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Sigiriya might steal the show, but Pidurangala Rock is the one to hike in Sri Lanka.
Sigiriya Rock is one of the most popular and famous tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. It’s an ancient rock fortress with a brilliant view from the top. However, you might not have heard about Sigiriya’s neighbouring rock. Pidurangala Rock might not have quite the same historical significance as Sigiriya, but the view from the top is arguably even more impressive.
WHY PIDURANGALA ROCK?
There are many reasons to hike Pidurangala Rock. First, while the hike is a bit of a challenge, the effort is well worth it.
There aren’t crowds of people here like there are at Sigiriya Rock. We only saw a few other people throughout the entire hike.
Even though Sigiriya Rock has some really intriguing features, like the massive lion paws before the final ascent to the top, Pidurangala Rock has some interesting elements. There’s a giant reclining Buddha statue about halfway up, partially reconstructed out of brick.
ARRIVING AND ASCENDING
At the base, you’ll see the Pidurangala Sigiri Rajamaha Viharaya, a white temple by the road. To climb Pidurangala Rock, you need to pass through the temple and pay the 500 LKR donation fee (about $3 USD). Compared to the steep price tag of $30 USD at Sigiriya Rock, it’s a bargain.
Make sure you bring a sarong or scarf, as you’ll need to cover your shoulders when you walk through the temple grounds. We completely forgot to bring ours this time around, but you can rent one from a stand at the side of the road for 100 LKR.
The first part of the hike is a fairly steady ascent, walking next to a steep rock wall. There are some stairs and large boulders to step across. I highly recommend that you wear hiking boots or sneakers with a grip. This is essential for the second portion of the hike that isn’t quite as easy to navigate.
ROYAL CAVE TEMPLE
There are only a few remnants left of the Royal Cave Temple, including the remains of a few monastic structures. The main feature is the reclining Buddha statue, sheltered by a protruding rock. It’s half reconstructed in brick, though much of the original statue is still there.
Although this area is pretty cool, the main attraction is at the top of the rock. So, rest here for a moment and then keep on hiking!
A CHALLENGING HIKE
Here’s where the hike gets a little bit tricky. While there isn’t too much more hiking to go, there are massive boulders blocking the way up the path. The “path” essentially continues beyond the boulders and up to the top of Pidurangala Rock. It’s best to climb these with a buddy. You can help each other up and around the rocks. Once we figured out how to maneuver our bodies around them, it wasn’t too difficult. Even with my short legs, I still managed to make my way to the top.
Thankfully, we had a pretty large group consisting of our yoga instructor and his friend, the owner of Mahagedara Retreat, two staff members from Mahagedara (who have hiked the rock many times), plus my travel buddy, Lauren. Even if you’re part of a smaller group or a couple, you won’t have trouble navigating this one. Just wear proper footwear and bring a sense of adventure.
After a few stressful moments and stretching my legs in ways I didn’t know was possible, I enjoyed some of the most spectacular views ever.
STUNNING SRI LANKA
From Pidurangala Rock, you’ll see the best view of Sigiriya Rock. The two rocks coexist directly across from one another.
Once you’ve admired Sigiriya Rock, walk across the length of Pidurangala Rock in its entirety. You’ll see far into the distance across the vast countryside and jungles of Sri Lanka. This view is even better than the one from the top of Sigiriya Rock. Nothing blocks the scenery from one side to the other.
I truly felt like I was on top of the world from up there. There was hardly anyone else there, and you could enjoy a true panoramic view. The strong winds were very refreshing after a strenuous and sweaty trek.
All I could do was cherish my moments in the presence of this gorgeous landscape.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
It takes about an hour to climb Pidurangala Rock, and about a half hour to come back down. Allow yourself a decent amount of time to savour those magnificent views.
Wear proper footwear, such as hiking boots or sturdy shoes. Please don’t wear flip flops here! Bring a sarong to cover your shoulders or else you won’t be allowed to enter.
Hike Pidurangala Rock in the late afternoon. The rock itself will block most of the sun as you make your way up. If you wait long enough, you can catch the sunset from the top (although you’ll have to walk back down in the dark). Another option is to hike early in the morning before the sun gets too hot.
To get here, you can take a tuk tuk. We caught a ride with our driver at Mahagedara Retreat, which is an option if you choose to stay there.
PIDURANGALA OR SIGIRIYA ROCK?
I keep reading and hearing recommendations to only hike Pidurangala Rock in place of Sigiriya Rock. Generally, this has to do with the fact that the entrance fee to Sigiriya Rock is $30 USD, and it’s only about $3 USD for Pidurangala.
In my opinion, I think you should hike both rocks. Having been to both, they’re quite different from one another. If you’re looking only for an incredible view, you can get that from Pidurangala Rock. However, Sigiriya Rock offers so many interesting components and such a rich history. For instance, there are the remnants of an ancient fortress, the giant lion paws at the entrance, and a museum showcasing the history of the site.
If you want to avoid the crowds at Sigiriya, head there as early as possible. The site opens at 7:00am. You’ll also hike when it isn’t as hot outside for an added bonus.
Although $30 USD might kill your budget, try to set aside a little extra money so you can see both sites. I know I wasn’t disappointed with either one!
For all photos of Pidurangala Rock, please check out my travel photo album.
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