The view after climbing Pidurangula Rock - Rocky outcrop in the distance framed by leaves in the foreground, and surrounded by jungle in the distance

Located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle, Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country’s most visited attraction. Sigiriya, meaning Lion Rock, is a giant rocky outcrop with important archaeological remains of an ancient fortress. It is a sight to behold, and the best way to appreciate this breathtaking formation is from the top of Pidurangula Rock, another rocky formation not far from it. So here are some helpful tips for climbing Pidurangula Rock for the best view of Sigiriya.

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About Pidurangula Rock

Pidurangula Rock is located a few kilometres north of Sigiriya, an obligatory stop on every Sri Lanka itinerary, and its history is closely tied to the ancient fortress. Similarly, Pidurangula is an outcrop formed by volcanic activity. The area has been occupied by Buddhist monks, who used to live in the caves around the rock, for over 2,500 years. 

When King Kasyapa built the Lion Rock in the 5th century, he moved the monks living around the Sigiriya Rock to a new temple and monastery in Pidurangula. 

Sitting on a rock with a view of the jungle and a rocky outcrop in the distance


Climbing Pidurangula Rock

At the base of Pidurangula Rock you will find the Pidurangula Rajamaha Viharaya Temple, where you will need to buy a ticket for Rs. 500 ($3USD). The proceeds from the ticket sales go towards a social welfare fund that helps impoverished communities, and supports programs such as a children’s development centre.

The first section of the hike to Pidurangula Rock (the first 100 metres or so) goes through the temple, so you will need to cover your shoulders and legs. If you don’t have your own covering like a scarf or sarong, you can borrow one from the ticket office. 

Group of people walking along a rocky path with a rocky over ledge on the left and trees on the right

The climb to the top of Pidurangula is a fairly steady ascent with some relatively strenuous sections, but it only takes around 30 minutes or so. I would allow a couple of hours for the hike there and back, with a little bit of time to enjoy the views and take some photos (you will want to take tons of them!).

The paths are easy to follow, but after the Cave Temple it is more of a scramble over boulders than a path. Once you are over this section you have reached the top, where you will enjoy 360 degree views of the surrounding plateau, Sigiriya Rock and the Knuckles Mountain Range in the distance.

View of a rocky outcrop in the distance


Pidurangula Cave Temple

A few minutes from the top of Pidurangula Rock you will come across a shallow cave temple with a large reclining Buddha. This 12.5 metres-long statue was once the largest brick statue of Buddha in the world.

The head and torso were destroyed by treasure hunters in the 1960s but they have now been reconstructed and you can see the exposed bricks. 

Reclining Buddha stature with half of it with exposed red brick and the other half covered in white plaster


How to get to Pidurangula Rock

The best way to get to Pidurangula Rock is by tuk tuk. If you are planning to do a sunrise hike, ask your hotel to arrange an early tuk tuk for you. It may be a very early start (4-4.30am) so it’s a good idea to book it in advance.


The best time to hike Pidurangula Rock – sunrise or sunset

You can climb any time of the day really, but during the day it can get extremely hot.

The best time to climb Pidurangula Rock is for sunrise or sunset. Not just for the cooler temperatures, but the light from the top of the rock as the sun rises or sets down is pure magic. Just be sure you check the sunrise and sunset times for the day of your hike.

View of a rocky outcrop surrounded by jungle in the distance and a large boulder in the foreground

The ticket office opens at 5am and closes at 6pm but you can stay at the top until it gets dark. I would advise starting the descent when there’s still some light, as the first section is a bit of a scramble, so being able to see your step will certainly help.


Tips for climbing Pidurangula Rock

Baby monkey sitting on a metal fence eating fruit

Bring a scarf and/or a sarong

As mentioned, the first section of the climb to Pidurangula Rock is through a Buddhist temple, so you will need to cover your shoulders and legs. You can borrow a scarf at the ticket office, but I’d recommend bringing your own. If it’s a busy day, there may not be any available, which means you’ll have to wait for someone to climb down and return theirs.

Wear sturdy shoes

Just before you get to the top, the path becomes a scramble over large boulders, so it is recommended that you wear sturdy shoes. I have seen people wear flip flops but you are only asking for trouble in my opinion. Do yourself a favour by making your life easier and wear closed sturdy shoes. 

Bring a torch

If you want to make it to the top of Pidurangula for sunrise, you will need to start your hike very early while it’s still dark, so bring a torch with you. I used my phone light but it was just about enough to see the immediate step in front of me. If you have one of those travel torch or a headlamp, make sure you bring it with you.

View of Sigiriya, a must stop in any 10 day Sri Lanka itinerary

Bring water

If you are climbing in the middle of the day it can get very hot, so make sure you bring water with you. However, bear in mind that, although not heavily enforced, plastic is not allowed at Pidurangula Rock, so bring your own reusable bottle if you have one. 

There are no toilets

There are no toilets in Pidurangula Rock, so be prepared and make sure you go before you arrive if you are not able to hold it for a couple of hours. Please be respectful and do not be tempted to go off the path and relieve yourself there.


Climbing Pidurangula Rock vs Sigiriya Rock

I have to admit that for me climbing Pidurangula Rock was the more memorable experience. As it’s less known than Sigiriya Rock, it was less crowded with very few people there, and it felt more like an adventure and off the beaten path – even though it isn’t, really. Plus those unforgettable views! One of my highlights of my Sri Lanka trip.

Woman standing looking at a rocky outcrop surrounded by jungle in the distance

Saying this, Sigiriya is a truly spectacular place to visit. Not only is it breathtaking, but its historical significance and also the astounding ingenuity of the Sri Lankans of the time who built it.

It was a bit disappointing to hear that more and more people are choosing not to visit Sigiriya and instead only climb Pidurangula. The price of Sigiriya’s entrance fee ($30USD vs $3USD for Pidurangula Rock) is a major turn off. I find this a bit sad as Sigiriya is a major historical site that has had a huge significance in Sri Lankan culture, so skipping it means skipping in understanding and learning about the local culture.

Standing on a red brick structure overlooking the plains and mountains in the distance

If you’re travelling on a tight budget, it’s understandable that you may want to skip Sigiriya Rock, but if you can stretch those extra $30USD, I’d highly recommend visiting both Pidurangula Rock and Sigiriya Rock. 

There is no real right answer to the question of which one to choose. I think that, if you can visit both, then go for it. You can easily do both Pidurangula and Sigiriya on the same day.

Where to stay near Sigiriya for Pidurangula Rock

Hotel room with double bed, yellow walls and a wooden staircase leading to an upper floor

I stayed at the Sorowwa Resort and Spa in Habarana, right in between Sigiriya and Kaudulla National Park, so it’s very convenient if you are planning to visit both. With views over Habarana Lake, it offers all the conveniences of a four-star resort and is perfectly located to explore Pidurangula Rock, Sigiriya and the National Parks.

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Other highly rated places to stay near Sigiriya:

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Climbing Pidurangula Rock for the best views of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Climbing Pidurangula Rock for the best views of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Climbing Pidurangula Rock for the best views of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Climbing Pidurangula Rock for the best views of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Climbing Pidurangula Rock for the best views of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Climbing Pidurangula Rock for the best views of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Disclosure: A big thank you to Sri Lanka Tourism, who hosted me on this trip. As always, all views are my own. 



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