Sigiriya is easily one of the most famous places to visit in Sri Lanka.
2 words … Sigiriya Rock.
It is a landmark that has been photographed and shared by hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world.
As well as this, there’s plenty more to see and do, which is why Sigiriya is such an important stop on any tour of this spectacular country.
So, to help you plan your stay and get the most out of your visit, here a list of our 12 top things to do in Sigiriya this year.
But first ...
Getting around Sri Lanka is actually surprisingly easy, and there’s plenty of options available to you.
For Sigiriya, here’s a look at the 3 best options:.
1. Bus - Buses run regularly all across Sri Lanka from all major towns and cities. They are probably the cheapest option available to you, especially if you are travelling solo. We always try to use 12GoAsia for booking bus journeys in Asia. You can check bus times and prices on 12Go Asia here.
2. Taxi (or Uber) - There are plenty of taxis all around Sri Lanka, and even Uber in Colombo. I would recommend using Uber more, as you know exactly what price you will be paying and can ensure you get a good quality vehicle. They are also usually much cheaper than taxis.
3. Tuk tuk - We rented a tuk tuk in Colombo for 4 weeks and used this to get around the whole of Sri Lanka. They are pretty cheap and fuel costs about $3-5 a day. They have the added benefit that you can visit places that are a little off-the-beaten-track and you never have to rely on anyone else.
If you’re flying into Sri Lanka and only plan on visiting Sigiriya for the whole of your trip, then it’s best just to grab some transport straight from the airport, rather than heading into a busy city like Colombo.
Personally, I would probably opt for an Uber which, at the time of writing, is coming in at around 5,000 to 7,000 LKR.
Between 2 or more people, that is very affordable and the ride should take no more than 4 hours.
You've got a couple of options when it comes to getting around Sigiriya.
There are tonnes of hotels, hostels and resorts available in and around Sigiriya.
Prices range from as little as $8 a night for a double room, up to a few hundred dollars for a luxury resort.
We stayed at Cassandra Culture Resort and had the most wonderful time, so can highly recommend it.
Here’s some good recommendations based on different budgets.
Okay, now it’s time for the part you came for, an ultimate guide on the best things to do in Sigiriya!
This is by far the best thing to do in Sigiriya.
And we were incredibly excited to climb, seeing as we’d spent a whole day staring at it from our hotel balcony.
And we really weren’t let down by the experience!
If you’re short on time, you can take a tour from Colombo to visit the amazing Sigiriya Rock. It's an experience that shouldn't be missed as it really is the best thing to do in Sigiriya.
As the most popular thing to do in Sigiriya, I thought I’d include answers to some of the most common questions you might have:
The morning time is best, as it is much cooler than it will become at midday.
The ideal time would be to arrive about half an hour after they have officially started letting people in. That way, you avoid walking up behind large crowds.
Probably around an hour. However, if you head up during peak times, you might take a bit longer. Especially if you want to see sights along the way and stop for photos.
Throughout most of the year, Sigiriya Rock is open from 7am till 5:30pm.
As with most things in Sri Lanka, this comes down to whether you’re a local or a foreigner. For locals it’s 50 Rupees and for all foreigners its 30 USD (5000 Rupees).
As long as you head up early, before it gets too hot, then most people should be able to climb it. The only tricky part is the last ascent when you go up metal stairs. These can be a little treacherous when wet, so some might find this a bit daunting.
Good shoes are a must. Flip flops aren't a smart idea, as you risk slipping at some point. Other than that, shorts and t-shirt should be fine. There aren’t any religious clothing requirements for Sigiriya Rock (p.s. be sure to check out our full Sri Lanka packing list).
We went by Tuk Tuk, and it's pretty easy to find. In fact, I’ve included a screenshot below of where the car park is. Google maps or Maps.me should get you there no trouble. Other than that, there are lots of tours that run to Sigiriya Rock. Your hotel/hostel should be able to help you out with arranging transport.
This is actually the most surprising thing about Sigiriya Rock. It turns out, it was made around 2 billion years ago! It is actually a large block of molten magma that hardened and plugged a volcano. The area was once full of volcanoes but these have long gone. Now it is just Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala Rock left.
For more information on when to visit and how to get the most out of your trip, check out our full guide on visiting Sigiriya Rock.
Pidurangala Rock is hard to miss, as it’s situated right next to Sigiriya Rock! However, it is in itself a very impressive site to behold.
It is almost as high and also offers breathtaking views out across the surrounding forestland.
Many people choose to climb Sigiriya Rock early in the morning and then walk up Pidurangala Rock to catch the sunset.
You’re welcome to do each one after the other, but it will be tiring and you’d be walking in the midday sun.
This is a popular place to visit for sunrise, and it’s less expensive than Lion Rock (although I do think you should visit both).
Price: 500 LKR/person
Book: Pay when you visit
Opening Times: 5 am to 5 pm
The Sigiriya Archaeological Museum is situated in the same compound as the Sigiriya Rock ticket office.
