Sigiriya – Lion Rock

No visit to the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka could truly be considered complete without a climb up Sigiriya. Thought to have once housed the palace of the King of Kassapa built in the 5th Century, all that’s now left of that structure is a few tumbledown walls and a water pond. But this lofty archaeological site isn’t just about the palace. It’s about the climb and the view. Here’s what you need to know about hiking Sigiriya in Sri Lanka.

Hiking Sigiriya in Sri Lanka: The Rock

Hiking Sigiriya in Sri Lanka

Get there early

Like many popular tourist attractions, crowds can spoil a great experience. If you’re hiking Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, get there as soon as possible after 7am when the site opens (not 8.30am as stated in some guidebooks) and you’ll have the double advantage of missing the rush and beating the heat as the sun climbs even higher than you do. Watch the latecomers literally queue to the top as you descend, but don’t worry about giving way – you’ll be on a parallel path. Don’t forget to wave!

The steps to the top
The steps to the top

Take regular rests

The many, many steps to the top, far too many to count, take the wind out of all but the fittest person’s sails. Fortunately, there are several terraces where you can take a breather, and the one just below the final sets of steps by the lion’s giant paws even has a few trees to provide a bit of shade. You’ll need plenty of water with you to replenish your fluids but all that exertion will be forgotten when you reach the summit.

Hiking Sigiriya in Sri Lanka: The lion's paw
The lion’s paw

Don’t believe all you read

Some reviewers on the Internet make the trek to the top of Sigiriya sound like climbing Mount Everest. It’s not. The stone steps have been worn to a slippery dent in places, but unless you’re unlucky enough to ascend when it’s wet, you won’t have a problem. There are handrails and walls to hold on to for most of the way. Many people say that the spiral staircase to view the colourful (and unmissable) frescoes on the rock face is the worst part of all. They’re right, to a point, but it’s not a deal breaker: focus on your feet or the horizon and remember, don’t look down unless you’ve got a great head for heights.

The infamous spiral staircase
The infamous spiral staircase

Don’t rush off

There’s much to see, from the frescoes midway up to the astonishingly beautiful views across the surrounding countryside. Once you’ve come back to earth, don’t rush away. There are many interesting points of interest at ground level including the obviously shaped Cobra Rock, a colony of monkeys who’ll put on a show in the trees above your head, ornamental gardens and an excellent museum. These days it costs US$30 to get in, so you’ll want to get your money’s worth.

Hiking Sigiriya in Sri Lanka: The summit
The summit

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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