The central highlands of Sri Lanka are spellbinding. Swathed by tea plantations, the verdant hills rise above the mist. Its pristine mountain terrain is one of the finest in South East Asia. The rich ecology offers a gamut of spectacles. Condé Nast has named Central Sri Lanka one of the 24 Best Places to Go in 2024 thanks to Pekoe Trail.
Pekoe Trail is a multi-day, long-distance walking trail, encompassing the elements that define this magical place – varying terrains, culture, food, history, legend and local communities. The trail takes you through hill towns, tea plantations, remote villages, sanctuaries, viewpoints, forests and religious sites. It’s sustainable travel with a holistic approach. Blue Lanka Tours now offers the Pekoe Trail experience as part of trails and hikes that showcase the Island’s best-kept secrets.
The 22 stages of the Pekoe Trail
Each stage offers a wealth of experiences curated for varying interests. These are only a few places you will encounter along the way. Between trekking, you will ride the famous scenic rail across the highlands, stay at serene retreats and learn the secrets of island cuisine.
The panoramic Hanthana mountain range in Kandy frequently gets overshadowed by the mighty Knuckles. However, the Pekoe Trail begins here, where its seven peaks offer entrancing vistas. Did you know that the grounds of the Hanthana Tea Estate were where they used to construct Mayapore village from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?
While in the UNESCO city of Kandy, you can visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic, one of Sri Lanka’s most significant sacred sites revered by Buddhists.
Its craggy twists and turns have earned its terrifying moniker. Starting at Ohiya and ending at Kalupahana, this 14km trail has a steep ascent. Its zigzag turns are worth every bit of huff and puff. There’s much to discover on the trail, from pine forests to hidden shrines. However, none is more arresting and majestic than the Bambarakanda Falls, the highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. The Devil’s Staircase runs across the tributary of Walawe River, forming the 863ft waterfall.
James Taylor’s Seat
The Scottish tea planter James Taylor introduced tea to Sri Lanka. With Scottish merchant Thomas Lipton, he developed the tea industry in British Ceylon. On the edge of the Loolkandura tea plantation, a stone seat marks the spot James Taylor used to survey his plantation. It offers stunning views of the Knuckles Mountain range. Loolkandura is Sri Lanka’s first commercial tea estate. You can also visit his cottage on the estate built in 1865.
The duo had their own vantage points in the mountains. Lipton’s Seat is one of the most impressive viewpoints in the Central Hills. Situated an hour’s drive from Haputale town, on the Dambatenne tea estate, this was Lipton’s favourite lookout. He would proudly survey his estate with a cup of tea in hand, sitting here. There’s a life-sized statue of Lipton seated on a bench.
It’s well worth a hike! At 1200m above sea level is the Ambalammana Peak, affording sweeping views of Galaha valley, Adam’s Peak and the Pidurutalagala Mountain.
Horton Plains National Park
This montane grassland and cloud forest situated at the eastern end of the highlands is an extraordinary landscape that rises to 2,500 metres above sea level. A super biodiversity hotspot, the area is home to diverse flora and fauna, mostly endemic. While creatures like leopards are elusive, Sambar deer, loris, macaques and more than 80 bird species are frequently sighted. The Horton Plains are captivating themselves, yet it is the World’s End, a sheer drop of 4,000 feet (1,200m), which is the main attraction.
Little Adam’s peak
It is a fairly easy hike, considering the journey to the top of the real Adam’s Peak. However, the reward is still very big. At 1141m, you get a 360-degree view overlooking the Ella gap, all the way to the shimmering tanks of Udawalawe National Park on the plains below.
Nil Diya Pokuna
In Ella, venture underground, deep within a cave tunnel complex, to see a freshwater pond that shimmers in blue when lit up by light.
When in Tea Country
Sample some of the best high-grown tea in the word right where they process it. Places to visit include Hanthana Tea Estate, Gordon’s Estate, Loolkandura Estate, Orange Field, Holyrood Tea Estate, Norwood Tea Estate, Bogawana Tea Factory, Ohiya Tea Factory, Udaweriya Tea Factory, Demodara Tea Estate, Rosette Estate, and more.
It is the land of waterfalls. Be awe-struck at every turn and corner on the trail with powdery mists and gallons of water cascading elegantly, gently and, at times, ferociously. You will find these on the trail, among others.
Gerandi Ella – in Kalugala, you find a cluster of waterfalls cascading over a rocky outcrop. The top of the falls serves exquisite views of the Knuckles and Piduruthalagala ranges.
Ramboda Falls – formed by the tributary of Kotmale Oya, the waterfall consists of three streams flowing down a steep and tiered rock face. Tropical forests and tea plantations surround it. Both the base and top of the falls are accessible.
St. Clair’s Falls – meet the ‘Little Niagara of Sri Lanka’, an arresting sight on the St. Clair’s tea estate. It comprises two falls – a larger and a smaller.
Devon Falls – lovingly called ‘vale of the valley’, Devon is another scenic cascade in the area. It is possible to spot both St. Clair’s and Devon Falls together from certain vantage points.
Ravana Falls – spilling down in 3-tiers, the Falls form rock pools along the way. It is one of the widest waterfalls in the country. Linked to the Ramayana legend, the cascade resembles an Areca flower with withering petals during the local wet season.
Baker’s Falls – this iconic waterfall in the Horton Planes National Park is one of the most beautiful.
Dunhinda Falls – famous for its smokey jet of water, it falls like a bridal veil, earning its nickname.
Gartmore Falls – one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, Gartmore Falls has two formations. The lower fall gushes down a rocky escarpment dramatically into the Maskeliya Reservoir, while the upper falls is a natural infinity pool that you can bathe in, overlooking the reservoir.
The colourful Hindu temples
The Central Hills have numerous Hindu Temples dedicated to various Gods, reflecting the faith of the Tamil people who live and work in the area. It also has a strong connection to the legend of Ramayana. Each temple has its own story steeped in legend, myth and mystery.
Sri Bhakta Hanuman Temple
Born from the legend of Ramayana, Sri Bhakta Hanuman Temple is the most notable Hanuman temple in Sri Lanka. Perched on a quaint hilltop in Ramboda, it has the tallest Hanuman statue (18ft) on the island.
Seetha Amman Kovil
Legend has it that this temple site is where the Raksha King Ravana of Lanka held Seetha captive and where she prayed daily for her rescue by Rama. The stream beside it is said to have supernaturally formed for her to bathe in. The circular depressions on the rock face across the stream are said to be that of Hanuman, who accompanied Ram in battle to save her. Devotees consider the black on the grounds of the temple to be the result of Hanuman setting fire to the area.
Follow the trail with us!
Follow the 200 miles of highland magic unravelling itself with the Pekoe Trail. Blue Lanka Tours provides superior comforts of hospitality and travel throughout. Our nature trail tours bring meaningful insights, deeper connections and holistic experiences. We unequivocally support sustainable travel and all efforts that showcase the real, raw and hidden beauty of Sri Lanka. Take the small step of Booking your Pekoe Trail holiday to find fantasy come to life.
Does the Ceylon tea country beckon to your wanderlust?