In the Central Province of Sri Lanka you will find, side-by-side, two massive rocks jutting out of an otherwise flat terrain. These rocks are Pidurangala Vihara, an ancient rock temple, and Sigiriya Lion Rock, an ancient fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site. One weekend during my month-long volunteer trip to Sri Lanka, my friends and I hiked both.
In the town of Sigiriya, there are many hotels, hostels, and homestays given the touristy nature of the area. We stayed at Sigiri Lion Lodge, an inexpensive but clean and comfortable hotel. The perks include air conditioning, the kindest staff imaginable, and a massive breakfast of fresh fruit, omelette, coffee, tea, toast, and more that will have you drooling. For other meals, I recommend the treehouse restaurant which is along the main road of the town– I can’t quite remember the name, but you can’t miss it. Try their kotthu and have a lion beer!
Pidurangala Rock is the perfect hike to begin with as it opens very early so you are able to climb it to watch the sunrise. It was such a beautiful experience. Everything was quiet, calm, and peaceful. Although there were a few other tourists around, I felt like I was the only person in the world. It costs 500 LKR (approx $4.50 CAD) to enter and you must have your legs and shoulders covered out of respect for the temple. It is an easy climb at first because there are stairs cut out of the rocks but once you reach the top you have to do a bit more scaling and rock climbing, so wear good footwear. Altogether the whole hike takes about 30-40 minutes.
I will never forget the feeling of sitting on that rock, the sun rising in front of me, Sigiriya Lion Rock looking tiny to my right, and nothing but vast wilderness sprawled out in every direction. It was definitely one of the most memorable moments of my trip. I suggest waiting until after the sun comes up to get all of your pictures–just be in that moment. No rush.
Later that day, we headed to Sigiriya Lion Rock. It is not possible to watch the sunrise from here because the park does not open until 7:00 am, so you might as well wait until later in the day. Consider yourself fairly warned: this place is an ultimate tourist zone. There will be men trying to peddle tuk tuk rides, the cost to enter is astronomical compared to other landmarks in the country at 5500 LKR (approx. $50 CAD), and it is bustling with locals and tourists alike. But don’t let this deter you from visiting, as it really is remarkable and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This hike is a little longer but it is all stairs so it isn’t too difficult.
On your way up, you may notice disconcerting signs warning you to be silent to avoid provoking the wasps…please obey them. There have been scary wasp attacks and swarms there and they will shut down the park if it happens. I was grateful to have only seen one wasp during the whole time we were there, but I could hear the mild buzzing all around us. It was horrifying. Anyway! About halfway up you will find the Lion Gate, a stairway with massive lion paws on either side. At the top is the ancient rock fortress once ruled by a king. It is pretty incredible that thousands of years ago people were able to build a rock fortress up there– there’s no clearly easy way to climb it without the stairs, let alone lug tons of materials and people without modern tools and machinery. Mindblowing.
People asked me which hike was my favorite. That is a really hard question because they are two totally different experiences. I would say that Pidurangala is for the soul; you get to soak in the sunrise, pay respects to Buddha, and peacefully enjoy your time there. Sigiriya is more educational and historical; you get to learn about a point in time in Sri Lanka and witness a unique piece of ancient history.
Have you been to Sri Lanka? What did you do there? Leave us a comment or tag us in your photos on social media, @twowildtides!
Check out other posts from my Sri Lanka Diaries:
- Mulgirigala Rock Temple
- Elephant Spotting in Uda Walawe National Park
- A Weekend in Ella
- A Night in Colombo
- Why I Chose to Volunteer with SLV
- Sri Lanka Video Diary