Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Sigiriya rock, located in central Sri Lanka, is an exquisite example of ancient Sri Lankan art, architecture, and landscaping. Built around 480AD by King Kasyapa, it was a magical place—an earthly paradise of lush gardens, ponds, fountains, and brightly colored pavilions.
Its centerpiece was a massive 600 ft high mountain made of solid rock, which Kasyapa had painted white to make it appear like a dazzling cloud floating above the surrounding forest. The side of this floating mirage was painted with beautiful frescoes of apsaras, semi-naked nymphs. And an imposing gatehouse in the form of a lion guarded the entrance to the city's innermost sanctum – the Sky Palace, the residence of the king, on top of the rock.
Built around 480AD, it was the largest and most sophisticated single construction project ever undertaken in ancient Sri Lanka. Tens of thousands men, thousands of bullocks, and many hundreds of elephants toiled for years to build a magnificent new city in the forest. But alas, it was a beacon of culture and civility for just 15 years, before it was abandoned and slowly disappeared into the mists of time; forgotten, a mere footnote in history.
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 is 153 kilometers (3 hours) away. It is 98 kilometers (2 hours) from the hill capital of Kandy.
Entrance Fees & Site Info
$30 - Foreigners (Rs 5,500)
Rs50 - locals
7:00 AM – 5:30 PM
(Last entry 5:00 PM)
3-4 hours for site tour
Climbing Time to Top
1-2 hours to the top
25 Interesting Sigiriya Facts
1. Sigiriya palace is located in central Sri Lanka, 181 km from the capital Colombo.
2. It was built around 480AD by King Kasyapa I of the Anuradhapura Kingdom.
3. Ancient chronicles and inscriptions refer to this site as Alakamanda.
4. In Buddhist mythology, Alakamanda was the city of the gods built in the clouds.
5. Sigiriya was built as a Kasyapa's pleasure palace to emulate Alakamanda.
6. It was the largest and most sophisticated single construction project undertaken in ancient Sri Lanka.
7. The most striking feature of the complex was its gleaming Sky-Palace built on a massive rock 600ft high and 15,000 sq meters in area.
8. This rock was the remains of a hardened inner core of a long-eroded volcano that erupted over 2 billion years ago.
9. The entire surface of this massive rock was painted white.
10. And was decorated with beautiful frescoes.
11. These frescoes were portraits of the woman of the king's court and harem.
12. According to graffiti found on the site, there were once around 500 such frescoes.
13. Only 16 frescoes survive today.
14. The Mirror Wall is a 200m long parapet wall built into the near perpendicular side of Sigiriya Rock.
15. There are over 1800 items of prose, poetry and commentary written by ancient tourists on the Mirror Wall.
16. The quality of the graffiti suggests that the population was comparatively literate.
17. Most of the graffiti refer to the beautiful woman of the frescoes.
18. The entrance to the Sky Palace was guarded by a huge sphinx-like gatehouse in the shape of a massive lion.
19. This brightly painted crouching lion was 35 meters tall and 21 meters wide.
20. The paws of the lion is all that remains today.
21. It is from this lion that the present name of Sigiriya is derived (i.e. Lion Rock).
22.The Sigiriya Citadel was surrounded by three massive ramparts and two moats. Folklore has it that the inner moat was stocked with crocodiles.
23. The gardens of Sigiriya were layed out to represent an earthly paradise.
24. Sigiriya was used as a palace for less than 15 years. It was converted into a monastery and then abandoned.
25. It lay hidden and forgotten until rediscovered in 1826.
Books About Sigiriya
THE STORY OF SIGIRIYA - The true history of the construction of Sigiriya and the fascinating story of its builder King Kasyapa. Part 2 of the book contains an extensive Site Guide, with hundreds of breathtaking photographs.
SIGIRIYA: A TALE OF GRANDEUR, LOVE, AND TRAGEDY - Palace intrigue, passion, deceit, and betrayal-this is the tale of King Kasyapa and his beloved Sigiriya. This compelling novel weaves historical facts into a story of fate, dangerous alliances, friendships, and love.
