a tree-house. Venture into your bathroom in an enclosed open courtyard downstairs. Looks at the trees, watch the birds and thrill at the frequent frogs that will visit you in your bathroom. At night elephants and other wild animals roam through the compound.. The staff are very friendly and helpful. The food is Sri Lankan and tasty.
Back of B - P'gala
Back of Beyond Pidurangala is an Eco-resort (3.5-star) located just 2 km north of Sigiriya in a semi-forested property. It is hide-away with some interesting architecture.. There are six rooms in semi-detached cabanas. The rooms are large and sparsely furnished. The private outdoor courtyard bathrooms are fun. You can be one with nature as you shower. Yes there is hot water. The staff are friendly and obliging. The cuisine is Sri Lankan.