Getting dizzy of the Sigiriya Lion rock fortress heights

With its 1.200 steps and 200m, the rock fortress of Sigiriya is pretty impressive. Back in the days that king Kashyapa was the ruler, he made wooden stairs, which are now replaced by metal ones, to clim the huge rock.

Sigiriya means lion Rock. Its meaning comes from the giant lion paws on the plateau halfway up. King Kashyapa build a huge lion as a gateway with a staircase from the mouth. The enormous rock is divided by this plateau. This is actually a good thing since it takes a lot of energy to climb all the way up. Halfway you can have a rest and enjoy the view of both the wonderfull green landscape of Sigiriya as well as the paws of the lion. It’s also a nice place to take pictures. Sigiriya became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

The rock has an amazing view. You will have a hard time though if you are afraid of heights. The open air staircases could get you dizzy. We think that this is one of the best attractions of Sri Lanka. It unfortunately costs 30 USD per person to climb the rock. But we think it is worth the visit.

What can you see at the lion rock in Sigiriya?

Other than the huge paws halfway, there is much more to see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Starting from the main entrance of this huge complex, you have to walk about 2km to get to the ticket counter and actual entry. There are signs which state that elephants may occur at dawn. Not sure if you like this or not but this happens occasionally, so don’t go with the expectation that you might actually see one. Once you arrive at the ticket counter, you will notice that it is a very large complex with a lot of green and exotic animals such as monkeys, reptiles, squirrels and different kinds of birds. You can have a nice walk and enjoy the royal gardens till you reach the actual rock. Here’s a list of everything you can see in the Sigiriya rock complex.

Gardens of Sigiriya

From the entrance to the rock you will need to walk round 2 km. From the ticket counter on you will see a lot of water gardens on the way. Little pools in different shapes provide a nice landscape. Once you get closer to the rock, you will find impressive natural boulders. You won’t get bored on the way.


As you climb the rock with a spiral stairway, you can see paintings of women on the rock. These paintings are well preserved despite their age. The colors are still glowing and provide a nice gallery on your way up.

Mirror wall

After you pass the frescoes you will find a path which leads you to the halfway up plateau. This path is protected by a high wall (round 3 m). The wall has a very smooth glaze.

Lions paws

On the plateau, the lion paws can be found. The massive paws are very impressive. Between them a staircase can be found, which leads to the top of the rock. Closer to the top, there are metal stairs. The original stairs are replaced by these metal ones. However you can still see cuts into the rock, which were used before.


On the summit of the rock the palace of king Kashyapa was constructed. The area contains impressive gardens and ponds. There is also a throne made of rock and a large water storage which also are nice to see. The view from this point is truly breathtaking as the landscape exists of all the green Sri Lanka has to offer. You might get a little dizzy though, because it really feels high and there is a lot of wind which might give you chills on the edges.


There is another huge rock in Sigiriya. This rock is called the Pidurangala rock and gives you a nice view on the lion rock. We honestly didn’t climb on that one since we were too tired from the lions rock and wanted to visit Dambulla in the same day. The Pidurangala rock is at a 1km distance from the lion rock and takes a 20 minutes hike to the top.

Sigiriya museum

The Sigiriya museum is made with Japanese donations. This museum is very small. It has a few beautiful ancient statues. Next to this you can find some equipments and other items used by people during that time. It’s not very impressive but you could have a look around. A tour would’t take much of your time.

Tips and tricks for climbing the lion rock

We would like to give you some advice for your trip to Sigiriya. Below we have listed some things you might want to take in consideration.

Be careful for bees

Safety first! On our way to the rock and on the rock we saw warning signs for bees. You shouldn’t make too much noice as this can make the bees attack you! We didn’t see any on our trip, but we heard that one man got attacked and needed to go to the hospital one time. That sounded really scary. Also one thing we noticed is that a note at the ticket counter says: your ticket won’t be refunded if you get attacked by bees.

What is the best time to climb?

The best time to climb the rock is early in the morning. This way there are not much tourists and the climbing is much easier when it’s less hot. We were one of the first people standing at the ticket counter. It was very peaceful. We spend a lot of time on top of the rock, so when it was later we noticed how much people arrived. Especially if you want to take pictures with no people on the background, the earlier the better.

How long does it take?

It really depends on how fast you can climb or how many pictures you want to take on the way to the top. We would say, if you feel fit, it would take 30 – 45 minutes. Otherwise with some stops 1 hour.

How much is the entrance fee?

The Sigiriya rock is one of the most expensive attractions in Sri Lanka. We had to pay round 30 USD per person.

What to wear?

We strongly advice you to wear comfortable clothes. Although there is a strong breeze, it can get very hot, especially in the afternoon when climbing the rock. We would advice a t-shirt and shorts. You don’t need any mountain shoes, just comfortable sport shoes or tracking shoes would be ok. You could even wear flip flops, but be aware that it is a long climb where you need to pay attention, we prefer sport shoes  or tracking shoes for more grip and ease.


Drink lots of water as you will use a lot of energy and it may be very hot. It wouldn’t hurt to take a bottle or two of water with you.

Other than water don’t cary too much stuff, this will only frustrate you.

Be careful for the wind with taking selfies, on the rock there can be a strong wind. The rock isn’t really covered with protecting walls or something. Therefor some edges may be dangerous with a strong wind.

How to get to Sigiriya from Colombo?

Sigiriya doesn’t have a train station. The cheapest way to get to Sigiriya is to take the bus from Colombo Fort, Pettah station to Dambulla. There is no direct bus which goes to Sigiriya. We took one bus from Colombo Fort, Pettah to the Dambulla bus station (290 LKR – regular bus without A/C) and one from Dambulla to Sigiriya (40 LKR). Do note that the bus from Dambulla to Sigiriya doesn’t have a number, but it simply shows the destination and drives 2 times a hour. This bus stops at the entrance of the lion rock complex.

How much money will you spend in Sigiriya?

Costs you probably will make during your trip to Sigiriya:

Entrance fee Sigiriya rock: 4.600 LKR (30 USD)

Water (1lt): 100 LKR

Bus from Dambulla: 40 LKR

Bus from Colombo fort Pettah station to Dambulla: 290 LKR one way normal bus without A/C (with A/C bus 390 LKR one way)

Food: cheap in general, but expensive within the complex (a few snacks already cost 500 LKR, in other places they would have been like 200 LKR)


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