There are many things to do in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka – this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Most people travel here to visit the famous Rock of Sigiriya, but if you give it enough time you’ll discover a beautiful region, with lush nature and hidden gems that all deserved to be explored.

In this post, I highlight all the unmissable things to do in Sigiriya and share some practical information to organize your visit.

These are some of the best guided tours of Sigiriya and its surroundings:

For a general guide on Sri Lanka, make sure to read my post 9 Fabulous Places To Visit In Sri Lanka.”

Sigiriya Sri Lanka

Taking in the fabulous views from Sigiriya

7 Great Things To Do In Sigiriya

Climb Sigiriya Rock 

One of the top things to do in Sigiriya is climbing the giant Sigiriya Rock. Upon seeing it, you will completely understand why this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s simply unique! If you decide to see just one of all the ancient cities and holy sites to visit in Sri Lanka, make it this one.

Why is Sigiriya so special? This is a massive column of rock, around 200 meters tall, where a fortress was built right on top. Frescoes were painted around the fortress, as well as a huge mirror wall – though this actually is “just” a highly polished rock where apparently the kind could see his reflected image any time he walked by.

The Rock is located at the center of a beautiful garden which is very pleasant to visit, and from where you can reach the lion staircase that goes all the way up the fortress.

TIP: I wholeheartedly recommend hiring a guide or joining a guided tour to visit Sigiriya, so that you can make sense of all there is to see and get useful information that will help you put everything in context.

These are some good guided tours:

Practical information for visiting Sigiriya Rock

Opening hours

The site is open daily from 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM.

Cost

It costs $30 USD to enter. The price includes a ticket to visit Sigiriya Museum.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit is in the early morning, before the heat becomes unbearable and to lower the chances of being caught by the rain which will inevitably start dropping around midday (I only know too well!). Or else, try to go in the late afternoon, around 4:00 PM when it is a bit cooler.

Climbing the rock

It takes around one hour to climb Sigiriya Rock, longer if you stop along the way. Climbing is not hard – it’s just a series of step. It may take you longer when it is crowded, as a line will inevitably form and this will move much more slowly.

Sigiriya Sri Lanka

The view of Sigiriya from Pidurangala

Climb Pidurangala 

Right in front of Sigiriya, Pidurangala is smaller, less visited and significantly cheaper site to visit (it costs less than $3 USD to get in). If the views from Sigiriya are beautiful, the ones from Pidurangala are breathtaking to say the least, especially if you can see Sigiriya from up there. Make sure to climb in time for sunset for a fabulous experience.

To be completely honest, much like other off the beaten path sites of Sri Lanka, Pidurangala is actually way more fascinating than its mainstream equivalent. If you have limited time and if your are traveling on a smaller budget, just go straight to Pidurangala.

TIP: While there are stairs leading up to Sigiriya, the path that leads to Pidurangala is much rougher and I recommend wearing a pair of good shoes to walk up there. You may also need a jacket as it gets very windy in the late afternoon.

Dambulla day trip from Sigiriya

You can visit Dambulla on a day trip from Sigiriya

Go on a day trip to Dambulla Cave Temple

Dambulla cave complex and the Golden Temple have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and are a place of pilgrimage. They are very well preserved – in fact, one of the best preserved cave temples in Sri Lanka. Since they are located at just 20 minutes drive, visiting is one the things to do in Sigiriya.

In fact, depending on where you are coming from, you can visit en route on your way to Sigiriya, as I did – I just left my bags in storage in the book store by the main gate.

I must admit it that Dambulla was hardly my favorite place of all the ones I visited in Sri Lanka, and found the $10 USD entry fee a bit overpriced, but I guess that if you are in the area, you should visit. I recommend actually hiring a guide to make a bit more sense of what there is to see – I think that’s the mistake I made, actually!

These are some good guided tours of Dambulla:

For more Buddhist temples to visit in Sri Lanka, read my post A Guide To The Most Unique Buddhist Temples In Sri Lanka.”

things to do in Sigiriya

A day trip to Polannaruwa is one of the things to do in Sigiriya

And on one to Polannaruwa 

Polannaruwa is one of the nicest sites to visit in Sri Lanka. It’s a lovely place to spend a few hours exploring the site – another UNESCO World Heritage Site, in fact! This used to be the royal capital of the Sinhalese and Chola kingdom, and a bustling commercial center and a religious site around 800 years ago, and nowadays you can see what is left of its splendor in the many ruins of temples and religious buildings.

The site is at about one hour drive from Sigiriya, so an easy day trip. The entry fee is $25 USD, but considering that it’s much better to actually have a guide to take you around, I recommend joining a guided tour.

These are some good guided tours of Polannaruwa departing from Sigiriya:

day trip from Sigiriya

You can go on a day trip to Anuradhapura

Visit Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is actually a little bit further from Sigiriya compared to Polannaruwa and Dambulla, but it can still be seen on a day trip. It’s an interesting site to visit, with lots of temples and ruins, and locals often spotted praying. You can visit independently if you go there by bus and then rent a bike, but I honestly recommend a guided tour or to at least hire a guide once there to avoid getting lost (the site is actually very big) and to make a bit more sense of what you are seeing. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour of Anuradhapura departing from Sigiriya here.

