Visiting Sigiriya's Lion Rock fortress in Sri Lanka
Emerging from the thick jungle surrounding it, Sigiriya Lion Rock at first only looks like a rather unique natural formation. Its history, however, will surprise you.
The first to decide to build a human settlement on the plateau of this nearly 200-meter high rock were monks, who constructed a monastery. Later King Kasyapa decided to use the rock as his home and built his palace there. As a testimony of that era, at the entrance of the steep flight of stairs that takes you up, are the claws of two lions (hence the name Lion Rock) and a series of frescoes. When the kingdom ended the rock went back to being a monastery before it became uninhabited and later a sacred national monument.
Sigiriya is set in a beautiful part of Sri Lanka, where nature is wild, lush and uncontaminated. Little villages dot the plain and there is a sense of peace and connection with nature. Also worth a visit are the grounds surrounding the sacred rock, which can be discovered by foot or by bicycle. You will find water-filled canals, lily pads and monkeys jumping from branch to branch.
Hand in the wind
Us staring silently at the beautiful rock
A braid for good measure
Visiting Sigiriya and Pidurangala
We recommend visiting both Sigiriya and its sister rock Pidurangala. When you visit Sigiriya you will be able to walk around the grounds, climb the stairs up to the top and admire the frescos and lion statues. From above the rock, the view of the jungle is extremely beautiful. The entrance of Sigiriya is 30 dollars and its required that you cover your knees and shoulders. They also check your passport before entering, so make sure to bring those along. Wear light clothes and bring plenty of water as can be very hot and the stairs are quite strenuous.
In order to admire and take great photographs of Lion Rock, you will need to climb up Pidurangala, which is the rock next to it. We climbed before sunrise in order to watch the sun appearing while on top of the rock, and it was an incredible show. The walk is rather easy, it only becomes a mild climb right at the end. The view from Pidurangala is equally stunning and gives you a fantastic view of Lions Rock. On the way up you will also see a reclining Buddha carved in stone. The entrance is much cheaper at only 500 rupees (roughly 3 dollars). For Pidurangala you are also required to cover your knees and shoulders.
Where to sleep in Sigiriya
In the villages close to the rock, you will find many homestays. Local families have built a few rooms adjacent to their homes and offer a comfortable stay at very cheap prices, with the addition of meeting and interacting with the locals. We stayed at Sigiriya Rock Gate Resort, a guest house run by the kindest little family. Our room was very comfortable with private bathroom, warm shower and in the morning a lavish home-made Sri Lankan breakfast as soon as we returned from visiting Lions Rock. They also organized a tuk-tuk to wherever we wanted to go!
For a more upmarket option Back of Beyond Pidurangala offers beautiful, eco-friendly accommodation in an unrivalled location.
Where to eat in Sigiriya
In Sigiriya town, you will find a small strip of restaurants purposely built to receive the tourists. They all offer pretty similar menus, with local dishes and very cheap prices. Shenadi makes tasty rotis, kothu rotis and curries and the owner is a friendly man who likes to have a chat with visitors. Mili’s is a nice spot for drinks, right by the river.