Tips For Visiting Sigiriya – The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka

Sigiriya is one of Sri Lanka’s 7 World Heritage Sites and is found in the country’s Cultural Triangle – a stunning region stuffed full of sacred stupas and ancient temples.

Tips For Climbing Sigiriya - The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka

Sigiriya is dual-listed by UNESCO for both its natural and historical attributes – just like Uluru which it reminds me of because of its dazzling orange hue. But while visitors are banned from climbing Australia’s sacred rock, you are welcome to climb Sigiriya to discover the ancient ruins of a palace which once sat atop it.

Peering up at the steep rock and uneven steps from the ground it can seem a little intimidating but this climb is suitable for all ages and fitness levels – as evidenced by the young and elderly tourists we witnessed tackling it.

Gearing up to face the rock!

I’d recommend you set aside at least 3 hours for your visit as there is lots to admire, learn and photograph along the way. Some visitors report climbing Sigiriya in just 45 minutes but I found that taking it slowly was much more rewarding.

There are stairs the whole way up, some made from metal and some carved from stone, so you needn’t be the most professional hiker to have a go.

The last section is probably the steepest and most sketchiest, though, so if you do suffer from vertigo you might want to skip this part out.

Tips For Climbing Sigiriya - The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka

Tips for hiking Sigiriya:

  1. Stick your head in the museum before you start. It offers great insight into the history of Sigiriya, including a large-scale model of what the palace would have looked like all those years ago. Note: This will be your last chance to use the loo until you get back down again!
  2. Hold onto your ticket. You will need to purchase a pass to climb Sigiriya which costs $30. You’ll need to show it before you enter the water gardens so keep it handy.
Tips For Climbing Sigiriya - The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka
Awesome place for a field trip!
  • Wear sturdy shoes. This might sound obvious but you will need decent walking shoes to do the climb. You’ll see locals (including schoolchildren) wearing anything from pumps to flip-flops but I felt much more comfortable on some of the slippery stone sections with some proper grip underfoot.
  • Break it into sections. There’s no need to rush to the top  – just enjoy the climb. And take much-needed breaks whenever you feel like it along the way. I recommend a little drink stop before you attempt the last (steepest) section through the Lion’s paws.Tips For Climbing Sigiriya - The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka
  • Don’t take photos at the mirror wall. You can take photos at any point along the climb apart from in the cave with the frescoes and the famous ‘mirror wall’. This is a shame but I get we have to protect these things for posterity.
  • Take an umbrella for shelter at the top. There’s no protection from the sun at the summit so remember to wear sun protection (even on a cloudy day – Jayne!) and take a small umbrella for extra protection on clear days.Tips For Climbing Sigiriya - The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka
  • Bring lots of water. There’s nowhere to buy any once you start the climb so take enough to keep you going until you get back to the car park.
  • Watch out for the ‘helpers’. Some gentlemen may try to help you with the steep steps at the start of the climb and then latch themselves onto you as a guide for the rest of the way. If you’ve already been to the museum to learn the history you don’t need a guide to climb with you as the pathway is clearly marked. A polite but firm no thank you will be enough to let them know you’re good to go solo.
  • Tips For Climbing Sigiriya - The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka
    The last leg of the climb feels high in the sky
  • Follow signs for ‘foreigners exit’. There is a quicker way out than going back past the museum. Follow the signs for the ‘foreigners exit’ and you’ll be led out via a few souvenirs stands and some stalls with cold drinks.
  • Avoid the heat around midday. Because this is a moderately difficult climb with no protection from the elements it’s just common sense to go early or later on in the day. It’s best to spend the hottest part of the day by the pool if you ask me!
  • 'Blogger at work' in Sri Lanka
    Soaking up the scenery from the top of Sigiriya
    Incredible views of the gardens
    Incredible views of the gardens

    For information on how to get to Sigiriya from Colombo check out this advice by a local blogger.

    Further reading:

    Exploring the North Central Province of Sri Lanka

    What to do & where to stay in Sri Lanka

    Highlights from a 2 week tour of Sri Lanka

    About the author

    I’m Jayne, a travel blogger, content creator and mum to a 4-year-old son. I’ve been blogging since 2010, travelled to 65 countries and share travel guides and tips to help you plan stylish, stress-free trips.

    16 thoughts on “Tips For Visiting Sigiriya – The Lion Rock In Central Sri Lanka”

      • Hi Andrea, I was on an organised tour which I think is the best way to reach this area – that or with a private driver as public transport is limited. Best, Jayne

    1. Hey Jayne,

      Looks awesome and sounds like you had lots of fun. I’m researching for my trip and was wondering if the steps are steep and narrowish, I’ve a phobia for heights but if it’s stable and have supports around I think I might be able to do it. Your advice?

      • Hi David, there is a section that is quite rickety – ie the steps are metal and you can see straight through them – and some sections can be busy so it’s a squeeze to let people pass. I saw all ages and abilities giving it a go but if you’re afraid of heights it might make you feel a bit wobbly!

      • Hi Evelyn, as it’s not a religious site there is no dress code but the locals do tend to dress more conservatively in long skirts. Most of our group opted for long trousers and t-shirts.

    2. Wear trousers or shorts. it is surprisingly windy on the last leg, and I ended up having to knot my long skirt between my legs!


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