Rising dramatically from the valley floor in Sri Lanka’s Central Province is Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock. This 200m (660ft) high rock formation is one of the country’s most famous landmarks and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. The near-vertical walls lead to a maze of gardens and ancient ruins, thought to be home to Sri Lanka’s King over 1,600 years ago. The hefty price tag of $30 USD (£21.30) to climb Sigiriya is enough to put many budget travelers off, but did you know the neighbouring rock called Pidurangala costs a fraction of that – just 500 LKR (£2.30) – and affords the same spellbinding views across the jungle floor.
…did you know the neighbouring rock called Pidurangala costs a fraction of that – just 500 LKR (£2.30) – and affords the same spellbinding views across the jungle floor.
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Why you should climb Pidurangala Rock, not Sigiriya
- Who doesn’t want to save money when travelling?
- Pidurangala is the best option is you have a fear of heights. Have you seen the staircase attached to rock face of Sigiriya?
- Avoid the crowds – Sigiriya is one of the major tourist attractions in Sri Lanka and thus overcrowded.
What you need to know
The Central Plains are located in a landlocked area of Sri Lanka and therefore this is hot and humid land. I would advise starting your hike early in the morning around 8am, aiming to finish before the midday sun. A canopy of trees shelters much of the path, but of course this means the humidity is higher than outside. Sunscreen is advisable on top of the mountain.
Leave around 40mins-1hr to complete the hike. It’s not the most challenging of paths as in the main the gradient is relatively shallow and there are plenty of points to stop and appreciate your surroundings. But there are some tricky parts nearer the top where a bit of bouldering is required! More on that later.
Wear shoes with a good grip as the stones can be slipy with the humidity. We saw far too many travellers in flip flops… I’m surprised there weren’t more ankle injuries!
Bring enough water and snacks to last the journey. There are no water fountains on the hike.
Beginning your hike up Pidurangala
At the base of the hike, you will see a monastery. You MUST cover your knees and shoulders to pass the area and begin the hike. When we visited there was a table of sarongs for public use, but you may wish to bring your own.
You will need to purchase a ticket from the monastery, which should cost around 500 LKR (£2.30) – a snip compared to neighbouring Sigiriya.
The first part of the hike is a little tricky to navigate, but that’s part of the fun. Steps and pathways lead in all directions and it’s up to you to find the right one. Soon you will join an obvious path of stone steps leading up the mountain.
The Cave Temple
There are various lookouts on the way up the track. The first of which is the remains of an old sacred site and a giant reclining Buddha who appears to be peering through a gap in the trees. Remember, it’s bad luck to turn your back on the Buddha!
It’s never too late to turn back
After the Buddha things start to get a little more challenging. The nice stone steps you have been walking on disappear and instead you find yourself having to navigate huge fallen boulders. This is where you’ll appreciate a good grip on your shoes, especially as the boulders can get a little slimy with moss and the humidity.
There will most likely be a bottleneck of people at this point, which is great as you can help each other over the rocks. Don’t be put off, the views from the top are worth it!
Don’t be put off, the views from the top are worth it!
Right at the top of the track, as the trees once again clear, will be the biggest challenge – the largest of boulders. If you’re not an avid rock climber (like me!) the easiest way to tackle this is for someone to literally pull you up. I must admit, I had a mini meltdown here. I’m not the best with heights and as I turned to look at what was behind me I could finally see just how high we had come. But a few deep breaths and even I made it to the top, so you can too!
The panoramic views are out of this world
From the top of Pidurangala, you pretty much have 360 degree views across the flatlands and jungles of central Sri Lanka. On a good day you will see for miles! The summit is relatively open so you can wander around and explore the landscape from all directions. The strong gusts of wind make a refreshing change from the sweaty humid hike.
The views across to neighbouring Sigirirya Rock are breathtaking. Look closely and you will see hundreds of tourists navigating the steep stairs clinging to the side of the rock. This is why you wouldn’t want to climb Sigiriya if you have a fear of heights!!
Where to stay
The closest towns are Sigiriya itself and a small town called Habarana. Accommodation is mainly small guesthouses and homestays, alongside a few bigger more expensive hotels.
We opted for Habrana due to it being closer to the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, which we also visited. A blog post on that coming soon! We stayed in a small family run homestay called Centurion Resort – find out more here. This place had the cleanest and BIGGEST hotel room of our entire stay in Sri Lanka!
At the end of the long hike, you may wish to reward yourself with a cooling dip in a beautiful pool. We paid to use the facilities at nearby Cinnamon Lodge Habarana.