Sigiriya rock fortress, Sigiriya or Kandy?

Tour to Sigiriya: 4 Places to visit from Colombo to Sigiriya

Sigiriya day tour from Colombo

The very first activity of the Sigiriya day tour from Colombo is the trek to the Sigiriya rock fortress, which is the main activity on the Sigiriya day trip from Colombo. The trek to the Sigiriya rock fortress lasts around 3-4 hours depending on your physical fitness. After the Sigiriya rock tour, you could start the return journey immediately or have a leisurely lunch in a nearby restaurant.

Ascending the Sigiriya rock
Sigiriya rock, the iconic tourist attraction in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka is part of most Sri Lanka trips such as 4 days Sri Lanka tour.

Sigiriya rock fortress

While Sri Lanka is very much a sun, sea and sand paradise for travellers, this south Asian island offers much more for the adventurous traveller. The island nation is small compared to most other countries in Asia but attracts nearly three million tourists a year, and the number of travellers on the island is increasing every year.

Located at the centre of Sri Lanka’s cultural triangle (north-central province), Sigiriya fortress with the palace, landscaped garden, centring the 200-meter-tall monolithic granite rock-is unofficially crowned as the 8th wonder in the world. ‘Sihagiri’ or Sigiriya means Lion Rock in the native language. Sigiriya is the most popular landmark among travellers in Sri Lanka and is one of the seven UNESCO world heritage sites in Sri Lanka.

If you’re looking to combine a relaxing beach holiday package with some different activities, the Sigiriya rock fortress could be your best bet. This 5th century landscaped garden is one of the best-preserved ancient monuments on the island and it is particularly unmissable. View from a distance or hike right up to the top and see the breathtaking view from the summit — the choice is yours.

Why Sigiriya so popular as a tourist attraction?

The 5th century built a magnificent garden complex that follow the principles of geometry, hydraulic. The garden is consisting of swimming pools, fountains, and the oldest surviving murals of maidens. Sigiriya is consisting of rock, centrally located within the complex, which rises up to 200 meters above the surrounding area, and the two precincts in a rectangular shape on the east (90 hectares) and the west (40 hectares), encircled by 3 ramparts 2 moats.

The 650 ft granite monolithic stone was the centrepiece of the rock fortress and the royal citadel from 477 to 495 AD. The most prominent feature of the rock should have been the Lion staircase, which took the visitors and king to the palace garden on top of the rock, which had been reduced to two colossal paws and a mass of brick masonry that surround the ancient limestones steps and the groves of the cut on the rock face, on the wrath of nature. The remaining part of the lion structure gives an idea of the size and the shape of the lion figure.

What do we see in Sigiriya?

The visitors can witness the remains of paintings in some of the granite caves located at the foot of the lion rock. Of special significance is the paintings on the roof of the cobra hood cave, the cave has a unique shape that resembles the head of the cobra and the cave dates back to the pre-Christian era.

The pleasure garden that resides on the western side of the rock, sandwich between the main gate on the west and the rock, are studded with ponds, fountains and promenades and shows the glorious past, the miniature water garden also located on the western side of the rock near the main entrance, was consisting of water pavilion, pools, cisterns, courtyards, conduits and watercourses.
The largest water garden was equipped with a central island surrounded by water and connected with the main precinct by cardinally oriented causeways. The fountain garden is a narrow precinct on two levels. The western part is consisting of two pools (deep pools), with two streams built in a shape of a serpentine, which drain into the pools.

Few fountains, that shows a thorough grasp of hydraulic principles by the ancient engineers, still active during the rainy season, as you make the upward journey by foot, you will come across the Mirror wall, a highly polished rock surface with plaster that has still reflected in the objects on their opposite side. In a sheltered pocket created by the natural rock itself, are the world-famous “Apsara” or beautiful maidens, which seems to be rising from the clouds the arduous journey on foot to the to of the rock is lavishly rewarded by the breathtaking view of the surrounding lush country countryside.

Is it possible to visit Sigiriya on a day trip from Colombo?

