21 Things to do in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
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Sigiriya, Sri Lanka is a small town that has become famous because of one particular attraction – Sigiriya Rock (or Lion Rock as some call it.) It’s easily one of the most impressive places to see in Sri Lanka.
But, there are so many other things (some may even say BETTER) things to do in Sigiriya and nearby.
To be honest, I actually didn’t even climb Sigiriya Rock (gasp!) Yes, I went all the way to Sigiriya and didn’t climb THE rock.
So what DID I do?
Lots. Tons actually! I loved Sigiriya and I discovered a side to Sigiriya most people don’t have time for or even bother looking for. With all of the exploring I did, I discovered 21 amazing things to do in Sigiriya (and only one of them involves climbing Sigiriya Rock.)
So, if you want to really explore the cultural center of Sri Lanka then this list of places to visit in Sigiriya and things to do is a great place to start!
Things to do IN Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
1. Climb the world-famous Sigiriya Rock
|Location:||Only 5 minutes from Sigirya town center to the start of the trail.|
|Cost:||$30 USD per person|
|Rating:||4/5 – Sigiriya Rock Fortress is very popular and sounds amazing, but it’s rather expensive.|
As I said before, the main attraction in Sigiriya is Sigiriya Rock. This rock is huge and is really a sight to see if you ask me. From miles away you can spot Sigiriya Rock seemingly out of place as it protrudes high into the sky.
Climbing the rock is fairly expensive for foreigners and the entrance fee is $30 USD per person. This doesn’t include a guide but does include entrance to the onsite museum.
The main reason to climb Sigiriya Rock is to learn about the historical significance and see the ruins. For me personally, this wasn’t enough of a reason to climb it and I opted for a couple more “off-the-beaten-path” experiences listed below instead.
That being said, for those who are history buffs or take particular interest in archeological ruins, this is a must-do activity in Sigiriya!
Check out this awesome full-day tour to Sigiriya Rock as well as a village in Sigiriya with a knowledgeable guide!
2. Watch the sunset from the top of Pidurangala Rock
|Location:||5 minutes by tuk-tuk from Sigiriya town center.|
|Cost:||500 Rupees or around $3 USD|
|Rating:||5/5 – For the price, accessibility, and views it’s a must-do!|
Instead of climbing Sigiriya Rock, I climbed Pidurangala Rock which sits right across from Sigiriya Rock. There are two reasons to climb Pidurangala Rock instead of Sigiriya Rock.
1) It is much cheaper at only 500 rupees per person or about $3 USD
2) You get views of Sigiriya Rock from the top of Pidurangala Rock which is very impressive!
It only takes about 20-30 minutes to climb to the top of Pidurangala Rock and from the top, you are rewarded with amazing panoramic views. The best time to go is for sunrise or sunset when it’s cooler and the sky glows!
The ticket office opens at 5 am every day and closes at 6 pm.
Along the walk expect to see monkeys, lizards, and maybe even a snake or two! The trail is all stairs until the last short section where you must climb over some boulders.
There is a strict dress code at the beginning of the walk as you must pass through a temple. Shoulders and knees must be covered and you cannot wear a hat. Once you pass the temple grounds though you can wear whatever you’d like. I recommend bringing a sarong to cover up for the temple section and then remove it afterward as you will be very hot as you climb all of the stairs!
This awesome tour will take you to both Sigiriya Rock AND Pidurangala with a guide in a private car for as little as $50 USD!
3. Check out Pethikada
|Location:||On the main restaurant street in Sigiriya town. The exact location can be found on Google maps.|
|Cost:||Free to visit.|
|Rating:||3/5 – The interesting art for sale would make a great souvenir!|
Pethikada is a small art gallery right in the center of town which has become somewhat famous from word of mouth. A local man by the name of Jagath paints all of the paintings himself and his style of art resembles that of the ancient painting found on Sigiriya Rock.
There are also wooden carvings and other pieces of artwork available.
For many, buying a painting from Pethikada is the perfect souvenir. But even if you aren’t in the market for a souvenir, consider stopping by and having a quick look just to appreciate the artwork. There is so much in this one small shop that it is more of an art gallery than a store in my opinion!
