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The Best Places for Hiking in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, you can feel on top of the world wherever you go. This is figuratively true nowhere more than on the numerous lovely hiking trails in the island’s emerald mountains. Each of these hiking routes is distinctive; some pass hotspots for biodiversity, while others lead you through tropical rainforests or historic and religious places.

Most tourists will have fantasized about hiking in Sri Lanka at some point. The country’s name alone conjures up pictures of a lush, verdant jungle, sweeping mountains, tropical fauna, and clear water. Sri Lanka’s best trekking displays that.

For many tourists, Sri Lanka is all about its idyllic, golden beaches, but the country’s wild, mountainous interior has a whole other world that’s ideal for trekkers.

Adam’s Peak

The sacred mountain Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), where, in accordance with Sinhalese Buddhist tradition, is located the preserved and sacred footprint of Lord Buddha, imprinted during one of his journeys to Sri Lanka, inspired the name of the place.

The most popular and revered of all the picturesque mountain peaks and routes in Sri Lanka is without a doubt Adam’s Peak. Adam’s Peak is a section of Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is regarded as a holy mountain by Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims equally and has several names, including Shri Paadhaya, Samanala Kanda, Adam’s Peak, and Sivan Oli Pada Malai (in Tamil).

Central Sri Lanka is where Adam’s Peak is situated. It is located in the Sabaragamuwa Province’s Rathnapura District. The peak’s elevation above sea level is 2,243 meters (7,359 ft). The starting point for the hike is Nallathanniya, the town that is closest to Adam’s Peak. Road access is available to Nallathanniya, which is located around 40 kilometers northeast of Rathnapura.

Most undertake the strenuous hike during the pilgrimage season, which begins on the Poya (full moon) day in December and runs until the Vesak festival in May. Pilgrims start walking at 2am to reach the summit before dawn, but you can begin the climb from Dalhousie soon after night falls to beat the crowds, who slow progress to a snail’s pace on Poya days. At the summit, catch your breath as you watch the dawn sun illuminate Sri Lanka like a blessing, then pay your respects at the rock footprint left by the Buddha, Shiva or Adam.


Ella Rock & Little Adam’s Peak

In the Badulla District of Sri Lanka’s Uva Province, there is a well-known tourist attraction called Ella. It is a little town hidden in the hills, renowned for its picturesque beauty and agreeable weather. With breathtaking vistas, the village of Ella is located in a valley surrounded by verdant tea plantations.

In Ella, a popular hiking spot is Little Adam’s Peak, also called Punchi Sri Pada. Its name refers to the smaller Adam’s Peak, which it resembles but is less in size. Few kilometers separate Little Adam’s Peak from Ella’s town center, making it simple for hikers to reach.

It’s like we’re combining two hikes into one, although they’re in the same region of Sri Lanka. That area is Ella, a popular mountain village in Sri Lanka with tourists. The Ella Gap offers breathtaking vistas that stretch from the adjacent Ella Forest Reserve’s lush vegetation all the way to the Great Basses lighthouse on the south shore. Ella is peaceful, but there is a lot to do. You can go to tea plantations, take pictures of the Nine Arch Bridge, one of Sri Lanka’s most popular photo locations.

The best day treks in Sri Lanka are found near Ella. They are quite easy to find and will take you to beautiful views. First up, the hour-long or possibly shorter ascent of Little Adam’s Peak, which rises to a height of 1141 meters. In terms of difficulty, this is a short hike, but get there early to avoid the throng. This is a great method to see Ella and get a sense of the terrain’s layout.

A more difficult trek that will take you above the clouds is Ella Rock hiking. You should leave as early as you can, before the clouds roll in, because it will usually take a little longer—about four hours in all. Make sure you know where you’re going and, as always, arrive with appropriate hiking gear as this route is less well labeled than Little Adam’s Peak and requires a brief stroll over a railway.

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Knuckles Mountain Range

Central Sri Lanka is home to the Knuckles Mountain Range, commonly known as the Knuckles Massif or Dumbara Kanduvetiya in Sinhala. It occupies a sizable area and is located in the Central Province’s districts of Matale and Kandy. The range is named because its unusual shape, which when viewed from specific angles resembles a pair of knuckles on a closed fist.

You can set off from Matale or Kandy to get to the Knuckles Mountain Range. The settlement of Deanston, which serves as a gateway to numerous hiking paths and camping areas, is the town closest to the range. The mountain range is renowned for its craggy peaks, thick forests, gushing waterfalls, and picturesque vistas.