Is it possible to visit Sigiriya rock on a day trip from Colombo? YES. Sigiriya rock fortress can be visited on a day trip from Colombo, in fact, you have time to visit few other important places along the way like Pidurangala temple, Dambulla golden temple.

This iconic tourist attraction was nominated as a world wonder due to its advanced engineering, artistic, water managements characteristics. Sigiriya is a popular one-day outing place in Sri Lanka and attracts a large number of travellers every day. In fact, the Sigiriya day trip from Colombo is a very popular activity among travellers, especially it is a popular Sri Lanka one day trip among foreign travellers.

We receive many requests and inquiries for the Sigiriya day trip from Colombo, that’s why I thought of making this article. We receive a frequent email with questions like “Is it possible to visit Sigiriya on a day trip from Colombo”, “What do we see on a day trip to Sigiriya from Colombo”. I think this blog post going to answer most of the questions related to the Sigiriya day tour from Colombo.

What are the 4 popular places to visit on the Tour to Sigiriya from Colombo?

  • Sigiriya rock fortress
  • Dambulla golden cave temple
  • Pinnawala elephant orphanage
  • Pidurangala temple

Few other useful links

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22 places to visit in Sri Lanka in 5 days

Important facts about Sigiriya day trip from Colombo

The tourist can take part in many interesting one day trips in Sri Lanka such as Kandy one day tour from Colombo, Galle day trip and Sigiriya one day tour. Sigiriya day trip from Colombo is a very popular activity because it allows the tourist to see many important tourist places within a short period of time. The tour lasts only around 12 hours. The tourists are not only able to visit iconic tourist attractions such as Sigiriya rock fortress but also witness Sri Lanka’s fascinating wildlife on a safari at Minneriya national park. This one day tour is also a popular activity among cruise ship travellers that sometimes spend limited time in Colombo harbour. This one day tour can be customized to serve individual taste and requirement. Sometimes this one day trip can be combined with any other activity such as beach holiday and Sri Lanka wildlife tours.

What time the Sigiriya day trip from Colombo starts?

Unlike most other tours, Sigiriya one day tour from Colombo is a fully packed program. It is essential to start the trip early morning in order to cover all the places mentioned above.

As per my experience starting the trip early morning is very important to make sure the success of your Sigiriya trip. This one day tour involves a long journey. However, the duration of the journey from Colombo to Sigiriya can be curtailed almost by 50% if you start the trip between 4.00 AM to 5.00 AM.

E.g if you start the trip at 04.30 from Colombo, you can reach Sigiriya by 7.30 AM. And you are able to visit the Dambulla temple by around 12 PM. and reach your hotel in Colombo at around 5.00 PM.

If you start the Sigiriya day trip from Colombo at around 6.00 you will reach Sigiriya at around noon, By the time you visit the Dambulla cave temple, it will be around 3.00 PM. And it will be around 9.00 PM when you reach the hotel in Colombo.

Why is the Sigiriya day trip from Colombo so popular?

Sigiriya rock is the most important tourist attraction in the cultural triangle of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya is a UNESCO world heritage site and it is one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. Visiting Sigiriya is the main purpose of this one day tour. Visiting Dambulla golden cave temple is also included in this trip. Even though it is a short trip it allows the guests to visit the 2 most important historical places on the island.

Tour to Sigiriya: You need to make 2 hikes at Sigiriya and Dambulla

The guests need to make hikes at both places. The climb at Sigiriya is a little exhausting while the hike at Dambulla is much much easier compared to Sigiriya rock climb. more. Due to the Sigiriya rock climb, Sigiriya one day tour from Colombo is not recommended to travellers with knee problems and back problems. Same times it not suitable for elderly travellers and pregnant ladies.

Tour to Sigiriya visiting Sigiriya?

Sigiriya is a laid-back, remote village in the north-central province of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya rock is the main attraction that draws travellers into Sigiriya. Sigiriya rock is one of the most visited iconic tourist attractions on the island. This tourist hotspot is visited by many thousands of visitors every day.

