07 Remarkable Trekking Trails in Sri Lanka

After months and months of being stuck at home as a result of the pandemic, are you craving an adventurous trekking vacation? The diverse hills combined with forest patches and pleasant climates make Sri Lanka one of the best destinations for hiking and trekking.

While Sri Lanka has been known for its gorgeous beaches, exciting train journeys, scenic hill country, and well-preserved ancient ruins, most travelers don’t notice what an ideal destination it is for beginners and advanced trekkers. Nestled within its central highlands, there is an abundance of jungle waiting to be discovered, while the lowlands are lined up with abruptly rising rocks, some of which were fortresses of ancient Sri Lanka.

So what are the best trekking trails in Sri Lanka? Let’s discuss below:

1. Ella

Ella Rock:

Duration: 4 hours – both ways
Level: Intermediate
When to visit: January to June

Experience hiking on a rocky 4 hour trail, wandering through charming countryside views and tea plantations. Walk along the rail tracks beginning from Bandarawela, and continue through scenic views of forests, mountains, and the Little Adam’s Peak. The ascent to the peak of Ella Rock is through a graceful rubber tree forest, and the views at the top are to die for!

Devil’s Staircase:

Duration: 7 hours
Level: Challenging
When to visit: January to June

This gorgeous trekking trail in Sri Lanka gives you immense peace as you enjoy spectacular views of green mountains and lush waterfalls. The Devil’s Staircase is a 13km hike beginning from Bambarakanda Ella Falls and takes you over several ancient tea estate roads, ending in Ohiya, which is also known as the road to Horton Plains National Park. This hike is best completed with the help of a local guide as it entails a long and complicated route.

Little Adam’s Peak

Duration: 1.5-2 hours
Level: Easy
When to visit: January to June

Known as the ‘little brother’ of the sacred Adam’s Peak, Little Adam’s Peak is a not so vigorous day hike and has a clear path marked with sign boards throughout the trail. From the town of Ella, it takes 45 minutes to walk to the base of the mountain, or you could just hire a tuk tuk instead, during which you can explore local villages and enjoy tea plantation views. The climb to the peak is about 30-45 minutes, and the panoramic views of the surroundings and the Ella Rock are indeed breathtaking.

2. Knuckles Mountain range

Knuckles Mountain Range in Sri Lanka

Duration: 2 days
Level: Challenging
When to visit: March to September

Resembling a clenched fist, the Knuckles Mountain Ranges are one of the best trekking trails in Sri Lanka. Taking you deep into the rainforest, picture yourself surrounded by majestic mountains reaching up to 2000m in height, and a landscape of cascading waterfalls. This trail is best done overnight with a camping experience in real wilderness. You will pass through tiny villages and encounter with buffalos, spot boars, purple-face monkeys and toque macaque monkeys. If luck is in your favor, you’ll probably spot elephants and leopards too!

3. Horton Plains – Nuwara Eliya

Duration: 3 hours
Level: Easy
When to visit: January to June

Declared as a World Heritage site in 2010, the Horton Plains are a nature reserve home to a wide range of flora and fauna. A 4km trek will take you through open plateaus and views of waterfalls, leading to the ‘World’s End”, which is the main tourist attraction here. For the best views of lowlands floating below from the cliff drop view at World’s End, begin your hike at the crack of dawn, to get there by sunrise. You could also choose to hike to Baker’s Falls, which is a diversion from the main trail towards a strenuous downhill, but is rewarded with an up-close encounter of a stunning waterfall. The entire trail, with the Baker’s Fall diversion is 9.5kms and will take you about 3 hours to complete the round trip.

4. Sinharaja Forest

Sinharaja Rain Forest Day Trek

Duration: 2-3 hours
Level: Easy to Challenging
When to visit: January to March, August to September

Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the largest lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka. Rich in biodiversity, the trail through Sinharaja is framed by rivers, buzzing with forest wildlife and includes sightings of rare mammal and bird species. Arrive at Deniyaya or Kudawa and be ready to enter the park early in the morning, when the 147 bird species are most active. In addition to 33 endemic bird species (included in the 147), visitors may have sightings of the red-faced Malkoha, purple-faced langur monkey, green pit viper, and many more wildlife varieties.

A mandatory guide will accompany you through the trail to keep you safe from dense and damp undergrowth. Because this rainforest is tightly packed, spotting the wildlife could be trickier than in an open rainforest, but your guide will help you with the sightings. For the more challenging hikers, you could go on towards the Mulawella Peak of the Sinhagala Peak, which will give you the experience of proper rainforest hiking in Sri Lanka.

5. Adam’s Peak

Adams Peak

Duration: 7 hours
Level: Intermediate
When to visit: December to May

Located in Nallathanniya, a wet green zone in Sri Lanka’s highlands, Adam’s Peak, also known as Sri Pada is a sacred place for most religious groups living in Sri Lanka. For most hikers, 2 a.m. is a good time to begin the hike, to reach the top in time to see the sun rising above the skies. Just after sunrise, the views from the top of the mountain are simply jaw-dropping, including a shadow of the mountain itself!

This 6000-step climb is a challenge to those who are not physically fit. Reaching the summit takes about 4-5 hours, while the descent can be done within an hour. Directions are easy and visitors can go unaccompanied by a guide. It is advisable to avoid the Adam’s Peak hike on Poya days, weekends and other public holidays if you want to stay away from Sri Lankans and foreign crowd.

6. Meemure

Meemure in Sri Lanka

Duration: 7-8 hours
Level: Challenging
When to visit: May to September

Meemure is a remote village with no cellular coverage, located within the Knuckles Mountain Range, has no access to public transport, and has recently been discovered by discerned travelers! Home to just about 400 people, this village comprises experiences of paddy terraces, natural bathing pools and stunning mountains. Lakegala is the popular mountain for advanced hikers seeking an adrenaline rush, and is best completed with a group, under the guidance of an expert hiker in the area.

7. Pidurangala

Pidurangala Rock in Sri Lanka

Duration: 2 hours
Level: Easy
When to visit: December to April

Overlooking the Lion’s Rock in Sigiriya, Pidurangala is a picturesque climb at either sunrise or sunset. While most of us are aware about the rock fortress in Sigiriya, and the paintings and ruins that the Lion’s Rock climb entails, if you want to avoid the crowds at this popular attraction and just want to see it from afar, climb the Pidurangala rock instead! The ascent is about 45 minutes to one hour, and offers views of a carpet of forest, with the huge Sigiriya rock rising like a throne amidst the greenery.

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Dinesh N Perera
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