4. Sigiriya Museum
|Location:||Sigiriya Rock archaeological site near the ticket entrance to Sigiriya Rock.|
|Cost:||Free with Sigiriya Rock entrance, or $5 USD.|
|Rating:||4/5 – A really interesting museum with some very impressive artifacts, but rather small.|
Just outside the Sigiriya Rock grounds is the Sigiriya Archeological Museum. For those who climbed Sigiriya Rock, the entrance ticket to the museum is included in the ticket to climb the rock. I recommend visiting the museum before climbing Sigiriya Rock as it will give you some insight into the significance of what you’ll be seeing.
For those who didn’t climb Sigiriya Rock, visiting the museum is a good alternative. Here, you can learn about the rock, the history of the land, the paintings, and more.
To be honest, I didn’t find the museum super impressive but it was under construction when I was there and a lot of the displays and exhibits weren’t open. It is a cheap activity and only takes an hour or so to do though so it’s well worth checking out while you’re in Sigiriya.
5. Visit the “Sigiriya Handyman”
|Location:||He is located on the corner of Hotel Rd and Sigiriya Rd in the small shopping area. You won’t find him on Google Maps, but the locals can point you to his storefront if you’re lost.|
|Cost:||Free to visit but items are between 1,000 and 4,000 Rupees.|
|Rating:||4/5 – A very interesting thing to do and he is very talented!|
Another popular thing to do in Sigiriya that has become known from word of mouth is a local man’s workshop. This man makes all sorts of things out of metals. He works with silver, brass, and copper and makes everything from bookmarks to tea tins to jewelry boxes.
His workshop is really a workshop. There are tools everywhere and only one small shelf where he displays items for sale. When you visit him, he will show you how he makes designs in the metals – it is really tedious and impressive.
You can visit just to meet him and learn about what he does, you don’t have to buy anything but let me warn you, it will be tempting as it is all very beautiful and his prices are reasonable.
He is currently teaching his son his skills so his son can take over the business.
6. Shop for Handmade Wooden Souvenirs
|Location:||There are stores selling wood carvings many around town on the main street|
|Cost:||Free to browse but items range from 300 rupees to $3,000 USD|
|Rating:||3/5 – Interesting to browse especially if you’re decorating your house or after a souvenir.|
Lining the streets in Sigiriya are many shops that sell handmade items carved out of wood. While in Sigiriya, chances are you will be lured into one of these shops and end up getting a little wooden elephant to bring home with you.
For me, this wasn’t super interesting, but some of the larger wooden carvings are quite impressive. Stopping in for a short poke around was worth it in my opinion.
We picked up a cute Christmas ornament which is a travel tradition of ours!
7. Eat Roti at Pradeep Restaurant
|Location:||Pradeep Restaurant on Sigiria’s Main street|
|Rating:||5/5 – If you love Roti or want to try it, this is a great place!|
Eating Roti is something you simply must do while you’re traveling in Sri Lanka. But not all Roti is as good as the next, and after traveling in Sri Lanka for a month and eating A TON of Roti, I must say that none is quite as good as the Roti served at Pradeep Restaurant in Sigiriya.
Here, the Roti is thin and large and wrapped up around your choice of filling. It is fresh, warm, gooey, and pulls apart. Honestly, the vegetable and cheese roti is excellent, but if you’re after something sweet then the chocolate and coconut won’t disappoint.
I recommend ordering both, the vegetable for your main and the chocolate coconut for dessert. After you taste them you will be thankful for this advice – so you’re welcome!
8. Stay overnight in a Treehouse
|Location:||On the outskirts of Sigiriya|
|Rating:||4/5 – The reviews on this are really good and most people say it’s really peaceful|
For a unique alternative to a hotel or guesthouse, stay in a treehouse! There are a few places in Sigiriya that offer this opportunity and it is one way to have a real jungle experience.
Some of the most highly recommended treehouse accommodations in Sigiriya include:
The Hideout Sigiriya – This hotel offers treehouse rooms with amazing views (where you might even see elephants!). Onsite they offer highly rated food and there is a large outdoor pool. Everyone who stays here has an amazing time and it is very reasonably priced.
Sigiri Aliya Treehouse – This family-owned and operated small hotel offers a personal touch at really cheap prices! The staff are incredible and the treehouses are comfortable. A stay here will be a good one and a unique experience!
