Sigiriya rock fortress, Sigiriya or Kandy?

Sigiriya or Kandy?

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Hi. we like to stay either in Sigiriya or Kandy for two nights? We like to explore only one place either Sigiriya or Kandy. We will stay in Colombo for 1 night before heading either to Sigiriya or Kandy. We are still undecided where to go. Also, what is the best way of traveling to Sigiriya and Kandy?

I quoted above a part of an email I received from one of our readers, a few weeks back. This client was in a dilemma to decide whether it is Kandy or Sigiriya that he should choose to travel. I took the time and sent a reply, a descriptive one, similar to this blog post.

Kandy or Sigiriya?

I received similar kinds of emails several times every month and I reply to them personally but did not make a public reply like this. I believe it is a daunting task to find an article written on this key phrase “Sigiriya or Kandy ?”, maybe because only a few people are searching on this key phrase. There is little helpful information on the internet in several forums targeting a similar kind of question but I feel it is not adequate to decide on whether it is Kandy or Sigiriya. Because the answers are given by the travelers that had been in Sri Lanka and perhaps they know only one side of the coin.  

How to visit Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa in one GO

Kandy to Sigiriya

Perhaps this blog post will not serve a large crowd, but I hope it is going to serve at least a few people in the time to come. Kandy or Sigiriya is not a big trivia if you have a clear idea about both places. Whether you travel to Sigiriya or Kandy is mainly depending on your taste. However, both places have many similarities as well as differences. Both cities hold a reputation been important tourist places in Sri Lanka, they are part of most Sri Lanka trips such as 5 days Sri Lanka cultural triangle tour.

My suggestion is to visit both places if possible. Because Kandy and Sigiriya both are very popular day outing places in Sri Lanka and have historical and cultural importance.

However, many travelers do not wish to have a hectic program and cover a large chunk of the island during their holiday, especially when they spend only a few days on the island. Some other travelers still prefer to spend as less time as possible on traveling and sightseeing while dedicating a considerable amount of time to relax. In both cases, we have to plan a trip with the least amount of traveling.

How to get from Sigiriya to Kandy

Kandy and Sigiriya are only about 100 km away from each other and both destinations are well connected with the A9 highway, which is one of the best roads in the country. If you wish to travel from Sigiriya to Kandy it will not take more than 1 hour and 30 minutes. You also get plenty of options with regards to transport from Sigiriya to Kandy, due to its location on the A9 road.

Visit 4 tourist hotspots – Peradeniya botanical garden, Pinnawala elephant orphanage and tooth relic temple, and Tea gardens in one day from USD 35

What are the things to consider when deciding whether it is Kandy or Sigiriya?

There are a few factors to consider when deciding if it’s Kandy or Sigiriya that you choose to explore,

  • What kind of attractions are available
  • Cost of activities and sites
  • Cost of accommodation
  • Similarities and differences between Sigiriya and Kandy
  • Distance to cover on your journey to Sigiriya and Kandy
  • Weather

Attractions in Sigiriya and Kandy

First of all, I like to discuss the attractions available in both places in this chapter, at the end of this chapter I feel you are very much comfortable deciding whether it is Kandy or Sigiriya because the activities and attractions are critical factors when deciding on a place to visit. I know by experience that most travelers are very choosy when it comes to attractions. When it comes to places to visit in Kandy and Sigiriya both places have a lot of Similarities. However, I feel Sigiriya has a more relaxing vibe when visiting places in Sigiriya and Kandy.  

What are the important attractions we encounter in Kandy?

  1. Tooth relic temple (most sacred Buddhist temple on the island) – it is easy to reach and explore, with no steps to climb like in Sigiriya. The temple should be visited during the ceremony hours to have the best experience and it can be really crowded during the ceremony.
  2. Peradeniya botanical garden -one of the most beautiful gardens in Asia with the orchid house- the visitors can take a leisurely walk in the gardens and see one the very beautiful garden.
  3. Tea factory -You can see the tea manufacturing process of Tea, sip a cup of Ceylon tea and buy it. Kandy is the home to the one and only tea museum in Sri Lanka.
  4. Shopping -availability of shops to buy gems and jewelry, clothing, souvenir…
  5. Udawattakele forest -a rain a forest where you can have a trek and see many bird species.
  6. Kandy lake -boating and spotting aquatic avian fauna species
  7. Natha Devala, Kataragama temple, and other Buddhist religious sites- there is a large number of historical Buddhist temples in Kandy and you can spend weeks exploring these temples.
  8. Kandyan cultural show – a place to see traditional dance and music performances of Sri Lankan artisans. The cultural show takes place every day and it is specially organized for foreign travelers. The starting time is between 5.00 -5.30 pm every day.

