We put off climbing Sigiriya with kids until they were 11 and 9. Why? Because we’d climbed Sigiriya rock fortress twice before, without kids and knew exactly what to expect up there. We knew that the steps weren’t the most child friendly in the world and that there were a few other issues to consider too. We waited and we were glad that we did. Our boys enjoyed their Sigiriya visit and in all honesty, had fewer problems than their mum. I’m really scared of heights. So how did our day at Sigiriya go and should you take kids up Sigiriya? Read on.
Sigiriya or Lion Rock, is a UNESCO listed world heritage site and a well known icon of Sri Lanka. The ancient city and palace that once stood on top of the rock fortress was constructed by King Kasyapa in the 4th century. At the very top of the rock you will find the ruins of the city, before the final ascent, visitors pass between the magnificent lion’s paws. The climb from ground level to the Lion Gate is punctuated by ancient rock art and precarious stairways. At ground level you will find further ruins and historic rock settlements. There are said to be 1200+ stairs to climb, so abilities and fear of heights should be taken into account. Also consider heat, time of day, crowds and 1 other factor, hornets. All of the above made us delay our visit with children until they were a little older. Also, older children appreciate culture and history more and will retain more of the experience. It suited our purpose in providing education through travel to climb with older children, rather than toddlers or preschoolers. How did we find climbing Sigiriya with kids, read on.
Sigiriya With Kids, How Did it Go?
My kids are fit, healthy and have no particular fear of heights. Still, when we arrived at the Sigiriya site they weren’t happy campers. What are mum and dad making us do now? Why can’t we sit on our behinds and play computer games all day instead? Well hard luck kids, you’re going for a walk! We find that with absolutely anything and everything, they resist, then surrender and enjoy. It was the same here, complaints lead to an enjoyable family walk and lots of fun. I, on the other hand, have a considerable fear of heights and struggle with any sort of steps or bridges that I can see through. There’s plenty of that stuff at Sigiriya, but I did it anyway. I usually do. If there’s something as beautiful and magnificent as this ancient complex to see, fear isn’t going to stop me. If you want to see how I managed in the Himalayas with terrifying swaying foot bridges hundreds of feet in the air, just click through.
There were really only 2 problems for my kids at Sigiriya:
- The crowds and long wait time
- The hornets.
Otherwise it was a great family day out and the walk and steps weren’t an issue at all. We arrived late after a lazy hotel breakfast and knew we’d hit crowds, it was entirely our fault.
I’d warned them about the giant Asian hornets that do, occasionally, swarm and attack visitors, I’d told them not to shout, scream, run or otherwise behave in any hornet irritating way. They were nervous, they really don’t like hornets and these beasts have been known to kill people. On the day we saw none and all of our concerns were unfounded. On previous visits we’d seen warning signs and hornet proof suits for hire, this time they were absent, maybe the hornets have been moved on.
The crowds were a much bigger problem. We arrived too late, queues to climb had already formed and waiting in the hot sun sandwiched between other tourists was fairly tedious. A few lethargic monkeys worked the crowds, trying to score a snack.
The climb isn’t hard at all, not even taxing and once you’re past the first bottleneck of the spiral staircase the crowds thin out. At the top of the staircase above you’ll find the ” ancient graffiti”. This centuries old rock art is incredibly intact and well protected from tourists and the elements. No photography allowed.
Take a break at the lion gates then tackle the most precarious staircase to the very top of the rock. This was the most frightening part for me, particularly with crowds. My boys handled it just fine, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t freaking out. Everything feels safe and relatively solid, my fears are totally irrational and just my own phobia.
The view from the top is superb, but unfortunately my camera was misbehaving. After this trip I gave up on my Olympus and invested in a Nikon DSLR. That was a smart choice and you’ll notice the better quality on all newer posts.
Tips For Visiting Sigiriya With Kids
- Get there early, before crowds and heat builds up.
- Take water. There is a shop near the main entrance and a kiosk at the Lion Gate, but take some anyway.
- Sunblock, hat, clothes to keep the sun off, obviously.
- Warn them not to scream, shout, run or pet the monkeys.
- Avoid the tour touts near the entrance.
- Warn them that they’re likely to see snakes, if they have any kind of snake-phobia.
- Know their abilities and don’t take them if they’ll be scared.
Admission Costs for Adults and Kids Sigiriya 2017
Admission prices are steep in Sri Lanka and can make what would be a budget destination a bank breaker. Particularly for families. When we visited our boys had to pay a price only fractionally lower than the adult price. There is the ubiquitous 2 tier entry price problem, westerners pay vastly more than locals. It’s just the way it is. Allegedly, foreigners can now buy Sigiriya admission tickets online, but I’m unable to discover where. This is, in part, to combat local ticket scams. A ticket covering all Golden Triangle cultural sights is better value than single attraction fees.
Adult Price: 4200LKR approximately $30.
Child Price: Supposedly half for kids under 10, but we were charged more. We’ve also read of kids under 6 getting in free.
These prices change all the time but a visit to Sigiriya will undoubtedly put a big dent in your wallet. Is it worth it? Quite honestly, no, it’s too expensive, not if you want to get maximum travel for your dollar. There are plenty of other things and places to enjoy on this magical island. It’s easy for us to skip big attractions like this, we visit Sri Lanka regularly and know there is always ” next time”. If this is a 1 off trip of a lifetime for you, then go, there’s nothing worse than regret. There is talk of introducing an island wide admission fee, a compulsory tourism charge as in Bhutan. Go to Sri Lanka before that comes in.
Stay Overnight Near Sigiriya or Take a Tour?
We stayed in a beautiful resort hotel a tuk-tuk ride from Sigiriya on the vast and scenic Kandalama lake . On previous visits to Sri Lanka we’ve visited as part of a 2-3 day tour arranged locally from Kandy or the southern beaches. Both are good options. If you stay up here you are in a good position to also visit Dambulla Cave Temples.
- Read our full review of The Paradise Resort, near Sigiriya here.
- Check out tours of Sri Lanka that you can book before arrival above, from an hour to a week.
- Return to our main Sri Lanka travel guide and blog here.
- Check out nearby accommodation options and deals below.
- Our full Sri Lanka travel guide page.
- Our post on Dambulla Cave Temples and getting to them from Kandy
World Travel Family Blog has been exploring the globe since 2012, helping you travel more, better and further. Sign up to get regular updates and an invitation to join our know-how and support group. We hope you make it to Sri Lanka but Sigiriya, magnificent as it is, is only one option of many historic and facinating sites. We hope you find our information on climbing Sigiriya with kids useful.