Sri Lanka is a land steeped in history and Sigiriya has come to symbolise this fact.
Although the name Sigiriya now also applies to the general locality, it is derived from the old Sinhala terms for ‘lion rock’, which is a reference to the rock fortress situated there.
Rising 200 meters above the surrounding jungles, the majestic rock is thought to be the remnant of ancient volcanic activity.
There is some evidence to suggest that the area around this rock has been inhabited for some time. But the most reliable accounts, as to the use of the rock itself, indicate that it was the site of a Buddhist monastery in the 3rd Century A.D.
According to an ancient text, the ‘Culavamsa‘ it is said that King Kashyapa took over the rock to build a base there in the 5th Century A.D.
The legend states that Prince Kashyapa, the illegitimate son of King Datusena, killed his father to seize the throne. According to the legend, he buried King Datusena alive by entombing him within a wall.
Meanwhile, Prince Moggallana, the rightful heir to the throne, sought refuge in neighbouring India.
Fearing retribution from his deposed half-brother, King Kashyapa built a stronghold at the Lion Rock from which to defend his throne.
Unfortunately for King Kashyapa, Prince Moggallana did return – with an army, which defeated his – and the story ends with King Kashyapa taking his own life.
Top Things to Do in Sigiriya
Now that you know a little about the history of Sigiriya, let’s dive right into it! Here are our recommendations for the top things to do in Sigiriya:
Visit the Sigiriya ‘Lion Rock’ Fortress
The remains of King Kashyapa’s rock fortress include palaces, fortifications, elaborate terraced gardens, water features, galleries with frescoes, a ‘mirror wall’ with ancient graffiti and much more.
Sigiriya is hailed as a fine example of ancient urban planning and its landscaped gardens are considered to be the oldest in the world.
Little wonder then, that it is considered by some to be the eighth wonder of the world and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
Visitors can explore Sigiriya and climb to the top to admire panoramic views of the jungles which surround the area.
The site is open from around 7 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Making your climb earlier in the day will help you avoid much of the heat and crowds. But going later in the day will give you the chance of watching the sunset.
If you’re a history buff, you can also learn more about the history of this ancient wonder at the Sigiriya Archeological Museum, located nearby. The same ticket gives access to the Museum as well as the Rock Fortress.
Climb Pidurangala Rock
As far as giant rocks go, Pidurangala Rock is Sigiriya’s closest neighbour.
From here you have a panoramic 360-degree view of the surrounding area.
If Sigiriya is the perfect place for watching sunsets, then Pidurangala is the perfect place for watching the sunrise (because it’s open to the public at that time). From here, you can marvel at the mists rising from the jungles all around, as the Sun’s first rays warm the Earth.
Visit the Dambulla Cave Temple
Situated roughly about a 30-minute journey away, Dambulla is within easy reach of Sigiriya and is well worth a visit. Its chief attraction is the system of cave temples dating back to 1st Century B.C.
The Cave Temples at Dambulla are the biggest and most well preserved in Sri Lanka and are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site (declared in 1991).
There are five caves forming this cave temple complex. Each of these contains statues and paintings relating to the life of Gautama Buddha. There are also statues of some Sri Lankan kings and goddesses and many murals decorating the walls and ceilings.
Take A Hot Air Baloon Ride
A more recent attraction to the Dambulla/Sigiriya area has been the introduction of hot air balloon rides.
Take in the scenery and landscape as you waft high above. The sunrise hot-air balloon tour might be the perfect way for you to experience a sunrise. You can simply enjoy the view, or you can even choose to take your marriage wows up there! It’s all up to you.
(The above picture is a generic one, for illustration purposes, but if you want to see a picture taken in this area, click here.)
Visit Minneriya National Park
Another attraction within a short drive away is the Minneriya National Park. Situated just 18km (about 20 minutes drive) from the Sigiriya area, it is within easy reach for a short day trip.
Along with lots of exotic birds, monkeys and deer, Minneriya is also famous for its roaming herds of elephants. But if you’re really lucky though, you may even spot a leopard or a sloth bear while there.
If you’re going to be based in Sigiriya for more than just a couple of days, you can also do day trips to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, both famed for their history, culture and ancient ruins.
Polonnaruwa is 64km away (around an hour’s drive) and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you can stroll among the ruins of an ancient city or gaze over the placid waters of the Parakrama Samudra (an ancient irrigation tank).
Anuradhapura, the former capital of the Rajarata kingdom lies 71km (around 70 minutes) away from Sigiriya. Here too you can take in ancient ruins as well as see the Sri Maha Bodhi tree. Dating over 2,500 years, it is said to be the oldest tree known to have been planted by man.
So, as you can see, there is no shortage of great things to do and see in Sigiriya. This makes it a most attractive destination and a ‘must’ in your travel itinerary.
Hangover Hostel Sigiriya
Our Sigiriya Hostel is the perfect base from which to explore all these attractions. We offer air-conditioned tents located in a quiet, woodland setting, but with all the modern conveniences you would come to expect from Sri Lanka’s number one hostel.
Please get in touch, if you have any questions at all.