If you are planning to go backpacking through Sri Lanka, I’m pretty sure that Sigiriya is somewhere on top of your travel list. It is one of the most popular and famous attractions in Sri Lanka. Although Sigiriya’s Lion rock will be the highlight of your visit, there is another rock you shouldn’t miss! We are referring to Pidurangala rock, which is located opposite the famous Lion Rock. The Pidurangala Rock climb is quickly becoming the most popular thing to do in Sigirya but still enjoys fewer tourists. Climbing Pidurangala rock gives you the most epic panoramic view of the surroundings including Sigirya rock. Experiencing its 360-degree viewpoint during sunset is an absolute magical adventure and a must-do on your visit.
This hiking point in Sigiriya was one of the highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka, so we can’t recommend it enough. However, it often gets overshadowed by the Lion Rock itself. So the ultimate question is: which one should you climb? Next to all the practical tips and essential travel information you need for climbing Pidurangala rock, we will give you a breakdown of the major differences between the two rocks. So keep reading to discover everything you need to know for climbing Pidurangala Rock.
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How to climb Pidurangala Rock: Discover Sigiriya’s best viewpoint
History of the ancient monastery
Pidurangala rock is a volcanic hill rising out from the central jungle plains of Sri Lanka. The 200m tall rock formation is only a stone’s throw away from the famous Sigiriya’s Lion Rock. Although not as a popular tourist attraction, visitors come here for its hiking aspect and nature element. Pidurangala also has a Buddhist temple near the entrance and an approximately 12m long reclining Buddha statue half the way up, but it doesn’t share the deep historic and cultural importance as the Lion rock.
The story goes that before King Kasyapa built his famous Sigiriya rock fortress in the 5th century AD, a group of Buddhist monks resided on the royal grounds. To construct his kingdom high up in the clouds, he had to relocate these monks somewhere else. So he decided to build them an alternative monastery at Pidurangala rock, a humble temple intended for meditation purposes. The Buddhist place was called ‘Aran gala’ or ‘golden monastery’, a name which later would evolve to Pidurangala, which means “offered piles of gold”. Just like Sigiriya rock, much of this monastery got destroyed over the years. These days not much remains and it is mostly visited by local devotees or hiked by tourists for its spectacular views of the ancient fortress.
A step-by-step guide to climbing Pidurangala Rock
Experience one of the most breathtaking viewpoints in Sri Lanka. Pidurangala Rock is a massive rock formation, known for its adventurous hiking trail. It’s only located 3km away from Sigiriya’s Lion Rock fortress and the perfect hangout spot to relax at the end of the day and catch the sunset. Once you reach the top you will be rewarded with fantastic views of Sri Lanka’s lush jungles and the majestic Lion Rock. Though, catching these views does come with a small price to pay. The saying “going off the beaten track” couldn’t be more fitting for this beloved backpacker’s pilgrimage. The climb up to the summit of Pidurangala rock is a bit harder than going up Sigiriya’s Lion Rock. Here you can find a run-through of what to expect when climbing the Pidurangala rock.
Disclaimer: Prices in this travel guide to climbing Pidurangala Rock are indications and are based on the daily currency rate during our stay in Sri Lanka. Bear in mind that the Sri Lankan currency is currently heavily fluctuating due to inflation. We also advise you to check current travel advice to Sri Lanka due to the ongoing economic crisis. This has led to possible shortages of necessities (such as food and fuel), power cuts, and overall unstable security situations.
Starting at the temple grounds
From the parking spot, there is a small staircase leading you to the entrance of Pidurangala Rock. After paying an entrance fee of 1000 LKR, you will be asked to remove your footwear and cover-up. In case you forgot to bring a sarong there are some that you can borrow. At the base of the rock, you will first pass through a white temple called, Sigiri Rajamaha Viharaya temple. Most people just walk through the temple grounds, as it’s not that impressive and rather humble in appearance. Nothing like the marvelous Dambulla cave temple before.
From here the actual climb of Pidurangala rock kicks off with a steep staircase along rock cliffs. Ascending the rock will be quite a rocky adventure since the pathway consists of irregular steps. The jungle trail takes you over gravel and overgrown passages, so be careful not to trip over tree roots and so.
The Royal Cave temple midway climbing Pidurangala rock
After a moderate climb of rocky steps, you will encounter the remains of the ancient Royal cave temple midway. Unfortunately, not much remains today. The most impressive part is a giant 12 m-long reclining Buddha statue, right under a massive ancient boulder. It is considered to be the oldest Buddha in Sri Lanka built out of bricks. As you can tell the statue has been reconstructed but much of the original structure has been kept.
