Introduction

Sigiriya is the most famous for the archaeological site, the old citadel of Sigiriya, which includes Lion Rock.

You also have the opportunity to do a safari, though this safari is almost exclusively to see elephants.

I’d recommend a hotel that caters to western standards, like the one that I stayed at – Camellia Resort & Spa (my review of Camellia here). There are several reasons for this, like, hot water, air conditioning, and internet, but the main reason is for dinner (see food section).
The closest place to Sigiriya is Dambulla. It's a nearly four-hour drive from Colombo International Airport to Sigiriya.

Other than that, most of what I wrote under the Transportation section in the “Sri Lanka” page applies.
Busses and cars are supposed to be able to go to one of the Sigiriya entrances, but we ended up taking a Tuk Tuk to the main Sigiriya entrance. The roundtrip tuk tuk was about Rs. 300.

A couple of notes about the tuk tuks:

First: negotiate a price. Usually the tuk tuk drivers will quote you the same price for single trip and roundtrips. In that case, make sure you don’t pay for the whole ride up front. Have the tuk tuk to wait for you to finish (which may be prudent in any case, since there aren’t always enough tuk tuks at the main entrance).
Food in restaurants in Sigiriya is horrendously awful. There’s not many places to eat outside of hotel restaurants, and those that are available have lousy preparation and undercooked food, and horrible service. For example, I went to a restaurant that charged 900 Rs. (approximately USD 6) for chicken curry with rice (read review here).

I got 4 undercooked chicken pieces with yellowy water, which I’m assuming was supposed to be curry. There was no flavor or spice, including salt; just the taste of undercooked chicken. The rice was also undercooked, and therefore hard. Oh, and let’s not forget the insects in my food. When I asked for the dish to be sent back with the complaints, I got scolded for not saying what my preferred spice level was when they asked (they never asked). Finally, in spite of the plate of food poison, I was still on the hook for the bill. My only regret was that I didn’t take a picture to share how disgusting that food was.

Meanwhile, back at my hotel’s restaurant, there was a USD 10 (Rs. 1200) buffet with local and western cuisines, including dessert.

Hotel restaurant food isn’t much more expensive than the standalone restaurants, so save yourself the horror (of the cuisine and the aftermath) and eat at your hotel’s restaurant.
Credit Card Acceptance is very poor. Also, there aren’t a lot of ATMs, so your best bet is to take out cash from the ATM next to the Sigiraya/Lion Rock ticket booth.
The climate here is hot, but the humidity here is bearable enough to wear trousers in the winter.
Make sure to keep hydrated, and also hang on to hand sanitizer and a roll of toilet paper with you.

Sites

Cost: USD 30 for non-SAARC countries and non-locals. USD 15 for SAARC countries. Rs. 50 for locals.

Hours: 7 AM – 6:30 PM (about the time it gets dark). Last entry time is at 5, and museum closes at 5.

Time to spend: 4-5 hours – to see the museum, all of the citadel, and climb up Lion Rock.

Description:

The Citadel of Sigiriya is an ancient fortified city from the days of when Sri Lanka was first founded. The Citadel is mostly in ruins, but there’s still some traces of it left. The part that’s not in ruin is Lion Rock. This is the best part, in my opinion.

Lion Rock is a gigantic cave at the very top, and is visible even before you officially reach Sigiriya. To get there, visitors have to climb up a number of stairs, but it’s not easily noticeable when there are a lot of tourists, as the line moves slowly. Most visitors are distracted by the monkeys who await treats from people. The slow line is worth it though. There are beautiful drawings inside the cave, which are well preserved. You can continue to the very top for 360 views, though it’s not required for the best views.

A few things to note about Lion Rock. The line is actually three people wide at the beginning. Be aware that many locals weave in between people’s personal space (quite adeptly since people tend not to notice). The locals have mentioned that the best time to go up Lion Rock is either in the morning (sunrise) or the evening (sunset).

Photography is prohibited inside the cave and there is an employee who strictly enforces this policy. Drones are not allowed. However, if you do want to see what the paintings look like, check out this picture from Wikipedia.

You can climb up some more beyond the paintings, but I would recommend only going one “level” up, instead of all the way to the top of the mountain not only because it’s a little arduous, but I also didn’t find the views to be any better.

In addition to the Citadel and Lion Rock, there’s a museum included in the entrance fee. The entrance fee is USD 30 per person, and is only valid for one day – the day of purchase. I thought this was a bit steep considering that most of the Citadel is nearly unrecognizable. There was also the fiasco on my trip with the driver from the touring company.

Verdict:  Worth it to see paintings inside Lion Rock, but don’t go unless you have time for the museum, because the admissions ticket is expensive.

Gallery

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