You can never go wrong exploring a foreign land on foot, especially when you are surrounded by amazingly scenic nature. Hiking tops the list of my must-dos in Sri Lanka because the breathtaking beauty of the great outdoors never fails to overwhelm me.
Little Adam’s Peak
I wanted to do the pilgrimage climb to Adam’s Peak but unfortunately the season was not right so we settled for Little Adam’s Peak. It was a misty and gloomy afternoon but we were lucky enough to catch glimpses of the famed Ella Gap before it started pouring.
If it were not at the friendly insistence of these two locals, we would never have dared to venture down the steep slopes to this dangerous looking spot at the top. It was so surreal chatting to new found acquaintances in the dreamy mountain mist with the world at our feet.
Horton Plains National Park
A unique high altitude plateau with stunning desolate landscapes. We took about 4 hours to complete the main circular trail, and the entire time I felt like I was in another world. The trek was relatively easy but the sun was harsh and unforgiving. We were defenseless traversing the vast open grasslands with no shelter. However, its sheer magical beauty was well worth the while.
This was one of the most challenging but fulfilling climbs. We started off early morning with a pleasant walk on the train tracks that led out from the village of Ella. The terrain quickly grew steeper and more uneven. Though the entire route was not marked out, we successfully navigated our way to the top with a combination of some online research, advice from the local villagers and a logical sense of direction.
The peaks of the surrounding mountains were shrouded in dense morning mist and I had a vague feeling I was somewhere above the clouds.
The Ohiya train station is a tiny deserted stop in the middle of nowhere. When we got off, we learned from a local lady that our guesthouse was a mere 15 minute walk away and so we began our trek unknowingly on one of the most isolated forested roads we ever encountered. After about 40 minutes of exhausting uphill trudging and unfounded worrying about getting lost, the forests shrank away to reveal sweeping views of the Lower Bray tea estate and surrounding mountain ranges of Horton Plains.
The dense cloud forest was such a spectacular sight that I momentarily forgot about my aching shoulders and weary feet.
Finally, we spotted our guesthouse nestled among the mountains. It is definitely one of the most isolated places I have stayed in so far. What an adventure just to get there!
The best part of staying in the mountains is that the trek begins the moment you step out of the front door. We spent a few hours wandering around the surrounding rugged terrain with Brownie, a guide dog from the guesthouse who cleverly led us to the top and back down safely.
With the exception of a small village nearby, there was no one else around. It literally felt as though the mountains belonged to us.
Single Tree Hill
A trip to Sri Lanka will not be complete without visiting its famous Hill Country. We started our scenic train journey at Kandy and got off at Nuwara Eliya, a charming city nestled in the mountains with a strong English influence. There wasn’t much to see at the top as it was shrouded in really thick mist, but the views on the way up were superb.
Random tea plantations
From the main town of Nuwara Eliya, we took a leisurely hike up to the Pedro Tea Estate, winding through the local sights and sounds. The plan was to join a factory tour but it so happened that the factory was closed on the day we chose to visit, hence we ended up rambling about the plantation on our own. Afterwards, the staff were kind enough to offer us hot tea on their lovely verandah overlooking the estate. Perfect for the chilly weather!
The southern beaches
There is no actual hiking here but exploring the beaches was really enjoyable. They were not crowded and the waters were crystal clear. Apparently there are many fantastic dive sites around the island, all teeming with marine life!
I guess that will have to wait for the next time…