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4.30 am wakeup calls, stumbling up boulders with just a torchlight as our source of light, was it worth it, you ask? Heck yeah. We witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises in Sri Lanka that made it so hard for us to leave. Most visitors to Sri Lanka may instantly gravitate to the infamous Sigiriya Rock, but over the recent years, Pidurangala Rock has gotten its fair share of attention, offering an arguably better view than Sigiriya Rock. In this guide, I’ll tell you why you should pick Pidurangala Rock over Sigiriya Rock, and tips to get yourself the best experience.
Pidurangala Rock vs Sigiriya Rock
Both Sigiriya Rock and Pidurangala Rock are of similar height at about 200 meters (660 feet) high, with Pidurangala merely 1 meter shorter.
To get to the top of Sigiriya Rock, you just follow a manmade steel staircase all the way to the top, so you could get up there even if you weren’t the fittest person (like me). This varies on how crowded the staircase gets, but expect to spend about 45 minutes to an hour.
The climb up Pidurangala Rock does require a little more agility. The first half is easy, you just follow a series of stone steps until you reach the very end, where you’ll be required to do a bit of bouldering. You’ll have to probably get on your knees, do a bit of stretching and roll on your back a little, but it’s nothing impossible. Everyone is trying to get up anyway, so everyone sort of helps pull each other up. Inclusive of that bit of bouldering, it took us a little under 45 minutes, and we were really taking our time. If you’re fitter than me (which is likely the general population), you could get up within 30 minutes or less.
Sigiriya Rock: $30
Pidurangala Rock: 500 rupees (just under $3!)
From Pidurangala Rock, you get to see Sigiriya Rock peeking out from the horizon — pure magic!
Honestly, if you had the time (and budget), by all means, do both because you’ll get two different experiences. Sigiriya Rock has the whole historical aspect to it and is a UNESCO world heritage site, but Pidurangla Rock offers you the view of Sigiriya Rock.
I opted for just Pidurangla Rock because that was what I did first and then felt too tired to do another hike up Sigiriya Rock. Also, I didn’t see the point in shelling out another $30 to get a similar view of the area.
How to get to Pidurangala Rock
Pidurangala Rock is located in Sigiriya Village and is a short distance from Sigiriya Rock in case you wanted to do both. There is a car park at the base, and the entry is through the temple, Pidurangala Sigiri Rajamaha Viharaya.
The Pidurangala Rock Hike
Probably the best time to visit Pidurangala Rock is for sunrise and sunset, both for the stunning views and for weather reasons. The heat and humidity after around 11 am can make the climb a lot tougher not to mention uncomfortable. I’d suggest starting as early as possible. We started our hike at 5:30 am and the weather was still pretty chilly, but of course, it wasn’t long before we started working up a sweat.
We started off at the temple where you’ll have to pay the entrance fee. Since you are passing through a temple, you’ll have to ensure your shoulders and knees are covered. Once you pass the temple, you’re free to remove your sarongs or scarves. You’ll need to keep them covered again for your descent. Once you pass the temple, you’ll be climbing up stone stairs that can be quite steep and slippery. If you’re doing the sunrise hike, you’ll need a torch as there aren’t any lights along the path.
Along the way, you will pass a giant reclining Buddha statue, one of the few remaining structures of the Royal Cave Temple. It’s also a good place to take a break before continuing your journey! Also, a great sign that you’re almost there!
Once you get to the top, there’s one last boulder you’ll have to tackle before you get to the top of Pidurangala Rock. As I mentioned previously, this bit can be a tiny bit challenging but isn’t impossible. I ended up having to roll on my back and crawl a little since I have virtually no upper nor lower body strength. This challenge actually added to the whole fantastic experience of hiking up Pidurangala Rock!
The view from Pidurangala Rock
If you’re coming for sunrise, just take note that the sun rises behind you if you’re facing Sigiriya Rock. When we first got up to the rock, we quickly secured a spot in front of Sigiriya Rock and were surprised to see not that many people. So we took a walk around this huge rock, and found hoards of people sitting waiting for the sunrise on the other side! Only after the sunrise did most of the people come down to this rock where you get the best view of Sigiriya Rock.
It was really foggy on the day we got there, so we decided not to watch the actual sunrise, but to just camp out in front of the Sigiriya Rock, waiting for the fog to clear. It was a lot quieter here too since most of the crowd was waiting for the sunrise on the other side, so we could sneak in a little time for meditation. The fresh mountain air combined with the peace and serenity here was seriously so good for the soul.
