Climbing Sigiriya Rock How Long Does It Take to Climb Sigiriya?

Sigiriya rock climb

Photo: Sigiriya Rock

Sigiriya Rock is not hard to climb. There are about 1,200 steps to the summit. That's roughly equivalent to climbing 60 flights of stairs. Depending on your fitness, crowds and your level of interest to will take about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the top. The return journey is easier and will take less time.

There are six stages of climbing, each with increasing levels of difficulty (each step explained below). Once you reach the summit, you will see the ruins of the Sky Palace and a breathtaking 360-degree panorama of the surrounding countryside.

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Build 1600 years ago, by King Kasyapa, a much-maligned but brilliant king, Sigiriya is an exquisite example of ancient Sri Lankan art and architecture. Wander around its ruins, then climb to the Sky Palace, stopping on the way to admire the frescoes of the ladies of the king's harem, the graffiti on the Mirror Wall, and the Lion Staircase before continuing to the summit and the Sky Palace with its panoramic view.

• History of Sigiriya and Tourist Information


Climb 1 - to Boulder Gardens

The first stage of your climb starts at the Fountain Gardens and up to the Boulder Gardens. There are just a few steps, and they are easy to climb. As you climb, you will notice many large boulders with caves beneath them. These were once colorfully decorated. Some still have faint traces of the original paintings. Several platforms in this area contained large open-air pavilions.

Climbing Time: 5 to 10 minutes.
Climbing Space: Wide
Climbing Difficulty: Easy


Climb 2 - to Terraced Gardens

Entering the Boulder Garden via a series of idyllic stairways, some through leaning boulders, you walk towards the Terraced Gardens. More small caves dot the area. These were once richly decorated and furnished with benches for visitors to rest and admire the surroundings. On top of almost every boulder was an ornate pavilion. 

Climbing Time: 15 to 20 minutes.
Climbing Space: Wide
Climbing Difficulty: Moderate

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Climb 3 - to Mirror Wall

The first stage of the challenging climb commences through the Terraced Gardens. Two massive brick stairways lead up through several terraces to the Zig-Zag staircase. This grand staircase leads to the Mirror Wall. At the top of these stairs is a platform where you can catch your breath and admire the scenery.

Climbing Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Climbing Space: Wide
Climbing Difficulty: Hard - Very Hard


Climb 4 - to Sigiriya Frescoes

A narrow spiral metal staircase from the Mirror Wall walkway leads up to the Sigiriya Frescoes located 20 meters above. Painted over 1600 years ago, the frescoes depict the ladies of King Kasyapa's harem. Dressed in beautiful garments and the finest jewelry, they are well worth your effort to see.

Climbing Time: 3 to 5 minutes.
Climbing Space: Narrow
Climbing Difficult Hard


Climb 5 - to Lion Staircase

The climb from the Mirror Wall walkway to the Lion Staircase is difficult. The marble stairs are wide but very steep. While climbing, take a peek over the parapet wall and admire the grandeur of the gardens below, which was once alive with colorful trees and plants and roaming with exotic wild animals.

Climbing Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Climbing Space: Wide
Climbing Difficulty: Hard - Very Hard


Climb 6 - to Sky Palace

This is the most difficult part of the climb and may give you jelly-knees and vertigo as you climb up a narrow steel gantry on the exposed side to the rock to the Summit. If you look below you, you will see the grooves carved into the rock surface by the ancient builders to provide the footing for the original staircase.

Climbing Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Climbing Space: Narrow
Climbing Difficulty: Hard - Very Hard


Climb 7 - Around Summit

You have finally made it. You are now on top of Sigiriya Rock. Looks around you. Marvel at the magnitude of the ruins of the Sky Palace. Image the grandeur and opulence of this place in the sky. Also, imagine how ancient workers carried millions of bricks and fittings up this massive rock to construct this structure. They, too, would have had to climb this rock using a similar path up as you did. It definitely wasn't easy.

Climbing Time: 30 to 60 minutes
Climbing Space: Wide
Climbing Difficulty: Moderate


Climb 8 - Down Sigiriya Summit

The climb down is not as strenuous as the climb up.

Climbing Time: 15 to 25 minutes
Climbing Space: Narrow- Wide
Climbing Difficulty: Hard


Entrance Fees & Site Info


Entrance Fee
$30 - Foreigners (Rs 5,500)
Rs50 - locals

Opening Hours
7:00 AM – 5:30 PM
(Last entry 5:00 PM)

Site Visit
3-4 hours for site tour

Climbing Time to Top
1-2 hours to the top


Local Guides

The Sigiriya site is well sign-posted, but tour guides can still be useful. They can save you a lot of time and frustration getting about. Negotiate the tour duration and its price 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.

Tour Guide Cost: $15-25 (Rs 3000-5000)
Tour Duration:: 3-4 hours
Tip: 10%

Note: These guides can be persistent. If you are not interested, say "NO THANK YOU" courteously but firmly.


Sigiriya Tours

Several 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 provide very reasonably priced airport pick-up and drop-off services.

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Amenities

Wheel Chair Access: The these climbs are not recommended for disabled persons. There is no wheelchair access, and there are many steps to climb, many of which are uneven.

Refreshments: Refreshments stands are located near the main entrance and exit. There are no facilities while climbing. Take your own supply of non-alcoholic drinks with you and dispose of your rubbish responsibly.

Toilets:
There are clean toilets at the main entrance and exit. There are no toilets within the site or while climbing.


Photographs

No photography of the Frescoes is allowed. There are no other restrictions in taking photographs while climbing Sigiriya Rock.


Sigiriya Safety

Sigiriya, more than other historic sites in Sri Lanka, has several minor thrills and spills that a visitor should be aware of. These include the climb to the top, falling, dehydration, hornets, elephants and crocodiles. Use common sense, and you will be assured an incident-free visit. Visit our Safety and Comfort page for more information.

Hornets are a constant threat near the Lion Staircase. Attacks are rare, but be cautious.

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Weather

The best time of the year to visit Sigiriya is January to March (February is the best month). Torrential downpours occur, but these are usually short-lived and tend to be in the afternoons. The maximum daytime temperature ranges are 28 - 32 degrees Celsius (82 -90°F). The maximum UV index through the year is 11.

The best time to climb Sigiriya Rock is early in the morning, before the day warms up, or in the late afternoon when it cools down.


What to Wear

Dress in loose, breathable fabrics. Sunglasses are an excellent idea to protect your eyes. Closed footwear or at least firmly fastened footwear is recommended. Don't forget a broad-brimmed hat and sunscreen.


• Clothing - Loose cotton, linen or breathable fabric clothes.
• "Proper" Clothing - Also remember you need to wear "proper" clothing when visiting Pidurangala Temple (temple only). This means your clothes must cover your shoulders and be below your knees. Wrapping a sarong around you is an easy solution. You also need to remove your footwear and hats when entering these places.
• Sunglasses - Always a good idea to protect your eyes.
• Shoes - Closed footwear is strongly recommended. Or at least firmly fastened footwear is recommended. Flipflops are not suitable.
• Hat - Broad-brimmed hat to keep the sun away.
• Sunscreen - Definitely an excellent idea in the tropics.


Touts

While Sigiriya is safe for tourists, it isn't immune from touts--people who persuade you to part with your money by offering you all kinds of services. For example, these characters will try to befriend you with a friendly smile and offer to assist you with your climb. If you take them up on their offer, they will expect a tip in return. If you are not interested, ignore these people or politely and firmly say, "No Thank You." Eventually, they will leave you alone. Also, like any other tourist destination, unwitting travelers are easy targets for criminals. Be watchful of your belonging.