7 things to know before visiting Sigiriya

Sigiriya rock-Sri Lanka

What is Sigiriya and why is it such a big deal?

Sigiriya, or “Lion Rock’’ as it is called in English, is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. I’m sure the worldly renowned Sigiriya popped up on your screen above all when you were planning your upcoming vacation to this paradise island. Located not far from the line separating Central province and North central province, this monolithic architectural marvel towers majestically over the surrounding landscape.

This magnificent archeological site was once an extremely well planned, organized kingdom with spectacular water gardens, majestic palaces, colorful frescoes, steadfast defense structures and many more. The engineering technology that was used in Sigiriya is considered to be too advanced for that time period. The automated fountains that activate during the rainy season even to this date bear evidence to this exceptional technology. The symmetrical planning & elaborate landscaping of the Royal gardens that were done during a time when there were no drones to take aerial images and the extremely advanced hydraulic technology seen in Sigiriya are just some of the many reasons why it is called the Eighth wonder of the world.

A bit of History for you

This rock fortress was built by King Kashyapa during 477 – 495 AD to seek protection from a possible attack from his step-brother Moggallana; the rightful heir to the throne, due to the fact that Kashyapa seized the throne by killing King Dhathusena; the father of Moggallana.

According to folklore, Sigiriya fortress was built within a period of 7 years.

However, it is said that Moggallana declared war against Kashyapa and King Kashyapa’s army abandoned him during battle, leading him to commit suicide by falling on his own sword.

Following the tragic ending of the creator of this masterpiece, Sigiriya was abandoned and was buried in history until the 19th century when it was rediscovered by the British who were ruling Sri Lanka at the time. Because Sigiriya is one of the best preserved examples of the ancient urban planning, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982.

What you can see

1. The Royal Garden

You will pass through the Royal Gardens as you make your way from the entrance towards the Sigiriya Rock. There you can witness the advanced and impressive hydraulic system consisting of canals, lakes, dams, bridges, fountains and underground water pumps that still provide water to the Sigiriya Rock Gardens even today. The walkway through the Royal Garden is constructed in a way that it forms a straight line that goes right through the Lion Rock’s center. It is truly impressive to realize how they were able to design such a geometrical structure without drones or any other technology to obtain aerial data. That’s why it is said that the technology used in Sigiriya was too advanced for its time.

2. The Mirror wall

The wall’s name originated from the extreme polishing that transformed it into a mirror-like surface that allowed the king to see his reflection. During later periods; around the 8th century, visitors have scribbled names, notes and poems onto these walls, which show the advancement of Sinhala Language and script. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to scribble your name onto the wall now because further graffiti is strictly banned in order to protect the ancient writings.

Photo credits: em_sirocos @flickr.com & exoticislandtours.com

3. World-famous Sigiriya Frescoes

The entire face of the Sigiriya Rock is thought to have been covered in these alluring paintings when Sigiriya was at its prime. John Still, who was a British archeologist and an author, suggested in 1907 “The whole face of the hill appears to have been a gigantic picture gallery… the largest picture in the world perhaps”.


Visit iStock by Getty Images for more stunning photos from Ceylon, including ones like these that a talented Sri Lankan photographer has captured.

4. The Giant Lion paws

These paws are the remains of a massive gate designed to resemble the shape of a lion. The head of the lion is eroded with time, and now we can only see the paws. This gate is the reason for Sigiriya’s name. (Sinha giri = Lion Rock)


5. The Sky palace

This is the king’s residence on the summit of the Lion Rock. When you see the structures that were created on top of this towering rock, you can’t help but wonder how the builders were able to accomplish this marvel without the aid of modern technology. All these, in 7 years time. Pretty incredible! Right?


Photos from: exoticislandtours.com & Unsplash.com

6. The amazing view from the top

Also, take a moment to enjoy the view from the top of Sigiriya. It’s a feast for the eyes. As you will see, the panorama is breathtakingly stunning all the way to the horizon.

