23 Things to Do in Sigiriya and its Surrounding Areas
Sigiriya is the most attractive place among foreigners and locals. It is one of the best archaeological sites in the world. There are many things to do in the ancient City of Sigiriya. In this article, we covered 22 things that you can do around the city.
According to the SLTDA Annual Statistical Report 2015, 452,301 Foreigners and 514,522 Locals have visited the Citadel of Sigiriya. If we analyze last 05 years of statistics, it is attracting thousands of more visitors each year and increasing day by day.
You might wonder why that much people attract this place. Don’t you?
It is because of cultural value, nature and rich history attached to this place. Moreover, it became a UNESCO protected heritage site since 1982.
Citadel of Sigiriya was built by King Kashyapa (477 – 495 CE). According to the Chronicle book Culavamsa, He had to build a rock fortress to protect himself from his brother Moggallana aka Mugalan. If you are a history buff or relic hunter, you surely interested in to learn about History of Sigiriya.
Some of the local designers made a 3D animated video to get you to understand better and imagine how looks like at the ancient time. Once you watched this, you will distinguish why is it called Lion rock fortress.
Here are top 22 things you must do in the City of Sigiriya and its close by places.
01. Lion Rock Sigiriya Fortress: Climb to the summit of the rock.
One of the best evidence to show ancient Sinhalese technology such as hydraulic system, water retaining structures, built the buildings on rocks, etc… You can see the beautiful view from the summit and do not remember to bring cameras with you.
Starting from the gardens until you climb to the top of the rock where the king was lived, there are many things to consider such as Lion’s Paw, Mirror wall, and Frescoes. Sigiriya Rock is a 200 m tall, massive rock. So this could not be a good for disabilities or who does not have good fitness.
Entrance Fee: $30* (also includes entry into the Museum).
Opening Hours: 7:00 AM – 5:30 PM (Last entry 5:00 PM).
Visit: 3-4 hours (Recommended)
Climbing time: 60-90 Minutes to the top (best times are early morning or late afternoon)
02. Royal Gardens Sigiriya
Since the 5th century, some of the garden water structures are still working today. If you like more about archeological value, try to read Journal of Nordic Archeological Science.
Water gardens are located in the western part of the rock with a complex hydraulic system. It consists of canals, locks, lakes, fountains as well as underground water distribution system.
Here is the picture of water garden;
Sigiriya is comprised of several large boulder gardens which are linked by winding pathways. At the bottom of the Sigiri rock, these gardens extend from northern to southern slope.
Entrance Fee: Free
Visit: 1-2 hours (Recommended)
03. Sigiriya Frescoes
Sigiriya Frescoes is the most famous and attractive because of these paintings. Moreover, it is similar to Ajanta painting in India. There is an excellent research article from Danapala which is called “A short note on the techniques of Sigiriya pictures.” It is worth to read out if you love ancient art techniques.
There is a comment wall which is called “Katapath Pawra” (in Sinhala). The old travelers commented on this wall when they surprise from these painting. Most of the paintings vanished forever without remaining anything. These paintings represent King Kashyapa’s wives or Apsaras.
You can take pictures here without flashing. Also please do not touch any of painting and don’t write anything on the comment wall aka Graffiti. If you do such thing, you may have to face some legal problems.
Of course, you can study further from History of the Sigiriya Kingdom from this article.
Entrance Fee: Included on your Sigiriya Fortress ticket.
Visit: As per number 01.
04. Cobra Hood Cave
A rock which is shaped like cobra’s head. That is why it is called Cobra Hood Cave. In the late February 1991, Professor Senake Bandaranaya founded Middle historic period burial site close to this place.
Please click here to see complete research article on National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka.
It is believed that this was donated to monks by Chief Naguli. Moreover, it belongs to the 2nd century, and some say that this belonged to King Ravana. However, it needs studies furthermore to get the correct details.
FYI: Fees included to your Sigiriya Fortress ticket. Also, same goes for visiting time.
05. Sigiriya Museum
After you visit Lion Rock, you might have the interest to find out more about the historical and archaeological value of this remarkable place. You may wonder, how was this built? And what techniques that they also used why did King Kashyapa create this and much more. The museum is the best place to visit to find out the answers.
Museum and its surrounding areas were developed in 2009 with Support of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) under COTS (Culture Oriented Tourism in Sigiriya) project. Japan will help to develop and protect Sigiriya furthermore at all times.
The Journal of Sri Lanka Institute of Architects has written a well-researched article about Sigiriya Museum and its recent development.