Sigiriya Fortress was built in the 5th century AD by ancient Sri Lankan engineers under the rule of King Kashyapa. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the oldest engineering works in the world. Gigantic, Monolithic natural granite rock is residing in the centre of the complex. The rock rises up to 500 meters from the sea-level.

According to the historical notes, the king had a palace on the flat surface of the rock, there is a rock-cut swimming pool on the rock believed to be used by the king. The swimming pool can still be seen on the rock while only the foundation of the palace remains.

The rock was surrounded by a landscaped garden and it was consisting of swimming pools, ponds, fountains, guardrooms, natural caves, audience hall and many other man-made constructions.

It is also proposed that the Sigiriya rock fortress should be named the eighth wonder of the world, indicating it is in the same league as other international wonders such as the Grand Canyon and Ancient Pyramids.

If you need more details on Sigiriya Fort, It is recommended to read my article “Sigiriya Rock Fort“.

Sigiriya frescoes paintings, Where should I visit in Sri Lanka, sigiriya day tour from Colombo

Sigiriya paintings

Sigiriya fresco paintings are another important feature of Sigiriya rock. According to historians, there had been 500 paintings in the Sigiriya rock fortress, however much of them had been destroyed over the last many centuries.

Today the paintings are restricted to the fresco pocket, which is to be found on the northern side of the rock. The paintings are also dating back to the 5th century AD and they are depicting beautiful female figures. The paintings show some resemblance to the painting at Ajanta cave paintings and they were done using natural colours.

You can read more details on Sigiriya frescoes painting on my article under the title “Sigiriya frescoes paintings“.

Graffiti of the mirror wall

The habit of travelling and visiting important tourist attractions had been an activity for many millennia. There had been ancient travellers like Vasco de Gama, Lorenzo De Almeda, who ventured into many places around the world.

Sigiriya rock fortress also had been a popular place among the ancient travellers and it was frequented by locals as well as foreign visitors. The Sigiriya graffiti or the mirror wall is providing valuable evidence to prove its popularity in the past. The mirror wall reveals a multitude of fine graffiti incised shallowly in an unfamiliar script, these are the scribblings left by visitors to the rock in centuries gone by. These neatly, incised small letters had done negligible damage to the shining plaster of the mirror wall.

Many of the writing on mirror wall attributed to the 7th to 11th century AD. According to the archaeologist Dr Paranavithana, they are expressions in verse, some of the high poetic order. The verses were composed by these early writers are eloquent of their impressions of the magnificent and delightful sights at Sigiriya.  

Ingenious Sigiriya fountains

Sigiriya fountain garden is one of the most striking features of this 5th-century garden. The fountains are to be found near the main entrance of Sigiriya rock fortress, which is the entrance to the rock fortress from the west.

There are 4 fountains are to be found at present. According to historians, the engineers had applied hydraulic principles as they were planing the fountains. The fountains are fed by the water of Sigiriya lake, which is located behind the rock, about 200 meters from the fountains. Underground terracotta pipes have been used to supply the water to the fountains.

The underground terracotta pipes are open to the air with granite, round-shaped slabs. These slabs have one small hole in the middle and a few other holes around them. The holes are about 10 cm in diameter. The underground terracotta pipes are built and planned such an away that it creates pressure as the water reaches the end of the pipe. This pressure spurts the water into the air with big pressure. The fountains are working in a natural way.

Sigiriya day tour from Colombo
Sigiriya rock climb through the woods

The present condition of Sigiriya fountains

The fountains are still working even after 1500 years after its constructions. The water rises about a foot from the ground at present, however, it is visible only during the rainy season when the water level of the lake is high. Unfortunately, the underground pipes have not been maintained, since it was rediscovered by the archaeologists. However, these ingenious constructions made by ancient engineers are still functioning even after the 1500 year since their inception.

