Now we have been travelling for quite some time around Sri Lanka. For the cultural triangle we chose Sigiriya as our base. We thought it was just another must see spot on the island. Well, it is, but it surprised us very much. The village itself has great restaurants and 2 super lovely bars next to the stream – finally some “touristy stuff”. But with it, this brings also a dark side – elephant riding. We saw chained elephants walk through the village in the evening, the locals were feeding them but my heart was cracking looking at them.
We spent 3 nights there and visited the following attractions:
- Sigiriya or Lion rock
Why it’s named like this and what’s all about, you can read in your guide book, but I can tell you this: if you plan to visit – be there at 7am (or at least before 7:30), especially on public holidays and weekends. We were able to walk up without waiting in line, but while going down we were shocked seeing the qeues for going up. It was jammed like the M25 around London. 😀 This was such an inner satisfaction. 😊
Keep in mind that the ticket office is next to the museum, not at the actual entrance. The ticket price is super steep at 30USD and honestly, I’m not sure if it’s worth it … For this price you can see the gardens around the rock, on the way to the top are some frescoes, the mirror wall, lion’s paws and on top there are some sights like the throne etc.
- Pidurangula rock
This smaller sister rock next to Sigiriya rock is a lot cheaper (500 rupees) and in my opinion also more charming. The hike up is shorter than on Sigiriya, but the last part is steeper, where you have to climb a little bit. On the way you will be greeted by monkeys and birds and a reclining Budha will pose for your photographs. Once on top (we went there for sunset) you can admire the surroundings and the best view of Sigiriya rock. And you know – sometimes it’s better to see the main attraction from somewhere else than to stand on it. 😉
- Dambulla cave temple
Just 30 minutes away is this impressive cave temple. I saw many temples already, but I was really impressed by this one as the Buddhas are really nicely illuminated in the caves, the ceiling has some amazing paintings and they even built a stupa in the cave. I’m quite sad I didn’t bring my tripod as the pictures would be much better. Anyway, the entrance fee is 1500 rupees and you need to cover your shoulders and knees (men as well); sarongs are rented for 100 rupees at the entrance.
- Golden temple in Dambulla
We stopped here just for a quick photo, as it was crazy hot and we were low on energy. The huge golden Buddha was glittering in the sun, so you cannot miss it. There’s no entrance fee.
Our dear friends Maryam and Andy travelled through Sri Lanka a few weeks before us and their exact words were: if you need to choose between Polonnaruwa and Anaradhapura, go for Polonnaruwa. So we did. Thanks Maryam and Andy.
We drove there by scooter from Sigiriya. Although it’s quite a drive (1,5 hours one way), the scenary is beautiful – you’ll cross bridges, drive through forests where you might see elephants if you’re lucky (and we were!).
When you arrive to Polonnaruwa, go to the museum first, where you can buy tickets (30 USD). DO NOT BUY TICKETS FROM TUK TUK DRIVERS!
The temple grounds are huge, you will need a bicycle or scooter. Everywhere are vendors selling cold drinks, ice cream and souvenirs. We enjoyed the temples, pagodas and stone carved Buddhas very much and were happy to come here.
- Kaudulla National Park
Our other friend Tina (blogger at The beauty we live) suggested to visit Minneriya National Park in August for the big elephant gathering. Once we came to Sigiriya the locals said the elephants are currently in the other NP, so Kaudulla. We trusted them and have been rewarded with hundreds of elephants. So check with the locals in which NP the elephants are currently as they can freely wander from one to the other.
This safari was also special, because we got company – my coworker Lydia and her boyfriend Lukas joined us. We rented a safari car together (5500 rupees for up to 6 people) and the entrance fee for the NP was around 1800 rupees. We had a great afternoon and saw soooooo many elephants. Oh, we almost witnessed elephants sex, but all the cuddling and petting didn’t bring success to the bull.
We enjoyed every one of these sights very much, just think twice about Sigiriya rock. We didn’t regret to choose Sigiriya village as our base and do everything from there – it saved us moving time and the village is small enough to navigate on foot (if you choose an accommodation near the centre).
Enjoy this part of Sri Lanka and let us know, which sight did you like the most.
For moving pictures and a bit of our talking, watch our blog from this part of the country 😉