No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without visiting the ancient and mysterious city of Sigiriya. This centuries-old rock-fortress is rightly recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and is filled with astonishing, and breathtaking sights and activities at almost every corner.

Sigiriya has tonnes of offerings for visitors and to help you make the most of your trip, we’ve compiled this list of things to do and see while visiting this historic city.

 

1. Gardens Of The Ancient City (Recommended)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Lucie Dité (@luciedite) on


Within the Sigiriya Rock archaeological park, the royal gardens are a sight to behold. Giant boulders that were once home to Buddhist shrines, dot the manicured landscape, and the water gardens have retained their pools since the 4th century. The ancient canals and other water features, still function to this day and look particularly spectacular during the rainy season. You can explore this site as part of the entry ticket to Sigiriya Ancient City, and either learn about its history by downloading a free phone app, or by hiring a guide.

This is box title
Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Entrance Fee: INR 2137

 

2. Sigiriya Ancient City Summit (Recommended)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by CeylonSide (@ceylonside) on


The hike to the top of Sigiriya Rock begins at the Lion Cave. Two giant paws, carved on the face of the rock are reminiscent of the original imposing lion carving that once stood here. Climbing steep stone steps will get you to the top where the preserved ruins of the ancient city await you. Apart from graffiti dating back to the 8th century, the crumbling remains of opulent palaces and bathhouses, there are also incredible views of the Sri Lankan countryside at every turn.

This is box title
Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Entrance Fee: INR 2137

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: The climb is steep and demanding. So take it only if you are physically fit.

 

3. Archaeological Museum (Popular)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by 👹 ᵒᵏingvar₆⁶₆ (@okokokyingwah) on


If hiring a guide isn’t something you’re keen on doing, but still want to get a historical overview of the ancient site, this little gem of a museum is worth a stop before the climb. Watch a video that will introduce you to the key players in the development of Sigiriya during the 4th century and get familiar with the cultural significance of the site. The museum also houses precious treasures that have been rescued from the. These are sure to give you a fair idea of the life that existed in this city of archaeological wonders.

This is box title
Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Entrance Fee: Included in the ticket price to Sigiriya Rock

 

4. Cobra Hood Cave (Popular)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Mikana Yoga (@mikana.yoga) on


The Cobra Hood Cave, which stands right at the entrance, is another must-see. A naturally formed rock resembles the head of a cobra about to strike, giving the cave its name. The cave houses perfectly preserved paintings, said to be of the many wives and lovers of King Kashyapa, the creator of the ancient city. The colour and details still stand fresh, making it possible for you to admire the intricate works as though they were painted yesterday.

This is box title
Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Entrance Fee: Included in the ticket price to Sigiriya Rock

 

5. Take A Village Tour (Recommended)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vanessa Bassil (@bassilvanessa) on


If you’re staying in the Sigiriya area, be sure to include a tour of a nearby village in your itinerary. A local guide will take you to one of the many rural enclaves that dot the stunning countryside, offering you a flavour of the provincial Sri Lankan life. Tours often include a ride in a traditional oxen cart. Some tours also feature a demonstration of the local cooking – learn how to cook some local favourites and indulge in them too. 

This is box title
Opening Hours: Pick up from 8 a.m. Drop off from 3 p.m.

Entrance Fee: Tours from local operators start from INR 1780

 

6. Sigiriya Craft Village (Off-beat)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Travel With Nature (@visitsrilankaa) on


Just on the outskirts of the town is a local craft centre where you can shop for souvenirs, and attend workshops. Learn the art of making handicrafts using local produce and also get a lesson in fabric dyeing fabrics that also using natural dyes.

This is box title
Opening Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Entrance Fee: Free

 

7. Visit The Nearby Dambulla Cave Temples (Recommended)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Helena Bach (@hbach) on


This UNESCO World Heritage Site is just 20 km off Sigiriya, making it perfect for a day trip if you’re staying in the area. You can take the half-hour long bus ride by yourself, or opt for an organised day trip with a guide. The cave, also known as the Golden cave has beautiful five temples with centuries-old paintings that have been beautifully preserved. 

This is box title
Opening Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Entrance Fee: INR 500

 

8. Climb Pidurangala Rock (Popular)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sri Lanka (@srilanka_travel) on


Just a few kilometres north of Sigiriya Rock is the lesser-known counterpart of the famous Lion Rock -Pidurangala Rock. Climbing to the summit of Pidurangala Rock will reward you with stunning views of the ancient city. Rising out of the lush landscape and extending to the misty mountains beyond, the top of this rock offers its climbers a panoramic view of Sigiriya Rock. The view from here is known to be better than that from Sigiriya but the climb is trickier, one that entails a two-hour trek over rough and rocky terrain. The panoramic views are particularly stunning at sunrise.

This is box title
Opening Hours: 5 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Entrance Fee: INR 215 (pay at the white temple at the bottom of the trail)

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: If you plan to trek it up in time for sunrise, do carry a torch. Do not take this trek if you’re not physically fit.

 

9. Safari At Minneriya National Park

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Narelle Cree (@oomycree) on


After days of exploring temples and ancient ruins, you might fancy a change of pace. So head to Minneriya National Park, 18 km north of Sigiriya, to spend some time with the wildlife of Sri Lanka. The park is home to one of the biggest gathering of gentle giants – i.e. the Asian elephants. Along with them, a safari drive with a trained ranger would let you see water buffaloes, monkeys, and majestic birds, not to mention, the stunning views of the lake where the animals gather.

This is box title
Opening Hours: 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Entrance Fee: INR 1070

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: A guide is required to accompany you around the park even if you arrive in your own car.

 

10. Take a ride on a Hot Air Balloon

Photo by R W on Unsplash

At sunrise, just as the countryside is waking up, you can catch a glimpse of the sleepy world from the luxury of a hot air balloon. Be mesmerised by the sight of the Sigiriya Rock rising out of the land, nestled amidst all the greens.

This is box title
Opening Hours: Flights begin around 5 a.m. and end around 9 a.m.

Entrance Fee: Starts from INR 12,000

Ithaka’s Pro Tip: The rides are expensive and you will need to wake up early (read 5 am) but the experience is sure to be a promising one.

 

11. Explore The Town on a Bicycle (Off-beat)

Renting a bike in Sigiriya, or taking a guided cycling tour, is one of the best ways to get to know the little villages and farmlands that surround the town. The narrow lanes and dirt tracks have very barely any traffic, making it the perfect terrain for biking. There are more than a few bike shops in town offering rental and guided tours, so pick a bike from one of them.

Convinced to visit this archaeological wonder of Sigiriya yet? Let’s start planning!