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Sri Lanka

Pidurangala has slowly but surely risen in the ranks among Sri Lanka hikers. The highlight of hiking this site, however, is the view of the world-famous Sigiriya Rock – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and famed around the world for its geologic and architectural grandeur.

Pidurangala is both a good hike and a fascinating way to understand the history of the reign of King Kasyapa in the 5th century. It’s a three hour hike, depending on the hiker’s level of physical fitness, and the end result is well worth the effort.

Where to stay

Though there aren’t many well-known hotels nearby, the best pick is the Heritance Kandalama, given its location and exceptional service, and the drive from the hotel to Pidurangala Rock shouldn’t take more than a very scenic hour. 

Found in the historic Sigiriya, the most stately room on-site is the 1,291-square-foot royal suite. As to dining, guests can choose from the traditional Kanchana restaurant or grab something from the Kaludiya restaurant, bar, and lounge. There are also exclusive dining options for candle-lit cave dinners and champagne breakfasts.

Pidurangala rock

ABOVE: Pidurangala viewed from afar.

Somewhat dwarfed by the popularity of Sigiriya, most travelers to Sri Lanka haven’t heard of Pidurangala, though both are connected by a common history. While the majority flock up the stairs of Sigiriya Rock, Pidurangala is less crowded and only a few kilometers away.

ABOVE: Reclining Buddha on the hike up Pidurangala.

The Sigiriya Fortress was built in the 5th century by King Kasyappa and features some dramatic elements, such as the lion’s paw and the mirror wall. It is said that during King Kasyappa’s rule he ordered his monks to relocate and settle in a monastery at the caves formed at the Pidurangala Rock, where the Royal Cave Temple now stands. Along the hike, travelers will not miss the huge reclining Buddha which was once the largest brick reclining Buddha in the world. Parts of the statue have been reconstructed, but much of the original remains. 

Hiking Pidurangala

At the base of the rock is the Pidurangala Sigiri Raja Maha Vihara where visitors are expected to pay a nominal entrance fee to climb the rock. Since it’s a religious center, visitors should be sure to bring a scarf or a sarong for cover. There’s also a Buddhist monastery to be explored.

The initial stage of the climb is a steady ascent but the latter may require some effort getting through the paths. Travelers should wear comfortable hiking boots or sneakers with a proper grip. Having a headlamp or a bright torch is a good idea, especially for the sunrise or sunset hikes that have become so popular.

The flat rock top at the summit provides hikers unobstructed views in all directions, including Sigiriya Rock.

ABOVE: View of Sigiriya.

Pidurangala village is in the Central Province of Sri Lanka and can be very humid during most parts of the year. The dry season in this area is from May to September, which makes it the best time to visit for clear views and sunny skies.  Sunset features sunrays falling onto the Sigiriya Rock.  Alternatively, one can start their climb at the less crowded dawn to catch sunrise from the other side of the rock.

ABOVE: Sunset at Pidurangala Rock.

Once you’re back from the hike, hikers can take a little time to explore the archaeological site at the base of Pidurangala Rock. Reports suggest that King Kasyapa was buried. The king did not die with a great reputation – having imprisoned and executed his father – but the scholars here suggest he made great religious advancements, not least of which was the construction of the citadel at Sigiriya.