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Climbing the Lion Rock in Sigiriya

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Considered the Eighth Wonder of the World by locals, the Lion Rock is one of the most famous historical and archaeological sites in Srilanka. What’s impressive about it is that its rock plateau was formed from the magma of an extinct volcano. It served as a monastery before King Kasyapa decided to build his palace on it in the 5th century. After the King’s death, it became a Buddhist monastery again, until the 14th century, before being abandoned and opened to the tourists.

Why the Lion Rock is a MUST-DO during your Srilanka itinerary:

The beauty of this place is surreal. Combining stunning natural rock formations with a genius architectural vision, Lion Rock is definitely a visual masterpiece. Entering the site, you are welcomed by beautiful water gardens, considered to be among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world!

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The Lion Rock
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water gardens

As you walk, you will be fascinated by the rock formations, including boulder rocks and caves.

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Massive rocks!


What you see while climbing the 1,202 steps up:

♦Ancient inscriptions dating from the 8th century.

♦Frescoes depicting women on the western wall of Sigiriya.

♦The mirror wall, a wall that used to be polished so that the King could see his reflection. The wall carries inscriptions left by visitors more than a thousand years ago.

♦The huge lion paws, the only remnants from the huge stone lion rock built anciently. (Sigiriya Palace was named after the lion rock, originating from the word “Sihagri”, which means Lion Rock.)

♦A lot of monkeys!

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View of the lion paw from up
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Monkeys everywhere!

Best time to climb the rock

As early as possible! The site opens its doors at 7:30am and you better be there early, not only to avoid the flocks of tourists and enjoy best your hike, but also to escape the high temperatures as it can get really hot during the day.


You have to buy your entrance ticket at the door and it costs $30 per person (tourist attractions are not cheap in Srilanka!)

Climb level

The climb is not really difficult. It’s mostly stairs, which can be a great workout, and you can always stop to catch your breath and enjoy the views, which get better the more you climb. It should take overall around 1 hour and a half to reach the top, at a slow pace, where you will not only enjoy mesmerizing views but also a great feeling of satisfaction I personally get after every hike.

(Wear hiking shoes and carry drinking water on you.)

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Stairs, stairs, stairs…
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Lion Paw
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Beautiful views you can enjoy on the top of the rock
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The feeling of reaching the top!

Final Thoughts

Visiting the Lion Rock in Sigiriya is truly an experience to the senses. Take your time to stop at the technical and architectural details of this monument, at the greatness that has been achieved in urban and landscape planning, in water engineering, and in architecture, which all have made the palace and fortress complex of Sigirya an example of ancient urban planning and a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1982.

We climbed the Sigiriya Rock during our stay in Kandalama. Staying in the area of Habarana/Dambulla is best to reach the landmark fast and early.