Ok, imagine this: It's thirty degrees and about 80% humidity; my hair has turned into some kind of curly mess and my hat is struggling to fight against it and stay on my head; and are were still wearing the clothes we boarded our flight in, about 36 hours earlier.
To say we debated whether to climb Sigiriya was an understatement. But figuring we couldn't look much worse we decided to give it a go - after all - we weren't likely to be back anytime soon.
And it was absolutely worth it.
After the Dambulla Caves, we had a bit of lunch, opting to head to Sigiriya late afternoon when it was a little cooler and started the climb under some ominous looking clouds. I was secretly praying for some rain to cool the day down until I started the walk and reckoned that climbing on slippery stone might have tipped the climb into the 'terrifying' category. The day kept switching between blue skies and rain clouds so it made for an atmospheric climb.
It's not actually as bad as you think when you're looking at it from the bottom - though there are a few sections where you are literally (and I mean literally, not figuratively!) climbing steps that are mounted to the side of the rock face, with nothing below you but a huge and terrifying drop. Not for those with vertigo!
That said, I was behind an 80year old woman for the scariest part, who was doing it in her bare feet and without much effort. I *may* have waited until she was in front of me for the final climb, because frankly, any excuse would have done by that point. But we made it to the top eventually, and dug into our emergency stash of Lemon Puff biscuits as reward.
The history part: the site was an ancient fortress built on top of a volcanic plug which has since fallen away, making it appear from nowhere. The stories that surround the site are pretty cool - a Game of Thrones style saga set in ancient Sri Lankan times when an unruly bastard son (to use GoT language!) threw his King-father in jail where he eventually starved to death, and sent the rightful heir to the throne (his high blooded brother) to India, turning the plateau of Sigiriya into his home.
I can see why it was a good pick for a fortress - you can see for miles around from the summit and would have easily spotted an enemy approach. And it did help him prepare for attack when his brother finally returned from India with an army to help him claim his title. Only the poor bastard brother defending his kingdom didn't have the most reliable elephant, and it panicked a bit when it saw what was approaching leaving his defending army confused, thinking their King was retreating they all backed off and left him completely exposed and elephant-less. Fearing his brother would claim the crown and kill him, he threw himself upon his own sword instead.
Bad luck eh, you think after all that effort he'd have sorted a decent elephant.
The top is spectacular though, with three-sixty degree views, and assuming the weather is ok - you can see for miles. But make sure you leave enough time to get down as those steps are just as steep on the way down and it can be pretty crowded. Just find yourself an old lady to fall in line behind and you should be fine...
The need to know: it costs about $30 for the entry ticket, and takes about 2-3 hours in total (depending on how fast or slow you want to go. We took about three hours but spent quite a bit of time at the top). Take some water. And biscuits.
The guidebooks talk about hawkers and guides hassling you at the entrance but we didn't encounter any issues, and just strolled on past.
Getting there: I have no idea! We had a driver (which I will do a separate post on) travelling in from Dambulla which was about half an hour away. Worth asking your guest house to hotel as there were a few buses and tuk tuks hanging around - but couldn't tell you what they cost.
Annoyingly my camera battery had died, and the charger was in my luggage so I had to use my iPhone - but it was better than nothing - but not the best quality given the constantly changing light!