Once you’ve paid your $30 entrance fee, this then covers you to visit the museum as well.
And you might as well, as it offers more in depth history about the Sigiriya Citadel, as well as information about the Lion Rock Fortress and ruins they have unearthed nearby.
Many recommend visiting the museum before you begin your climb.
That way you will better appreciate everything you see on the way up and will have an understanding of the rock’s historical importance.
If seeing elephants is on your list of things to do in Sigiriya, then you have to go on a day tour of Minneriya National Park.
It’s famous for attracting massive herds of elephants all throughout the dry season.
It is also well known for its wide array of other wildlife, in particular, birds.
As of writing, the cost of entering the park is $15 per person, and then you'll need to rent out a jeep safari for the day.
The more of you that go, the cheaper it is. And your hotel or hostel should be able to help you in finding a good local provider.
Book: Check GetYourGuide
Not far from Minneriya National Park, you’ll find Kaudulla National Park.
It is similar in that it is also one of the country’s most important locations for birds and is becoming increasingly popular with tourists choosing to visit Sigiriya.
It also draws in large herds of elephants during the dry season.
And with no guarantee when and where you will see these herds passing through, it’s always a good choice to hedge your bets and head out for 2 safaris, instead of just 1!
With so much to see and do in the area, many visitors instead opt to hire out bicycles and explore all of the Sigiriya attractions themselves.
Much of the beauty of Sigiriya can be found in the surrounding countryside, so you don't need to be at an actual site in order to have a great time.
It’s worth speaking to your chosen hostel or hotel as there’s a chance they will have some bicycles you can take out for free.
The Sri Lankan ballooning season runs through from November to April, and is certainly one of the most unique things to do in Sigiriya!
A few companies operate throughout the area, each offering sunrise hot air balloon rides.
If you catch it on a clear, sunny day, then the views of the sun rising out over the surrounding jungle canopies is truly incredible!
More Info: Official Website
Only about an hour's drive from Sigiriya, you have the town of Polonnaruwa.
The two spots are very intertwined and guests choosing to stay in either Polonnaruwa or Sigiriya will choose to take day trips to see the other sites on offer.
If you leave early you can spend the day exploring Polonnaruwa then head back to Sigiriya to catch the sunset.
The small town of Dambulla is a nice place to visit, though you are limited in what to do there.
We stayed for one night, but it is possible to simply stop off for a few hours.
It only takes about an hour to get from Dambulla to Sigiriya.
And what do you do whilst there? See the Dambulla Cave Temple of course!
It is a very unique spot that houses more than a hundred Buddha statues, all perfectly carved and preserved inside of individual cave temples.
There are 5 caves in total, each containing unique designs.
It’s worth hiring a guide to show you around.
They charge around 1,000 LKR and can teach you more about the spot’s incredible historical significance.
If you are staying in Sigiriya all throughout your time in Sri Lanka, then there are 3 key places that you should be sure to make day trips to.
It is an ancient capital of Sri Lanka and includes some of the best preserved temples and monuments from ancient Sri Lanka.
If you head up there with your own transport then it costs just $25 to gain access to all of the many sites available in the Old City.
Trincomalee is our favourite seaside location in Sri Lanka. There isn’t a lot of surf, if that’s what you’re interested in.
However, there are still so many wonderful places to visit in Trincomalee.
What they do have is one massive long stretch of clean, sandy beach and a vast array of bars and resorts you can stay in for the day.
The weather in Trincomalee is typically far hotter than in Sigiriya and there are a few things to do there.
But we recommend heading up, getting yourself a sun lounger outside Fernando’s and spending the day sipping cocktails and swimming in the warm sea.
The third and final city I recommend visiting outside of Sigiriya, is Kandy.
Almost all backpackers stop off there on their journey backpacking through Sri Lanka.
But for those staying exclusively in Sigiriya, it is a spot you simply cannot afford to miss.
The area is higher in the mountains than Sigiriya and is most famed for its numerous ancient Buddhist monuments.
It is also a haven for tea plantations and is home to some of Sri Lanka’s most diverse and natural rainforests.
Don’t forget to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens whilst you’re there.
We only stayed for one night in Sigiriya, but spent another night just up the road in Dambulla.
If you really want to relax and enjoy your time here, then I'd recommend staying for 4 or 5 nights, and in that time fitting in day trips to all of the stops listed above.
All in all, I truly do believe visiting Sigiriya is one of the top things to do in Sri Lanka.
And, from reading above, you can see that there really are so many wonderful places to visit in Sigiriya for all kinds of travellers.
If you’ve been to Sigiriya before and have anywhere else to recommend, then please do let me know below!
Here, the landscape changes dramatically and you get to enjoy glorious tea plantations for miles in all directions.
For help planning your full route, you can check our our amazing 3 Week Sri Lanka Itinerary.