An Insider's Guide to Exploring Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands

An Insider's Guide to Exploring Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands
September 2020

Though small in size, the tropical island of Sri Lanka packs a punch with World Heritage sites, gorgeous hill stations, and golden beaches as far as the eye can see.

The breathtaking landscapes are a real drawcard to this dreamy destination. A journey exploring from the top of holy mountain peaks to the enthralling National Parks is one unforgettable way to take in the striking geographic diversity the island offers. If you’re planning an island escape to immerse yourself in some of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty, the unmissable region of the Central Highlands should be at the top of your adventure itinerary. Home to the island’s highest peaks it is a photographer’s paradise, a biodiversity hotspot 2,500 metres above sea level.

Gain some inspiration for your own Central Highlands adventure from insights shared by A&K Sri Lanka’s local experts.

Adventure to the holy site of Adam's Peak

Adam's Peak, locally known as Sri Pada, is one the holiest peaks on the island. Hundreds of devotees visit annually, embarking on a pilgrimage to the top. Sri Pada, meaning the ‘sacred footprint’, is significant to many different faiths including Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. For Buddhists, it is said to be an imprint left by the Buddha himself.

Rising to 2,243 metres, the exhilarating hike up over 5000 steps will reward you with panoramic views of the landscapes below. A UNESCO-listed nature site, it is regarded as one of the best places in Sri Lanka to capture the perfect sunrise. During the pilgrimage season (December to May) the path is illuminated, offering a ribbon of light visible from afar like a trail of stars leading to the heavens.

Discover the iconic Tea Country

Tea was introduced to the island back in 19th Century, the immense tea estates covering the misty mountains in rolling emerald blankets of tea leaves. You can immerse yourself in every step of the delicate tea process from picking ‘two leaves and a bud’ to savouring the calming brew in a cup. Wander the expansive estates, try your hand at picking some tea, and take a tour of a working tea factory with guidance from some of A&K’s passionate local experts. For a truly all-encompassing experience, consider a stay at one of the luxuriously converted estate bungalows on offer, or settle in at a boutique hotel.

Go chasing breathtaking waterfalls

For those in search of yet more breathtaking natural wonders, Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands boasts many picturesque waterfalls, perfect for waterfall hopping expeditions. The Baker's Falls is one such beauty, named after Sir Samuel Baker and hidden inside the Horton Plains National Park. Small in size but big on natural beauty, in April and May red Rhododendrons bloom around the falls creating a gorgeous haven.

With a plethora of scenic waterfalls for you to explore, map out your perfect day of expeditions, with Dunhinda Falls, Diyaluma Waterfall, St.Clair’s Waterfall, Laxapana Falls, Devon Falls and Ravana Ella Waterfall just a few of the natural wonders cascading down the Central Highlands.

Revel in the rolling landscapes on scenic train rides

For a truly local experience take a train ride through the Central Highlands, lauded as among the most scenic sections of railway across this captivating island. One of the most iconic train journeys in the world, the track ascends from sea level to the highest point (over 1800 metres) at the Pattipola Railway Station. This is not about getting to your destination speedily, it is not about rushing to the end of the line, this is all about the journey. Drink in the beauty of Sri Lanka and its ever-changing landscapes, from fields, narrow passages, mountains and valleys, tea plantations, forests, and waterfalls. The magnificent railway bridges and tunnels are remarkable feats of engineering from a bygone era.

Embark on Sri Lankan photo-safari in Horton Plains National Park

A UNESCO listed nature reserve, Horton Plains is the only national park in the Central Highlands, drawing in travelers with its otherworldly cloud forests and mountain savannahs. A must visit for wildlife lovers, the plains protect the sources of important rivers and host many species of plants, endemic birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and butterflies. Often shrouded in mist, ground frost and low-lying cloud, keep your eyes peeled (and camera at the ready) for encounters with an impressive array of birdlife, sambar deer and even purple-faced leaf monkeys.

Keen hikers can trek to ‘World’s End’, a stunning escarpment that drops suddenly away at the edge of Horton Plains Plateau, offering ethereal views and making you feel as though you truly have, made it to the end of the world.

Starting to dream of a Sri Lanka highland escape? Reach out to our Journey Designers or contact your travel agent to learn more and start planning.