Sigiriya, Sri Lanka: Get to know the ruins of an ancient royal palace

Looking at the lion’s paws in the ancient structure in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, you can already have a sense of what the servants of King Kasyapa were able to build in the country.

Looking at the lion’s paws in the ancient structure in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, you can already have a sense of what the servants of King Kasyapa were able to build in the country.

Come to Sigiriya and get to know the most emblematic and surreal hideout of one of the most scrupulous kings of Sri Lanka. The preserved cultural center is today the 8th wonder of the ancient world and considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

This place is also known as Lion Rock still holds vivid memories, frescoes, gardens, walls of mirrors symbolizing a fast reign, but with a story that has crossed millennia.

Know the history of the reign that triumphed in its time and over the centuries became a refuge for the monks.

On the way to the ruined castle, try to decipher the secret of the sensual paintings and frescoes on the walls and share the opinions of several historians.

Where is Sigiriya?

Sigiriya is the ancient capital of Sri Lanka and was built during the reign of King Kassyapa. It was made at the height of 370 meters and is considered as World Heritage.

This city lies between Dambulla and Habarane and near Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

The fort was formed from the magma of an ancient volcano 200 meters higher than the jungles that surround it.

The rocky palace, called the Lion Rock or the ruins of a palace, was built in the form of a seated lion, what remained were the paws marked by time and the marks left by thousands of tourists who come every year to this place.

What to see in Sigiriya?

When you hear Sigiriya, do you already have in your mind the ruins of an empire built on a rock?

Exactly so, but to close your journey with a golden key, you have one more place you deserve on your visit to Sigiriya. Learn more below!

Staircase of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Staircase of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

The palace of Sigiriya at the top of the Stone

Sigiriya palace is surrounded and impressed by the construction that defied the mind and technology of the time.

Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

For in those times and without the resources we have today, it’s incredible to see how people were able to raise such an imposing rocky structure upon a stone.

According to history, King Kasyapa built the fortress to protect himself against the rival kingdoms including his half-brother (for he overthrew his father’s empire and usurped his brother’s right).

Climb to the Top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Climb to the Top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

In contemplating what was left of the empire, one can see that it was impossible to get to the place: it had few entrances and difficult access to the top of the stone.

And by the way, if you get dizzy do not go on that adventure. For as soon as you begin to approach the ancient city you will feel a wind as if it were to overthrow you.

Although the morning is the best time to visit ruins, it is not the best time to take photos.

Ruins there at the top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Ruins there at the top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

This is because the sun rises behind the stone and the front is dark. Then the clearing of the rock and the dark shadow creates an extreme contrast disturbing the visibility.

So the best time to take photos of the ruins is at the end of the afternoon when the sun sets on the opposite side, and the stone looks orange with a more uniform light around it.

Incrível Paisagem do Topo do Palácio de Sigiriya, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Incrível Paisagem do Topo do Palácio de Sigiriya

On the way to the top (1200 steps) of this stone has several frescoes, mirror wall, and charming gardens that reveal a little of what this city was in antiquity. Check out more details about this stunning place.

Sensual frescoes

The well-preserved frescoes are halfway up the staircase. These paintings are noticeable and depict naked women with their thin waists and large breasts.

Frescoes on the ascent to Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Frescoes on the ascent to Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

According to local legend, a section of the population believes that the paintings of women are lovers of King Kasyapa.

While another part associates the paintings with the heavenly nymphs representing the goddess Tara (for they resemble the rustic figures in Ajanta, India).

Frescoes on the ascent to Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Frescoes on the ascent to Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

To this day no one can confirm the correct dates of the frescoes, but some historians believe that they are of the time that the king built the rocky empire.

Remember something: to keep the conservation of the place, the photos are forbidden.

Mirror wall

Formerly the mirror wall was polished to the point where the king saw his own reflection in it. Today, you will see many inscriptions, graffiti, and writings from visitors who have been to the site. Some even refer to the eighth century.

This is an indication that since thousands of years, this place already received visits from tourists. Now any writing on the wall is forbidden.

