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Lion Rock is Sri Lanka’s most famous tourist attraction and for good reason. Its simply spectacular and visiting it was one of the best experiences we had during our visit. Nearby Pidurangala Rock is also definitely worth a visit. Read on to find out why.
The short answer is both. Absolutely climb both if you have the budget, and more importantly, the time to do so.
Lion Rock is notoriously expensive (tickets cost $30USD) and some backpackers tend to not climb it to avoid the entrance cost. Nearby Pidurangala Rock offers a good alternative at a fraction of the cost. It also has the benefit of being able to see Lion Rock in from the top.
Both offer incredible views overlooking the area. There was something really special about climbing up the Lion Rock. An ancient fortress built on top of a giant rock 1,500 years ago. It reminds us quite a bit of Machu Picchu.
So, to summarise the slightly longer answer:
Lion Rock: Prioritise Lion Rock if you only have time for one
Pidurangala Rock: Visit this one if you don’t want to pay the $30USD entry fee but still want phenomenal views
Catching the first glimpse of Lion Rock when arriving in Sigiriya was a great moment for us. The sun was setting and there was a golden glow cast over it that made it appear so beautiful.
Given its popularity it’s essential to visit early in the morning. The place to buy tickets is located on the west side of the Rock. It's marked as the 'Foreigners Entrance' on Google maps.
From the main ticket entrance it will take around 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to reach the top (depending on your level of fitness and how often you stop for photos). The pathway up is well-kept but wearing decent shoes is recommended as there are some uneven surfaces on the peak.
Entrance Fee: $30USD (Price paid in rupees based on current conversion)
The ancient fortress was built atop of Lions Rock by King Kashyapa in the 5th century. The rock was used partly because of the views in every direction from the top, allowing enemies to be easily spotted. The views from the top are breathtaking. Lush, green forest as far as the eye can see. White Buddha statues and monuments dot the landscape too, contrasting with the green forest.
There is a small museum in the main access area you can access that's included within the ticket. Worth a visit if you want to learn more about the historical significance of this amazing site.
Located just a few kilometres away from Lion Rock is Pidurangala Rock. Offering the same incredible views of the area with Lion Rock as well. You enter the walk through a small temple after paying the entrance fee. There are a couple of pathways up. The one on the left has a detour where you can see some old statues. You need to consider what you’re wearing as you pass through the temple but it’s possible to borrow a sarong when you pay the entrance fee.
The walk up to the top is much shorter in distance than Lion Rock but has quite a difficult part right before the peak. This section will require careful climbing and is best to be done with some one else so you can support each other. Proper shoes are essential.
If you’re concerned about doing this by yourself you can hire a guide at the bottom to help you out with this section (and also learn a few things!).
It’s very much possible to climb both rocks in a single day. Both offer incredible sunrise and sunset views but, as always, its dependent on the weather. We split them over a couple of days and preferred it this way. Although we also had the luxury of staying in Sigiriya.
Sigiriya makes a great base for exploring the spectacular Lion Rock. It also sits in the centre of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle. There are wildlife parks nearby such as Kaudulla, Minneriya and Eco Park.
We stayed at Sigiri Rock Side Home Stay and had a great time. The owners were lovely and helpful. The breakfast was delicious. It was quiet and also within walking distance of a bunch of a local restaurants.