Hiking Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya: Everything you need to know

Sri Lanka offers something for everyone. There’s the amazing Hiriketiya Beach to the south of the country, the gorgeous tea plantations in the hill country and a wealth of culture toward the north.

I explored all of these areas and hiking Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya was one of the highlights of my trip to the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka.

Sitting on Pidurangala Rock, overlooking Sigiriya Rock in the distance

Sitting on Pidurangala Rock, overlooking Sigiriya Rock in the distance

Pidurangala Rock vs Sigiriya Rock: Which one to hike?

The area surrounding Sigiriya has made a name for itself for its two leading attractions, Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala Rock.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya Rock, otherwise known as Lion Rock, is an ancient rock fortress with a rich history. It is one of the main attractions in the cultural triangle and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with this title comes a steep entrance fee of $30 per person to explore the Sigiriya Rock Fortress.

Sigiriya Rock Fortress is 2km's from Pidurangala Rock

Sigiriya Rock Fortress is 2km’s from Pidurangala Rock

Pidurangala Rock

Pidurangala Rock is a stone’s throw away from the famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress and albeit not as popular, it sure does offer a scenic hike with a more natural feel. From the top of Pidurangala, you’ll have impressive views of Sigiriya Rock and the village below.

It was nature I was looking for, so taking into consideration the cheaper entrance fee of $3, and smaller crowds that gather there, I decided to go for the Pidurangala Rock sunrise hike instead.

Pidurangala Rock isn't nearly as crowded as Sigiriya Lion Rock

Pidurangala Rock isn’t nearly as crowded as Sigiriya Lion Rock

Pidurangala Rock sunrise hike – everything you need to know

Although I’m not a morning person, I opted for an early morning sunrise hike up Pidurangala Rock to escape the heat and crowds.

What time does Pidurangala Rock open for a sunrise hike?

I started my sunrise hike up Pidurangala Rock at 05:30 and there were already several people at the top. If you go anytime from 5am the gates will be open, and you’ll make it up in time for sunrise.

Reaching the peak of Pidurangala Rock just in time for sunrise

Reaching the peak of Pidurangala Rock just in time for sunrise

How to get to Pidurangala Rock from Sigiriya?

Pidurangala Rock is situated about 10 minutes from the center of Sigiriya. You can either ride a bike, take a scooter or hop on a tuk-tuk to get there.

But be careful! I stayed at a local homestay in Sigiriya and was planning on riding a bicycle to the entrance of Pidurangala Rock for my sunrise hike. However, this plan went out the window after my host warned me of wild elephants that roam the area before sunrise.

Sigiriya traffic

Sigiriya traffic

Pidurangala Rock entrance fee

Entrance fee to Pidurangala is 500 LKR ($3) per person. This is a small donation to the monks for the upkeep of the temple grounds.

How long does it take to get to the top of Pidurangala Rock?

Reaching the top of Pidurangala Rock takes 20-40 minutes, depending on your pace. It’s not a difficult hike and people of all ages and fitness levels will be able to get to the summit.

You’ll probably spend an hour at the top, before hiking back down which will take about 15 minutes.

Pidurangala Rock climb time

The massive platform at the top of Pidurangala Rock

Pidurangala Rock hike

Arriving at Pidurangala Sigiri Rajamaha Viharaya Temple

You will arrive at a white temple at the base of Pidurangala Rock where you pay the entrance fee and receive a sarong to cover your legs.

After walking through the temple grounds, the Pidurangala hike starts off with a steep flight of stairs and progresses into a moderate climb along a rocky path.

A total of 1445 stairs to reach the top of Pidurangala Rock

A total of 1445 stairs to reach the top of Pidurangala Rock

The Royal Cave Temple and climbing Pidurangala Rock

As you get closer to the top, you’ll pass the Royal Cave Temple which houses a giant reclining Buddha statue. This statue has been reconstructed but most of the original structure is still there.

After passing the Buddha statue, the real climbing starts!

For the next 5-10 minutes, you’ll have to weave your way past large boulders that block the path. This area may be challenging for some but there are arrows painted on the rocks so keep your eyes out for those if you lose your way.

The reclining Buddha near the top of Pidurangala Rock

The reclining Buddha near the top of Pidurangala Rock

Pidurangala Rock sunrise hike in Sigiriya

And so the real climbing begins

Reaching the top of Pidurangala Rock, Sigiriya

Once you’ve scrambled past the last boulder, you’ll have unbeatable panoramic views of Sigiriya Rock Fortress in the distance. Take a moment to enjoy it, but don’t stop there!

