Climbing Sigiriya Rock: The Essentials
If you Google Sri Lanka some of the first images which appear are those of the iconic Sigiriya Rock. OK, so it’s not as well known as the Eiffel Tower, Niagra Falls or Christ the Redeemer, but it’s certainly one of the images which pop into my mind when I think of this wonderful country.
Located in the Matale district in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya Rock towers nearly 200 metres above its surroundings. The rock is the centrepiece to the ancient city of Sigiriya. According to an ancient manuscript, King Kasyapa selected the site of Sigiriya for his new capital. The King had a palace built on top of the giant rock and the city was built in the surrounding areas. However, after the Kings death, the city was abandoned and then used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th Century. More recently in 1982, the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
How To Get To Sigiriya Rock
If like me you are over 6 ft tall and dreading the inevitably cramped and crowded buses, do not worry, they are not all that bad. My first encounter with a Sri Lankan bus was walking down the street in Colombo and seeing the bus literally packed from door to door, then witnessing locals desperately trying to jump into the back door while the bus is still moving. Thankfully outside of the cities, the reality is that the buses do get crowded to some extent, but nowhere near the ridiculousness of the inner city buses in Colombo
We actually didn’t stay in Sigiriya or close by Dambulla, we stayed in Kandy and did our own day trip from there. So, to reach Sigiriya from Kandy…
First, you must make your way to the main bus station in Kandy. Apparently there is one bus which goes directly from Kandy to Sigiriya at 7:20 am, but as soon as we got to the bus station we were ushered onto a bus which goes to Dambulla, this is how you will get to Sigiriya anyway if you are not catching that 7:20 am direct bus. We asked a few people about the direct bus, but they just advised us to jump on the Dambulla 7 am bus. This bus isn’t actually a route which ends in Dambulla, so when you get to Kandy bus station, look out for the bus which goes to Anuradhapura.
The bus from Kandy to Dambulla cost us 100Rs each and took approximately 2 hours.
Once you have reached Dambulla, get off the bus on the main road and head for Dambulla bus station (the bus doesn’t stop at the bus station, due to its final destination being Anuradhapura). Once you are at the bus station, keep an eye out for the bus to Sigiriya.
The bus to Sigiriya will take around 30-40 minutes and it cost us 33Rs each. You will be able to see the rock when you are close, then as soon as you see the ‘Main Entrance’ sign, that’s when it’s time to get off the bus.
The Climb Up Sigiriya Rock
As we didn’t actually stay in Sigiriya or Dambulla, by the time we had gotten both buses and were actually on the grounds of the site, it was around 11:30 am (we had done a bit of unnecessary travel e.g. Missing Dambulla and having to go back on ourselves and getting told to get off at the wrong entrance at Sigiriya by the ticket man on the bus and having to walk to the main entrance).
I have to admit, I was slightly naive when it came to climbing the rock in the midday heat. It was near 30 degrees and extremely humid, but I had heard the climb can take around 15 minutes. ‘Easy’, I thought. Well, I was definitely in for a surprise, that’s for sure.
As I made my way past the first ticket checkpoint and onto the path leading up the colossal rock, it soon dawned on me that this climb wasn’t going to be a walk in the park and lets face it, after 8 weeks travelling the Australian east coast, I was far from being the fittest person in the world.
Due to us arriving at the busiest time of the day, there were quite a few tours which had arrived around the same time as us, this wasn’t a huge hindrance, but it did slow down our walk to the top (which was maybe for the better due to my poor levels of fitness). As you ascend the Rock and walk along the unsteady looking metal staircase which hugs the outside of the giant rock, the views become ever more amazing.
When you reach Lion Gate – the two giant Lion paws impressively carved into the stone with a staircase in between them – this is when you are in the final stage of the ascent.
Finally, I had reached the top of the rock, there I stood, probably the sweatiest person in the whole of Sri Lanka, but I was at the top. When you finally make it and you get a chance to wander around, you will truly appreciate the panoramic views of the surroundings. Well worth the effort it took to reach the top! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I was also extremely grateful there were no Hornets which appeared on the climb up the rock. There are many warning signs around and I’ve heard of swarms of Hornets which can appear on the ascent. There is also a sign at the ticket counter which states that in the case of Hornet attacks, people will not be allowed past the Lion’s Gate, so yeah that was a definite positive.
How Long Does It Take To Climb Sigiriya Rock
Overall, if you go in a period where you won’t be stuck behind slow crowds of tourists then the climb should take around 15-20 minutes, not long at all.
If like me you were stuck behind crowds of slow tourists, then expect the climb to take around 30-40 minutes, still not long at all to be honest.
Entry Cost To Sigiriya Rock
The entrance fee to Sigiriya Rock is $30 (4260Rs).
$30 is definitely expensive by Sri Lankan standards, but this is the case with most of the touristy sites across the country. Having said that, it is still well worth the $30 entrance fee, so please don’t go missing this out, even if you are on a tight budget.
When To Go To Sigiriya Rock
I would definitely not advise climbing the rock at midday. This was the main reason which I was so sweaty when I reached the top. It was the hottest part of the day, it was at least 30 degrees on the day and it was typically humid. If you do find yourself climbing in the day, my top tip would be to wear a hat to avoid sunstroke!
I would, however, recommend climbing the rock before 9 am.
You will beat the crowds.
It will also be much cooler, which will make the climb much easier.
& it’s not a guarantee, but the weather will probably be clearer.
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Are you planning to climb Sigiriya Rock when you’re in Sri Lanka? If you already have, how was the climb for you?
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section.