Once you pass the large reclining Buddha statue, the real adventure begins! There is no longer a defined path, and for the next meters, you will be passing some obstacles, maneuvering between rocks and boulders, and even using a rope to jump over at some point. Spray-painted arrows on the rocks will guide you all the way to the summit. This part of the climb might be more challenging, yet don’t let that scare you off! The very last step before reaching the first viewing platform is the trickiest though. You will need to use your hands to climb up the big rocks and boulders and squeeze through the tight openings.
In the last few meters, people were helping each other out, with a little push or a helping hand, and giving directions on which step to take is the easiest. Frédérique got a bit stuck herself, but was helped with a little push :P. All in all the climb isn’t very dangerous, just take your time, watch your step and be cautious. It all just adds to the thrilling part of this adventurous hike! However, we do not recommend this climb to people with health problems or fear of tight spaces. Know your limits!
Reaching the summit
Once we reached the top, we were quite a sweaty sticky mess with red heated faces. But all the sweatiness and monkey maneuvers aside, it was oh-so worth it! You will be rewarded with unbeatable panoramic views of the gorgeous Sri Lankan countryside & valleys. And not to forget, the big superstar: Sigiriya Rock Fortress.
You first reach a small viewing platform, catch your breath and take some time to soak in all the beauty. After that, you can proceed to the main platform which stretches out quite far. To our surprise, there was already a small bunch of people sitting around and getting ready to catch the sunset. The top itself is mostly just a big stony surface with a few bushes. It’s the view that makes the climb all worthwhile. We spent more than an hour at the top, enjoying nature, and taking pictures.
Watching the sunset from the top of the Pidurangala rock
The sun started setting, illuminating the Lion Rock in radiant golden colors. Be sure to count on enough time to spend at the top to watch the sunset, enjoy the landscapes, and maybe even bring some snacks. Watching the sunset over the villages and scenery, while everything gets soaked in deep orange and red-colored hues was truly a magical experience. At a certain point, dark thunderclouds were passing by, giving a cool effect to the surroundings besides cooling us off with a few drips.
We decided to head back down right after the sun vanished since we didn’t want to hike the trail in the dark. On the way down, we noticed little lanternlights hanging in the trees, guiding our way. However, we still advise bringing a flashlight or torch of some sort. The small effort of climbing up was totally worth this super fun experience. We truly recommend adding the Pidurangala Rock climb to your Sri Lanka itinerary.
Essential Travel information
It’s perfectly possible to climb Pidurangala Rock independently. Since there is less history connected to the rock, compared to Sigiriya, a guide is not necessary. Just make sure you come prepared, and know what to bring and what to expect, so you can enjoy it to the fullest!
Below you can find everything you need to know about climbing Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya.
Where is Pidurangala Rock and how to get there?
The Pidurangala Rock is located in the town of Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. You can find the exact location here. The biggest city nearby is Dambulla, which is known for the Dambulla Royal Cave temples. Usually, people stay in one of the two places, Sigiriya or Dambulla, to see all the sights of this central province of Sri Lanka.
The rock is only a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride away from the center of Sigiriya and will cost you around 300 LKR. There are plenty of tuk-tuks at the entrance, so there is no need to hire one that takes you back, having to pay for waiting time. If you are staying in Sigiriya, you can also opt to hire a bicycle to get around, or just walk on foot, as we did.
It’s perfectly possible to see both Sigiriya’s Lion Rock and Pidurangala rock in one day, some even do it in one morning. We visited Lion Rock in the morning, enjoyed some lunch at Tharumila’s restaurant, and just walked from there to Pidurangala Rock in the afternoon. There is an enjoyable road connecting both rocks, with plenty of trees offering some shade. We even encountered wildlife on the way.
If you booked accommodation in Dambulla, the easiest way to reach Pidurangala rock is by hiring a tuk-tuk. This should cost you roughly 2200 LKR (~€8) and takes around 30 minutes. The price includes the drive back and forth, and drivers usually don’t mind waiting for you while you explore Sigiriya. We arranged our driver with our guesthouse stay, they all usually partner up with somebody and make sure you get a fair price.
TIP | Ask your tuk-tuk driver to take the road along Lake Kandalama. It’s a little longer drive but gives you amazing views of the landscapes of Sigiriya.
The cheapest option is to take the bus from Dambulla Main Bus station, which will cost you only 50 LKR one-way (~20 cents). The ride will take around an hour and the bus comes every 30 minutes or so. The first bus in the morning leaves at 6.45 AM and goes until 6 PM. Once at the bus stop in Sigiriya, you can take a tuk-tuk up to the rock entrance for 300 LKR.
Entry Ticket & opening times
The entrance fee for Pidurangala Rock is 1000 LKR (~€4) a person. They recently increased the prices, it used to be 500 LKR for the longest time, but the rock grew higher in popularity. Also given the current circumstances of the country (2022), everything overall got a bit more expensive, most noticeable in entry ticket prices. Anyways it’s still pretty cheap, compared to Lion’s rock entrance fee and the hike is worth every penny. On top of that, the money goes to the monks as a small donation for the upkeep of the temple grounds.
