Sigiriya Rock: To Climb Lion Rock and/or Pidurangala

2nd November 2016

When you enter Sri Lanka into Google, the first image result and many others are of Sigiriya Rock. A huge boulder piece of the earth rising from Sigiriya’s jungle-clad landscape. It’s one of Sri Lanka’s wonders and a must-see on any visitor’s itinerary, whether you climb it or not. However, just two kilometres north of Sigiriya is another mountainous rock formation named Pidurangala. A second Sigiriya climbing opportunity that everyone should consider.

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Not all know that there are two rocks to climb in Sigiriya. You've heard of Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock), but what about Pidurangala? Here we compare the two.

This puts some travellers in a difficult situation. There are two options to choose from but not everyone has the time to climb both. Especially if you are visiting as part of a day trip. Then there are budget travellers who don’t want to splurge on the expensive Sigiriya Rock ticket price but then have the fear of missing out. Could only climbing Pidurangala Rock be enough for them?

In this post, we hope to help those travellers having to make that decision on which rock to climb. We’ll be comparing Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala so you can decide which is the best for you.

We climbed both by the way. That’s how we’re able to write this post 🙂

Lion Rock in Sigiriya

Lion Rock

It’s worth mentioning at this point that Sigiriya Rock isn’t actually called Sigiriya Rock. Many travellers like us name it Sigiriya Rock since it’s the main reason any visitor stops in Sigiriya. It’s the area’s shining highlight. Though it wasn’t until we arrived in Sigiriya that we realised Sigiriya Rock is in fact called Lion Rock.

Lion Rock (Sigiriya Rock) Vs Pidurangala Rock

Ticket Cost

Lion Rock – 4500 Rupees (£25)

The 4500 rupees ticket cost allows you entrance to the museum, gardens, mirror wall and of course Lion Rock. We didn’t make it to the museum as chose to climb Lion Rock at sunset. Arriving towards the end of the day did not allow us enough time. We wanted to make sure we reached the top before the sun started to set. This is something for you to consider if you’re keen to see the museum.

Wasp attack sign at Lion Rock in Sigiriya

Wasp attack sign!

Since Lion Rock is a UNESCO World Heritage Site you get a big fancy ticket to take away with you. We know some travellers like to keep those sort of things as a souvenir.

Pidurangala Rock – 500 Rupees (£2.50)

As you can see, there is quite a difference in price between Lion Rock and Pidurangala Rock. This alone could be enough information to make your decision but we suggest to keep reading. The Pidurangala Rock entrance fee includes a visit to Pidurangala Royal Cave Temple at the foot of the path. It’s here where you simply hand over your 500 rupees to a man at the temple gate and he’ll allow you in. We’re afraid there are no fancy tickets.

The Climb

Heading up Lion Rock

Once you’re through the entrance you’ll enter the Sigiriya Rock garden. A beautifully landscaped garden which we read is South East Asia’s oldest! You’re free to wander around the remnants of an ancient city including moats and pools. Be careful if you have any food or drink with you as the garden is populated with many cheeky hungry monkeys.

Start of Lion Rock Stairs in Sigiriya

The start of our climb up Lion Rock

Lion Rock staircase in Sigiriya

Staircase clinging to the side of Lion Rock

The climb to the top of Lion Rock consists of 1200 steps. We know this sounds like a lot but with regular breaks to take in the views, it really isn’t that hard. All ages climb the steps from the very young to the very old. If you’re worried about it then we recommend heading up in the early morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler.

Halfway up there’s the optional spiral staircase that takes you to some ancient and famous painted frescoes. Back in the day, there were many more but these are all that’s left so are well protected. They’re worth the extra effort to see.

Lion Rock views in Sigiriya

Taking in the views half way up

Lion Rock views in Sigiriya

Enjoying more views on our way up Lion Rock

Shortly after the paintings, you reach the Mirror Wall. It was once was so highly polished that the King could see himself whilst he walked alongside it. Though now there are many verses scribbled on the wall from visitors dating back as far as the 8th century. It’s lost its mirror like shine and no longer are visitors allowed to write or even touch it.

At the bottom of the last set of stairs are huge Lion paw carvings. It’s here where you’ll realise why it’s named Lion Rock! You feel on the edge of the world while climbing those last stairs. If you suffer from Acrophobia then you’ll feel it here!

The final few stairs at Lion Rock in Sigiriya

The final few stairs at Lion Rock

Views to Pidurangala Rock from Lion Rock

Views to Pidurangala Rock from Lion Rock

The downside with Lion Rock is the large numbers of tourists that gather here. They arrive in their coach loads so at times some patience is needed when stairs get crammed full of selfie taking Chinese visitors. You’ll find the busiest time of day to be in the early morning so avoid this time if that’s going to be an issue for you.

Heading Up Pidurangala Rock

The very start of the climb starts with the previously mentioned Pidurangala Royal Cave Temple. Although despite the rather fancy name there’s not much to see here aside from a reclining Buddha and some faded cave paintings. Though it’s still worth a look since you’ll be passing right outside the doorway.

Starting the climb up Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya

Starting the climb up Pidurangala Rock

The climb to the summit of Pidurangala Rock is shorter but overall more challenging. The first 20 or so minutes is a steady incline via steps and small rocks. The same minimal fitness levels needed for Lion Rock are needed here. However, be warned that the last 5 minutes require a small amount of rock climbing. Here the steps turn into large boulders which require both hands and feet to scale. Some strength and confidence is needed but is possible for anyone with a moderate fitness level. We would hate for anyone to be put off by rumours of anything more testing.