Make sure to read my post A Great Guide To Anuradhapura Sri Lanka.”

Sigiriya Sri Lanka

Minneriya National Park is a short drive from Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Visit Minneriya National Park  

Minneriya National Park is the site of the largest Asian elephant gathering that occurs every year between July and September. You may not visit Sri Lanka at that time of year, but if you want to see elephants in all their glory, one of the things to do in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, is visiting Minneriya. It’s at less than 30 minutes drive, and you’ll be able to see many of them, as well as lots of other wildlife (especially birds).

Once you get to the park, you have to hire a jeep to take you around. I wholeheartedly recommend doing some research beforehand to hire a responsible company, as too many are sadly known for driving recklessly around national parks, or getting too close to the elephants causing them discomfort.

Read my post The Complete Guide To Becoming A More Responsible Traveler.”

Visit Sigiriya Village

Villages in Sri Lanka are usually very rural, but people are so welcoming and the culture so interesting that it’s nice to visit some of them. One of the things to do in Sigiriya is exploring the village. If you manage to arrange a guide you will have higher chances of conversing with the locals, who at times speak little to no English. In some cases, for a small fee, you can even have lunch with a local family.

Back of Beyond

Back of Beyond is one of the nicest places to stay near Sigiriya

Practical Information To Organize Your Trip To Sigiriya Sri Lanka

Where to stay in Sigiriya Sri Lanka 

You won’t really find many good places to stay in Sigiriya village, but the surroundings have some excellent accommodation options with boutique hotels, resorts and some fantastic ecolodges where you can completely immerse yourself in nature and disconnect from the rest of the world. Picture places with lush vegetation, no wifi or phone reception, good food, animals roaming about and just the right amount of pampering.

This is a selection of excellent places to stay in Sigiriya: 

Since a lot of people visit Sigiriya from Dambulla, I thought I’d also select a few good places to stay in Dambulla:

Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Sigiriya

You can easily travel around Sri Lanka independently, but if you don’t have time to research and organize your trip or if you simply prefer to leave the job to the experts, you will find that there are some excellent guided trips. I have selected the best tours on the market for you:

  • Sri Lanka encompassed – a fantastic 14 day G Adventures tour that goes to all the most popular places to visit in the country.
  • Sri Lanka on a shoestring – a 12 day G Adventures tour especially thought for a younger crowd.
  • Sri Lanka express – an 8 day G Adventures tour perfect if you only have limited time to travel.
  • Discover Sri Lanka – a 12 day G Adventures and National Geographic tour to explore the country a bit more in depth.
  • Sri Lanka heritage sites – a 6 day tour for those of you interested in visiting the best heritage sites in Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya

Another fantastic view of Sigiriya

How to get to Sigiriya 

Sigiriya is only a small village so the only buses you’ll find will be those to Dambulla, which is well connected to Kandy, Jaffna and Trincomalee.

There are direct buses to Sigiriya from Dambulla that run between 6:30 AM and 6:00 PM. The bus ride is very cheap and should take you around 30 minutes. The bus will drop you off on the main street and from there you’ll have to take a tuk tuk or walk to your accommodation.

Alternatively, you can take a tuk tuk directly at Dambulla – the ride should cost you around 1000 rupees, depending on where you asked to be dropped off. Make sure to bargain the prices and triple check that the driver actually knows where to take you. Oftentimes, tuk tuk drivers are very keen on offering you a ride but they don’t actually know the address of your hotel and you may be stuck for a while before they find the way there!

If you’d rather book a private transfer to Sigiriya from either Colombo, Kandy or other places in the country, the following are some good options:

Are you traveling to the Hill Country? Make sure to read my posts “A Complete Guide to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka” and “A Complete Guide To Kandy, Sri Lanka.” If you are going to Galle, check out my post “A Complete Guide To Galle, Sri Lanka”

How to move around Sigiriya

Chances are you will be staying in one of the many marvelous hotels around Sigiriya rather than in the village itself, which doesn’t have much to offer. If this is the case, you will have to rely on the transportation offered by the hotel in the form of tuk tuk or private car services to take you around to the best places to visit.

When to visit Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, and you can break your head trying to plan your trip to avoid them, but to make a long story short you won’t be able to. December to March are good months to go, with higher chances of dry weather and sun, but the other side of the coin is that places may be more crowded and prices higher than you had hoped for.

Having said that, just go ahead and do your best trying to avoid the rain, but by all means go. In any case, keep in mind that it usually starts raining in the early afternoon around 12:00 or 1:00 PM, so if you plan to leave early in the morning for your visits, you will be done when it starts raining!

Other useful information 

Please beware that you need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can easily apply for your visa online here.

As for any other trip, I recommend also getting a good travel insurance. Get yours here.

Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”

Finally, for further readings about Sigiriya and Sri Lanka, you can check one of these books:

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Discover the things to do in Sigiriya Sri Lanka - via @clautavani

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