How much distance to be covered on the Tour to Sigiriya

Sigiriya rock fortress is tucked away 173 km from Colombo. It will take about 4 hours to reach Sigiriya if you use road transport. The time calculated here is based on private transport such as a taxi. If you use public transport such as public bus it would take around 6 hours. Most Sigiriya day tour from Colombo starts early hours due to the long distance.

Starting time of Tour to Sigiriya

I think it is very important to talk about the starting time of the day trip. Starting the trip early morning is very important due to the long transfer from Colombo to Sigiriya. Unlike most other Sri Lanka trips this Starting time of Sigiriya day tour from Colombo starts even before sunrise.

Local tour operators such as Seerendipity tours organize daily trips to Sigiriya from Colombo. Usually, this Sigiriya day tour from Colombo starts around 05.00 am. However, the time of Starts is flexible because this is a private tour.

The starting point of Tour to Sigiriya

Sigiriya day trip from Colombo is mainly a private tour package that starts from 40+ hotels on the west coast of Sri Lanka and Colombo. The travellers from Negombo and Bentota, which are not within the borders of Colombo also can book the trip, however, the pick-up time can be changed based on the distance between your hotel and Colombo.  

What is the weather like in Sigiriya?

Sigiriya is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, where the temperature hovers above 30 degrees Celsius. Therefore, tourists on Sigiriya day trip from Colombo are exposed to high temperature and high humidity.

What to wear on Tour to Sigiriya from Colombo?

It is highly advised to dressing in a light cotton dress and wear comfortable shoes for travellers, who undertake Sigiriya day trip from Colombo.

Sigiriya rock hike, hiking in sri lanka

What you need to bring for the Sigiriya day tour from Colombo

The upward walk on Sigiriya rock takes around 1 hour and it can be less or more based on your physical fitness. The visitors are using the ancient steps caved onto the natural rock, which is worn to reach the summit. Most ancient steps are narrow. A part of the steps are newly created using iron plates, E.g. the stairs after the lion’s paw are created more solidly using the iron plates. It is easy to climb on newly created stairs than on the ancient steps.

It is highly recommended to wear comfy shoes in order to make the climb easier and comfortable. Sigiriya rock climb is purely an outdoor activity and visitors are fully exposed to the strong sunlight. Physical activity under High-humidity and warm weather makes you sweat a lot, therefore, it is highly recommended to take enough fluid before you start the climb.   

The visitors are not able to buy drinking water once they enter the site, the same times there is no possibility to use the toilet once the visitors enter the site. Usually, the visitors spend about 3 hours in Sigiriya historical site, once they enter it.

Sigiriya day tour from Colombo in a nutshell

Sigiriya day tour from Colombo is considered a must-do activity when holidaying in Colombo. The trip starts at 05.00 am from Colombo and you will reach Sigiriya about at around 09.00 am. However, the duration of the transfer can be varied due to traffic conditions.

The very first activity of the trip is the trek to the Sigiriya rock fortress, which is the main activity on this Sigiriya day tour from Colombo. The trek to the Sigiriya rock fortress lasts around 3-4 hours depending on your physical fitness.

After the climb at Sigiriya rock fortress, you could start the return journey immediately or have a leisurely lunch in a nearby restaurant.

Sigiriya day tour itinerary

  • Pick up from Colombo hotel for the Sigiriya rock tour and drive to Sigiriya – Approximately 4 hours drive
  • Trekking to the Sigiriya rock fortress (2 hours), a UNESCO World Heritage site which is one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world dating back to the 5th century AD.
  • Visit Pidurangala temple
  • Lunch break and rest in a restaurant
  • Safari at Minneriya national park
  • Start the return journey
  • Stop at the cave temple of Dambulla after about a 30-minute drive from Sigiriya. The temple resides off the main road in the woods. It is surrounded by rice paddies, jungle, the plot of vegetable and many other historical monuments.
  • Transfer to Colombo and end of Sigiriya rock tour – Approximately 4-5 hour drive

The cost of Sigiriya day tour from Colombo

Sigiriya day tour from Colombo cost US$ 70 per person on twin sharing basis. The tour can be started from 140+ hotels on the west coast, but there may be a slight difference in rates depending on transfer cost from the hotel to Colombo.

