A walk along terraced gardens to a stairway leading you to a view of the Island’s stretch that unfold through the eyes of a king.
Revered as the 8th wonder of the world, the spectacular Sigiriya Rock Fortress, a monumental sight that takes the breath away of every visitor since it is one of the best places to visit in Sigiriya. Located in the heart of the island between Dambulla and Habarana, this extraordinary fortress sits on top of a giant rock looming 180 metres high. The shortest lived but the most remarkable of all medieval capitals, Sigiriya was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is Sri Lanka’s most phenomenal attraction due to its breathtaking structure and its surrounding landscapes. It was styled in the form of a lion, where the feet and paws are visible today. Unfortunately, the upper body parts have been destroyed. This is how the name Sigiriya was given since the Sinhala word Sihagiri means Lion Rock. Sigiriya has almost 1200 steps and it can take roughly 2 hours to reach the summit. The fortress complex includes remnants of a ruined palace, surrounded by an extensive network of fortifications, terraced gardens, ponds, fountains and upon ascension of the stone stairwell to the top, you will come across the Mirror Wall and the famous rock paintings – frescoes which have brought universal renown to Sigiriya.
Since the 3rd century BC, the rocky plateau of Sigiriya served as a religious retreat or monastery when Buddhist monks took refuge here according to inscriptions in the caves that are at the base of the rock. Towards the end of the 5th century, King Kasyapa I, son of a non-royal courtesan decided to build a royal residence out of fear of an attack by his brother, Moggallana, the rightful heir after entombing his father, King Dhatusena within a wall whilst he was alive. King Kasyapa I built his fortress and pleasure palace on top of the rock so that no one could reach him. After construction of his palace, he shifted the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya. Moggallana who had fled to South India out of fear after the death of his father, returned to the island after forming an army and declared war against King Kasyapa I. During the battle, King Kasyapa I’s soldiers had abandoned him causing him to commit suicide by falling on his sword. Sigiriya became a monastery again until the 14th century when it was abandoned.
How to get there
There are many options of travel from Colombo to Sigiriya which are by road, bus, train and air.
By Road – Renting a car to travel direct to Sigiriya would be the most comfortable option. There are routes to Sigiriya via Kurunegela. The traditional route is to take the A1 highway (Kandy Road) up to Ambepussa, where you would turn off to Kurunegela on the A6 highway or the newer route would be via the E03 (Katunayake Expressway) where you would drive past the airport towards Minuwangoda, then to Giriulla and then to Kurunegela, where you can get on the A6 highway. The A6 will take you directly towards Dambulla and you will reach Inamaluwa junction where a replica of the Lion’s paw from the rock would direct you to a signpost that directs to the B162 route to Sigiriya. The entire journey would take approximately 3 – 4 hours from Colombo. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can make arrangements for a car for you.
By Bus – Bus travel can be tiring with several stops but since there are many buses leaving Colombo Pettah daily, it would be an easy option to choose. From Pettah Bus Stand, you could take No.15 which is Anuradhapura bound, No.48 which is Kaduruwela – Polonnaruwa bound or No.49 which is Trincomalee bound; these buses do stop at Dambulla in which you can get off and taxi to Sigiriya which is only 30 minutes away from Dambulla.
By Train – the closest railway station to get to Sigiriya is in Habarana which is 15 km away. There is only one train that leaves daily at 6:10am from Colombo Fort Railway taking approximately 5 hours to reach Habarana. From Habarana, you will have to taxi to Sigiriya.
By Air – Cinnamon Air operates daily flights from the domestic terminal at the Katunayake airport to the Air Force airstrip base in Sigiriya. Although an expensive way of travel, it is the quickest and the view of the surroundings from the sky is breathtaking. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can make booking arrangements for you.
From Galle – the fastest route to reach Sigiriya from Galle would be to taxi to Koggala to fly to Katugastota on Sri Lankan Airlines and then taxi to Sigiriya. This would take an approximate time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. Alternative option would be to drive by renting a car since it would take approximately little over 5 hours via the Southern Expressway E01 and the A1 Colombo-Kandy highway to Kurunegela and then take the A6 highway towards Dambulla and then the Inamaluwa-Sigiriya road B162 to Sigiriya.
From Trincomalee – it is a short route from Trincomalee to Sigiriya since it is 97.8km and takes almost 2 hours travel by road. You can drive by renting a car or taxi. Drive via Ambepussa-Kurunegela-Trincomalee Highway (A6). Vehicle or taxi arrangements can be made for you by our tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays.
The best time to visit Sigiriya is from February to April since it has moderate climate. Since it is situated in the Cultural Triangle which is a dry zone, there is very little rainfall throughout the year except during the Maha monsoon season which occurs from December to February. From May to October it is the dry season.
Food & Drink
The food available in Sigiriya extends from local cuisine to Chinese, Indian and Western. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants offering food from cheap eats, mid-range to fine dining. However popular restaurants according to tourists are, Wijesiri Family Restaurant, Rithu Restaurant, Croissant Hut and the Mango Tree Restaurant.
Sigiriya Rock Fortress – One of the most extraordinary historical and archaeological sites of Sri Lanka and the world. Apart from the fortress complex having remnants of a ruined palace and an extensive network of fortifications, there are Royal Gardens with ponds and fountains. Upon ascension of the Lion Gate and Staircase to the summit, you will come across the Mirror Wall and the famous exquisite muticoloured rock paintings depicting divine and angelic goddesses – Frescoes which have brought universal renown to Sigiriya.
Pidurangala Rock – Although Sigiriya Rock is steeped in history and has some extraordinary features, the Pidurangala Rock is an overlooked gem by tourists. It is magical for it has a breathtaking view of Sigiriya Rock over the horizon being adjacent to Sigiriya Rock. A popular spot for sunrises giving impressive views of all the surrounding valleys and landscapes.
Sigiriya Museum – One of South Asia’s most beautiful museums and it was designed with inspiration from the complex design systems of Sigiriya itself. Visitors can explore through tons of archaeological research spanning over three decades. Replications of the brilliant usage of water which have besides enhancing the beauty and quality of the environment, also been crucial for irrigation are shown here.
Minneriya National Park – Home to one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles – the Elephant Gathering, Minneriya National Park is situated in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka and 182 kilometres from Colombo. The 90 kilometres of area was declared as a national park on 12th August 1997 after being previously declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938.
Ritigala Mountain – Ritigala is an extraordinary and fascinating cultural and eco-tourist site. It is home to seventy rock caves that were believed to have been inhabited from the 1st century BC. It is a mountain range of four peaks that houses an old Buddhist monastery. Ritigala is steeped in history, legend and mythology and trekking through the mountains is an experience one cannot miss.
Bird Watching in Sigiriya – Trek through the dense forests surrounding the Sigiriya Rock Fortress or hike along the countryside at the foot of the fortress that form the Sigiriya Sanctuary and observe endless species of colourful birds. Of many things to do in Sigiriya, bird watching is another charm of this area.
Village Tour – Cycling, a popular activity loved by travellers who enjoy observing all nature around whilst they ride. In Sigiriya, apart from cycling to the Rock Fortress to see its amazing ruins and features, you can cycle along the countryside trails around it and observe birds and witness the real agrarian and village life.