Trust me. It will be worth the sweat and money you spent on the journey up to the top.


Photo credit: waterleau999@flickr.com

Best time to visit

January to April is considered the best time to visit Sigiriya because the weather is moderate and suitable for day trips.

October to December is considered off season due to the fact that monsoon rains are occurring at this time. Climbing the rock can be dangerous when it’s wet, and you won’t be able to see the view from up top due to clouds during this season.

Sigiriya is open from 6.30 am – 5.30 pm every day. To avoid crowds and the heat of the day, it is preferable to arrive around 7am. And the lighting will be perfect for your camera to capture the beauty of Sigiriya and the surroundings.

Explore the beauty of ancient kingdoms in Sri Lanka

It will be better to avoid weekends and holidays to prevent unnecessary long queues.

You can plan an evening or late afternoon trip to Sigiriya too. Just make sure to purchase your ticket before the entrance closes at 5pm. After 5pm, no one is allowed to climb up the rock. One of the magnificent sunsets may be seen from the top of the rock if you visit Sigiriya in the evening. But make sure you have a flashlight with you. Since there are no lights on the path, once the sun goes down it’ll be tricky to get down the rock, and you might injure yourself if you don’t have a source of light.


For adult foreign tourists, a ticket will cost $30.  For children from age 6-12, it’ll be 15$. This includes the entrance to the Sigiriya fortress as well as the Sigiriya Lion Rock museum.

Tickets may be purchased at the entry ticket booth or online at the official Sigiriya Fortress website.

Hang on to your ticket because it will be checked about mid-way on your hike to the top.

For your Safety

  • Foremost, it is advised to wear sunscreen, sunglasses and to bring a large bottle of water because you will get thirsty on your hike to the top and there are no kiosks in the middle of the way.
  • Also, bring some snacks with you too. So that you can unwind and enjoy some food and beverages while taking in the views after you reach the top of Lion Rock.
  • One other thing is to be mindful about the hornet nests. It’s better not to make huge noises. They won’t attack as long as they aren’t disturbed.
  • Beware of the heavy winds and keep your belongings safe once you are at the top of the Rock.

Visit iStock by Getty Images for more stunning photos from Ceylon, including ones like these that a talented Sri Lankan photographer has captured.

  • Monkeys can be found on the path. They are not aggressive. But don’t try to feed them. If you do, they might follow you and ask for more.
  • In the evening, when you are returning from Sigiriya you might be lucky to see an elephant on the road. But do not put your luck to test by approaching the elephant or trying to get a selfie with him because that can lead to a catastrophe. Elephants are cute. But they are wild animals. We have no way of knowing what they’ll do or how they’ll respond. So it’s best to keep a safe distance. Always.


If you are planning to visit Sigiriya just to see a beautiful view from the top, and to go on a fun hike without much rush, Pidurangala is the place for you. It’s close to Sigiriya and only costs like $2 for the ticket. You won’t need much time to trek to the summit, and the view from there is quite nice.


You can enjoy a stunning sunset from the top of Pidurangala in the evening, and the view will be just as lovely as the one you can see from Sigiriya. I personally think it’s better to visit both Sigiriya and Pidirangala because a trip to Sri Lanka won’t be complete if you missed the 8th wonder of the world. Right?

My suggestion is to go to Sigiriya in the morning and then trek to Pidurangala to enjoy the lovely sunset because for me personally, I would get major FOMO if I didn’t do both.

Okay… So guys… Now that I have talked a lot, it’s your turn to talk. What do you think about Sigiriya and about Sri Lanka?  What topic would you like me to write about in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

 Thank you so much for reading this article. If you found it interesting and informative, please share with others who might be interested in Sigiriya. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter so that you won’t miss interesting posts like this in the future. If you already haven’t seen our previous articles about Sri Lanka, please check them in our Letters page.

නැවත හමුවෙමු😉 (Newatha hamuwemu = Let’s meet again)

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