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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 onePidurangala 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.
One of the highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka was visiting Lipton's Seat and it’s surrounding tea plantation. Lipton's Seat is where Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of Lipton teas, was said to look over his vast tea plantation fields. Having seen these fields ourselves, it’s not hard to see why. On a clear day you can see all the way to the coastline from this vantage point.
Dambatenne Tea Factory is just a 7 - 8km trek away through these beautiful fields. Combine these activities together and they make a great half day trip from Haputale or Ella.
In order to arrive before sunrise you’ll need to arrange tuk tuk transportation beforehand.
From Haputale: Around 45 MinutesFrom Ella: Around 1.5 Hours
It’s also possible to catch the train from Ella to Haputale in the morning and then take a local bus to Dambatenne Tea Factory and begin the trek upwards. The benefit of catching the tuk tuk is being taken right to the entrance and getting to walk downhill.
It’s advisable to arrive as early as possible as the area becomes quite foggy by midday. To be fair, we had quite a foggy view even at sunrise (but it was still spectacular!).
Round trip cost from Haputale: 1,500 rupees
Lipton’s Seat has quite a large observation platform and there is a restaurant there where you can have tea, coffee and breakfast. Behind the restaurant there is also a small observation platform where you get an even higher view. Definitely check out both.
In addition to these there is a lovely statue of Sir Thomas Lipton himself, where you can pose for a photo next to him with a freshly brewed cup of Lipton tea.
Entrance Cost: 100 rupees per person & 50 rupees for tuk tuk
From Lipton’s Seat, you can organise to have your driver meet you at Dambatenne Tea Factory whilst you walk down through the beautiful tea fields. We really loved walking through this area. There was hardly anyone around, just the occasional friendly local.
The walk is around 7 - 8kms and will take you around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on your pace. It’s quite fast as it’s all downhill. There are opportunities to take shortcuts at parts but definitely check with locals first if it's the correct way. If you stick to the road the path is quite straight forward, but veering off can lead you to overgrown pathways and dead ends.
We learnt this the hard way whilst following Google Maps. The pathway disappeared under the overgrowth and we kept walking until we ran into 2 older Sri Lankan women. They immediately told us to turn back and walk the other way. They also imitated what I imagined to be a wild boar, implying that we will be eaten by an animal if we keep going! Our imagination was likely running wild but we were quick to take their advice.
They ended up leading us to a shortcut that was hidden just over a waterfall. You wouldn’t be able to find it unless you knew where to look. Be wary of the direction you are going and you’ll have a fantastic time. Better safe than sorry.
When you arrive to Dambatenne Tea Factory you have the option to take a tour. We skipped it as we had already seen one at Damro Tea Factory. We were also tired from the early start and all the walking!
Photos aren’t allowed during the tour, otherwise we have read that it’s quite an informative one.