One of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Sigiriya was King Kashyapa I’s stronghold during his reign from AD 477 – 495. This was when the crumbling walls, buildings, and labyrinth of landscaped gardens — the latter are the oldest remaining in the world — that sprawl around the base of the massive rock were built. Sigiriya was also used as a Buddhist monastery as early as the 5th century BC, as it was again until the 14th century after Kashyapa was overthrown. Theories differ as to whether the bricked ruins on the rock’s summit are remains from the king’s palaces, or from monastic structures.
Theories do not differ, however, on when this massive 1,214-foot rock is best scaled. I learned the hard way, arriving at about, oh, 1pm or so, when the central Sri Lankan sun was at its suffocating peak. The mostly shade-less climb up was one of the most draining activities I’ve ever done; the long walk from the parking lot to the rock was almost just as oppressive.
Lesson learned: unless you’re curious to find out what it’s probably like inside a microwave on full blast, start your day trip from Kandy at Sigiriya before moving onto the Dambulla cave temple, not the other way around.