Back of Beyond – This beautiful hotel offers treehouses with views of both Sigiriya and Pidurangala Rock. The location is ideal, close to the main tourist attractions but remote enough that you will see plenty of wildlife hanging around.
9. Hot Air Balloon Ride
|Location:||Tours can be booked from your hotel and include pickup.|
|Cost:||Around $200 USD|
|Rating:||5/5 – If you have the money this would be an amazing experience.|
Riding in a hot air balloon is one of those “bucket list things” that you just have to do at least once in your lifetime. In Sigiriya, a hot air balloon ride promises incredible views of Sigiriya Rock and the mountains in the distance.
Going on a hot air balloon ride in Sigiriya isn’t cheap though. Expect to pay about $200 USD per person for an hour-long ride including transfers. It is a fantastic thing to do for those happy to spend the money!
Things to do AROUND Sigiriya
10. Go on a Jeep Safari in Minneriya National Park
|Location:||Minneriya National Park|
|Cost:||13,000 Rupees for two people, however, this changes depending on group size|
|Rating:||5/5 – You can’t come to Sri Lanka and not do a Safari|
Minneriya National Park is one of the best places to see elephants in Sri Lanka. The park is 8890 hectares so it is can only be explored in a jeep. On a safari in Minneriya National Park, it is possible to see elephants all gathering together in groups as large as 350!
Can you imagine?! Hundreds of elephants all in one spot – incredible! The best time of year to see the large elephant gathering in Minneriya is from July to September (outside these months read about Kaudulla and Wasagamuwa safaris below.) But, all year round you will still be able to see elephants!
Minneriya is a great option for a jeep safari in Sri Lanka because it is much less busy than Yala or Udawalawe National Parks. Since Sri Lanka has become such a popular tourist destination these national parks can be very busy with hundreds of jeeps all driving around the same small areas. But Minneriya is less popular making it the perfect choice!
You can browse lots of different Mineriya safari tours ranging in price here. Be sure to look out for ones that don’t include the entrance fee – its the most expensive part usually!
11. Explore the Dambulla Cave Temples
|Location:||Dambulla around 20 minutes from Sigiriya|
|Cost:||1,500 Rupees per person|
|Rating:||5/5 – These temples are a must-see they are truly spectacular|
Only a short 30 minute drove from Sigiriya is the Dambulla Cave Temples. These temples are some of the most important in Sri Lanka. They are well preserved and extremely old. In fact, they found human skeletons in the temples that were 2,700 years old!
You must walk up stairs for about 10-15 minutes to reach the temples, but the effort is worth it as the views are incredible! Going for sunset is especially a treat (not to mention it is cooler.)
Once at the temples, you must remove your shoes and cover your shoulders and knees (even men must do this.) Be sure to bring the correct clothing as they don’t always have sarongs available for hire.
There are five different temples to explore all in a line next to each other. Inside the temples, you’ll find many Buddha statues as well as incredible paintings on the caves.
Once you’re finished exploring the cave temples, you can head down the hill to the large Golden Temple. This Buddha statue is simply huge and the walk to get there is also very nice – you’re sure to see many monkeys!
There are lots of Dambulla Cave tours that include trips to other attractions making them super convenient (especially if you’re short on time!)
12. Day trip to the ancient city of Anuradhapura
|Location:||The city of Anuradhapura, about 1.5 hours from Sigiriya.|
|Cost:||$25 USD entrance fee|
|Rating:||4/5 – Ancient capital of Sri Lanka and it’s the most important city of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle.|
Anuradhapura is a UNESCO world heritage site. There is evidence of this city existing as far back as 10th century BC. It was, and still is today, a sacred city for Buddhists with a 42 square kilometer area simply full of temples and monasteries.
For tourists, there is just so much to do and see in Anuradhapura in one day. The best way to see and do the most would be to go on a tour with a guide from Sigiriya for the day. This way, you can learn all about the history and religion behind what you are seeing and get the most done in one day!
Many of the best places to go in Anuradhapura are included in the UNESCO World Heritage pass which costs $25 USD. The office to buy these passes is closed on Tuesdays so make sure NOT to try and visit Anuradhapura on a Tuesday!