The Sigiriya Frescoes were painted thirteen hundred years ago and were the highlight of this massive palace complex. Today only a few paintings survive, in a small pocket half-way up the rock, about 100 meters above ground. They float effortlessly among the clouds. Some say they are celestial nymphs carrying flowers to shower upon kings and mortals below. Others suggest that they are queens and concubines of Kasyapa's harem.Read More
The Mirror Wall, now stained in hues of orange, is a 200m long parapet wall built into the near perpendicular side of Sigiriya Rock. It was once highly polished to shine like a mirror, hence its name. The wall provided an irresistible surface on which are inscribed with numerous ancient graffiti praising the beauty of this citadel. The Mirror Wall is one of the few structures at Sigiriya which has stood almost intact for over the fifteen centuries. It is a testament to the ingenuity and workmanship of the ancient craftsman who built it.Read More
The Sigiriya Graffiti are over 1800 pieces of prose, poetry and commentary written by ancient tourists on the surface of the Mirror Wall. The majority of the graffiti refer to the beautiful paintings of semi-nude females, the Sigiriya Frescoes, that once covered most of the western surface of Sigiriya Rock. The texts suggest that the females depicted in the frescoes are the ladies of the king's royal court - the ladies of the harem.Read More
Lion Staircase is situated on a small escarpment about half-way up the northern side of Sigiriya rock. Built in the shape of a crouching lion, it was originally thirty-five meters high, twenty-one meters wide and protruded eleven meters from the rock face. Brightly colored, its eyes ablaze and its mouth agape this gatehouse guarded the final entrance to the inmost sanctum of the entire complex: the Sky Palace of the god-king on the summit. The paws and staircase are all that remain of a once colossal gatehouse.Read More
The Sky Palace, located on the summit of Sigiriya Rock, was the city's geometrical center. In its heyday 1600 years ago, it was visible for miles around and appeared to float above the treetops as though on a gleaming white cloud. According to the ancient chronicles, King Kasyapa lived here like the god "Kuvera in Alakamanda", the mythical city of the gods. The palace complex is divided into three sections: the Upper Palace area occupied the high northwestern section; the Lower Palace area occupied the lower northeastern part; and the Gardens to the south.Read More
Ramparts & Moats
The Sigiriya Citadel was surrounded by three massive ramparts and two moats. There were four entrances. The outer moat was fifty-two meters wide and four meters deep. The inner moat was about twenty-three meters wide. The outermost earthen rampart was forty-three meters wide and over six kilometers in length. It encircled the entire citadel. The middle rampart was thirty-seven meters wide. An eight-meter-wide roadway ran along its top. The ceremonial entrance was through the western gate.Read More
Gardens & Ponds
Laid out to represent an earthly paradise, the gardens played a vital part of this site. The Miniature Gardens at the entrance, the Pavilion Gardens with its four large ponds, the Fountain Gardens with its soothing streams and fountains, the Palace Gardens surrounded by their moats, the Boulder Gardens with rock caves, and the Terraced Gardens are fascinating to walk through. Imagine what they would have looked like in the past.Read More
Climb Sigiriya Rock
Climbing to the top of Sigiriya Rock is an experience you will never forget. The climb is strenuous but not difficult. There are about 1200 steps. That's roughly equivalent to climbing 60 flights of stairs. It will take 1-2 hours to reach the summit. Once on the summit, you will see the ruins of the Sky Palace and a breathtaking 360-degree panorama of the surrounding countryside as King Kasyapa may have seen it 1600 years ago.Read More
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 after the reign of King Kasyapa who built Sigiriya.Read More
Sigiriya has a hot, humid, tropical climate. The best time to visit Sigiriya is from January to March (February is the best month). The best time to climb Sigiriya is early morning or late afternoon. The maximum daytime temperature ranges are 28 - 32 degrees Celsius (82 -90°F). The maximum UV index through the year is 11.Read More
Book Sigiriya Hotels
The central location of Sigiriya makes it an ideal home base from which to visit other attractions in north-central Sri Lanka. Most of the best hotels in the area are concentrated within a 30 km radius of the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. These hotels are well placed for visiting Sigiriya, Pidurangala, Minneriya, Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. You will find our unbiased ratings of the major hotels in Sigiriya. Hotels are rated according the their star rating, cost, best fun, and best value for money.Read More
Getting to Sri Lanka
Many international airlines fly regularly to Sri Lanka and offer very competitive prices. Please read our Sri Lanka page for useful information on visa, travel, health, safety advise and other information.Read More
CAR: Sigiriya is 181 kms from Colombo,153 kms from Negombo 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 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
Dress in loose breathable fabrics. Closed footwear or at least firmly fastened footwear is recommended. Don't forget your sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat and sunscreen.
Also, if you intend to visit the Pidurangala temple (the 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 site 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.Read More
Sigiriya ToursBook Now
Local TOUR Guides
Guides on site can provide interesting insights about the site. If you are not interested, politely say "no thank you". You may need to do so a few times before they take notice and give up on you.
Don't accept assistance from young males when climbing the stairs. They will expect a tip from you for their service.
REFRESHMENTS: There are no refreshment facilities within the site. Take your own supply.
TOILETS: There are clean toilets at the main entrance and exit of the site. There are no toilet facilities within the site. (As a common courtesy, remember to tip the toilet attendant. This is how they earn a living).
Tipping is appreciated but is not compulsory. In Sri Lanka tipping serves two purposes. Firstly is a token of your appreciation of the service someone has provided you. Not tipping can be hurtful to them because it will be interpreted that you were not happy with their service. Secondly, a more obvious reason is that, it is a financial reward. Remember that a couple of Dollars or Euros on a tip is less than the cost of a candy bar in your home country. Be nice. Make someone happy. A tip of 10% or more is the accepted standard, rounded up in to rupees. For example don't give a tip of 50 cents.
Sri Lankan people are naturally happy, friendly and courteous. It is in their culture. They are always willing to help. Unfortunately modern tourism has corrupted this lovely natural characteristic of the people and some may take advantage of you. Good manners are always appreciated. Never be rude. They may not be as well-off as you but they are cheerful, helpful and courteous people.
If you visit any temples, remember it is very rude to take photographs posing next to religious statues and objects. It is insulting 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.
You are allowed to take photographs within the Sigiriya site, EXCEPT the Sigiriya Frescoes. No photographs of the frescoes are allowed.
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.
Shop for curios, woodwork, textiles, jewelery, quirky knick-knacks, and genuine Ceylon tea.Read More
Ride an Elephant
Ride a lumbering giant through Sigiriya lake and watch the elephant spout water out of its trunk. You might get wet.Read More
Visit Dambulla Temple
The Dambulla Cave Temple is located 24 km (30 min) from Sigiriya. Built in about 80BC It is the largest and best-preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. Inside are over statues. The ceiling and walls have been repainted over the centuries contain a juxtapose of imagery including scenes of royal life. The climb to the temple is strenuous. Photography is allowed but don't offend local sensibility by posing with the statues.Read More
Watch Elephant Gathering
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 during the dry season (July – Sept) when these animals congregate around the Minneriya Tank (lake) to socialize, bathe, drink and feed.Read More
Climb Pidurangala Rock
Pidurangala, just 2 km from Sigiriya is is often overlooked. It has been inhabited by monks who lived in the caves for over 2000 years. The monastery was original set up by King Kasyapa of Sigiriya.Read More
All Rights Reserved. (Last Updated: Apr 17, 2021)