Standing Buddha at Dambulla cave temple,Visiting Sri Lanka Buddhist temples, Sri Lanka temple dress code, temple of the tooth dress code, Sigiriya day trip from Colombo

Visiting Dambulla cave temple on Sigiriya day tour from Colombo

Visiting Dambulla golden cave temple is one of the most important activities on the Sigiriya one day tour from Colombo. Dambulla cave temple resides very close to Sigiriya rock and it is merely 18 km from Sigiriya rock to Dambulla cave temple. The temple is to be found on the main highway from Colombo to Sigiriya, which means that you do spend only a few minutes travelling.   

Visiting the Dambulla cave temple is a mandatory part of every trip to the Sigiriya rock fortress. Dambulla is another tourist hotspot on the island and visited by almost every visitor of Sigiriya. In terms of historical value, Dambulla is not second to any tourist attraction in Sri Lanka. The temple dates back to the 1st century BC, which is one of the oldest cate temples in the World. Dambulla cave temple is also a UNESCO world heritage site.

Sri Lanka Two Week Itinerary, Sigiriya day trip from Colombo

Statues and paintings of Dambulla cave temple

Dambulla golden cave temple hides hundreds of Buddha statues, god figures and statues of few Sri Lankan kings. The inner surface of the natural cave and the ceiling of the caves are hidden with thousands of ancient paintings. These paintings depict various sceneries from the stories of Buddha’s life.

Dambulla rock cave temple is to be found near the Dambulla town, the gigantic rock rises up to 160m above the surrounding land. Dambulla Rock is more the 1.5km around its base and the summit is at 550km. It is believed the spacious granite caves, where the temple is to be found was inhabited by monks in the past.

More than 100 Buddha statues in different sizes are spreading in 5 caves. 2nd cave is the biggest of five granite caves, which houses 150 statues. Several reclining Buddha statues are to be found in the temples and the largest reclining Buddha statue is in the 1st cave, which is 15 meters long, it is a rock-cut Buddha statue. The figures in the temple originated in different eras and they are made of wood and clay while few statues are hewn of granite.  

Pidurangala cave temple

History of Dambulla cave temple

The caves believed to be providing shelter to one of the Kings in the 1st century BC, during the south Indian invasion. King Walagambahu had lived in the cave for more than a decade until he regained his throng. Later the king had expelled the invaders and became the king. Upon his succession, to the kingship, the King had converted the caves into a magnificent Buddhist temple and donated to the monks with the surrounding farmlands. These farmlands supposed to provide financial support to maintain the temple. Even today the temple is under the supervision of monks and large areas around the temple is belong to the temple. The site has been repaired and repainted several times in the 11th, 12th and 18th centuries.

Visiting pidurangala cave temple on Sigiriya one day tour from Colombo
The birds-eye view of Pidurangala rock

Visiting Pidurangala on Sigiriya day trip from Colombo

Usually, a Sigiriya rock tour includes a visit to Pidurangala temple, which had been a part of the Sigiriya rock fortress. The temple is only a few hundred meters away from the rick and believed to be used by queens.

Pidurangala cave

Towards the north-east of Sigiriya Rock is a famous hill of Pidurangala rising about one mile from the site. Pidurangala rock cave temple is also a part of many Sri Lanka tour packages that include Sigiriya and Dambulla caves. The rock abruptly rises up to 200 m from the surrounding area, which is the base of the temple. An ancient cave dates back to the Anuradhapura period, with an inscription written below the drip ledge, situated at the foot of the hill has been restored to a modern vihara. By this site, an ancient path of rough stepping stones leads up the hill where the overhanging rock on the eastern side shelters a very long cave.

History of Pidurangala rock cave temple

King Kashyapa who built Sigiriya also built the Pidurangala rock cave temple. This monastery housed over 500 Buddhist monks and was completed with the five ritual sections: the chapter house, image house, a Bo-tree, a shrine and monks dwellings. In Pidurangala rock are meditation caves, paintings, and a statue of a reclining Buddha.

