The Best Hike For Stunning Views Of The Sri Lankan Jungle

Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, is not just any rock. After a hike to the top of this 600-foot-high monolith, you'll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular views of Sri Lanka. And when you spin around, you'll see the ruins of a fifth-century fortress, sitting on top of the rock itself. For a combination of ancient history and stunning scenery, Sigirya is hard to beat.

Reaching the top involves quite a bit of physical effort. The Planet D writes that it takes about an hour to reach the summit of the rock, and you're pretty much heading straight up, bar a few platforms to take a rest. Travel Talk backs this up, saying there are 1,200 steps to the top — so get on the Stairmaster for a practice round before you come. The Planet D also advises climbing Sigiriya in the morning, as it can get very hot here.

Before you get to the rock, though, you walk through the elegantly landscaped water gardens at the base. The BBC writes that they are some of the world's oldest landscaped gardens and wandering past the pools, fountains, and streams is a delight.

Sigiriya Rock

Stories by Soumya divides the climb into three sections: the water gardens; the second between the boulder gardens and the lion's paw, which is the gateway to the fortress; and the third from the paw to the top. She writes that the middle section features caves with frescoes decorating them, boulder arches, and a large amount of shade. Lots to see here! The final part, with no shade, is the trickiest. However, you'll have dramatic views of the lush jungle dropping away below you as a distraction.

Having reached the summit, you arrive at the UNESCO-listed Ancient City of Sigiriya. Here, you can not only enjoy panoramic views but also explore the remains of King Kashyapa's capital, where Ceylon Expeditions writes that you will see the ruins of a palace, ancient pools, a stone-carved throne, galleries, and staircases. To learn more about the palace, Love Sri Lanka recommends visiting the fascinating Sigirya Museum, which sits at the base of the rock.

Exploring the surrounding area

Sigiriya rock isn't the only attraction in the area. And Beyond suggests scaling the nearby Pidurangala Rock, a slightly hairy scramble over boulders and through thick vegetation, but with picturesque views of Sigiriya rock fortress from the top. On the way up, you'll see a large reclining Buddha statue and a Buddhist temple.

A little further afield, Destinationless Travel recommends going to Minneriya National Park, where you can take a safari to see the herds of elephants that roam here. Another place on the list for Destinationless Travel is Dambulla, around a 30-minute drive from Sigiriya. Here, you'll be able to see the Dambulla Cave Temple, where you can see lots of Buddha statues and colorful paintings on the walls. A little further still, Holidify suggests visiting Anuradhapura. This ancient Sri Lankan capital has a wealth of stupas and dagobas to discover and is a lovely place to cycle around. Come to Sigiriya for the jungle views, and stay for the history, architecture, and spirituality of the surrounding area.