You can dig deep into the history there. Even you can see a 3D model of Sigiriya as well as English translations of poetry where you can see on the Graffiti (Comment Wall). There are 07 galleries, and each represents different items such as frescoes, poetry, Courtly and Monastic life and Foreign Trade, Royal City and the Golden Age, etc…
Here is the abstract from Kusumsiri Kodithuwakku & Jinadasa Katupotha published in ResearchGate.
The entrance to the Sigiriya Museum is through a brick tunnel that is designed in the same way as the archway of Water Garden of the Sigiriya Royal City Complex. Inside this newly built museum exhibits human skeletons, clay objects, tools, jewellery, sculptures and carvings, which were found from archaeological excavations at Sigiriya and its surrounding area. Some are iron and bronze objects that portray the prehistoric and historic cultural evolution in Sri Lanka. The galleries at the Museum are filled with drawings and photographs but these do not provide much technical information. These commodities and materials have cultural, technological and archaeological value, and provide an indication about cultural evolution in the region from Prehistoric times to the reign of King Kasyapa which extends from 10,000 yr B.P to 1,520 yr B.P.
Keywords: Archaeological excavations, Sigiriya Museum, a visual narration, tangible heritage
Click here to read the full article published on Research Gate. (This is for history archaeological buffers.)
Entrance Fee: $5 (No need a ticket if you have a Sigiriya site ticket)
Opening Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM (Last entry is at 5:00 PM).
Visit: As much as you like
06. Sigiriya Craft Village and Pathikada
It’s nice place to shop handicrafts made by locals. In this village, you can buy different clusters such as clay work, dumbara items, bamboo, metal, and much more.
If you like to contact craftsmen directly, you can find from National Craft Council. You can find island wide artisans in this directory.
We have categorized crafts cluster wise. Here you can view and check what is it looks like.
Do not forget to buy one of these beautiful traditional handicrafts to your home. It will be a nice memorable monument for you.
Pathikada is also a best place to purchase handicrafts, mask, paintings, wood carving, etc… Jagath Jayasuriya (B.F.A) is the leading artist in pathikada. He has more than 30-year experience in painting, drawing, and all other creations.
FYI: Free of charge to enter and spend the time to your tour plan. We can help you to plan your visit anytime.
07. Climb up Pidurangala Rock: Royal Cave Temple Monastery
It is well worth to climb up Pidurangala rock and some say it is better than Lion Rock Sigiriya in point of view. Pidurangala rock is also same like Sigiriya Rock. However, it is more herculean adventurous than Lion Rock.
You should have to careful when you climb up this rock. Moreover, you can visit Royal Cave Temple aka Rajamaha Vihara and giant reclining Buddha.
Remember there is no toilet and refreshment. Make sure to bring a water bottle or anything you want. Also, this will not be good for older guys and disable persons.
What you can see here is;
- Old Dagoba
- Chapter House
- Preaching Hall
- Image House
- Boundary wall
- Bikku Residence Building
On the Pidurangala Rock;
- Cave of the Recumbent Buddha Image
- Ruins of Dagabas
There is one research article A Study of Human-Elephant conflict to get an idea about the human threat to elephant living in this area. The Diversity of Vegetation Types of the Pidurangala, research shows that inselbergs are monolithic rock outcrops composed of granites. J.Katupotha and K.Kodituwakku have done a great job to find out the diversity of vegetation in this area.
Best time: Early morning or late afternoon is good. Otherwise, the rock will get hot.
After having scenic adventurous walking tours, it is time to refreshment and enjoys some activities. Let’s jump up to some activities.
08. Elephant Ride in Habarana and Sigiriya
Elephant Back Safaris are more popular among foreigners. You can get a best Elephant Ride in Habarana (a close town to Sigiriya). Do not forget to note down this unique tremendous experience activity into your things to do list.
In terms of safety, there is nothing to worry about these wild giants because they have well trained and they will not harm you in any way. Being said that, you should know that there is some percentage of risk. It is better to have insurance with you. Who knows what happen next anyway?
In addition, you can have an Elephant Ride close to Sigiriya Wewa (Sigiriya Lake). Maybe it will be better if you like to take pictures with Lion Rock. But You can have a more adventurous ride in Habarana. The decision is yours whether Sigiriya Lake or Habarana.
World famous animal protect organization PETA is trying to ban Elephant back safaris in the world. Moreover, they reported an Elephant Drops Dead after Giving Rides Tourists in Cambodia. In addition, there are more incidents reported from Nepal and Thailand. However, we have never seen elephants get beaten or any terrible harassment other than wild elephant-human battle.
Sri Lanka law is very strict regarding elephant and if somebody kills an elephant, then it might result in death penalty.
FYI: Fees will be approximate $10-35 per person. (If you have a group, you probably get the lowest price). And the time will be 30 minutes to 1 hour.