Keep walking around the massive boulder behind you and you’ll get to a large platform. Here, you can walk around and enjoy the scenery and abundance of greenery in the distance.

The best views from the top of Pidurangala Rock

The best views from the top of Pidurangala Rock

What to take with on your Pidurangala hike

  • Headlamp: If you’re going for a sunrise hike up Pidurangala Rock, don’t forget a headlamp. Your phone’s torch will work, but there are areas where you have to climb and crawl so having to hold a phone may not be ideal.
  • Sarong/ shawl: Yup, you’re going to have to cover up when you go on your Pidurangala hike. This applies to ladies and gents. Pidurangala Rock is a sacred site so respect the heritage and the monks who live there. The monks do provide sarongs if you forget to bring, but when it’s busy they may run out
  • Trainers or comfortable shoes: If you have hiking shoes, great, but they aren’t necessary. There are parts where you have to climb, and trainers work best.
  • Snacks and water: You’re going to want to enjoy the sunrise without going hungry, so pack in some snacks and enough water.
Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka

Views for days

Other things to do in Sigiriya and places to go to

Sigiriya is in the heart of the cultural triangle with so many things to do nearby.

Get lost in Sigiriya

One of the best things I did in Sigiriya was hiring a scooter for the day and taking a ride through the local villages.

With not a tourist in sight, I was greeted with excitement by a number of children. Although we were struggling to communicate with them, they still welcomed us into their home, showed us their treehouses and offered us the most delicious tea I’ve ever had.

Places to go in Sigiriya

The local kids showing us around their village

Get cultured at Sigiriya Rock Fortress (Lion Rock)

Sigiriya Rock Fortress is only 2km’s from Pidurangala Rock, making it easy to visit both in one day.

Take a trip to the ancient capital city, Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. It’s a 90 minute drive from Sigiriya and a great activity for a day trip. Check out this article for more information on visiting Anuradhapura.

Support Sri Lanka cricket in Dambulla

Cricket is a craze in Sri Lanka and international games are often played in Dambulla. Be sure to check out the schedule and if there’s a big game on, don’t miss it!

Things to do near Sigiriya

Supporting the Sri Lankan cricket team in Dambulla

Check out the ancient ruins’ of Polonnaruwa

Polonnaruwa is just 60km’s from Sigiriya. It’s a great option for a day trip if you’re looking to see more of the cultural triangle. The best way to explore Polonnaruwa is on bike and these can be rented from ouside the ruins’ entrance.

Where to stay near Pidurangala Rock, Sigiriya

Although Dambulla is the biggest town closest to Sigiriya, I’d highly recommend you stay in Sigiriya itself as it’s a small village offering you a unique experience and unmatched beauty. Two nights in Sigiriya is enough time to explore the area.

  • Shen Residence: The owners are friendly and helpful, and the price is affordable. You must eat the curry here – it’s absolutely delicious and one of the best meals I had in Sri Lanka. $22 for a double room including breakfast. They also rent bicycles for 200 LKR ($1.5) and scooters for 1500 LKR ($8) per day.
Where to stay in Sigiriya?

Ready to explore Sigiriya

Where to eat near Sigiriya

  • Milis: The best Khotto Roti I had in Sri Lanka and super cheap.
  • Shenadi Restaurant: I had the most delicious, well-priced curry here and it’s slap bang in the middle of Sigiriya.

How to get from Dambulla to Sigiriya

If you’re coming from Kandy or Colombo by bus, you’ll most likely have to get off in Dambulla as the main bus route does not continue to Sigiriya.

The distance from Dambulla to Sigiriya is about 20 km and takes about 30 minutes. The easiest way to get from Dambulla to Sigiriya is with a tuk-tuk which will cost around 1 300 LKR ($7) for the trip.

Another option is to take a local bus from Dambulla to Sigiriya, but this will take you over an hour and the bus can be tricky to find.

How to get from Dambulla to Sigiriya

The main road in Sigiriya

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Pidurangala Rock Hike, Sigiriya

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8 Comments

    1. I can only imagine how much has changed in Sri Lanka from then to now. I would love to be able to explore a country before it gets on to the tourist radar.

    1. Sri Lanka is a country that you can explore on the cheap. The local food is delicious, the transport is efficient and the homestays are the best places to stay. I spent a month traveling like this and it was an incredible experience. Have fun!

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