Visiting Sigiraya: Climbing Pidurangala Rock

I’ve always wanted to visit Sri Lanka for its history and culture. The island’s history dates back to the 3rd Century BC and written history was made as early as 4th Century CE by Buddhist nuns. Le hubby has never visited Buddhist sites, so it was imperative that we would visit one of the ancient cities in Sri Lanka. Aside from visiting non-European ancient monuments, he has also never seen elephants outside of a zoo before, so he agreed to drive from the airport straight into the heart of Sri Lanka.

Caution: Elephant crossing

We arrived late in Sri Lanka from the Maldives and when we were telling people we were driving straight to Sigiraya, the locals were against us driving late at night. I have read of stories about elephants or wildlife wandering the streets at night, about late night bus drivers driving like crazy, and about the fact that some of the roads were not good or finished. Personally, I found the journey to be interesting and fun: the bus drivers and drivers in general were crazy as they said, but it was nothing new coming from the Philippines. We also did not encounter rouge elephants. Lastly, the highway from Colombo to Sigiraya (at least) was good and in perfect condition. We arrived at the lovely Wali Kukula Nest, greeted by its owner, after a drive under the stars and promised to wake up in the early morning to watch the sunrise at Pidrungala Rock.

Empty roads in Sri Lanka
Road tripping in Sri Lanka
Pidurangala rock as viewed from Lion's Rock
First agenda of the day was to climb Pidurangala Rock at ‘dawn’

We did not wake up early (no surprise there, haha) but for no regrets: it was foggy all morning and even those that had gotten up the mountain-rock had to wait later in the morning for the sun to show up. The climb to Pidurangala Rock was manageable without a guide, but for those that plan to do this before dawn: two-thirds of the trip are actually navigating through boulders and not-so-visible trails; the way to the top is actually painted on the sides of the giant stones which is perhaps not so visible in the dark. I’d suggest for a guide if you can get one or make sure to have adequate lighting for your sunrise climb.

Entrance to the temple
Entrance to Pidurangala Rock
Inside the temple
The temple at the foot of the mountain
temple at foot of rock
The mountain is actually a sacred site

On the foot of the mountains, there is a Buddhist temple but nothing much to see. Other things we saw along the way up included a sitting Buddha statue image at the end of the visible trail (and a pack of monkeys) and an ancient reclining Buddha, which used to be the biggest when the rock was an active ancient temple. The last part of the trek to get up the top of the rock was a hard one and required some legit climbing skills. I even managed to scratch myself in the process (because what’s an adventure without me getting an injury of some sort).

Trail up
The climb starts easy enough
Then you have to navigate thru rocks and trees
the way
This way, please
Complicated climb
The climb gets harder further on
reclining buddha
Reclining Buddha

The view on top was a bit disappointing when we got there since we were enveloped in morning clouds but it was the perfect opportunity to sit down, relax, and enjoy a conversation while waiting for a view of Lion’s Rock. The top of the rock makes for some good photo opportunities, but unlike the rock-mountain nearby, there is nothing else to see.

sun was already up
A lot of people climbed up early but got disappointed with the view
snap edit_2-01
Can you spot Lion’s Rock at the back?
edge of the mountain
Living on the edge
top of rock
The top of the mountain-rock had some greenery
Two views of one stone
Two views of the same stone

Less than an hour later, the clouds eventually moved and we were rewarded with views of Sigiriya’s famous monument. It was worth the drive and the somewhat ‘earlier’ wake up call to see it.

Waiting for a view of Lion’s Rock
Lion's Rock
The clouds finally lift

Before leaving the site for our hotel, we stopped at the nearby ruins at the foot of Pidurangala to walk around and watch monkeys playing. We were afraid the monkeys would start coming near us but the locals cleaning the area were not scared of them nor did they tell us to be weary, so we managed to go around before heading back for breakfast.

ruins at the foot of the mountain
We stopped by some ancient ruins… can you spot the monkeys on the grounds?


pack of monkeys
A family of monkeys


Some of the ancient ruins

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