09. Bullock Cart Ride
Bullock cart was used to travel and transport goods to different places in old times. However still, you could see carts running in the village area. (Only a few)
It’s an authentic experience to have a local life and to learn how they lived with nature. Two buffaloes carry a regular bullock cart. Some cart has only one buffalo. You will have a cart driver along with the ride.
FYI: Price will be $5 or more but typically attached to village tour. So you could get the best deal with it.
10. Catamaran Ride Aka Canoe Tour
This will not be a usual Catamaran Ride because of the reservoir, and the path will vary according to the village that you choose. Here’s some of the villages art collection to understand village life.
FYI: This one also will include to village tour normally.
11. Authentic Sri Lankan Delicious Food
Many foreigners never forget to taste Sri Lankan Delicious Food. You should taste these local made best lunch while you have village tour.
You will be served your lunch with Lotus or Banana leaf instead of the plate. Remember to get a local food demonstration and kick around on vegetable cultivation.
FYI: Fees included to village tour.
Please note that you can do number 11 and 12 if you choose to go to Hiriwadunna Village. Hiriwadunna village is isolated from town. So you could get a better experience.
12. Bicycle Trial
It’s an excellent event cycling. You could rent a bicycle and take the map from bike map. So you can explore villages by yourself. However, it will cost around USD $22 in some places. However, it will vary according to the person who is renting bikes.
Keep in mind some hotels or lodge has bicycle and motorbike hiring service.
Otherwise, you can hire a service like Bike Tours Sri Lanka. But it will cost you around USD 110 per person. If you tour with us, please do not hesitate to contact us prior booking your tour. Furthermore, please try our custom tour, planner. So that way we can make a great plan to your visit Sri Lanka.
13. Scenic Air Tour
We have described well air taxi services in our article “Ultimate Travel Guide Sri Lanka.” You can fly over Sigiriya lion rock and pidurangala rock to take photos or to see attractive look out there.
You better contact us before you book a tour with any of Air Taxi service. Then we can direct you to the best path according to your budget.
14. Hot Air Ballooning in Sigiriya
There is a hot air ballooning festival in Sri Lanka. It will be held around March each year. However, you must book earlier to reserve a spot for you. Otherwise, it will be harder to get a spot.
Ceylon Airship and Balloon Club together organizes Sri Lanka Balloon Festival annually with participating many countries.
Let us help you to plan your tour
15. Ayurveda Spa in Sigiriya
Sri Lanka has a long history of Ayurveda Medicine and Spa. According to Valmiki’s Ramayana, King Ravana had the great healing and medicine knowledge than any other. In our travel guide, we have described well about Ayurveda medicine correctly.
Just let us know before your departure or if you want to have a spa suddenly while you travel, just talk to your chauffeur guide or contact our live support department.
There are some expensive resorts and hotels also maintain Ayurvedic Spa their self. If you need to save some money, it is better to do research. As we do not partner with any of service, you will get a better price with us.
Try our tour planner it’s free
16. Dambulla Cave Temple aka Golden Temple of Dambulla
Golden Temple of Dambulla is also a UNESCO world heritage site close to Sigiriya. This is the largest cave complex which has 2100 m2 covered the area.
Dambulla cave monastery also a sacred pilgrimage site for 22 centuries. It has immense historical and archaeological value same as Sigiriya Lion Rock Fortress. Because of the Giant Golden Lord Buddha Statue, it is called Golden Temple now a day.
You might interest to learn more about History of Dambulla Cave Temple as it has high cultural, historical, archeological value. F.H. Popham and P.E. Neil published a paper DAMBULLA ARBORETUM on a journal of Taylor and Francis. And another useful research (Case Study of World Heritage City Dambulla) have done by Ruwan Ranasinghe.
FYI: There is no charge to enter to this site as like every temple and monasteries in the country. However, typically Locals put a couple of bucks into the Pin Cubes (Pin Kata). It helps to maintain these temples. That’s how Sri Lanka became a 05th nation of most generous people. (Travel Guide – Culture tab)
17. Heritance Kandalama Green Hotel
Heritance Kandalama designed by great Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. This is the first Eco-Friendly Hotel in Sri Lanka. He was the one of best influencer architect in the Asia.
Do you want to know Geoffrey Bawa’s Kandalama Hotel project? See a Case Study of Geoffrey Bawa’s Kandalama Hotel.
This is a one of greatest creation in Sri Lanka created in recent past. In this five-star hotel, you can see their own museum, how they recycle everything, how they re-use everything habitat in a friendly way. Even they are making compost fertilizer to maintain their landscape. You will be amazed once you visit this excellent place.
Do not forget to visit Kaludiya Pokuna (Pond) Forest during your Kandalama Green hotel visit. There are various types of Birds, Reptiles, Mammals.
