Sigiriya with its Pidurangala rock at Sri Lanka
Today, it was the day to leave Jaffna with its Hindu temples to Sigiriya, a long trip was waiting us. First, we took the train from Jaffna to Anuradhapura at 9h35am to arrive at 13h50 (340 rupees each second class - 2,10 euros) then we took a tuk-tuk for 100 rupees (0,60 euros) to the old bus station (not the new one).
At the train station, a tuk-tuk tried to trick us saying that there are no buses until the evening, we knew that he was lying because we did our homework on internet.
From here, we took the bus 15 Anuradhapura - Colombo leaving at 14h15 to get off at Dambulla (downtown stop) at 15h25.
Once off the bus, again, a tuk-tuk was trying to trick us, he almost got it. He was very friendly and asking us where we wanted to go, we answered him and he told us that the bus stop is just next where we get down and it would come within 30 minutes. Meanwhile he was trying to convince us to go with him in tuk-tuk for 2000 rupees. Bastard, he made us wait to the wrong stop, we discovered the truth because when a bus was coming, we asked the driver if his bus goes to Sigiriya and the bus ticket guy showed us the correct bus. It was at the other side just leaving.
So once you will get off the bus, cross the street to wait for the correct one or get down at the main bus station of Dambulla and take the bus from here (more chance to have a seat). We took the bus 490/1 Dambulla - Sigiriya leaving at 15h55 to arrive at our hotel New Sigiri Resort & Restaurant (main road - 41 euros per night) at 16h45 for 50 rupees each (0,30 euros). Since the bus passes in front, we asked the driver to drop us there but he did too early, there is a first sign "New Sigiri Restaurant" (only restaurant) and few meters farther, a second sign "New Sigiri Resort & Restaurant" (rooms and restaurant). We get off at the first sign so we walked during 8 minutes to reach the hotel.
There is no direct bus from Anuradhapura and we chose Dambulla because there are more buses to go to Sigiriya than from Habarana.
The hotel is very nice and the room is clean like the big all-in-one bathroom. A good place to stay, moreover, it is very close to the archaeological site and the rock. Our room didn't have wifi to be on the second floor (the last floor) but it works well on the floors below.
Early in the next morning, around 4h30am, we went to the Pidurangala temple. The goal was to see the sunrise from the top of the Pidurangala rock. The hotel organized for us a tuk-tuk for 1000 rupees (6,10 euros) to bring us there and back.
We thought that we climbed alone but the driver came with us, showing us the way. We paid 500 rupees each (3 euros) to get in the temple.
With our lantern to light the path, the climb is quite easy at the beginning, it is a long series of stairs, then we arrived into an area where a reclining big Buddha is resting, and it seems that he invites us to do the same thing before to continue. Unfortunately, we didn't follow his advice because what waiting us after, it is the difficult part, a climb on boulders and rocks to reach the summit (if you want to do it yourself, just follow the arrows painted on the rocks).
We were the first ones, then a couple arrived and later, more people, we were something like 20 people. We made friends with one of the couples who came with the brother of our tuk-tuk. From there, a beautiful view about the sunrise and not only on the Sigiriya rock but also the entire area in 360 degrees !!!
Since both are very close and the only main difference will be the ruins and the expensive entrance price (4375 rupees), we decided to not go to the Sigiriya rock and to do a safari tour in the Minneriya National Park with our new friends to see elephants organized by their tuk-tuk driver.
This time, we didn't do the same error as in the Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park, go in the morning during the dry season. The friend of the tuk-tuk driver asked us 5000 rupees for his jeep, only for us (we were 4, our hotel proposes 3000 rupees per couple with a shared jeep).
The entrance of the park cost for all of us 11187 rupees (68,70 euros including 3 different fees making the price so high) and we paid also the tuk-tuk, 2000 rupees (12,30 euros). To resume, we (me and my wife) paid in total 9093,50 rupees (56 euros).
The trip from Sigiriya to Minneriya took about 50 minutes and we entered in the park at 15h, the first animals we saw were birds, monkeys and peacocks. Then, we headed to a wide open area with a big lake to discover a group of elephants bathing, playing and eating, a mix of babies and older ones in family. Then we went to another section of the lake, and here again, a group of elephants, doing the same thing as the first group. It was great to be able to watch them closely and peacefully doing their daily things by respecting their space.
Then we went in an area with a watch tower to do a break. People can go up to the tower to have a better view and also, we went near to the shore of the lake but not too close to the water. We left the park at about 17h30. In our way back to our hotel, we stopped to an herbal garden. It is a place where plants are cultivated for the medical purpose only. A kind man made us a visit explaining different plants and what they are used for. At the end of the visit, we went to his small shop but too expensive.
The good thing to take a hotel at Sigiriya, it is that we are with the nature and near to the Ancient site. The bad point is that we have limited choices for eating places so at few steps, there is the Nirwana Restaurant Sigiriya (exiting our hotel, going right, a little more farther, more places), they make cheap no spicy and very little spicy food (a chicken rice & curry for 500 rupees - 3 euros).
Also, on both sides of our hotel, there are 2 wooden shops where we can watch the craftsman working and of course, buy some statues, but quite expensive, we found better prices at Kandy. Our next exploration was at Dambulla with its beautiful frescoes.