Charming gardens

As soon as you reach the main entrance, you will see the water gardens. Then there are the others that are formed by terraces and by the quarries that were once shrines of the monks.

Ancient City on Top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Ancient City on Top of Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

There you will see the bathing pools, islets. Further up there are the more delicate rock gardens, water by the curves and the boulders near the rock.

When contemplating the exposed engineering, it is evident that at that time they used a lot of creativity to structure a more complete hydraulic complex with canals, lakes, bridges, water pumps that irrigate the interior and exterior gardens.

Water Canal at the entrance to Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Water Canal at the entrance to Sigiriya Palace, Sri Lanka

When the rains come, the canals are filled with water, and they circulate through all areas of the Sigiriya palace.

Climb the Pidurangala rock to see Sigiriya

The stone of Pindurangala offers incredible views at a more economical price, but they are not as impressive and border the madness as those of the palace of Sigiriya.

Buddha Statue on the ascent of the Pidurangala stone in Sigiriya, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Buddha Statue on the ascent of the Pidurangala stone in Sigiriya

You will climb about 1 km north of the palace and walk about 20 minutes to reach the top (quiet).

Upon climbing, you will pass through temples and a 12.5m Buddha statue. It pays to go to contemplate the sunset or the sunrise.

View of the Sigiriya Palace from the Stone of Pidurangala, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
View of the Sigiriya Palace from the Stone of Pidurangala

Of course, if you go early (before 8 am), you will find less turmoil, and it will be easier to see a global landscape of Sigiriya.

How to move around in Sigiriya?

To walk in Sigiriya, there are not many secrets. You can do everything just by walking, mainly because of the great location of hotels and restaurants. If it’s still not very interesting, call a tuk-tuk to take you to the rock at meager prices than you can get in Colombo and Negombo.

How to get in and out of Sigiriya?

To get to Sigiriya, you can take a bus in Dambulla (you can intersect and visit the two cities).

Also, you can rent a jeep with a driver to pick you up at your hotel in Sigiriya and then drive to the national parks of Kaudulla or Minneriya).

Another option to get out of Sigiriya is to take a bus to Habarana and from there to visit one of these national parks.

And by the way, we have an article on Sri Lankan transportation complete and practical that will explain all means of transport, prices, and negotiations of the main cities of the country.

Places to stay in Sigiriya

Hotels in Sigiriya are close to each other. The main differences are the levels of comfort and the services they offer. Thinking of you, we have selected the best hotels in town. Check it out!

Sigiriya Village Hotel

Sigiriya Village Hotel is an excellent place for you to rest in Sigiriya. Also, it is located near the main attraction of the city.

Sigiriya Village, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Sigiriya Village, Sri Lanka

It stands out for its comfort, with pool options, private areas, and spa for relaxing massages.

However concerning the wifi, it does not reach the rooms, but you can access it from the hotel bar.

The Hotel Sigiriya

The Hotel Sigiriya is a comfortable place to stay in Sigiriya.

Hotel Sigiriya, Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Hotel Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Travelers can choose massages, stay in the garden and relax with nature or soak in a lovely swimming pool! From there you will have a unique view of the Sigiriya Palace.

Also, the hotel offers complimentary wifi, a varied and predominantly Sinhalese menu and much more.

Jetwing Vil Uyana

The Jetwing Vil Uyana is one of the best hotels in Sigiriya, mainly for the location and excellent services that appeal to all travelers.

Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sigiriya - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sigiriya – Sri Lanka

According to tourists, it enters the comfort and luxury category with options to rent a villa or private cabins without the traveler being forgotten the rest of the hotel and with all the privacy that it deserves.

The variety of dishes, the convenience, the private pools, the gym, the spa and the contact with nature are some of the amenities you will experience when you rest in this hotel.

Lion Lodge

The Lions Lodge is a hotel that is close to several restaurants, hostels, and hotels worth for the quality and the excellent price of the services provided.

This place is covered by trees, the rooms have air conditioning (to keep warm in this area).

