With the kids, we are usually early-risers. If we were up and going by 6 (our usual), could we do both? If not, which is the preference?
There's plenty of time to do Dambulla and Sigiriya in one day, but with little children it will be a long and tiring one. You must allow over 2 hours each way to drive to Dambulla from Kandy for a start. It is recommended that you climb Sigiriya either early or late in the day to avoid the heat and the crowds and most people would aim to be at Sigiriya by around 8am to begin their climb. This is something that will be hard for you to do if you are coming from Kandy.
So ... although you COULD do it in a day, I'd prefer to do it with an overnight stay in the area, which would be easier, and also fun as all the Cultural Triangle hotels have grounds which are full of wildlife and you could combine your extra time in the area with an elephant ride perhaps, at either Sigiriya or Habarana, where most of the hotels are situated. It would also give the opportunity for a cooling swim at the hotel pool in the middle of the day and a chance for the little ones to rest between visits to the various places.
I just returned to my hotel in Colombo from a day trip to Sigiriya and Dambulla. It was a long day on the road, but the scenery was great to and from. I would call that the extreme of what is possible in one day from Colombo, but not from Kandy; you should have plenty of time. By the way, awesome excursion.
@Jenn: do the 'booking' (not really long negotiations) with a certified tour operator. E.g. Red Dot, Diethelm, Jetwing, Walkers. They might charge a bit more but you do have lots of fallbacks in place and a formal office, not solely a roving freelancer.
<Erik> & [Sandya]
Just be warned - there are 700 approx steps up to the Dambulla caves so if you do it in the heat of the day, it will be taxing for the little ones and it will be worth taking water. You get great views across the valley though (you can see Sigiriya) and there are lots of monkeys in the trees to watch.
We were so concerned about the steps at Sigiryia we didn't even think about steps at the caves! I was fine (an average mid-30 year old) but it was too much for my 70 year old and her knees could face Lion Rock the following day!
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