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