The ticket office opens at 5 am every day and closes at 6 pm. These times are just the office though, you can stay up on the rock longer until it’s dark. Careful with the descent though! Along the walk, you might also spot some monkeys, lizards, and even snakes.
ENTRANCE FEE | 1000 LKR (~€4) per person
OPENING HOURS | The ticket office is open from 5 AM – 6 PM
What time of the year and day is it best to visit?
The best time of the year to climb Pidurangala rock is during the dry season, which runs between late December and early April. During these months it’s way less likely to be cloudy, perfect to enjoy the views. It gets quite dangerous to go up when it’s raining, so make sure to check out the weather.
Do keep in mind that these months are also the hottest time of the year, with temperatures and humidity rising high. That’s why it’s best to climb Pidurangala rock at sunrise or sunset when the temperatures are more bearable. This way you can beat the heat, and enjoy some colorful backdrops on the Lion Rock. Some recommend going for sunrise since it’s much cooler and tranquil. However, we combined both rocks on the same day and tackled Pidurangala rock at sunset. There were some other people, but it didn’t feel crowded at all, just a pleasant atmosphere. Regarding the position of the sun, it doesn’t matter which one you visit for sunset or sunrise. Since both rocks have a 360 degrees viewing platform.
How long does the hike take and is it difficult?
The climb up Pidurangala rock takes around 30-60 minutes, depending on your fitness level and how often you take a break. There are some beautiful views along the way, like the large reclining Buddha statue, so you might wanna stop once in a while to enjoy the sights and take out your camera.
As mentioned above, the climb up is moderately difficult. The first part mainly consists of uneven steep staircases with tree roots sticking out. So that’s definitely manageable, just a bit exhausting and sweaty because of the heat. The last part, a 10-minute climb up to the viewing platform can be a bit more challenging for some. You will be climbing over some boulders, and use your hands on some parts for better grip. Spray-painted signs on the side of the rock will help you find your way up.
We wouldn’t recommend the climb for people with health problems, mobility issues, or fear of tight spaces. The last part could get rather difficult and is unfortunately not very accessible. Always be cautious, make sure to watch your step, and wear some decent footwear. Usually, there are people around and everybody helps each other out! It’s one of those experiences where you easily bond with other people and have a laugh or chit-chat about it all.
You might want to count in on an hour spent at the top. That would be enough time to check out the huge viewing platform from all angles. Find a nice spot to settle yourself down and enjoy the sunrise or sunset. The hike back down will go quicker and takes about 15 minutes. Still, mind your step since there are always some rocks laying loose.
What to wear & what to bring for the Pidurangala Rock climb?
Water – And we mean lots of water, you will need it for this sweaty hike.
Comfortable Shoes – Slippers or sandals aren’t ideal for this hike, so skip them. Put on decent sneakers or other footwear, you will need them for the final part of the hike which is pretty tough.
Sarong or Scarf – The first part of the trail passes through a Buddhist temple for which you need to cover up your shoulders and knees. You will need to remove your shoes as well, which you can take with you. There are some sarongs available at the temple that you can lend, but be aware that when it gets really busy there might be none left. You will have to wait then until somebody comes back because they won’t let you enter the ground without covering up. So just avoid the hassle, bring one yourself ;).
Sun protection – On the hike up there are many trees giving you some shade, however, the viewing platform is in the burning sun. Depending on the time of the day, the heat and sun are harsh. So make sure to bring a hat and sunscreen to protect you.
Bring cash – It’s only possible to pay in cash for the entrance fee, and there is no ATM near.
Torch or Flashlight – If you are planning to hike up during sunset or sunrise this will come in handy because you will be doing parts in the dark. During our visit, some lanterns were hanging in the trees to guide the way, but it was not enough to watch your step.
Your camera – This one is obvious, you will want to eternalize this moment and the views!
Sigiriya Lion Rock vs Pidurangala rock?
While researching online you might have noticed the debate amongst travelers as to whether or not it’s worth visiting Sigiriya Lion’s Rock versus Pidurangala rock. This is the very reason why we decided to climb up both and to see for ourselves. In our humble opinion, you should include both rocks in your Sri Lankan travel itinerary, since you can’t compare the two experiences. We absolutely loved doing both and for different reasons. So let’s break it down for you, in case you can’t visit both or have to choose.
Things to see
If you are more interested in hiking and nature, and mainly want to go for the views, then Pidurangala rock is a no-brainer. The view is absolutely breathtaking from here since you can see Sigiriya rock, which looks-wise is way more interesting within the jungle landscape. However, then you might be missing out on the deep rich history of Sigiriya’s Lion rock. The area is full of interesting historic features, such as the Lion Paws gate, the old frescoes, and the ruins on top of the fortress. Both rocks are the same in height, around 200 meters, so the jungle view is practically the same.