Pidurangala Rock boulder pathway in Sigiriya

Things start to get a bit tricky

If you can challenge yourself with a bit of easy rock climbing then you’ll be rewarded with no crowds whatsoever. There are no large Chinese tour groups, just a handful of adventurous travellers taking on this less known path.

The Summit

Lion Rock Views

The views at the summit of Lion Rock are breathtaking. Wander through and scale the foundations of what was once an epic royal palace built in the 5th century. From here there are 360-degree views of the surrounding Sigiriya forested plain. An area populated with wildlife such as elephants, crocodiles and big cats.

Views from the top of Lion Rock in Sigiriya

View from the top of Lion Rock

Standing on top of Lion Rock in Sigiriya

King of the world at the top of Lion Rock

Royal Palace ruins with a view on Lion Rock Sigiriya

Royal Palace ruins with a view!

We waited at the 200-meter summit until the sun began to disappear. Then were rewarded with one of the best sunsets we have ever seen over this unique scenery.

Sunset at Lion Rock in Sigiriya

Sunset at Lion Rock

Sunset at Lion Rock in Sigiriya

The changing colour sky at sunset

Pidurangala Rock Views

The views at the summit of Pidurangala Rock are equally as stunning as Lion Rock. Again you can view as far as the eye can see, providing the weather allows. There are no ruined palaces here but the stand out feature of the Pidurangala Rock viewpoints is the uninterrupted panorama of Lion Rock. It’s a unique perspective of the site that you cannot get from anywhere else.

View of Lion Rock from the top of Pidurangala

View of Lion Rock from the top of Pidurangala

Top of Pidurangala Rock

No crowds at the top of Pidurangala Rock

Lion Rock from Pidurangala

Lion Rock from Pidurangala

Our Conclusion

If you have the luxury of time and moderate fitness then make sure to do as we did; climb both. Both rocks offer unique experiences despite being so close together.

If cost is your main concern then your decision is probably easy. Pidurangala Rock is crazy cheap. However, do remember that you’re most likely visiting Sigiriya only once in your lifetime. Lion Rock is expensive for budget travellers but it’s a great experience despite all the tourists. There’s a reason why they charge visitors £25 each.

Lion Rock in Sigiriya

The awesome Lion Rock

If you strongly want to avoid flocks of other tourists then Lion Rock probably isn’t for you. You’ll get frustrated with sometimes having to wait in line before progressing. Pidurangala Rock is the polar opposite if you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy the views on your own.

If money isn’t an issue but you only have time to climb one, then we’d have to say Lion Rock. Purely because it really is a wonder of the world and there’s nothing else like it on the planet. We still had a fantastic experience at Sigiriya Rock, even with the crowds. The crowds remind you that you’re somewhere special. Somewhere where everyone wants to see so you should too.

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Not all know that there are two rocks to climb in Sigiriya. You've heard of Sigiriya Rock (Lion Rock), but what about Pidurangala? Here we compare the two.

10 thoughts on "Sigiriya Rock: To Climb Lion Rock and/or Pidurangala"

  • Rieneke says:

    We decided on only doing Pidurangala Rock. Mostly for the money but the other benefit is that there aren’t that many people. We started early because of the heat which was a good call, because we almost so nobody on the way up. The last part was a bit though to climb, but with some patience and some help we got there without any problems. Just watch out for the monkeys on top of the rock, they can be pretty mean, especially if you’re trying to eat a banana 😉

  • Beautiful photos! I have done Sigiriya 5 times now but never Pidurangala! Locals kept telling me because of the air force base at the top, it was off limits but I want to try again in Dec. How long should the hike be round trip for a very slow (but very experienced hiker) like myself?

    • Hi Doria. Thanks! 🙂 We can promise you that there is no air force base at the top of Pidurangala so make sure you get up there next time. It only takes around 30 minutes to walk to the top and the same back down again. There’s a little climbing over rocks to do towards the top so is best to go with someone else to give you a bit of a hand 🙂

  • Nancy says:

    Fantastic article guys! We visited Pidurangala Rock a few months back and had planned to do Lion’s Rock afterwards, but the monsoon rains hit by 8:30am. However, with the crowds expected at Lion Rock, I wasn’t too disappointed.

  • Rajesh says:

    If I have about 8 hrs (wife +2 daughters 13 & 9 yrs) can I do both?
    Because I feel the beauty of Lion Rock can be fully enjoyed if seen from Pidurangala, what say ?

    After sunset, no prob coming down in dark from Lion Rock?

    And what about time taken from Colombo ?

    • Hi Rajesh. We’re not sure about time taken from Colombo as we did not make that journey but 8 hours is more than enough time to tackle both climbs. Leave the top of Lion Rock just as the sun disappears behind the horizon and you’ll have enough light to reach the bottom again as we did. I hope this helps.

  • Susan Shepherd says:

    Hi Darren and Shelley – this is a great piece. I’m actually sitting at home in Scotland, but my daughter, Martha – travelling without me for the first time – just phoned to say she is off to the rock(s) next week and said she would probably climb “a smaller one, near Lion’s Rock, which has great views of it.” Intrigued, I Googled to find out more and your brilliant article has explained it all – and helped me picture her there. So thank you, from a happy Mum. By the way, I’ve been a journalist for over 30 years and just want to say what a pleasure it is to read such a well-written blog. Very best wishes to you both. Susan

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