Why not take the opportunity to recover from your climb at Sigiriya Rock to enjoy some of the other attractions in the area before heading back to the train station? There is plenty to see and do around here, and it’s all suitable for people of all ages and budgets!
I have always considered Sigiriya to be one of my favourite experiences from my travels. For me, it’s right up there with the likes of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur in Indonesia, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Iguassu Falls in Brazil. I absolutely love Sigiriya! As such, I have written about it in depth in other articles in my blog, including a detailed look at how to get there. So now I think it’s time to focus on what else you can do during your foray to Sigiriya, as it is not advisable to visit here as a day trip from Kandy (or worse, from Colombo).
While I cannot encourage elephant rides for pleasure, the fact remains that for a lot of people it is a nice way to pass some time – and I guess what matter way to do so in the shadow of Lion’s Rock itself! A ride on one of these docile and fascinating elephants will cost you around $25 each and it is scheduled to last for an hour.
The Sigiriya Museum is located near the main entrance and gives a good background of Sigiriya and its history. The model of the site as it is today provides a good orientation, however most of the displays are mediocre and are not going to hold your attention for too long. On the other hand, the museum bookshop is well stocked with books about Sri Lanka (English language), so if you want something to read on the train, then you can find a good bargain here. The entrance to the museum is free provided you’ve got your Sigiriya ticket with you, although there’s only around 20-30 minutes worth of interest here.
MINNERIYA NATIONAL PARK
Minneriya National Park is about a 45 minute drive from Sigiriya and I didn’t even know about this place until I arrived! The park consists of a mixture of forest, scrub, and grassland, and is home 24 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, and 25 species of reptile, including elephants (hundreds of them!), sloth bears, and Leopards (oh, and monkeys…). The lake within the park also attracts wild birds such as peacocks and pelicans. I think Minneriya is a truly spectacular place to see elephants in the wild, as groups of at least a hundred congregate around the water’s edge to socialise, bathe, and drink.
Entrance fee to the park for all tourists is $15 and you will need to hire a guide and jeep for around $40 when there. I spent a good few hours here, although the only major animal we saw were elephants in that time. There are weird opening times for Minneriya National Park – 6am to 8.30am and 15.30 – 18.00 – so consider visiting after your morning hike up the Sigiriya steps.
The Dambulla Temple is located about 30 minutes drive from Sigiriya. It is the largest and best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. It has been a fully functioning temple since its inception over 2000 years ago. The beauty of the cave temple is its setting into five huge caverns high on a mountainside. Inside are over 150 Buddha statues in various postures. I thought the eyes on some of the statues were extremely creepy – and see if you can spot somewhat risqué scenes in a few of the larger murals!
Entrance fee to the cave temple is $14 per person, and it is open from sunrise to sunset. Photography is permitted but don’t pose with the Buddha statues (certainly not with your back turned to them) as this is considered extremely rude and disrespectful. I don’t recommend visiting Dambulla Caves on the same day as your Sigiriya climb; try to arrange it for the following day – if you still have any energy left!