Recently I received an email with the question, if I’d recommend to do the following: “see the sunrise in Pidurangala, go to Ritigala and visit there, then go back to Sigiriya, visit and watch the sunset, and back to Dambulla. Do you think this is crazy?”
There was only one true answer to it. So here’s my reply:
YES. TOTALLY insane!
Pidurangala, Ritigala, and Sigiriya in a day would kill you
… unless you live in the mountains and walk up a thousand high meters every day… Only if you are VERY FIT and like physical challenges, you might consider it. Pidurangala and Sigiriya are somewhat challenging climbs, especially in the tropical heat. Both of them in one day will drain your energy for sure. But Ritigala – that’s even a bit tougher then the other 2 rocks combined. I don’t know the exact amount of high meter you’ll have to walk up there (never measured, sorry!), but I remember it as being very steep and exhausting at parts. Online I found the information that it elevates 600m above the surrounding plains.
How long do I need for visiting Sigiriya, Pidurangala, and Ritigala?
Here is what time you would need to calculate for the attractions itself (up and down, in and out), without getting there and around:
Sigiriya’s Lion Rock takes roughly about 2 hours. If you want to see the museum as well (highly recommended), add one hour.
Pidurangala takes 1 to 1.5 hours in total.
Ritigala takes about 2 hours, including plenty of rest.
If you really want to do it- stay in Sigiriya
I’d suggest to actually stay in Sigiriya rather than Dambulla or Habarana. Because you had to be at Pidurangala at 5am and you would leave Sigiriya at 6.30/7pm. Believe me, neither you (nor a driver) wants to have such a looong day… From Dambulla or Habarana it would be 4.30am to 7.30pm – 15 hours!
Starting in Sigiriya, I would recommend going to Pidurangala at 5 am, then right afterward leave to Ritigala, so it won’t be too hot either. You’ll be back in Sigiriya by noon. Take a rest till afternoon and then see if you still feel like climbing another rock that day. If not, take it easy that afternoon and do Sigiriya Lion Rock the next morning.
If you are staying in Dambulla or Habarana
In that case I’d suggest to book a tuktuk for Sigiriya and Ritigala that day and keep the other rock (Pidurangala) for sunrise next morning.
How to get around – by tuktuk or car!
If you are insane enough to give it a go, your only choice of transportation is – a private one. A tuktuk, car or van. But no public bus. There are no buses that early in the morning from Dambulla or Habarana to Sigiriya. And neither do buses run after 5.30/6pm.
And to make it worse: There are no buses whatsoever to Ritigala! You can get off at a junction on Anuradhapura-Polonnaruwa-Road, but from there it’s another 4 to 5km. And no guarantee that anyone will pass you and give you a lift. Some of our guests tried it by bus (Ritigala only, not all mountains in a day). They had to walk for hours (8km?!) – additionally to that strenuous climb to the peak of Ritigala. Better don’t give it a try.
Visit only one or maybe two mountains on a day and use the rest of the day for either a jeep safari into a national park to spot wild elephants or maybe just relax with a good massage in one of the few god massage studios here in that area (won’t be the world’s best one, but apparently they are good).