Where to stay in Sigiriya
In my opinion, Sri Lanka is the perfect place to really get back to nature, and that applies to accommodation options too! Skip the 5-star hotels and sleep in a treehouse with just you and the sounds of nature. We stayed at Back of Beyond Dehigala Ela and it was truly an unforgettable experience! It’s a little under a 30-minute ride to Pidurangala Rock, but it’s perfect if you really wanna get away from it all!
You can also check out more places to stay in Sigiriya here.
Have you ever hiked up Pidurangala Rock or Sigiriya Rock? Which did you prefer? Let me know in the comments below!
More Sri Lanka Reads
- Kandy to Ella Train: Everything you need to know about the world’s most beautiful train ride
- Hiking Little Adam’s Peak for the Best Sunset in Ella, Sri Lanka
- DIYALUMA FALLS: Swim at the top of Sri Lanka’s 2nd highest waterfall
Visiting Sri Lanka Checklist
⇢ Compare flight prices to Colombo
⇢ Compare accommodation options and prices on Booking.com | HotelsCombined.com | Agoda | Airbnb
⇢ Book your train tickets in advance on 12Go Asia
⇢ Don’t forget travel insurance! Travel insurance is the most overlooked purchase when traveling, but one of the most essential. Anything can happen when you’re on holiday and you’d want to be covered in the case of travel mishaps such as flight delays, personal accidents or theft. Choose World Nomads Travel Insurance, designed by travelers for travelers.
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MY TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Here are my top travel tips and resources to help you save money and plan your trips effectively! If you're looking for more tips, head over to my travel tips resource page or my comprehensive guide on trip planning.
- Booking Flights: When it comes to finding great flight deals, I always start my search on Google Flights or Skyscanner. To save some cash, consider flying mid-week or on the weekends, opt for carry-on only with budget airlines, and be open to red-eye or early morning flights. Check out my in-depth guide on how I find the cheapest flights.
- Accommodations: I'm a stickler for finding the absolute best deals on my stays, so I will obsessively oscillate between a few booking sites: Booking.com (in general) and Agoda (for Asian destinations). When it comes to vacation rentals, there's Airbnb or VRBO.
- Travel Insurance: It's always a wise decision to purchase travel insurance for international trips. I can't stress this enough - it's highly recommended! For international travel insurance, I suggest considering World Nomads or SafetyWing. SafetyWing, in particular, stands out as one of the few policies that cover Covid-19. They also offer excellent monthly policies that are perfect for digital nomads and long-term travelers!
- Travel Credit Card: My go-to travel credit card for booking trips is the Wise travel card. I love that there are no foreign transaction fees, so I can pay like a local and never get any surprises at the end of my trip. You can also withdraw cash from the ATMs wherever you are. With Wise, you are always guaranteed the best exchange rate, and I have saved sooo much money just by using this card. Most of the time, I get charged the exchange rate I see on Google, plus or minus a few cents.
- Tours: Most times, I prefer traveling independently but sometimes, getting a guide and a local's perspective makes the experience all the more enriching. When it comes to tour bookings, I trust Viator and GetYourGuide to provide me with excellent options. In Asia, I choose Klook as they are the biggest provider in the region. Plus, you can often get entrance tickets and discounted prices!
- Transportation: To navigate through public transit options and plan my journeys from one place to another, I rely on Rome2Rio. When it comes to rental cars, I compare rental companies and find the best deals through DiscoverCars.
- Connection: It's essential to me to have seamless connectivity wherever I go. I need it to navigate to new places, Google what's around me, and keep in touch with my loved ones. But fumbling around with multiple SIMs has always been a nightmare, which is why I choose Airalo when I travel. No more switching SIMs, just purchase a plan on your phone, on the go, anywhere, and stay connected.
- Luggage Storage: Whenever I need to check out early or take advantage of a long layover, I securely store my luggage with LuggageHero. It's a reliable service that allows me to roam around freely. As a bonus, you can use this link to enjoy your first hour of FREE luggage storage on me!
- What to Pack: I always have packing anxiety once I've left home—you know the phantom feeling that you've forgotten something even though you've checked 372836 times. So I made my own packing list and use it religiously before every trip, and by religious I mean I tick off that list at least 7 times before I zip up my bag. Check out my in-depth packing list here.