While doing my research to plan our trip to Sri Lanka, I thought Sigiriya Lion Rock was one of the most intriguing places in the cultural triangle. The origin of the lion rock is wrapped up in legends and mysterious. Some say that Sigiriya was originally known as Alakamandava (the City of the Gods) that was built by Ravana’s father. As per Ramayana (a famous Indian epic), Ravana was the ruler of Sri Lanka who kidnaps Rama’s wife and brings her to Sri Lanka. Being quite familiar to the stories in Ramayana and how the tale unfolds in Sri Lanka, it was quite interesting to note key differences in the Indian version and the Lankan version of the epic.

Sigiriya Lion Rock

But history tells the tale of a king called Kashyapa who killed his own father and snatched the kingdom from his brother’s grasp. Having conquered Sri Lanka in 477 BC, Kashyapa moved the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya and built his palace on the summit of Sigiriya as a fortress and a pleasure palace.

The dream palace is said to have been an architectural marvel visible from miles away. The rock was a picture gallery with hundreds of beautiful frescoes painted on its surface and had an elaborate labyrinth of palaces, gardens and moats surrounding it from below. But this grand dream is also believed to have been the king’s pride and folly. When King Kashyapa was finally defeated by his brother, Mogallana, Sigiriya Lion rock and complex was converted into a Buddhist monastery, which survived until the 13th or 14th century.

Sigiriya Lion Rock
Sigiriya Lion Rock, the first glace

The Sigiriya Lion rock of today is a UNESCO world heritage site that has stood the test of time. A unique structure that suddenly rises through a forest touching almost 200 meters in height is a landmark frequented by mountain climbers, history buffs and art lovers. Reaching here is easy if you are staying around Sigiriya or Dambulla else a day trip from Kandy or Colombo is also possible. With kids, we recommend staying near the cultural triangle in Sri Lanka if you are planning to climb the Sigiriya Lion Rock.

Sigiriya Lion Rock

Entrance and Time

The entrance fee is relatively high at $30 for foreign tourist and is half for SAARC country members. However, a well planned and executed trip to Sigiriya is worth the entrance fee. Sigiriya Museum is a good starting or ending point and is a must stop to understand the history and culture behind this place better.

Sigiriya Lion Rock
The remaining foundation of the palace on the top, which can be reached after climbing 1200 steps. Can you imagine how glorious it would have looked in its time!

When traveling with a family that includes young kids or senior citizens, the first question that probably comes to mind is if the climb is doable. In my view, the climb is not a walk in the park but can be managed if the person is fit and strong-willed. We saw quite a few couples who were senior citizens and were climbing along with us. If the climb gets tiring or fear of height sets in, it’s better to slow down and pace out the climb into sections. The climb has stone steps, iron spiral staircase and ramps and it’s better to take your time and enjoy the view as you climb. The last bit of the climb is quite steep and could seem difficult for people with vertigo. Do watch out for “guides” who provide assistance in climbing or help with young kids for a small payment.

Sigiriya Lion Rock
The upward climb from the lion’s paw

The best time to beat the heat and the crowd while climbing Sigiriya rock is early morning or around sunset. The complex opens at 7 am and we recommend starting your climb before 9 am so that you can skip the tour bus groups. In the evening,  starting between 3 pm – 4 pm should give you enough time to hike and then enjoy the sunset.

Up in the Air

Pidurangala Rock
Pidurangala Rock, Another hiking option to view Sigiriya Lion rock from an alternate angle

The journey up to the top where the fortress existed is an adventure in itself. In addition to the panoramic views of the surrounding, the pathway takes you through what remains of the gallery of the frescoes and the mirror wall. The frescoes are paintings of ladies offering flowers and are believed to be either ladies of the King’s court or ladies participating in religious performances. The mirror wall is like a graffiti wall with writings from travelers visiting as early as 8th century.

Source: Pixabay

Another distinctive feature is the giant lion paws that remain, leading to the top. These are enough to let you imagine how magnanimous the complete lion would have looked, guarding the entrance to the citadel. The stairs are believed to have started at the lion’s paws entering through the mouth to the top. The lion symbolized Buddha who was the lion of Sakya clan whose words were as powerful as the lion’s roar.

Sigiriya Lion Rock

The top of the Sigiriya Lion Rock is a flat plateau offering breathtaking views of the garden galleries below and forests beyond. The joy of reaching the top and the gorgeous views combined to make me understand a bit more about the king who fantasized to build his empire in the clouds. After spending some time looking around at the ruins of the palace foundations and witnessing one of the most beautiful sunsets, we headed back.

What Next?

After a tiring hike, we spent our rest of the evening at Sigiriya Village, a Sri Lankan village themed hotel. The Lobby bar is just perfect to refresh after a tiring day and offers a long list of mocktails and cocktails. Quite aesthetically designed, it brings the old charms of Sri Lanka to the new world.

Sigiriya Village

The hotel creates an authentic Sri Lankan village ambiance with bungalows designed to bring luxury amidst nature. The gardens and the surrounding forests give a sense of staying close to untouched beauty. The main restaurant overlooks the garden and the swimming pool with the background of the Sigiriya Lion rock. Serving continental as well as traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, there are dishes even customized for toddlers and kids. The restaurant staff are friendly and take care of their guests very well even during busy times.

Sigiriya can also be visited as a day trip from Kandy. Read about Kandy, the capital of the hill country and its charm here.

56 COMMENTS

  1. Wow! This is such an interesting place to visit in Sri Lanka someday. The history, and the legend are worth to witness personally, not to mention the panoramic view from the upper deck. Great job on writing well this article!

