Finding out how to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka can be a feat in itself, and this is why I wanted to share some practical tips to help you along your way. First off, it’s one of the things you have to see when you visit Sri Lanka, both for the history and the views. Honestly, it’s a spot you definitely shouldn’t miss.
Sigiriya, also know as Lion Rock, is arguably the most important site you need to see when you visit Sri Lanka. It is thousands of years old and was the site of the Royal Palace of one Sri Lanka’s ancient Kings.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most impressive sites you’ll see when you visit Sri Lanka and indeed across Southern Asia (and even the world, to be honest) and is without a doubt, a must-do when you find yourself in the country. Also, if you’re visiting Sri Lanka, make sure to check out our complete guide, here.
So, we’ve put together a snappy guide to help you know how to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka.
⬇ how to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka ⬇
How to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka…
What do you need to take with you?
1.) Hiking/climbing shoes (I went with flip flops and was perfectly fine but that was due to forgetfulness on my part – on reflection, I’d much rather have taken proper shoes).
2.) A bottle of water – trust me, you’ll need it in that heat.
3.) Wet wipes/tissues – you’re gonna sweat and it ain’t gonna be pretty!
4.) Make sure you’re wearing light clothes (though given that its bound to be hot pretty much anywhere you are in Sri Lanka, I’m gonna take it for granted that you will already do this.
5.) An umbrella. There’s no shade at the top and so you’ll need to provide your own shade.
6.) Sunscreen – for obvious reasons of course.
7.) Anything you can find to keep you cool. There’s no escaping how hot it’ll get on the walk up here.
how to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka…
What you need to know
1.) The hike up is not quite as scary as it seems from afar
2.) There is a halfway point for you to catch your breath
3.) You can’t take photos of one of the prized sights here, the murals in the cave.
4.) The last part of the walk uphill actually has stairs so it’s fairly easy though if you suffer from vertigo, don’t look down. I was too pre-occupied with snapping some pics (and trying to look at where I was placing my feet to look down but those that did say they felt strange looking down so it’s best avoided till you stop moving).
5.) It takes a little over 1 hour to get to the top. More if there are lots of tourists around.
6.) There are over 1,200 steps to the top.
7.0 If you feel out of breath or tired, stop for a while to catch your breath. The scenery is pretty fantastic up here anyway so this is your excuse to take it all in.
How to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka?
We created our own itinerary in advance (before our trip) so we everything sorted out, including our own driver, from the moment we arrived in Sri Lanka till the moment we left. That being said, it’s pretty easy to organise drivers once you arrive in Sri Lanka, especially with the help of your hotel.
Sigiriya is located smack in the centre of the country so could get in from the city of Kandy which is a popular destination for tourists and one you’re more than likely going to want to visit anyway.
The best option, however, would be to stay in the popular Habarana village which has quite a few great hotels and resorts and as the village is quite close to a lot of the other UNESCO World Heritage sites, this is the best place to stay in while packing in as many sites as possible.
How to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka – What’s the climb really like?
Well, I’ve got lots of photos to show you so sit back and let me walk you through this amazing ancient site in Sri Lanka.
Random: There are lots of monitor lizards here and they are huge. They won’t typically bother with you but seeing as we don’t really get lizards in the UK (let alone lizards that big) they’re something of a sight to see as soon as you arrive.
The monkeys here also don’t give a rat’s a*s about you. 😀
When you arrive, your first port of call is a museum where you learn more about the site you’re about to visit and get to see some of the artefacts that have been excavated from the site.
This visit is fairly short and before long, you set off on a short dusty road, to the Water Gardens, marking the start of your visit to Sigiriya.
These are one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world and you can still see workers going about their business of tending to this place.
As you weave your way through the gardens (I say ‘weave’ but it’s really a straight path unless you decide to go off it), you soon start to get a proper glimpse of Sigiriya…
It is magnificent and rather impressive to see from afar.
Don’t let my excitement get the better of you, I was actually very nervous at this point. I don’t know if it’s just me but I always get nervous before a big activity like this. I’ve never really been much of a mountain climber so I kinda doubted my abilities at this stage.
Thankfully, I was travelling with the most competitive bunch of people I know (Lloyd, Chris and Georgia) so I knew the peer pressure would keep me going. After all, how to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka was something that we all wanted to do.
The start is fairly easy…
… and there are quite a few sites to see on your way up, serving as much-welcome distractions.
After a while though, my lack of exercise started to show as we all stopped for a little breather. Also, I struggle with climbing stairs one at a time and tend to try to do two or three at a time.
This is quite a ridiculous habit to have on a climb like this (though you most certainly feel the effect in your calves and thighs as you climb).
I very quickly reduced my stride to one stair at a time.
Above is some writing on the walls from when the rock was still inhabited.
This view below is from about a third of the way up. You start to get a sense of how high you’ve climbed…and how much more is still left.
Further spiral stairs lead to the murals, which you’re not allowed to linger in for too long…
… before carrying on up to the halfway point.
At the halfway point is the base of another part of the hill, heralded by large carved lion claws in the rocks.
This is a popular photo hot spot as it so happens though at this point, all I remember feeling was relief at being halfway through (in retrospect, this is not the hardest place to climb at all but someone probably should have told me that at the time… Hehe!).
After a few minutes of admiring the intricacy and details of the carvings, along with the almost vertical steps the ancient inhabitants used to get up and down the mountains, we decided to carry on the final leg of our climb…
…stopping every so often to take in the view behind of the tree-covered Pidurangala Rock.
This part of the climb was by far the easiest.
We were at the top – along with many other elated travellers who were celebrating their achievement or perhaps in shock at how unfit and sweaty they were (we did both).
The view up here, by the way, is absolutely incredible. Let’s just take a minute to soak it all in, please…
Sri Lanka had never looked quite as amazing as it did from up here. You soon start to realise why King Kasyapa decided to build his palace high up here.
And can we also take a minute to appreciate the ruins?
The very fact that a palace was built high up here is so impressive, We’re not talking about a case where an entire village was built high up on a hill and so everything they needed to survive (including their fellow villagers) was all around them.
We’re talking about a specific place that was built for specific people which meant not only living high up here but also having to frequently go back up and down to get whatever they needed that wasn’t available at the top.
It’s nothing short of incredible.
A walk around this sprawling estate is a must.
Funnily enough, I’d seen lots of photos of the rock and even aerial photos but I still managed to be hugely impressed by seeing the site in person – so much more than I’d expected.
I’m very quickly running out of the way to tell you how amazing this place is so I’m just going to let you see for yourself exactly what I mean.
Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away from the top of Lion Rock and start to make our way back down…
… saying “Hi” to Pidurangala Rock as we went on our merry way.
Suffice it to say, the walk back down was a LOT easier.
We made it down in almost record time and fairly little effort, except for Georgia whose legs started to turn to jelly from all the downhill walking… I may also have stumbled a little bit too but that’s neither here nor there. 😉
That square above btw is where the meetings where held.
Below is cobra rock (for obvious reasons…)
You’ll also find the cheeky monkey down at the bottom of the rock. We also randomly saw a dog at the top, which begged the question – how did it make its way up the spiral stairs? A monkey wouldn’t have been a surprise to see but a dog? 🙂
Back at the bottom, we looked at the rock, almost in disbelief that we’d just climbed this amazing place and after a quick moment to gloat about it to our friends back at home on our personal facebooks (typically in the form of a selfie we took at the top), we set off in search of souvenirs to mark our journey up this most amazing of Sri Lankan landmarks.
Hopefully, our rundown has helped on how to get to and climb Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. It really is a remarkable place you will love. 🇱🇰