13. Visit Trincomalee for a day at the Beach
|Location:||Trincomalee Beach, 1.5 hours from Sigiriya|
|Cost:||Free to visit just pay for a taxi|
|Rating:||3/5 – Trincomalee is amazing but it is a little far|
If you’re only in Sri Lanka for a short time and not making your way to stay on the east coast for a while, you should at least make time for a day trip! From Sigiriya, you can get to Trincomalee in about 1.5 hours by car.
Trincomalee Beach is beautiful and a gorgeous place to relax in the sand and calm ocean water. Nearby Marble Beach is also pretty special and worth checking out.
In my honest opinion, I would spend a couple of nights in Trincomalee if you have time rather than visiting on a day trip from Sigiriya, but if that’s all you have time for at least spending a couple of hours at the beach will be better than nothing!
14. Cycle around Polonnaruwa
|Location:||1 hour from Sigiriya|
|Rating:||4/5 – Kind of expensive but there is lots to see. May say it’s better than Anuradhapura.|
Polonnaruwa is another World Heritage Site city. Although smaller than Anuradhapura, there is no shortage of things to see and do here. The benefit of visiting Polonnaruwa is that because it is a smaller more compact area it’s possible to get around on a bicycle making it a fun day activity!
Some of the best things to check out in Polonnaruwa include the Royal Palace and the Sacred Quadrangle (which is the most compact area of ruins.) Gal Vihara also a place worth checking out as there are four Buddhas carved perfectly out of rock!
It costs $25 USD per person to explore the city. Just make sure you dress appropriately for temples (knees and shoulder covered!)
If you would prefer to explore Polonnaruwa in a car with a guide, check out this really well-priced tour!
15. Climb Rose Quartz Mountain
|Location:||45 minutes drive from Sigiriya in Jathika Namal Uyana Reserve|
|Cost:||$5 USD entrance fee|
|Rating:||5/5 – One of the coolest things I did in Sri Lanka|
Rose Quartz Mountain is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka, hands down! It is such a unique thing to do, I highly recommend you make the effort to visit!
Rose Quartz Mountain is the largest of its kind in all of Southeast Asia! Here, you walk through a forest, past some ruins that you get to explore, and then up a mountain made entirely of Rose Quartz! It is very neat!
The mountain isn’t bright pink in color by any means, but it does have a dusty rose hue color to it and everywhere you step you can clearly see quartz beneath your feet.
To hike the mountain you must pay $5 USD. The hike takes about an hour or so and is not very hard but I would recommend wearing shoes with a good grip (runners or trainers will do) as some parts are steep.
From Sigiriya, it will take about 45-minutes to an hour to get to the base of Rose Quartz Mountain – but trust me, it’s worth the journey!
To get to Rose Quartz Mountain enter in Jathika Namal Uyana on Google Maps. Jathika Nmal Uyana is the name of the forest and the mountain, this will take you to where you start the walk.
16. Hiriwadunna Village tour
|Location:||Tours leave from Sigiriya|
|Rating:||3/5 – Unique experience but certainly not the best on this list|
From Sigiriya, you have the opportunity to visit the small village of Hiriwadunna to see how people live. The day trip goes for about 5-hours and includes a boat ride to the village (where you’ll have the chance to see many birds and maybe even crocodiles) and then a walk around the village.
Expect to see people fishing, going about their daily lives, more wildlife, and then eat a home-cooked lunch made by the people in the village!
This is a unique cultural experience in Sri Lanka.
Find out more information about the Hiriwadunna Village tour!
17. Day trip to Temple of the Tooth
|Rating:||3/5 – A very overrated attraction for those not of the Buddhist faith.|
Kandy is a large city and a popular tourist destination for those visiting Sri Lanka. However, there actually isn’t that much to do in Kandy specifically and in my opinion, you could just visit Kandy on a day trip from Sigiriya and hit some of the highlights.
The main attraction in Kandy is the Temple of the Tooth. This is the temple where one of Buddha’s teeth is. It is a very important religious temple for the Buddhist people and also a popular tourist destination.
Some other attractions in Kandy include the botanic gardens and Kandy Lake.
Check out this full-day tour to Kandy from Sigiriya!
