The Island that is rich in its terrain, offers many opportunities for the experiential traveller wanting to hike and trek in Sri Lanka and discover some of the sights and sounds that are treasured by the locals.
Belihul Oya located within a 4 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Belihul Oya located at the access point to the hill country of Sri Lanka, provides a variety of options for hiking and trekking through jungles, paddy fields and mountains. For the adventurous, a trek from Belihul Oya to the Bambarakanda falls considered the tallest water fall in Sri Lanka and a dip in the natural rock pool approximately 1km away from the falls will be a "refreshing" experience. For those physically fit, the trek could continue up the mountainous path towards Horton Plains that offer even more hiking. The hike will take you through varying vegetation and walking through misty clouds that suddenly appear and disappear will be a common occurrence.
Horton Plains - located within a 4 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Hiking in Horton Plains located at an altitude of 2,100 – 2,300 meters is most suited in the early mornings. The 9 - 10 km circular trek around Horton Plains is approximately a 3 hour hike for the experienced. The trail takes you through an expansive view of flora – from grassland to shrubs to dense wooded cloudy forests that in its midst has wild spices of pepper, cinnamon and cardamom. The trek takes you to the southern edge of Horton Plains known as World's End, a sudden drop that falls 800-900 meters. On a clear day, one could see the beautiful views of the Udawalawe reservoir to low lying plains of southern Sri Lanka all the way to the southern coast. The plains also feature the beautiful bakers fall, the chimmini pool and wild life. The most frequented wildlife at Horton Plains are the Sambar Deer along with Elk, Mongoose, Giant Squirrel Wild Boar and over 80 species of birds.
Adams Peak - located within a 3-4 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Adam's Peak, triangular in shape is considered to be the most holy mountain in the world due to the beliefs of the Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians that a foot print that lies atop the 2,243 meter high mountain is of a religious significance to each. The climb starts late in the night closer to midnight given that it takes several hours to reach the top. A pilgrimage to many, the goal is to get to the top prior to dawn so as to witness the sunrise known as "ira sevaya" or worship by the Sun God on Adam's peak. The season for this "pilgrimage" is from the full moon (Unduwap poya) day in December to the full moon (Vesak poya) in May. However, that is not to say that the summit cannot be conquered during the offseason, just that the route that is illuminated during the season by a string of lights, will no longer guide you up the mountain and you will need a flash light for the journey.
The climb offers 3 trails out of which 2 are commonly used. Hatton route is the shortest and the most frequently used being only 7Km while the Ratnapura climb is 11km and a more strenuous one than the Hatton climb. Some prefer to do both by climbing up through Hatton and then down towards Ratnapura.
Unlike most other treks in Sri Lanka, one will find that this journey up more than 5000 steps is been made by many as a pilgrimage and therefore the groups are in larger numbers. As a result, climbers will hear pilgrims singing devotional songs on the way to the top and to the bottom of the mountain and will also witness many rituals being observed during the climb. The path is lined with shops that serve hot tea/coffee and other edibles and are used as rest-stops by the many that need to break journey and catch their breath.
Ella and Dunhinda – located within a 6-7 hour drive from Colombo/Airport
Trek to Ella rock is a beautiful path that takes you on the Railway tracks, passing waterfalls and crossing bridges. Climb on natural stairs and paths that take you up through dense greenery, through tea estates and up to a plateau where you will see the Ella rock and beautiful scenery around you. The trek will continue with a crossing of a water stream and downhill for a different breathtaking view of the Ella Mountains and valleys. The trek to the rock and back is approximately four hours for the experienced trekker.
Little Adam's Peak An hour's climb to the top of this mountain that is 1,100 meters high will give you a 360 o view of lush green tea plantations, paddy fields and waterfalls around Ella and beyond. Considered the shorter version of the taller giant peak due to the shape of the mountain, an early morning climb will be the best in order to avoid the heat and the sun. The early morning magical views of sunrise through the peaks of the mountain range will be another good reason to do the hike in the wee hours. You will be in close contact with nature as you make your trek and may even come across a few birds and monkeys that are harmless.
Located 5 km north of the city of Badulla, the trek to the Dunhinda falls from the main road is approximately 1km each way. The fall which is 63 meters high is an offspring of the Badulu Oya (river) which connects with the longest river in Sri Lanka – Mahaweli. The hike takes you through thick forest on either side with the Badulu Oya flowing at the bottom of the valley. One will also see at a distance a mini version of the falls known as "kuda (little) Dunhinda" falls. The uneven yet well defined path can be rocky and hikers will need the support of a near-by tree or a branch to help them get across certain areas. There is also an ancient cave close to the fall which is believed to have been occupied at one time by the indigenous people of Sri Lanka.
Knuckles Mountain Range - located within a 6 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Knuckles Range is a mountain with five peaks that looks like the knuckles of a clenched fist when seen from various locations. Known as the Misty Valley ("Dumbara Mitiyawatha" in Sinhalese), this untouched nature reserve is a paradise for trekkers with its abundance of flora and fauna that are unique to this region and waterfalls and streams running though the mountains. Knuckles is the starting point of one of the major rivers in Sri Lanka – Kalu Ganga – as well as 2 others.
The view from "Mini World's end" located at the southern end of the Knuckles range, gives panoramic views of the knuckles range and villages situated in the foot of the mountains. The Dothalugala nature trail takes you up to one of the 34 mountain peaks in the Knuckles range known as Dothulagala and many hikers chose to come down a different path making a full circle through the forest. The trail up to Nitro Cave – a large cave inhabited by hundreds of thousands of bats, that may have been occupants for longer than recorded history, is a cave rich in potassium nitrate used to make gun powder. The Cave situated in the southern parts of Knuckles mountain rage is believed to have supplied the raw material required by the rulers of ancient Sri Lanka.
Sinharaja Rainforest - located within a 5 hour drive from Colombo/Airport Sinharaja, which is spread over 18,000 hectares of virgin rain forest, is the largest remaining rain forest reserve in Sri Lanka. The 21km long 7km wide (at the widest) and 3km wide at the narrowest points, consists of several rivers and streams. The area has a height range of 270 to 1,060m and a slope range of 100 to 350. The recorded rainfall has been in the range of 3,000 to 6,000mm. This natural beauty can be explored by trekking through the tropical lowlands where you will discover many of the over 147 recoded bird species and 45 recorded reptile species of which 21 are endemic.
Trail to the Sinhagala peak takes you through inside the deep rainforest with diverse scenery. The breathtaking view from the top of the summit is well worth the steep and long challenging climb one will have to endure. The Mulawella nature trail that is more popular with trekkers is one of the mountain peaks with scenic views of the mighty rain forest.