Pidurangala rock temple is one of the well known historical places on the island. A part of the Pidurangala rock temple is located at the base of the mountain and the rest of the temple is built too close to the pinnacles. Built on this Pidurangala rock are a Buddhist monastery and a cave temple.

This reclining Buddha statue can be seen on top of the Pidurangala rock
This reclining Buddha statue can be seen on top of the Pidurangala rock

Image house

Image house of Piduranghala rock cave temple is built in a huge granite cave located at the ground level houses several Buddha statues in meditation, standing and reclining postures. The image house of the Pidurangala rock cave temple is also dating back to the 5th century AD (as old as Sigiriya rock fortress). There is a number of paintings and statues at Pidurangala rock cave temple image house depicting various incidents of Buddha’s life.

Pidurangala rock

Also at the summit, Pidurangala rock is the remnant of the shrine and the site at which young monks were taught. Remarkably, the Pidurangala rock has a drip ledge to prevent rain from falling into the meditation caves. The rock edges are carved on to the outer surface of the opening and it is one of the oldest engineering works in the world. A Brahmi inscription on one of these drop edges the original temple back to the period of third century B.C.

The Sigiriya area has many such cave dwellings used by monks for meditation but it is believed that given Kashyapa’s patronage, the Pidurangala rock temple had prominence as the spiritual centre for his court.

How do I go to Pidurangala rock cave temple?

Pidurangala rock cave temple is located towards the southern borders of Sigiriya rock fortress and near Sigiriya nature reserve. The narrow road that goes along the water ditch makes the way to Pidurangala rock cave temple. Today it is one of the major religious places in the area and attracts a large number of local devotees. A part of the historical Pidurangala rock cave temple is located on a mountain while the rest of it to be found at the ground level of the hill.

At the Pidurangala rock, there is a 14 meter long Buddha statue believed to be dating back to the 5th century AD. The Buddha statue is made of bricks shows the fine craftsmanship of the historical artisans. Unfortunately, the part of the statue is destroyed by the relic hunters in the past. There is a big hole dug into the statue in the belly area of the reclining Buddha statue. The footpath between the dry zone forest vegetation leads to the summit. There are several caves on the rocky hill of Pidurangala and they had been using by the residential monks in the early days.

Sigiriya rock view from Pidurangala temple
Sigiriya rock view from Pidurangala temple

What do I see in Pidurangala rock cave temple?

Within the cave, numerous chambers built of small stones and clay plaster face the eastern direction. An inscription datable to the 7th century has been found on the rocky ground in front of cave 9 and records the grant of gold and paddy fields. It is still recognizable on the brick wall of this chamber painting of a female figure in green in much the same style as the paintings on the main rock of Sigiriya. Chamber 10 also built of brick and plastered white is the largest within the cave. Much of the plaster is lost from the walls of this main shrine room which contains along with the brick and stucco recumbent image of the Buddha.

Archaeologists are in different views as far as the beginning of the temple is concerned, as the archaeologist’s claim that the temple was built from the 5th to the 10th century.  The two side walls of the shrine belong to a later period than the walls of the other chambers. On the outer face of these two walls are to be seen pilasters moulded in brick and plastered and recessed arches. Beyond the shrine, there are the remains of another chamber and two rock-cut ponds lie further ahead.

Reasons to book Sigiriya day trip from Colombo with Seerendipity

Seerendipity tour is a fully locally owned travel company with a head office in Colombo. The highly experienced local staff is a key strength of Seerendipity tours and they can plan your dream holiday to Sri Lanka.

Best price for your Sri Lanka vacation packages

When you book a tour with us, you directly book the tour with the local company, which means there are no middlemen and therefore you can guarantee the best price. Simply get in touch with us and let us know when you travel and what you like to see.

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Our staff makes a personalized program for you, which you can change until you find the best package for you. You can also browse our existing tour packages for inspiration; all our ready-made tour packages are customizable and can be tailored to meet all your expectations. Write to us at

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