Top Walks To Tackle In Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka may not immediately spring to mind as a walking destination, but there are dozens of amazing treks to tackle on the island. From pristine national parks to challenging mountain peaks, there’s something for every kind of hiker here.
The following isn’t an exhaustive list of the walks you can do in Sri Lanka – far from it – but it will give you some idea of the variety this island nation boasts. Companies like Explore Worldwide offer tours in Sri Lanka that will take in one or more of the treks mentioned below.
Climb Sigiriya Rock Fortress
Sigirya is one of Sri Lanka’s eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and it should definitely be on your itinerary whether you enjoy walking or not. Also known as Lion Rock, this enclave was constructed on top of a large rock in the centre of the jungle by King Kassapa I in the 5th century.
The route up isn’t overly strenuous and you should manage it without too much difficulty if you’ve got a moderate level of fitness. There are several steep staircases – particularly towards the top – but the views are more than worth it and there’s plenty to see as you climb, so it’s actually better to take plenty of rest and enjoy the site in its entirety.
Another highlight of this walk is the chance to see the monkeys that live in and around the fortress.
Hiking in the Knuckles Mountains
In the centre of Sri Lanka is the Knuckles Mountain Range, which boasts deep valleys, plains, rivers and sections of cloud forest. There are several national parks and protected reserves in Sri Lanka, three of which are also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the Central Highlands area).
There are many opportunities for walking in this region, including the trail that leads you along the boundary between the east and west of the island. To the west is the Matale Valley, while to the south-east lies the Mahaveli Valley. The scenery here is breathtaking and many endemic and endangered plants and animals are found in this area.
Another place you can go for a trek is in the Horton Plains National Park, which is also part of the above-mentioned UNESCO site. The circular route past World’s End – a sheer cliff where thick mist swirls in the afternoons – and Baker’s Falls is excellent. You walk through cloud forest and across grassland, and have the chance to see various animals, including the elusive bear monkey.
Climb Adam’s Peak
For a real challenge, follow the pilgrimage route to the top of Adam’s Peak. This mountain is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians. This is because there is an impression in the rock at the summit that is believed to be the footprint of Lord Shiva (Hindu), Buddha (Buddhist) and Adam (Islam and Christianity).
You don’t need to climb the mountain for religious reasons, though, as the trek is spectacular no matter what your beliefs. There are over 5,200 steps to the top, some of which are very steep, so be prepared for an arduous ascent.
Most travellers opt to begin their trek at around 02:00 local time so as to arrive at the summit in time for sunrise. This is a magical experience as the stunning landscape surrounding the peak is gradually revealed as the sun comes up. A particularly memorable sight is that of the shadow of Adam’s Peak – which looks like a perfect pyramid – over the forest below.