When initially researching Sri Lanka I came across the Sigiriya Rock Fortress, but I crossed it off my list because it seemed too far North to visit. However, upon arriving at Kandy, I discovered that it was only a 2.5 hour car ride away. Guess Sri Lanka is a lot smaller and more compact than I thought! So day trip to Sigiriya, yes please.
The easiest way to get out to locations like Sigiriya that can only be reached by road is to hire a driver of some sort (tuk tuk, car, or van). Hiring a driver for the day might cost anywhere between $35-60, but it’s even more affordable if you find other tourists to join together and split the cost. There were a couple of other groups at the hostel I was staying at that were interested in going to Sigiriya, so I joined a Chinese couple and we shared a car for 6500 LKR ($43).
Most travel websites talk about leaving early for Sigiriya to visit before the sun starts to heat up at 10:30am. However, the couple wanted to see the sun set, so we left at 11am instead. As long as we wouldn’t be outside during the heat of the day, it was fine by me!
Along the way, we stopped at a few smaller attractions, including a spice garden and the Dambulla cave temple. There are a series of more than 80 caves, but the 5 biggest ones are the only ones that contain Buddhist statues and are open to the public.
We arrived at Sigiriya at about 3pm, which left us plenty of time (perhaps too much) to hike through the gardens and climb the rock before sunset at 6:30pm. I guess that was just as well, because the entrance fee, at 4500 LKR ($30) for foreigners, is pretty hefty. For a bit of comparison, the three nights that I stayed at a hostel in Kandy only came out to $27. There’s insane price discrimination for foreigners (4500 LKR/$30) and locals (50 LKR/$0.33). But I get it, and the money is hopefully going towards preservation.
The park surrounding the rock fortress is large, and you have to walk for quite a ways through moats and gardens to get to it. Since I didn’t opt for a guide, I’m depending on Wikipedia, which says that the site was selected for a capital in the 5th century and the gardens are among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world.
Apparently other critters are quite fond of the gardens as well:
Sigiriya is also called “the Lion Rock,” as the king built a lion gate on one side. From what I could tell, this “lion gate” consists of just the paws on either side of the stairway. How did they ever get on top of the rock without this stairway??
On top of the rock, the outline of the palace (which is all that is left) seemed to be fairly small, maybe the size of a large living room + dining room. I guess there’s only so much flat surface on top of the rock, after all. But there were plenty of additional gardens and landscaping.
The view of/from the top:
We found a place to sit and wait for sunset, and were joined by plenty of monkey friends. They were everywhere!
Since we knew that it would get dark fast after the sun set, we booked it back down the rock as soon as the sun approached the horizon and made it to our car before it got pitch black. We still had the same long ride home, but we crashed in the car the entire way back.
A great day trip, overall!