    Best regard,
    Clement II

  2. I would love to go Sigiriya Lion Rock someday, there’s so much of the country I still need to see. The sights look incredible.

  3. Omg!! What a hike? I bet by the time you reach the rock, you’re already exhausted by then again those breathtaking views make the hike worth it. What an incredible sight!! It looks like Sri Lanka has so much to offer than what I envisioned.

  4. I went to Sri Lanka but due to lack of time, missed this Sigiriya lion rock. This looks huge and has splendid views from the top. Though stairs are steep and narrow, it would great to climb this huge rock. Thanks for sharing all the details about this place.

  5. Wow what a marvellous place so full of history
    Never heard of lions rock before.the more i read about such exotic locations i realise why sri lanka has been rated as thd top country for tourism in 2019 by lonely planet

  6. Such an interesting place, this is a great guide to Sigiriya. I love the entrance with the giant feet, looks like something from a sci-fi movie. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I hadn’t even heard of Sigiriya Lion Rock before. This looks like exactly like the kind of travel experience we like to get immersed in. This will definitely be in our itinerary when we visit Sri Lanka! Thank you!

  8. This is indeed very intriguing. I can’t help but imagine what if we could still see the palace that was built on there. Wouldve been really grand. I would love to go on top there but i agree that price is steep.

  9. We are planning a trip to Sri Lanka next year and I’m definitely going to visit the Lion’s Rock, after reading your post and seeing the beautiful pics! But those steep stairs though, they are a bit intimidating!

  10. I’m in awe over those lion paws, especially with the claws. I love places that require a hike to come to an interesting find. Sigiriya Lion Rock is just that and thank you for giving some history and background as well as pointing out that it is not an easy climb.

  11. The climb definitely looks worth it, what an incredible place to visit and the story behind it is very interesting. Great Post 👍

  12. The views are amazing from up there. It always amazes us how structures so high up have been created back in the day without any heavy machinery. Definitely a place to visit when we get to Sri Lanka

  13. $30 is kinda price for a fee but from your article I can see that it is well worth it. I didn’t know about this place but definitely gonna visit it when I’m in Sri Lanka. The lion’s paws at the bottom of the mountain are especially impressive!

  14. Omg!!! I’ve seen this rock many times on Instagram but I didn’t know the name of this place. OH I´ve heard that Sri Lanka is gorgeous. We were thinking about spending last Xmas there but at the end we went to Malaysia and Singapore. Maybe next year. I hope so…. love this post and I am definitely saving it for the future.

  15. What an amazing place to visit! Such a cool piece of history and such a beautiful view from the top. This is a great guide for anyone who’s lucky enough to make it here.

  16. You’re right it’s a little bit expensive, but totally worth it! It looks fantastic and the photos are spectacular.
    I hope to do it someday because I loved it!

  17. I have been only to Pidurangala Rock to watch the sunrise, because of the entrance fee I was kinda rebel. It was 35USD to visit Angkor Thom national park in Cmabodia with full of temples, whereas Sigiriya was 30!! It’s insane… Entrance fees to the cultural places wer the only thing I didn’t like about Sri Lanka…

  18. Oh my gosh I could never do those steps- but oh how I wish I could! It looks absolutely amazing! I had never heard of this location before reading your post. I’m glad it is a world heritage site and is protected!

  19. Thank you so much for this post. I have all along been planning to go and check out Sri Lanka and Sigiriya is definitely on my list!

  20. The lion claw looks impressive !!! The pictures are really beautiful !!! I way you explained how you penned the history and came up with your experience !!! Will visit once !!!

  21. I’ve always been intrigued and fascinated by legends that explains the mysteries surrounding certain places and I think it’s not different here with Sri Lanka’s Lion Rock! It would be a lot of fun to visit this.

  22. This looks like a neat place to visit, I can understand the higher free to enter it helps keep the area cleaned up and taken care of to keep it beautiful for years to come.

  23. This is an interesting place to visit. I love to travel to places such as this. Full of history and story behind it. Hopefully I could visit this place one day.

  24. We grew up listening to the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata. It would be interesting to hear the Sri Lankan version of the story of Ram and Ravan. A place like Sigriya always intrigues me. The history behind the place is quite interesting. I think very soon I have to visit Sri Lanka!

  25. Sigiriya Lion Rock has always fascinated me and I have plans of visiting this magnificent palace on my visit to Sri Lanka. But I’ve heard it being associated with Ravana and Ramayana only. I didn’t know Sri Lanka has a different version of history associated with it. It’s quite interesting to read about the other side of facts. Thanks for sharing all the information and history of the palace. Your pictures are very beautiful.

  26. I loved my trip to Sri Lanka but I did not make it to this place… Yes, the fee is quite high! And I can imagine that climbing the rock would be quite hot if not done early in the morning. It was interesting to read about it, thanks!

  27. All these legends and tales remind me of the greek mythology and as Greek this is so much familiar for me! I had no idea about this place but Sri Lanka has been on my bucket list for a while so it might be an extra… excuse for that trip!

  28. Gosh, what an utterly incredible sight! I’ve not researched Sri Lanka but it’s on my list to visit in next decade for sure. I’m glad you show the steepness of the climb and stairs though. I think, being honest, my vertigo combined with joint pain and lack of fitness means it might be impossible for me!

  29. The Lion Rock certainly looks impressive! And the view from the top of it – it is just magnificent! I have never heard of the Lion Rock but your post had just made me want to find out more about it. Thanks for sharing about it and for all the gorgeous photos as well! 🙂

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