Sigiriya Rock from a distance

Dambulla and Sigiriya on your own

Instead of taking a daytrip from Kandy, we opted for public bus and a night at a nice homestay in Sigiriya, for a slower and cheaper experience. Both the Dambulla caves and Sigiriya Rock were really impressive!

In Kandy there are many offers of transportation or tours to visit the UNESCO World Heritages Dambulla cave temples (also known as the Golden Temple) and Sigiriya Rock. We didn’t want to rush it, so we decided to spend a night in Sigiriya.

Kandy, the perfect start of a trip to Sri Lanka

First stop: Dambulla

We had breakfast and checked out of our hotel in Kandy, then went to Goods Shed bus station next to the train station. It’s a bit messy, but we just asked someone who pointed us in the right direction, and soon enough we were on a bus leaving for Dambulla. We were some of the first to get on the bus but it filled really fast, so I’m guessing the buses leave at least every half hour. The temples are just before the bus enters Dambulla town, and you will know you’re there when you see a gigantic golden Buddha on your left.

Buddha statues in Dambulla cave temple

You pay for your ticket at the bottom, where you can also leave your luggage in the ticket office, then climb up the steps to the temples at the top of the hill. Once you’re up, there are five caves, each of them elaborately decorated. I had been recommended to start with the one furthest from the entrance and work my way back, and I’m glad we did, because they get more impressive as you get closer to the beginning.

Buddha statues at Dambulla

Spending the night in Sigiriya

After we had seen the temples, we went out to the road and caught another bus onward to Sigiriya. We had booked accommodation at a homestay called Nirwana, a neat little place with a restaurant and two rooms in the back away from the road and a porch with a friendly dog. In the evening, they served up a delicious curry, and the restaurant filled up with people. You’re advised not to go out on your own in the dark, as there have been incidents with wild elephants passing through. I’m not sure if this is a real threat, but would rather be safe than sorry!

Elephant warning sign

Visiting Sigiriya Rock

In the morning, after having been served an early breakfast on the porch, we went to Sigiriya Rock as they opened. Our homestay was really close to the entrance so we walked, but we seemed to be the only ones doing that. We bought our tickets at the separate ticket office for foreigners inside the museum, where there also are bathrooms to use while you wait, and as we were leaving the national anthem started to play and everyone around froze for a minute while it played.

There are some other things to see in the park apart from the rock itself, but we decided to head straight for the climb as we were fearing busloads of people were going to arrive at any minute. I think that was a good call, lines were already building up on the stairs up.

Balcony on Sigiriya Rock

While I didn’t really enjoy climbing a crowded staircase nailed to the outside of a rock very high above the ground, the views were spectacular, and I really enjoyed walking around the palace ruins at the top of the rock. There were also some construction workers up there, and I can only assume that they have to do the same climb to get to work everyday.

When we got down we strolled around the rest of the site, and although nothing is quite as impressive as the rock, there was another large rock that was shaped like a snake. After a few hours we were quite tired, and walked back to the homestay to pick up our bags and have a drink in the restaurant, then caught a passing bus back toward Kandy. I’m really glad we did it like this instead of going on a daytrip with a tour bus!

Local bus in Sri Lanka

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Dambulla and Sigiriya pinnable
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