9 Best Hikes in Sri Lanka For All Fitness Levels
Sri Lanka is a destination that is popular across the world as it’s well known for its incredible culture, beautiful scenery and opportunities for wildlife watching. One of the best parts of Sri Lanka’s nature is the opportunity to hike! If you’re keen to spend some time hiking in Sri Lanka, this list is for you! We’ve compiled a list of our 9 favourite hiking locations in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s most sacred summit is revered by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians alike. It is known variously as Adam’s Peak (the spot where Adam first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven), Sri Pada (the sacred footprint’ left by the Buddha as he headed towards paradise), and Samanalakande (Butterfly Mountain, where butterflies go to die). The sunrise climb up the 5,200 stairs from Dalhousie town to the hilltop is a spiritual as well as physical adventure, providing a peek into Sri Lanka’s soul as well as glimpses of its jaw-dropping surroundings.
The pilgrimage season, which begins on the poya (full moon) day in December and lasts until the Vesak holiday in May, attracts the majority of visitors. Pilgrims begin trekking at 2 a.m. to reach the peak before daylight, but you may begin the climb from Dalhousie shortly after nightfall to avoid crowds, with slow progress almost to a standstill on poya days. At the peak, gather your breath as you watch the sunrise illuminate Sri Lanka like a blessing, then pay your respects at the Buddha, Shiva, or Adam’s rock footprint.
Little Adam’s Peak
Because of its similar shape, the Little Adam’s Peak was named after its bigger brother, the holy mountain Adam’s Peak. The 1141 metre high Little Adam’s Peak is rather straightforward to climb, having a nice trail all the way up. It takes roughly 2-3 hours to complete the journey including picture taking.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve, the country’s biggest lowland rainforest, is a biodiverse wonderland surrounded by rivers and bustling with exotic animals, including rare mammals and around 150 bird species, including 33 species found exclusively in Sri Lanka. Sinharaja is only accessible by foot, not by jeep, and requires a guide to keep you safe amid the deep and dense jungle.
A large percentage of hikers base themselves in the settlements of Deniyaya or Kudawa, where you can buy entry tickets and plan a trek with the guides stationed at the park’s entrance. Stay close to enter the park early in the morning before the tour groups arrive from the seaside, when the paths are calm and the wildlife is most active. The Sinharaja Rain Forest View Villas in Deniyaya are a wonderful forest hideaway that will not break the bank.
Horton Plains & World’s End
The steep drop-off at the end of the Horton Plains, which looks out over one of Sri Lanka’s most jaw-dropping views, is known as World’s End in Sri Lanka. When we say ‘plains,’ we mean an undulating plateau over 2,000 metres high, dotted with untamed grasslands, rocky outcrops, filigree waterfalls, misty lakes, and pockets of dense forest filled with wildlife.
Horton Plains National Park is one of the few parks where tourists may walk alone. However, there is no public transportation in the area, so you must organise a drop-off and pick-up in Nuwara Eliya or Ohiya. After a 4km journey across the plateau, the ground abruptly drops down to World’s End. When the weather is good, the views of the lowlands drifting below are spectacular, but come early in the morning to avoid crowds and clouds.
Ella, located in Sri Lanka’s Badulla area, refers to a picturesque town that displays Sri Lanka’s elegance. Ella is a fantastic holiday destination where you can find peace amidst nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. When you visit Ella, you will see magnificent views of the plains, tea gardens, and cafés that make up Elle. Additionally, a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere that lasts the entire year significantly relaxes your mind and spirit.
When going on a trekking adventure to Ella, you will hike on a rough path for 4 hours, which will be a fascinating journey. You will be able to explore all through the stunning countryside views, tea plantations, and up to the Ella rock summit. The journey begins in Bandarawela and takes you on a walk through the railways, allowing you to take in the beautiful scenery of the woods and mountains. You also get to see the panoramic views of Little Adams’ Peak. When here, you should also explore Ella town, where you can see how the locals truly live.
For a taste of Sri Lanka’s tea region, travel to Haputale, a town floating in a sea of tea plantations in the island’s centre. The Dambatenne tea estate was created in 1890 by Thomas Lipton, whose name can still be seen on teabags served at breakfast across the world, and the overlook is known as Lipton’s Seat, where he visited to observe the crops. Aside from its historical significance, the viewpoint is a pleasant day excursion from Haputale, and you can combine it with a visit to the still-operational Dambatenne Tea Factory to learn about the tea-making process.
Twisted walkways climb for nearly 8 kilometres from the factory to the overlook, passing past tea plantations filled with ‘tea pluckers’ filling their bags with the raw ingredient for tomorrow’s tea and toast. In reality, most people make the trip backwards, taking a bus or tuk-tuk to Lipton’s Seat early in the morning when the views are best, and then descending downhill through the tea gardens to the factory.
Head to the thickly wooded Knuckles Range northeast of Kandy to get off the beaten path in Sri Lanka. This rocky mountain is part of the Unesco-designated Peak Wilderness Protected Area, which was established to safeguard the island’s endangered montane and cloud forests. Hiking in the Knuckles Range will likely expose you to more locals than visitors, as well as more buffaloes, monkeys, and birds than humans. With luck, you could even spot a leopard or a wild elephant among the misty jungle. However, guides are required, so you’ll need to make arrangements with a Kandy-based company to accompany you on your journey.
The name ‘Knuckles’ originates from the shape of these rugged peaks, which from a distance resemble a clenched fist. The majority of visitors come on two-day camping excursions from Kandy, exploring the little villages and terraced paddy fields in the foothills before ascending to the high peaks. Typically, agencies go from east to west across the park, resting overnight in safari tents and stopping at waterfalls and caves along the way.
The Pidurangala Rock is located a few kilometres from the famous UNESCO site, the Sigiriya Rock. It is famous for the view of Sigiriya Rock from the summit , the white temple at the base of the cliff, and the giant reclining Buddha statue hidden behind an ancient boulder.
The Pidurangala Rock is also known as the Sister Rock of Sigiriya since it is only a few kilometres away from it. The Pidurangala Rock also includes a white temple called the Pidurangala Vihara, which houses monks and is where Buddha is worshipped. A big reclining Buddha statue behind a historic boulder is located around halfway along the trek. The Pidurangala Rock may be less popular with tourists than the Sigiriya Rock, but the walk to the summit and the view from there make it no less stunning than the UNESCO monument. The Pidurangala Rock is well-known for its spectacular morning views.
Sigiriya Rock is a historic granite stronghold famous for its huge rock column that stands approximately 200 metres tall. The site dates back to King Kasyapa’s (477-495 AD) reign, when he picked this location as his new capital. He transitioned the walls and built a spectacular castle on top of the granite column, accessible only through the mouth of a massive carved lion. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is regarded as the World’s Eighth Wonder.
On day 3 of our Sri Lanka tour, we will wake early and put on our hiking shoes, grab our camera and head out to climb the incredible Sigiriya Rock. Protruding produly out of the earth, ruins of a grand palace provide evidence all around the grounds of a once violent and noble Sri Lankan history. View the ancient wall paintings, the sanskrit marked mirror wall and the huge stone lion paws guarding the ascent to the summit.
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