FYI: For locals, there is a small fee and for students are almost free. For foreigners, you can get room to stay in the hotel at different prices or just pay a small fee to visit.
Let’s head over to Wildlife safaris you can get in Sigiriya, Habarana and Minneriya Region and its surrounding.
18. Minneriya Wildlife Elephant Safari
Minneriya National Park is a world famous national park for Elephants. There is a huge number of elephants come close to the Minneriya Lake especially in dry season. There are different species lives in the national park such as sambar deer, axis deer, leopard, sloth bear, monkeys and much more.
Minneriya National Park also attractive for the birds and it has some species only native to Sri Lanka. If you like to observe closely Large Elephant Gatherings, then July to October is the best time to visit. Minneriya National Park was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 2004.
There was a study about the pricing for elephant watching at Minneriya National Park. Check here to view the study. However, it will be $15 or more. Price can always be changed time to time.
19. Kaudulla National Park: Wildlife Safari
Our 19th Things to Do in the list is Kaudulla National Park which is popular for Bird Watching. As well as, there are elephant gatherings like in Minneriya. However, it will be less than Minneriya National Park.
24 species of mammals, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish, and 160 species of birds were observed in this national park. You can get further information from Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Finding Beyond says that they had to face a problem in Minneriya and they prefer Kaudulla National Park to watch elephant gathering. But it is just because of the crowd that time when they visit Minneriya National Park.
FYI: Fees will be USD 12 per person approximately. Try to go evening to spot more elephants.
20. Hurulu Eco Park Safari
There are few private safari operators around Hurulu Eco Park which is located in Habarana. And also it will be inexpensive by comparing to other two national parks.
You might not see a large herd of elephants like in Minneriya. But you could get unique safari experience as only a few jeeps come here. Just contact us to plan your trip. We are here to help you anytime.
FYI: Most of the private jeep safari operators will try to charge a higher rate. We can help you to get the better rate.
21. Ancient Buddhist Forest Monastery and Mountain
It is located in the Northern area of Habarana. This is the highest elevation in the dry zone. (766 m from MSE) As well as Ritigala (AKA Dreadful Mountain) Mountain has the highest rainfall in the dry zone.
The ruins of Ritigala Monastery are located on the eastern side of the mountain. Stone cut into shaped like a boat called Medicinal boat can be seen in this monastery. And also there are many ruins remain here.
If you like to get a refresh or excite, just climb up to the summit of Ritigala Mountain. It is a cool charm place in the region. And also high diversity forest in the Sri Lanka. A research, Flora of Ritigala Natural Reserve have been done by Jayasuriya A.H.M
It is believed that Lord Hanuman who had supernatural power, traveled over ritigala and during his journey, he dropped a chunk of Himalaya. He was sent by Lord Rama to Himalaya to bring herbs to cure the Prince Lakshman.
FYI: Approximately $8 or It can slightly differ.
22. Camping at Sigiriya Region
Our final things to do in Sigiriya Region is Camping which is more adventures in the list. There are few campsites located near Sigiriya, Minneriya, Dambulla, Pidurangala, Kandalama and Habarana. You could choose one of these sites as you prefer. There is no significant difference between these campsites.
In your deluxe camping site, you will get bottled water, tea/coffee, WIFI, Hairdryer, etc… But if you want to get real experience than comfort, you better go for jungle campsite. You will get more comfort in camping which is organised by resorts.
It’s time to have beer or wine, BBQ dinner, fireworks, etc… If you love the nature, you can collect an unforgettable experience to your memory. This is the last event you can have in one of best region in the Cultural Triangle.
FYI: Price will be varying. Approximately up to USD 50.
Note: We do not have any affiliation with any of these service providers or any outbound link that we referred. So we are committed to give you 100% transparent list of things to do and proper details. Please do not hesitate to comment below your feedback or tell us anytime. So we can improve the list more accurate passionate to your interest.
We tried to give an excellent help to improve your travel in Sri Lanka. We just need to get a better experience for all nomads and tourists who visit Sri Lanka. As we can see that there is a lack of online resources to refer, we decided to give you honest review here.
When we refer some blogs and website, we noticed that some of the bloggers are misleading just because of their bad experience or lack of resources they found online. It is important to plan your trip plan before your departure. Otherwise, you will get bad or good experience though. But the reasons for those bad experiences were only because they didn’t know what to do? And where to go?
So we decided to give you the better understanding about things to do in Sigiriya as it is one of the main places in the cultural triangle. Follow-up our ultimate tour guide to get more informative yourself. We have discussed 22 things that you can do in your Sigiriya visit. Please send us your suggestions to improve the article.