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Why visit Sri Lanka? There are far too many reasons to count. From tropical weather and beautiful beaches to diverse wildlife and incredible cuisine – it’s easy to see why Sri Lanka is on many people’s ‘must-visit’ list.
But Sri Lanka is also one of the best places in the world for hiking. There’s a wide choice of hikes for all abilities, with each trail boasting breathtaking scenery.
Let’s take a look at the top hiking trails in Sri Lanka, plus some handy tips if you’re visiting the country for the first time.
First up – get yourself a Wise debit MasterCard and you can spend in Sri Lankan rupees (LKR) at the real exchange rate¹. There’s no need to take cash with you, as you can withdraw from ATMs without hidden fees. Plus, you can convert AUD to LKR on the go using the Wise app.
Sri Lanka is a land of incredible variety when it comes to scenery, wildlife and nature. In a relatively small area – navigable by public transport or private tuk-tuk – you can reach trails of all kinds.
Take your pick from easy nature walks, intense treks high above sea level and the chance to discover one of over 400 beautiful waterfalls on your hike.
You can test yourself with a multi-day hike along the Knuckles Mountain Range, to reach Sri Lanka’s most isolated village, Meemure. Alternatively, leave your tent at the hotel and spend a day scrambling up Ella Rock or trekking alongside the railway tracks from Idalgashinna, one of the most beautiful eucalyptus and pine forest walks in the country.
There’s so much to see and do in Sri Lanka, you’ll struggle to fit it all into one trip. Here’s our pick of the best short, single-day and multi-day hikes in Sri Lanka, so you can start planning your itinerary⁴,⁵:
- Ella Rock
A tough but satisfying hike from the highlands town and backpacker hotspot of Ella, offering panoramic views of Ella Gap from the top. Start early for this day -long hike and take a guide as getting lost is common on Ella Rock.
- Little Adam’s Peak
Another hike from Ella, this is an easier hike than Ella Rock but the views are just as good. Head off in the morning for views of tea plantations and rolling hills, although this may be obscured by mist.
- Idalgashinna - Ohiya Railway Hike
A straightforward, scenic hike alongside the railway between Idalgashinna and Ohiya stations, travelling through tunnels, pine forests and a cool, refreshing climate.
- Diyaluma Falls
Make your way to the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, where you’ll pass through wild lemongrass fields during the two-hour trek.
- Expedition to Meemure, across the Knuckles Range
If you like a challenge, tackle this multi-day hike. It’ll take you three days to travel across the Knuckles Mountain Range to Meemure, where you can go onto the Diya Karalla waterfall. It’s a challenging and ambitious trek, where you’ll experience many changes in climate along the way.
- Nine Arches Bridge
Another railway walk, this trail takes less than two hours to reach the famous Nine Arches Bridge. On arrival, take a seat at a local café and wait for a train to rumble out of the tunnel.
- Horton Plains
This is one of the best Sri Lanka hiking trails for nature lovers. Around 2,000 meters above sea level, Horton Plains National Park is bursting with waterfalls, forests, grasslands and of course, wildlife.
For 360-degree views of the Sigiriya valley and the Sigiriya Fortress, climb the large rock known as Pidurangala. Head up at dawn in time for a breakfast picnic as you watch the sunrise.
As Sri Lanka is so popular with hikers, there’s a wide choice of companies offering guided hiking tours. These are a good option for inexperienced or cautious hikers, especially on hikes such as Ella Rock where it’s easy to get lost on its network of 16+ trails. Guided hikes can also provide invaluable information about the local scenery, wildlife and more.
Guided hiking tours in central Sri Lanka tend to be reasonably affordable. For example, prices start at around $63-$118² a person for half and one day tours in locations such as Ella Rock, Horton Plains and Little Adams Peak. For multi-day hikes in Sri Lanka, you can expect to pay upwards of $235², depending on the tour operator³.
Many guided hikes are available to book in advance, which is handy as you can check out reviews and itinerary details before travel.
Many of Sri Lanka’s most popular hikes involve high altitudes, which means often dramatic changes in climate. It’s important to be prepared for all weathers and pack extra layers. Some of these hikes can be seriously strenuous, so should only be attempted by experienced and/or physically fit hikers.
Some walks in Sri Lanka are best tackled with the help of a guide. It’s easy to get lost when you’re unfamiliar with the terrain, which can turn a pleasant hike into a catastrophe. Do your research before setting off, and take local advice. If in doubt, join a tour group or hire a guide. After all, it’s better to overestimate your abilities than end up in trouble on the trail.
Always pack extra food and water just in case your trek takes longer than you planned.
You’ll also need to plan your travel in advance. There aren’t many (if any) popular trails for hiking near Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka where many visitors first arrive in the country. You’ll need to hire a car, or use local trains or buses, to reach central Sri Lanka and the highlands for some of the best hiking routes.
Sri Lanka is an incredible place for hiking. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a nature lover or a serious hiking enthusiast – or both! Nearly every trail promises memorable sights, beautiful scenery and panoramic views. Get ready for a special and very magical experience.
All sources accurate as of 05-March 2020.
This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.
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