Planning a vacation in Sri Lanka? Set aside a day or two at the historic town of Sigiriya. Located in the midst of the Cultural Triangle, the town and its surrounds are full of heritage sites for you to discover.
1. Visit the Fortress in the Sky
Traverse the timeworn remnants of an ancient citadel at Lion Rock in Sigiriya.
Also known as the Fortress in the Sky, it was constructed about 1,500 years ago by King Kashyapa. Having usurped the throne from his father, the king feared retribution from his half-brother and rightful heir to the throne. As a result, he commissioned the construction of this fortified rock citadel in order to better defend himself from attack.
Climb up the many sheer steps set by the rock-side and make your way to the top of Lion Rock. Once there, you can enjoy a sweeping vista of the town. On the way up, stop to observe the intricately painted ancient frescoes on the walls. While their true identity of these women remains a topic for debate, many believe that they were royal concubines of King Kashyapa.
The entrance fee is about USD 30, and the attraction is open between 07:00 am and 06:00 pm. If you want to beat the tropical heat, the best time to make the climb is early in the morning.
2. Drop by the Sigiriya Museum
Just outside the ruins of the citadel, a 15-minute walk from Lion Rock, you will stumble upon the Sigiriya Museum. If you want an overview of the history of the kingdom, this museum is worth a quick visit.
There is a small entrance fee of USD 5. However, if you have already paid for entry to the fortress, the fee is waived. Opening times are from 08:30 am to 5:30 pm.
3. Explore the Ancient Caves
Visit the 2,000-year-old Golden Temple in Dambulla.
It is the town’s main attraction and is also known as the Dambulla Cave Temple. The temple’s many rooms are set inside a series of natural caverns.
This makes for a unique experience indeed. To add to the enchanting atmosphere, the views from the caves are wonderfully scenic. Even those who’ve experienced their fair share of Buddhist temples are likely to be enthralled by a visit here.
Entrance to this attraction will cost you a little over USD 10.
4. Enjoy the Views from Up High
Do you enjoy hiking?
If the answer is yes, make sure to include a climb of Pidurangala Rock in your Sigiriya itinerary. The views from the top are amazing and include a breath-taking sight of Lion Rock.
5. In Search of Elephants
Interested in witnessing Sri Lanka’s celebrated elephant gatherings?
Head to Kaudulla National Park, which is located about an hour’s drive from Sigiriya. Along with Minneriya National Park, it is one of the two destinations on the island where you can observe this phenomenon.
To enter the park, you will need to pay a fee of USD 15.
6. Explore the Ruins of Polonnaruwa
Located about 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa was once a medieval capital on the island.
The historic city has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to some interesting ruins. Among these are remnants of a royal palace complex.
You can explore the ruins on foot or by bicycle. If you like the idea of the latter option, make sure to rent out a bicycle at the entrance to the ruins. They will cost you a few hundred rupees for the day.
Be prepared to fork out USD 25 as an entrance fee.
7. The Magnificent Elephant Gathering
Enjoy a wildlife safari at Minneriya National Park. Perhaps Sri Lanka’s most well-known national park with regards to spotting elephants, it is famous for hosting elephant gatherings.
Every year, during the months of July and November, elephants flock to the park’s reservoir in search of water. Sri Lankan elephants have followed this tradition during the country’s dry season for centuries.
Same as Kaudulla National Park, the entrance fee is USD 15.
8. Ancient Marvels of Anuradhapura
Situated about 1.5 hours away from Sigiriya by car, is the ancient city of Anuradhapura.
This historic town served as an ancient capital for many centuries. In fact, it has been recognised as one of the longest continuously inhabited cities on the planet.
It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to fascinating ruins. One of which, is the remnants of twin bathing pools, known as Kuttam Pokuna in the local language. These pools are renowned for their advanced use of ancient hydraulic engineering techniques.
Are you a culture and history buff? If so, make Sigiriya your base while exploring the Cultural Triangle. The town is one of the country’s most iconic tourist spots. As a result, there is a range of luxury and budget hotels in Sigiriya. You certainly won’t lack for choice in terms of accommodation, no matter your tastes and budget requirements. Furthermore, attractions in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Dambulla are an hour and a half’s drive away, or less. This makes day excursions quite easy to arrange.