Secondly, there is the entrance fee: there is a huge price discrepancy between the two. Pidurangala Rock costs only 1000 LKR (~€4), whereas Sigiriya Rock is 6900 LKR (~€30) since it’s a UNESCO world heritage site. While there is no doubt of Sigiriya’s rock’s historical significance and impressive beauty, lots of people do opt to skip it because of its price tag and only visit the Pidurangala rock. The entry ticket can be a bit expensive for those on a tighter backpacking budget. Frankly, most of the Unesco Heritage sites entry tickets are a bit on the pricier side. But if there is one sight you might want to reconsider skipping, it’s this one. Just FYI, the entrance fees for all cultural sights in Sri Lanka go into the Central Cultural Fund. Which is being used for the maintenance and conservation of those monuments.
Crowd wise you can expect the most at Sigiriya Lion rock since it is one of the most popular attractions in the country. Whatever time of the day, it might always get busy, but your best shot to beat the crowds is right at opening time.
The hike up Sigiriya’s Lion rock is fairly easy to moderate, you will have to conquer 1200 steps to get to the top. But compared to Pidurangala it’s way more accessible and less difficult to reach the summit.
So if for some reason you are short on time and you have to make a choice, these points might help you make a decision. However, know it is possible to visit both in one morning. Both rocks are really impressive and have something unique, so try to climb them both if you can. Obviously, it’s all up to your budget and interests in the end.
Where to stay to climb Pidurangala Rock
The closest and easiest place to book accommodation when you want to climb Pidurangala rock would be Sigiriya. There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses to choose from. If you would like to experience an authentic and rural atmosphere this will be the best choice for you. Check out our Sigiriya Lion Rock blog post for our recommendations.
BOOK ACCOMMODATION | Find your perfect guesthouse stay or hotel in Sigiriya HERE
Another option is to stay in Dambulla, which is only a 30 min tuk-tuk drive away. It’s a bigger economic town with more shops and restaurants. We stayed in Dambulla for practical reasons, because it’s located on the main bus line from Anuradhapura to Kandy. However, we would now recommend Sigiriya for its atmosphere and charm. You can find our recommendations for staying in Dambulla right here.
Where to next?
Things to do around Sigiriya
Sigiriya is located within the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka, with many incredible things to do. We advise spending here at least 2-3 nights, which will give you plenty of time to explore all the main sights.
- After climbing Pidurangala Rock, head over to the famous Lion Rock, if you haven’t done so already. It’s only located 3 Km away so it’s possible to combine both rocks on the same day.
- The region of Sigiriya offers multiple safaris too, such as Minneriya & Kaudulla National Park. You can further rent a scooter to explore more of the rural villages around Sigiriya towards Habarana.
- Head over to Dambulla for the Royal Cave temples in the afternoon, which is known for its spectacular Buddhist murals and houses over 100 Buddha statues.
- It’s fairly easy to make a few day trips from Sigiriya. A lot of people join a guided tour to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa or hire a tuk-tuk to take you around.
BOOK A TOUR | Find here all kinds of safari & village tours around Sigiriya.
Ready to move on to the next destination?
Depending on whether you are following the typical north-to-south loup or vice versa, these are the most popular next stops:
Trincomalee – to the east coast | If you wish for more relaxed vibes after this adventurous stop, then this beach destination might be the perfect fit. Besides being mostly known for water activities like surfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving, there are plenty of things to see too.
Anuradhapura – up north | The UNESCO world heritage site was the first capital of Sri Lanka and holds major cultural, religious, and historical significance. Over an area of around 40 square kilometers, you will find many remnants of gigantic dagobas and temples scattered. Together with its neighboring sightseeing Mihintale, Anuradhapura is the perfect destination to delve deeper into Sri Lanka’s culture & history.
Kandy – down south | Located in the heart of Sri Lanka, Kandy is the second-largest city on the island. The place is centered around a gorgeous lake and surrounded by mountain ranges. It’s the perfect destination for those who want to explore the colonial era with historic buildings and famous religious sites. Last but not least it’s the starting point of one of the most epic train rides in the world.
BOOK TRANSPORTATION | Book a train, bus, or taxi to your next Sri Lankan destination with 12Go Asia HERE
We hope you found this guide for the Pidurangala Rock climb useful and could help with your further planning. We wanted to make sure it included everything you needed to know before taking off! The view from Pidurangala was definitely one of our favorite adventures. Have you maybe already visited one of the two rocks, Pidurangala or the Lion rock? Which one had your preference? Let us know in the comments!
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