What are the important places to visit in Sigiriya?

  1. Sigiriya rock fortress – is one of the oldest landscaped gardens in the world. You need to climb 1200 steps in order to reach the summit from the surrounding flatland, which is a bit tiring job. The hike can be a bit difficult task, the hike is not recommended for pregnant ladies and old people. Good physical fitness is required in order to conquer the mountain. The upward journey takes around 1 hour and the downward march lasts about 30 minutes. The best reward for your arduous task is the breathtaking views from the summit over the surrounding lush green low-land vegetation. The historical value is much greater than the Kandy tooth relic temple. Outdoor activity and visitors are dispersed in a large area.
  2. Pidurangala temple-one of the oldest Buddhist temples on the island dates back to the 5th century AD. The temple is housed in a natural granite cave and has still been visited by Buddhist pilgrims.
  3. Dambulla golden cave temple- Is another UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 1st century BC. One of the biggest cave temples on the island and hide hundreds of statues and paintings.
  4. Plenty of opportunities to encounter wild animals such as elephants in one of the nearby wildlife reserves (Hurulu park, Minneriya national park, and Kaudulla wildlife reserve)– here the travelers stand a chance to spot large gathering of Wild elephants during the jeep safari. The best time to go to the park is afternoon.
  5. Shopping- The tourist is able to purchase many items such as Gems and jewelry, souvenir, wood carvings, and clothing In Sigiriya.  
  6. Village tour Hiriwadunna-The activity offered to the visitors of Sigiriya and Dambulla, the activity includes boating in the village tank, visiting a rural village, visiting farmland, and local lunch with a cooking class.
  7. Elephants ride- here you can do an elephant ride, in which the big jumbo march through the forested areas in Habarana with his mahout, this is a good opportunity to see the rural village and the birds in the village.

Visit all these tourist hotspots on the cultural triangle tour

This 3-day Sri Lanka tour includes important cultural and historical monuments such as Sigiriya rock, Dambulla golden temple, Polonnaruwa and Kandy. The tour also includes wildlife tours, a spice/herbal garden, Peradeniya botanical garden, and many other places.

Price variation for entrance and activities in Sigiriya and Kandy

Usually, most tourist attractions are expensive in Sri Lanka, and the cultural sites and wildlife reserves are always on the higher side of the price. Entrance prices mentioned below can be varied depending on the supplier.

Kandy-Tooth relic temple USD 10 P.P, Royal Botanical garden USD 10 P.P, Udawattakele forest USD 8 P.P, Kandyan cultural show USD 10 P.P, Natha Devala free of charge, Tea factory Free of charge

Sigiriya – Sigiriya rock USD 35 P.P, Minneriya national park USD 50 P.P (with jeep hire and entrance), Village tour Hiriwadunna USD 10 P.P, Elephant ride USD 10 P.P, Pidurangala temple USD 3, Dambulla golden cave temple USD 10 P.P, Elephant ride USD 10 P.P

Cost of accommodation

The demand for accommodation in Sigiriya is much greater than in Kandy but the prices for accommodation in Sigiriya are a bit lower compared to the prices in Kandy. It is mainly due to the abundance of accommodation facilities in Sigiriya. In both places, travelers can find luxurious accommodation types such as 5-star luxury properties to affordable dormitories. Accommodation cost in Sigiriya is about 10% lower compared to room charges in Kandy.

Duration and the distance of the trip to Kandy and Sigiriya

This chapter concentrates on the factors related to the journey from your starting point. If you start the journey from the west coast and southern coast your journey to Kandy is much more convenient than the trip to Sigiriya.

  • The duration of the trip to Sigiriya from the west and southern coast of Sri Lanka is between 4-6 hours. The distance to cover is 177 km to 277 km depending on your starting point.
  • Duration of the trip to Kandy from west coast and southern coast about 3-4 hours, Distance to cover 122 km to 222 km.

If you stay on east coast beaches such as Pasikudah and Aru Gam Bay the journey to Sigiriya is much shorter and more convenient compared to your trip to Kandy.

  • The duration of the trip to Sigiriya from the east coast is about 3-5 hours the distance from the east coast to Sigiriya is 150 km to 250 km  
  • The duration of the trip to Kandy from the east coast is about 4-5 hours, the distance 200 km to 250 km.

