Sigiriya Lion's rock - hill fortress

Sigiriya Lion’s Rock: 10 Things To Know Before Visiting

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Sri Lankans call Sigiriya the “8th Wonder of the World,” a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The iconic landmark’s name is derived from the word “Sihagri,” which literally translates to lion rock. Standing tall at 180m, the ancient rock fortress is a testament to the ingenuity and architectural brilliance of past civilizations that resided in this region.

Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a history buff, or a nature lover, Sigiriya has something for everyone. Let us delve into the rich history as we take you through the most visited tourist destination in Sri Lanka.

10 Things To Know About Sigiriya Lion’s Rock

Sigiriya Map

1. History

Closer view of the Sigiriya rock fortress from the Pidurangala rock
Closer view of the Sigiriya rock fortress from the Pidurangala rock

During 459-477 AD, King Dhatunesa ruled the region. His son, Kasyapa, was born to a lesser queen and wasn’t the rightful heir to the throne. However, he usurped the throne by murdering his father, King Dhatunesa. During his reign (477-495 AD), Kasyapa chose Sigiriya as his administration center and ruled the region for 18 years. 

Sigiriya’s status as the capital city was short-lived. Mugalan, the rightful heir to the throne and Kasyapa’s half-brother defeated Kasyapa’s army, and the latter killed himself. Thus, Mugalan succeeded his half-brother. However, he decided to leave Sigiriya and transformed it into a Buddhist Monastery. This marked the second phase of the structure and lasted till the 12 or 13th century AD. After this period, Sigiriya was abandoned, nature reclaimed its land, and the structure’s glory seemed a mere myth.

In 1894 HCP Bell, the first commissioner of archaeology, initiated research at Sigiriya. Between 1930-1940, the research was carried further under the guidance of Prof. Paranavitana. In 1982, the Central Cultural Fund enabled archaeologists to resume their activities. Even today, research, conservation, and maintenance work is carried out on this site.

2. Archaeological Sites

Sigiriya archaeological site, aerila view

The City of Sigiriya was built on the summit of a granite peak. From the hilltop, you get 360° views of the surrounding jungle. The rock hill is secured by moats and crocodiles on all sides.

Lion's paw, Sigiriya
Lion’s paw, Sigiriya

The city has several sites that preserve the region’s history and culture. These include mirror wall and graffiti, the three water gardens, boulder gardens, the palace complex, Atapattam Pokuna (Octagonal pond), Lion’s Paw, Asana cave, Deraniyagala cave, Bodhi tree shrine, Ambagaspitia inscription, and wall paintings. These spots have archaeological significance, and you must visit them.

Wall paintings at Sigiriya national park

It is said that there were at least 500 colorful frescoes of ladies, but only 19 of them remain. The true identity of the ladies in these paintings still has not been confirmed.

You must climb the steps carved out of rocks and steel to visit these archaeological sites. Although numerous pathways exist to reach, ascend, and descend the hill, climbing is the only way to do so. It will take at least 3 – 5 hours to visit Sigiriya.

3. Entrance

Although there are three entrances (Northern, Southern, and Western) to enter the archaeological site, entry is permitted only through the Western entrance, where the ticket counter is located. The tickets and bags are checked before you enter.

4. Entry Fee

  • Sigiriya archaeological site: LKR 100 for Sri Lankans. For Foreigners – USD 30 for adults, USD 15 for children under 12. Half tickets for SAARC countries (by presenting the original passport).
  • Only Museum: USD 5

The tickets purchased for the archaeological site are also valid for visiting the Sigiriya Museum. However, if you like to visit only the museum, you must pay USD 5.

5. Timings

Sigiriya Entrance
Sigiriya Entrance

Visitors are allowed only between 5:30 AM and 7 PM and prohibited from staying within the archaeological reserve area outside these hours.

Museum Timings: 7:30 AM – 5:30 PM

6. Guide

The significant places are marked with name boards and descriptions in three languages – Sinhala, Tamil, and English along with a QR code. You can download the Heritage Sri Lanka app, scan the QR code, and listen to the audio, giving you a tour of the places. Alternatively, you can hire a guide near the ticket counter or at the entrance at an additional cost.

7. Backpack Station/ Baggage Counter

  • Baggage/ luggage is accepted only before 3 PM.
  • Cash, gold jewelry, and mobile phones are not accepted.
  • Collect your items before 5 PM. If not, the items can be collected the next day after 6:30 AM
  • Make sure to lock your baggage for extra safety.

8. Restroom & Parking Facilities

Clean and well-maintained restrooms are available near the ticket counter. A huge parking space is also available. There are ATMs and drinking water facilities available as well.

9. Photography & Drones

Sigiriya rock fortress, Sri Lanka

Sigiriya is a strictly no-drone zone. You need to get special permission to operate drones. Taking pictures and videos with your cameras and mobile phones is allowed, except where the wall paintings are found.

10. Where To Stay & Eat?

Although there are accommodations in the Sigiriya National Park, they are expensive. We stayed in Dambulla and visited as a day trip from there. Here are some recommendations for stay

A few restaurants can also be found on the Sigiriya National Park premises.


Important Things To Note

  • Beware of monkeys. There are a lot of monkeys waiting to snatch your belongings.
  • There are no strict dress codes as it is not a holy place of worship.
  • Sigiriya can be visited throughout the year. The best time to visit is during the golden hours when the weather is pleasant. Go early in the morning to beat the rush. 
  • Sigiriya is a plastic-free zone. Be responsible and do not litter.
  • Wear comfortable shoes as it involves climbing. Footwear need not be removed during the entire journey.
  • Half-day village tours in a bullock cart, hot air ballooning, hiking the Pidurangala rock, and visiting the Dambulla cave temple are famous activities beyond visiting the archaeological site. You can also go on a jeep safari to see Asian elephants.

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