For those who enjoy hiking in nature, it provides a variety of options with routes that range in length and difficulty.

Go trekking in Sri Lanka’s heavily forested Knuckles Range, northeast of Kandy, to get off the beaten path. The vulnerable montane and cloud forests on the island are protected by the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, which is designated by UNESCO. While hiking in the Knuckles Range, you’ll likely see more residents than tourists as well as more buffalo, monkeys, and birds. In the hazy vegetation, you might perhaps catch a glimpse of a leopard or a wild elephant.

The walk travels far into the Knuckles Range’s untamed wilderness and dense rain forest. The name of the range refers to how they resemble a closed fist. Imagine being surrounded by magnificent mountains that rise up to 2000 meters. Huge cascading waterfalls dot the surrounding area. After passing through a few tiny settlements, you spend the night in the outdoors while wild camping. Buffalos are common, and with any luck, you might also see boars, toque macaque monkeys, and purple-faced monkeys. If you’re incredibly lucky, the jungle may also contain elephants and leopards. Although it’s not likely that you’ll run into them as they hike around the trails carrying their backpacks.

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Sigiriya Rock

It is located in the country’s Central Province, in the Matale District, close to the town of Dambulla.

You can take a trip to Dambulla, a well-liked tourist attraction noted for its cave temple complex, to get to Sigiriya. Sigiriya is roughly 15 kilometers (9 miles) northeast of Dambulla. From a distance, the rock fortification stands out clearly since it rises sharply from the surrounding plains.

Sigiriya is frequently referred to as Sri Lanka’s most well-known vantage point. The Sigiriya, commonly known as Lion Rock, is a scene that can be seen in a lot of pictures of the nation. However, it’s difficult to determine from the images that Sigiriya is also a stronghold. King Kashyapa constructed the stronghold on top of the rock back in 477 BC, with a plateau halfway up the rock’s side serving as a doorway. Oh, and the gateway has a lion’s head on it.

After King Kashyapa passed away, the stronghold was abandoned (presumably, his successor had no use for a huge rock fortress with a lion-shaped entrance), and it was thereafter used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14th century. It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a significant cultural monument in Sri Lankan history.

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Pidurangala Rock

In the Matale District of central Sri Lanka, adjacent to the city of Dambulla, is where you’ll find Pidurangala Rock. Just a few kilometers to the north are the well-known Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Despite being separate formations, Pidurangala Rock and Sigiriya Rock are near to one another.

You can take a trip to Dambulla, a well-liked tourist attraction famed for its ancient cave temple complex, to get to Pidurangala Rock. Pidurangala Rock is only a short drive from Dambulla. Starting at Pidurangala Temple, the hike’s trailhead is clearly marked and simple to find. Pidurangala Rock can be reached through a somewhat difficult climb that includes some steep inclines and rock scrambling.

The Pidurangala Rock, as it is often known, provides you with spectacular panoramic views of the nearby emerald plains scattered with water bodies that reflect the skies. The Sigiriya Rock may be seen in all its glory in this landscape.

Pidurangala, which dates to the fifth century B.C., does not enjoy the same notoriety or stature as the Lion Rock. The fact that Pidurangala is home to the remains of an old Buddhist monastery built by King Kashyapa, who resided atop Sigiriya, does not imply that it is unimportant. The Pidurangala Rock thus has significance for both archaeology and religion.

Pidurangala is a better choice than Sigiriya if you want to see the sunrise. This is because the two locations have distinct opening hours; at Pidurangala, tickets can be purchased earlier in the day.

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Bambarakanda Fall

Bambarakele Falls is another name for Bambarakanda Falls. The waterfall is 263 meters (863 feet) tall, making it the tallest in Sri Lanka. The Bambarakanda waterfall is located in the Kalupahana area of the Badulla district of Sri Lanka’s Uva province.

There is a trail at Bambarakanda that interested hikers can use to ascend to the top of the falls. A sizable lake that feeds the main falls is located on the crest, along with a lovely tiny waterfall. The unobstructed views of the eastern plains offer great photo opportunity as well. The greatest time to visit Bambarakanda Ella is from March to May because this is when the water flows the best during that time. The falls receive far less water during the dry season, which typically lasts from June to September. It can be challenging to get close enough to view during the rainy months of November to February.