How to get from Colombo airport to Sigiriya

If you intend to travel to Sigiriya from the airport, there are 2 possibilities. 1 is having private transport (a taxi) and the second option is to use public transport. If you can go by taxi it makes life very easy and you can drive straight away from the airport to Sigiriya and the journey might take around 4 hours. But if you plan to go ahead with public transport, first you need to go to Colombo main bus station which costs you around 1 hour. Then you need to take a Polonnaruwa or Trincomalee bound bus from Colombo and get down at Inamaluwa, on this leg you would lose another 6 hours minimum. From Inamaluwa you need to travel about another 10 km to reach Sigiriya.


Kandy can be reached by road, rail, or air transport. Kandy is the hub of Sri Lanka’s road network and is well connected with all major cities. Sigiriya is also a popular place but it is not well connected with the rest of the country. Road transport and air transport are available to Sigiriya and rail transport is not a viable option.  

Minneriya Elephant Safari with Sigiriya Lion Rock from Colombo-1 Day

Sigiriya-Dambulla’s day tour starts from Colombo and other major tourist resorts on the west coast. The tour takes you to 2 major historical places in Sri Lanka Sigiriya rock fortress and Dambulla golden temple. The private tour includes entire ground transportation, a live guide, all entrance fees, and all taxes.

Similarities between Sigiriya and Kandy

Sigiriya and Kandy are both places of historical importance and both places are UNESCO world heritage sites. Both are tourist hot spots and a large number of travelers explore both places every day. Tourism is well developed in both Kandy and Sigiriya and therefore you get plenty of options with regard to accommodation, eateries, activities, and shopping.  Both places offer cultural, historical, religious, and natural attractions.

Differences between Sigiriya and Kandy

Weather is a fact that makes a big difference between the 2 places, E.g. Sigiriya is located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka and inherits all the characteristics of the dry weather such as low yearly rainfall, high temperature, and high humidity. The temperature hovers around 35 °C degrees all year round in Sigiriya.

The weather in Kandy is a bit milder than in Sigiriya and it sits 500 meters above sea level. The elevation and its location in the central mountain range are some geographical differences between Sigiriya and Kandy, which makes a huge difference with regard to the weather in the two places. The temperature in Kandy is measured to be between 27-30 °C degrees during the day.

Kandy is coming under the wet zone of Sri Lanka, where yearly rainfall is measured to be between 2500-5000 mm. With very high yearly rainfall Kandy has very favorable weather for trees and plants, hence the Kandy has a very healthy forest cover and it is well built. Kandy is surrounded by green-capped mountains and tea plantations. Udawattakele forest, knuckles, Royal botanical gardens, and Hantana are some of the green attractions that lie within easy reach of Kandy.

Sigiriya is a laid-back village and it is still spared from the hustle and bustle of major cities.  But Kandy is a very populated city and as a tourist, you have to absorb the part of busy city life as most accommodation facilities are in the city.   

There are many trekking sites available in Kandy for people, who look for a bit of adventure, the availability of trekking sites in Sigiriya are scarce compared to Kandy.  

If you have a passion for wildlife tours I recommend you to go to Sigiriya because Sigiriya is surrounded by many popular wildlife reserves such as Hururlu eco-park, Kaudulla, and Minneriya national park that are ideal places for Sri Lanka jungle tours. Sigiriya and the surrounding area are ranked among the best places to spot wild elephants.

Sigiriya has a fascinating blend of natural and historical value. Nature is flourishing in Sigiriya and it has an overwhelming green cover in the surrounding areas, it means Sigiriya is one of the best places to enjoy nature too. Sigiriya and the surrounding area are popular for the bird-watching torus and enable travelers to spot a wide range of bird species.


Kandy and Sigiriya both are exciting holiday destinations with many historical, natural important places to visit. Both are suitable for family holidays as well as individual holiday breaks.  

By considering the above facts we can say that Sigiriya historical monuments are about 1000 years older than Kandy tourist places. On the Sigiriya trip, the travelers can visit 2 UNESCO world heritage sites but on the Kandy trip, you can visit only 1 UNESCO world heritage site. In Sigiriya, you need to climb a rock which is a tiring job and you should be in good physical and mental fitness.  

But Sigiriya is not suitable for city travelers, who like to hang around cities, even though it offers some shopping experience it is not a well-built city like Kandy. The presence of hundreds of shops line-up along the roads cannot be seen in Sigiriya but in Kandy.

Sigiriya is a laid-back jungle village with calm and quiet surroundings, where the people have a very easy-going lifestyle. But Kandy is encroached by the city life and it has all the characteristics of a noisy, busy, chaotic metropolis.

By considering above mentioned facts, now I believe you are able to decide whether it is Sigiriya or Kandy you choose to travel to. If you need further information in order to arrange your trip either to Sigiriya or Kandy, please don’t hesitate to contact us, our staff is more than happy to assist you.

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