Pidurangala Rock: And Why We Didn’t Climb Sigiriya

with 21 Comments


Most travelers will include on their to-do list the climb up Lion Rock to see the ancient city of Sigiriya but we thought differently – the main reason being the entrance fee of about $30USD. Say what? I’m not usually one to cheap out on sight-seeing; I figure I’ve come this far might as well take in everything there is to see but in this case there were two major factors we needed to consider:

1) It was the beginning of our two-month trip – we still had a long way to go
2) Sri Lanka was more expensive than India where we would be spending most of our time (and rupees)

We, therefore, took the wise decision of saving our rupees for the biggest part of our trip. Instead we opted to climb Pidurangala Rock for the infinitely smaller sum of about $1 – yes that’s 97% cheaper than Sigiriya.




Pidurangala is a massive rock formation created by volcanic activity. No less important historically than Sigiriya but, yet, often overlooked by travelers. It has been occupied on and off for the past 2500 years by monks who lived in surrounding caves. Nearing the end of the 5th century A.D., King Kasyapa moved the monks from Sigiriya offering them a much larger and newer temple and monastery. Their presence is made evident by a small temple at the entrance, an amazing reclining Buddha built with ochre bricks (the first I had seen of its kind) and prayer cubicles about halfway up.


Related story: Adam’s Peak is FREE to climb!






Unlike Sigiriya, which you climb using a spiral of stairs, Pidurangala is a much more strenuous climb starting with roughly-built stone steps (prettily covered in moss) leading to unidentified dirt paths to make your way through the forest. The paths stop about halfway up (where the Buddha is) and then the climb becomes considerably more difficult. At different intervals, you need to hoist yourself up (sometimes with the help of someone), around and in between huge boulders to get to the top of Pidurangala Rock.










Halfway up!




This was one of the easier places to hoist up some boulders




Once you do make it to the top, the views are reward enough and, ironically, you can see Sigiriya looming proudly in the background. I was surprised there was so much vegetation including cacti and even small lifeforms such as iguanas. There’s also a plate encrusted in the rock indicating the exact center of Sri Lanka.


With Pidurangala looming in the background




We had lots of fun testing out the burst option on our camera!


The plate indicating the exact center of Sri Lanka










So the moral of the story is that you don’t need to spend lots of money to do some awesome sight-seeing – sometimes beauty lies within the simple things. Or a less philosophical approach – being frugal sometimes pays off!


Useful tips: There are no facilities on the way up so make sure to have sufficient water (and to have done your business before climbing). Wear comfortable shoes with a good grip. No flip flops! Mine had straps so they held tightly to my feet but I would’ve been better off with closed shoes. You don’t need a guide (we didn’t have one) to climb but some are available for hire. 


Happy & sweaty!

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Have you climbed Sigiriya or Pidurangala? I’d love to get some feedback in the comments below!


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  • I love blog tips like this. Those that offer an alternative to the more popular option. Not only because it’s cheaper but I’ve found that the most popular options are often the most crowded and least enjoyable.

  • Definitely great that you included the lack of facilities during the hike and good tip on the closed shoes… Some people underestimate the lack of facilities and take a small bottle of water assuming there are water fountains!

    Also, $30 is a ridiculous amount to pay! One of my friends who visited Sri Lanka last year did mention to me that a lot of the attractions had a steep entrance cost (making the country quite expensive to visit). On that note, you did find a great alternative and a lesser hiked place to visit 😉

  • Sheena Leong

    I’m a budget traveller but don’t normally skimp on the big attractions either, but $30 to climb a rock is exorbitant, especially in a developing country. I’m sure the locals paid a fraction of the price. I don’t mind paying more sometimes as a tourist but not to this extent – good on you for taking a stand!

  • FairDinkumTraveller

    As with any hikes, views can be breathtaking. Sigiriya is no exception. Your pictures look fantastic. Thanks for sharing this brilliant trek. Nice post.

  • I have the same belief with you. We do not have to spend a lot of money just to enjoy the trip. My boyfriend and I have been doing it too whenever we travel. We usually go to some places that are free to visit. So even though it is free, it does not mean it is beautiful. Congratulations on your climb! Being at the top always give a nice feeling. 🙂

  • Lynne Sarao

    I would have totally opted for the $1 hike vs. the $30 hike as well. Looks like it was well worth the cost. Those are some amazing views from the top!

  • Kallsy Page

    This is so beautiful I think that you made a wise choice! Sometimes the more expensive places to tour or visit are simply due to popularity. When my husband and I were in Jamaica we opted out of an excursion to Dunn’s River Falls and instead went to a local spot known as the Blue Hole. It was extremely inexpensive and we had the place to ourselves!

  • Abby Castro

    You actually made a smart choice! The view is still gorgeous and for a much cheaper price?? That is what I dislike about travel sometimes, when popular spots are priced too steeply. Most of the time it turns away tourists. But it is also a great way to explore lesser known destinations that are equally beautiful as the more popular ones.

    Abigail of

  • Well even though you paid less it doesn’t look like you missed out at all. Those views are spectacular! I love playing with the burst option as well 😀

  • The Full-Time Tourist

    This seems like an amazing alternative to Sigiriya!! I loved the reclining Buddha, He seems so peaceful. Other than the prices, why were you considering climbing Sigiriya before you found out about the price?


      Sigiriya is an ancient city complex built atop the massive rock formation. There isn’t much to see anymore except for ruins of terraces, a few frescoes on the way up and two huge lion’s paws carved in stone at the entrance. It’s a very popular tourist destination (hence the hefty entrance fee).

  • Neha Verma

    Hats off to you for conquering that rocky path. And true, sometimes the price is so steep, it doesnt really feel worth it. Good for you that you decided to save your money

  • Christina Pfeiffer

    Is Pidirungala as high as Sigiriya? I climbed Sigiriya and thought it was definitely worth the money. The view was fantastic and the cave art near the top is quite amazing.


      Hi Christina! Most people said Sigiriya was worth the price but given our extensive travels we decided it wasn’t worth it for us. Pidurangala and Sigiriya are about the same height. 🙂

  • Jennifer Morrow

    The red brick stature is very cool! This looks like a great hiking trail to explore the rocks and get a better view.

  • Marissa

    This post was hard for me to read because I have a trip booked to Sri Lanka for my 30th birthday, and I plan to climb Sigiriya on my actual birthday! Haha. HOWEVER, I think you have convinced me to also climb Pidurangala Rock. First, the climb sounds like so much fun (I love a good rock scramble). Second, strangely, I love the idea of being in the geographical center of Sri Lanka (I’m from the center of the U.S. so maybe that’s why). Third, the views of Sigiriya! Could you tell me how far of a drive it is from Sigiriya? And how long does it take to complete the hike? Thanks for this wonderful and informative post!


      Hi Marissa! Climbing both is very doable. Pidurangala is under 2 km from Sigiriya so about 5 minutes by car/tuk-tuk/bus. We had taken the bus (can’t remember how much but it was only a few rupees). You can climb Pidurangala in well under an hour (it took us about 40 minutes). That’s great that you’re going to Sri Lanka – it’s such a wonderful country! Enjoy!

  • Leah Shoup

    I’m so glad that you had a good experience. I hate how so many places that are big tourist destinations overcharge! It’s nice to know that you can have an amazing time picking the cheaper option 🙂


      Unfortunately the sites in Sri Lanka are really expensive so we were overjoyed when we found out about Pidurangala!

  • Stacey Gilkes

    How beautiful! Yes I totally agree about the $30US! I always opt out of certain activities for price esp if it’s a long trip!


      Sometimes the price just isn’t justified and there are better options (like this)!