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It’s not often that a single attraction has the ability to capture the curiosities of art lovers, history buffs and adrenaline junkies. But at Sri Lanka’s Sigiriya, an ancient fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site that towers more than 1,000 feet above sea level, adventurous clients are sure to get their cultural fix — and a workout to boot.
Once an ancient capital for Sri Lankan King Kashyapa nearly 1,600 years ago, Sigiriya — perhaps most easily identified by the massive, 600-foot-tall vertical granite peak at its center — has since functioned as a palace, a Buddhist monastery, a royal residence and, now, as one of the most-visited attractions in the country.
Visitors will need to carve out at least an hour to ascend to the top (my family made the climb in nearly two), and shaky spiral staircases and narrow paths may serve as the only barriers between climbers and the thick jungle below.
But the reward is worth the climb — several Kashyapa-era fresco paintings are preserved on the western side of the rock, and a nearby “Mirror Wall” (once thought to have been used as a reflection tool by the ancient king) provides breathtaking contrast to the rugged beauty of Sri Lankas surrounding landscape.