Tips for climbing Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka

August 4, 2017

One of Sri Lanka’s stand out and must see attractions is certainly the mighty rock fortress of Sigiriya, also known as Lion Rock.

The site was the domain of King Kashyapa whose aim was to build an impregnable fortress and within it, a heavenly abode. It’s also the site of some of the most stunning cave frescoes we have seen.

During tours of Sri Lanka, many travellers will visit Sigiriya around the same time they visit the ancient city of Anuradhapura and the Dambulla complex.  We include it in several of our suggested itineraries for travel in Sri Lanka, including our 11-day Quintessential Sri Lanka tour.

We are often asked though how high is Sigiriya or how many steps up Sigiriya? The other question people want to know is when is the best time to climb Sigiriya?


Having just visited the site again recently, and completed the climb, we wanted to share some tips about climbing Sigiriya, so you know what to expect before you go and have a little more information about it.

In short though, Sigiriya involves an energetic climb, which may be tough for some, with rewarding views and stunning cave paintings along the way.

Here are few more details:

Be prepared for a decent, energetic climb at this iconic Sri Lankan site. The climb up the rock and back down will take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3 hours.  (Depending on your fitness, age and the crowds.)

There are some 1,200 steps to the top of the rock, where you will be rewarded with panoramic views and most certainly, a sense of accomplishment for completing the climb.

The climb starts off slowly with wider paths and stairs, and gradually reaches the Lion Staircase – where the steps become narrower, steeper and uneven.

To see the famous cave frescoes, there’s a caged open-air circular staircase of about four levels on the side of the rock – which you ascend and descend once you have seen the cave paintings.  (You can’t take photos of the frescoes.)

The last part of the climb (beginning at the Lion Staircase) is narrower and on the side of the rock – though there are handrails and side guards.


When is the best time to climb Sigiriya? At times of the day the climb can be busy with other visitors and slow going.  It can also be windy in parts. We recommend going early in the morning, as this can avoid some crowding as well as the heat of the day.

During the climb it’s best to carry plenty of water with you and wear comfortable, sturdy shoes (such as sneakers or walking/travelling shoes). There are places along the way that are more suitable for a rest, where you can stop to catch your breath.  You will see many others pausing to take photos and to get their breath back!


The climb will get your heart rate going and may be strenuous for some travellers. However, the view from the top, where you can pause and take in the sweeping panoramic countryside of coconut trees and mountain ranges, as well as the magnificent cave paintings, make it worth the effort and exertion.

You can include Sigiriya in any of our custom made tours of Sri Lanka. It also features as one of the destinations in our 15-day Classic Sri Lanka tour.

If you are planning to have a beach holiday during your tour of Sri Lanka, then find out which beach is right for you here.