Sigiri Lion Lodge, Sigiriya - Sri Lanka | Happymind Travels
Sigiri Lion Lodge, Sigiriya – Sri Lanka

They also offer lunch (must be paid apart) with the advantage of being punctual. You can choose either to feed yourself on the spot or to take you to your chambers.

The downside is that it does not have a common area to meet other travelers, but still it’s still a good option.

The best restaurants in Sigiriya

In fact, all the restaurants serve the same menus (local and western cuisine), what differentiates them are the services themselves, the decor and the possibility to meet other travelers.

Following the dramatic and mysterious theme of the fortress, there are excellent restaurants that you need to visit in Sigiriya. Check out the best!

Pradeep restaurant

The Pradeep restaurant is a more touristy place decorated with very vibrant lighting.

The forest surrounds this place, and it is close to other restaurants and hotels.

This restaurant draws attention to the number of travelers who go to the place – even though there are several other restaurants, so this is supposed to be the best restaurant in town.

Feel free to indulge in the traditional rice with chicken in curry sauce, kottu with chicken, devilled prawns and much more accompanied by a beautiful beer.

Nirwana Restaurant

The Nirwana Restaurant is a relaxed environment, serving local food where many tourists like to go in the evening to attest to the quality of the restaurant.

The Nirwana Restaurant is next door to Lion Lodge and offers a Sinhalese menu such as kottu, fried rice with vegetables, egg or chicken and varieties of natural juices.

As well as the Preaadeep Restaurant, there are numerous testimonials from tourists satisfied with the services offered on the walls of the restaurants.

Rithu Restaurant

The Rithu Restaurant is a place for you to get to know the local food at the most reasonable prices.

It is a place that exudes the relaxing vibrations. It is on the way to Lion Rock. Although it has a rough look, it is a relaxed place that deserves you to visit when passing by Sigiriya.

Wijesiri Family Restaurant

The Wijesiri Family Restaurant is a famous and specialty of teas. It is close to other restaurants and hotels in Sirigya.

Try the best of the food at reasonable prices and a great staff to serve them with friendliness.

Ahinsa restaurant

The Ahinsa restaurant is the obligatory stop for food before arriving at Lion Rock. It is located on Inmaluw Road at prices most comrades.

Among the main menu choose the specialty of the house: banana lassi, a delicious dish!

Royal Sigiriya Restaurant

The Royal Sigiriya Restaurant is a novelty in the region and draws on hygiene being an excellent choice in Sigiriya.

Although it has one of the lowest prices in Sigiriya, it amazes travelers by the buffet system with many options for filling.

Chooti Restaurant

The Chooti Restaurant is a simple place and offers a menu with varieties of cingalese food at reasonable prices.

Try the food that just came out of the oven.

The weather and the best time to visit Sigiriya

The climate in Sigiriya is hot and dry with a predominance of short seasons.

During the year the temperatures are hotter and vary from 21ºC and can reach the maximum at 37ºC. On the other hand, it rains the whole year in Sigiriya, with extremes in times of monsoon.

And by the way, avoid traveling in monsoon times that hit various parts of the island and flooded in many places. Check out our article about the best time to visit Sri Lanka and learn more about climates to create the best travel itineraries.

Thinking of all this, the best time to travel to Sigiriya is between the beginning of January and the end of March.

How many days you should stay in Sigiriya?

Sigiriya has the Sigiriya palace and the Pidurangala stone. If you want to stay, you have both places that you can do in one day, but it will be very tiring.

Anyway, staying 2 days is enough: one day to visit the palace, another to visit a natural park, Kaudulla or Minneriya and still give time to move to another destination, such as Pollonaruwa.

As we have seen, Sigiriya is a historical and tourist place, including the details of the ruins of a palace. Prepare yourself physically before facing the stairs, feed yourself well and bring water with you. Remember the recommendations and take the opportunity to make lots of photos (panoramic view) high in the rock.

Did you see how Sigiriya is an impressive place? Enjoy, also read the Dambulla article and learn more about the mysteries of the sanctuaries inside the caves!

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