18. Kaudulla National Park Safari
|Location:||35 minutes from Sigiriya.|
|Cost:||13,000 Rupees for two people and a Jeep|
|Rating:||5/5 – A really good national park and you can see leopards!|
In the months of October and November, the mass gatherings of elephants in Minneriya National Park actually move into Kaudulla National Park! So, if you’re visiting Sigiriya in October or November it’s best to visit Kaudulla as opposed to Minneriya.
In Kaudulla there is also the opportunity to see many of other wild animals including the rare leopard!
Book your Kaudulla safari here!
19. Ritigala – Archeological site and nature reserve
|Location:||A 20-minute drive from Sigiriya|
|Cost:||350 Rupees per person|
|Rating:||5/5 – A really good cheap alternative to the other ruin sites around Sri Lanka|
For those who don’t want to do a full day trip in Anuradhapura or Polonnaruwa then visiting Ritigala is the perfect alternative. Here, you’ll see ruins from a city that existed well over 1,000 years ago. Back then the city was HUGE.
Unfortunately, when the British invaded Sri Lanka most of these ruins were destroyed, but 5% is left and that is what you get to explore.
Upon arriving at Ritigala a guide will give you a quick explanation about the place. He will also give you a map and directions before you’re on your own. You will wander through a forest, over ruins and see what remains from the city.
I really enjoyed this archeological site because it felt very authentic. There weren’t hordes of tourists; in fact Dan and I saw only two others the entire time! The ruins are also in the jungle so it makes for a peaceful nature walk with the chance to see wildlife as well.
You can book a private tour to Ritigala from Sigiriya here!
20. Wasgamuwa National Park Safari
|Location:||2 hours from Sigiriya|
|Rating:||3/5 – It’s much further from Sigiriya than the other national parks. I would only visit during elephant gathering time.|
The last safari on this list of things to do in Sigiriya is Wasgamuwa National Park. From November to May the large elephant gatherings are found (as opposed to Minneriya and Kaudulla where the elephant gatherings are from July to November).
Wasgamuwa National Park is a lesser-visited National Park in Sri Lanka making it a really authentic safari experience.
21. Go see a Cricket Match
|Location:||In Dambulla only a 20-minute drive from Sigiriya.|
|Cost:||Very dependent on the match, check the website below.|
|Rating:||5/5 – A real Sri Lankan bucket list thing to do!|
Sri Lankans love their Cricket! If you are also a fan, or even just a sports fan in general, then making sure you’re in Sigiriya for a match is a good plan.
The Dambulla International Cricket Field is located only 20-minutes from Sigiriya in Dambulla and the perfect place to watch an international or domestic match. You’ll listen to music, drink beer with the locals, and enjoy the game!
Where to Stay in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Sigiri Lion Lodge – This place is very nice and is one of the places we stayed in. A budget double is only $15 USD and it’s in a really good location. The hosts Ajith and his wife are awesome and breakfast is pretty good. The rooms are basic though and the prices reflect that.
Sigiri Rock Side Home Stay – I have been traveling a long time but have never seen a place with over 1,000 reviews and have a rating of 9.4. But this place does and after scouring the reviews I can honestly recommend this place with confidence. Rooms here start at $30 a night and include an exceptional breakfast.
Hotel Sigiriya – This is arguably the most famous hotel in Sigiriya. Its pool is absolutely beautiful and has stunning views of Lion Rock. They include a top-rated breakfast and are in an ideal location. If I could afford the $100 a night I would love to stay here.
The places we recommended are highly sought after so if they are fully booked, then you can browse all of the hotels in Sigiriya here!
Before you go…
I hope this blog has helped you plan your time in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka as well as inspired you to check out a few of the unique attractions around!
Or course, if you’re traveling more around Sri Lanka, be sure to check out the rest of our detailed Sri Lanka travel guides. Some that you might like include:
Things to do in Ella Sri Lanka – Ella is one of the top tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, and for good reason!
Things to do in Mirissa – Beaches, surf, cocktails, turtles…who could ask for anything more? Mirissa has it all!
Guide to Renting a Tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka – We honestly believe a tuk-tuk is the best way to travel around this island nation. Find out all about what it’s like to rent your own tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka!
April 17, 2020