The central highlands of Sri Lanka are filled with pictures of stirring mountains carpeted with lush green tea gardens, roaring waterfalls mingling with the clouds and landscapes shimmering in sunlight and disappearing under the rising mist.
Situated over 6000 feet above the sea level the changing faces of Sri Lanka’s great mountain ranges are best viewed at leisure and on foot. The temperature varies between 160 Celsius to 20Celsius providing an ideal climate for walking.
The most favorite and renowned hill-country location is Nuwara Eliya, The most important tea production hub of Sri Lanka, founded by Samuel Baker, the discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846.The city’s mild climate lent itself to become the leisure capital of the country and was the prime sanctuary of the British civil servants and planters in colonial Ceylon. Nuwara Eliya, called Little England then, was also a hill country retreat where the British colonialists could immerse in their pastimes such as fox hunting, deer hunting,elephant hunting, polo, golf and cricket.
Many of the buildings in the city hold architectural features from the colonial past such as the Queen’s Cottage, General’s House, Grand Hotel, Hill Club, Town Post Office and even new hotels have borrowed the colonial style. Many private homes still maintain their old English-style lawns and gardens, keeping true to the spirit of ‘Little England’.
Following closely behind is Bandarawela, a plantation town in the Badulla district. The city boasts of its fair share of waterfalls and buildings of colonial architecture including the Bandarawela Hotel, the Cargilles building, the Tennis club and Adisham Bungalow. Just eight km away fromBandarawela isElla, a sleepy village nestled in a valley gazing through Ella gap on plain nearly 1000 feet below.Ella is surrounded by hills and is perfect for walks through tea plantations to temples and waterfalls.
Another favorite hill station is Balangoda, with mountain ranges and views to beat Nuwara Eliya. Although not organized as a leisure city Balangoda and its surroundings offer one of the best views, treks and adventures in Sri Lanka. Just 15 km away from Balangoda is Belihuloyaa little hamlet with unspoiled views and opportunities for trekking, canoeing and bird watching.
Adam’s Peak or the Sri Padaya Peak, a 2,243 metres conical mountain located in the southern reaches of the Central Highlands, in the Ratnapura district is also a popular hill station especially for its religious significance. The 1.8 meter rock formation near the peak is long believed to be the sacred foot print of Lord Buddha by locals.
View from World’s End (Horton Plains)
Sri Lanka on Feet
Route: Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA)/ Kithulgala/ Nuwaraeliya/ Haputhale/ Kandy/ BIA
Situated on the banks of Kelani River Kithulgalais surrounded by wet zone rain forest. It was the location for the Academy Award Winning movie, ‘The Bridge River on the River Kwai’. Kitulgala is also a base for white-water rafting, which starts a few kilometres upstream.
Cross the Kelani River by a boat and continue to the northern edge of the rainforest where the trail leads up to the Seven Maidens Mountains through sleepy village gardens, tea estates and village roads.
The climb is nearly 12km to the top of the 2,243 metres mountain and can take as long as three hours for an average person. The climb is possible from December to April and best attempted at night where you reach the mountain top to see the sunrise and the breathtaking views.
Access to the mountain is possible by 6 trails: Ratnapura-Palabaddala, Hatton-Nallathanni, Kuruwita-Erathna, Murraywatte, Mookuwatte& Malimboda.The Nallathanni& Palabaddala routes are most favoured by the climbers, while the Kuruwita-Erathna trail is used less often.
The Murraywatte, Mookuwatte& Malimboda routes are hardly used, but do intersect with the Palabaddala road midway through the ascent. The usual route taken by most pilgrims is ascent via Hatton and descent via Ratnapura as the Hatton trail is the steepest, it is also shorter than any of the other trails by nearly five kilometres.
Travel from Laxapana to Bogawanthalawa on wheels and plot a path through tea plantations, forest patches and gurgling rivers to the rural village of Kalupahana situated near Belihul-Oya.
Travel to Haputale from Kalupahana in a vehicle. Haputale situated in the tea-growing Southern Highlands is a land of lush tea plantations, majestic peaks and rushing waterfalls and is one of the favourite haunts of the tea millionaire Sir Thomas Lipton.Walk upto the Lipton Seat located within the Dambetenna Tea Estate. The Trail climbs to 1900m and was a favouritelookoutof Sir Thomas Lipton, the great tea pioneer.Climb down through the Nayabeddha estate and drop by at the Dambetenna tea plantation and tea factory, the longest tea factory in the country.
The train ride falls through a picturesque path and provides a bird’s eye view of the scenery around.
Once reaching Idalgashinna commence the walk to Horton plains. Three miles below Idalgashinna station, on the southern slope of the range and surrounded by the Needwood Tea Plantation is the old abandoned Portuguese fortress, Kotugodella Fort. Only a few scattered stones and the semi-circular outlines of ancient bastions remain ofthe majestic structure once stood there.
Horton plains is one of the most isolated national parks in the country with few visitorsand it is also only National Park in Sri Lanka where visitors are allowed to roam around freely inside.
The wild expanse of Horton Plains National Park, include the last montane forest in the country. Situated at 7,000 feet above sea level, the walk to ‘World’s End’ and “Little World’s End” within the park offers one of the finest views in Sri Lanka. The park is home to five endemic bird species that are found at this altitude including the Sri Lanka Bush Warbler, Dull-Blue flycatcher, Yellow-eared Bulbul, the elusive Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush and the Sri Lanka Woodpigeon. Mammals include plenty of Sambar, the Slender Loris; Bear Monkey and an occasional Leopard.
The walk begins by climbing up Single Tree Mountainthrough tea plantations and Eucalyptus forests, before descending to the tea plantation of Shantipura. The walk continues to the lookout at UdaRadellawhich provides a breath-taking views south to Adam’s Peak and north to the Kandyan hills. Walk back through Shantipura by a different route and get back to NuwaraEliya.
The Knuckles mountain range named for its resemblance to a set of knuckles in a closed fist consists of five mountain peaks with the highest point at about 6,000 ft above sea level and spans for 155 sqkms. A wide variety of rare and endemic flora and fauna makes this wilderness a storehouse of rich biodiversity.
Give your feet a respite and take a boat ride into the MuthurajawelaWetlands, rich in bird life and amphibians. Visit a fishing village and the early morning fish auction bustling with activity as the catamarans comes ashore with their bounty of fresh fish, prawns, crabs and lobster. Negombo by night also has a vibrant atmosphere with a scattering of bars and restaurants.