Looking out from Pidurangala Rock to the plains below at sunrise is a magical experience, and one of the best things to do in Sigiriya. Whilst it is a struggle to get up at 4.30am and go for a hike, it is well worth the effort.
Not only can you see for miles in all directions, but you'll get the best view of Sigirya rock. We actually liked the views from Pidurangala Rock more than from Sigiriya itself, and it was also far less busy.
Here's everything you need to know about the hike to the top of Pidurangala Rock.
Pidurangala Rock Sunrise
Pidurangala Rock is at its quietest and coolest at sunrise and this is why it is the best time of day to climb to the top. Whilst you can still get the colour and the views at sunset, it gets a lot hotter and there are a lot more people there.
The area was also insanely windy when we visited, and it seemed to increase in the evening. The morning was windy but a lot calmer than at the end of the day.
We loved how quiet it was and the views you get in the early hours, waiting for the sun to emerge from behind the distant mountains. To make sunrise, you'll want to start walking around an hour before sunrise.
This will give you time to walk up and also see the glow just before the sun rises above the horizon. We left our guest house around an hour before sunrise and felt like that was a fraction too late.
What to expect from the Pidurangala Rock Hike
Before hiking, we were expecting a pretty torrid time. We'd read about how the path was uneven and that there was a decent amount of boulder climbing which, in the dark, we feared would be a bit hairy.
What we found was a pretty straightforward walk. There is a staircase that starts at Pidurangala Sigiri Rajamaha Viharaya Temple, and it is well defined for the majority of the walk to the top. There are tree roots etc but nothing difficult at all.
It is all uphill with only a small flat section, but it isn't overly steep. There are a couple of lights put on by the temple, and we found it quite easy to walk without a torch when our eyes adjusted, but definitely take one just in case.
Until the very end, the walk is all fairly easy. However, for the final few metres up to Pidurangala Rock summit you will need to do a little bouldering. There are arrows painted on the rocks and it is well defined, but you'll want to take your time and watch your step.
If you get to the bit shown in the photo above and think it looks a bit iffy, don't worry! There is also a route to the left which you can squeeze through and doesn't require any kind of leap of faith.
What to take for the Pidurangala Rock Hike
The essential thing to bring for Pidurangala Rock is the right shoes. You can wear trainers or hiking boots, we wouldn't recommend a pair of flip flops (thongs or sandals to the rest of the world)! Despite the fact locals were managing just fine in sandals, proper shoes are better, especially as it will be dark.
A torch is also useful, as is a decent amount of water. It is nice and cool in the early morning, but you'll want a drink after hiking for an hour in total.
Also bring something to cover your legs and shoulders for the temple section. You can pick up something at the temple if you need to.
Pidurangala Rock Climb Time
We've heard varying times, but the hike to the top Pidurangala Rock took us 30 minutes going up and 15 minutes going down. You could get up in 20 minutes if you didn't stop, we found it more tiring than we should have, time to get more hiking in the diary!
Pidurangala Rock Opening Hours
Technically Pidurangala Rock doesn't have an opening time as it is a public footpath. The guide and tickets state that it opens at 7am and online it says 9am, but we found that you can go well before sunrise. You should respect the Buddhist Temple and pay the entry fee at the bottom before heading up. There was a ticket collector when we arrived at 5.30am.
We'd also recommend going to the Croissant Hut after your hike for some coffee and banana pancakes :-) Sadly the Croissant Hut never actually had croissants on any of our visits but the food was good and the guy running it was really nice too.
Pidurangala Rock vs Sigiriya Rock
We chose to visit both Pidurangala Rock and Sigiriya. There is a huge price discrepancy between the two, Pidurangala is just $3 and Sigiriya is $30. If you are only interested in views (and saving money) then definitely go for Pidurangala Rock.
The view in our opinion was better because you got to see Sigiriya Rock, which is arguably more interesting to look at than Pidurangala. Pidurangala Rock is also less busy.
However, if you are interested predominantly in history and culture then you have to go with the UNESCO listed Sigiriya. Much of what is left around the site is now in ruins, but if you read up on them it can bring the area to life.
We also enjoyed the very well preserved cave paintings, which you come to around half way up the climb. Sigiriya is to Sri Lanka what Angkor Wat is to Cambodia, everyone you meet will ask you if you are visiting, and they are all very proud of the site. We felt despite the high price tag, we couldn't miss out on visiting the most famous site in Sri Lanka.
Pidurangala Rock Entrance Fee
The entry fee - well, donation to the temple - is 500 rupees ($3 USD). When you compare that to the $30 USD entry fee for Sigiriya, you can see why so many people choose to climb Pidurangala Rock above Sigiriya.
How to get to Pidurangala Rock
Pidurangala Rock is a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride from the centre of Sigiriya. It is likely that your tuk-tuk driver will charge more for the early start and you can normally organise a price for them waiting. We didn't want to pay extra for waiting time and there were loads of tuk tuks hanging around so it isn't necessary. We paid 300 rupees to get back to town (pretty sure this is well over the odds) but we were a bit done with haggling after five weeks in Sri Lanka.
You could walk or cycle from town, but we heard warnings about wild elephants roaming at night.
Sigiriya is a short distance from Dambulla which is just an hour's drive north of Kandy. It is a 3.5 hour drive from Colombo or Negombo.
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Are you visiting Sigiriya? Have you hiked up Pidurangala Rock for sunrise? Let us know in the comments below!
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