Sri Lanka, a picturesque tiny island in the Indian Ocean, is a land rich with natural treasures. Thus, let us shed some light on Sri Lanka, a country known well around the world. According to local and foreign wildlife experts, Sri Lanka is one of the best places outside of Africa for big-game safaris. Besides, this lovely island has a wealth of natural resources, including charming waterfalls, moonstone mines, beaches, historical wonders, whale watching spots, wildlife, gem and jewellery, and so much more. Out of all, Sri Lanka is also a popular hiking and camping destination.
To be specific, Sri Lanka offers wonderful hiking and camping opportunities, in and around rainforests, jungles, tea estates, beaches to riversides with the best level of comfort. In fact, it is truly a thrilling, stunning, relaxing, and once-in-a-lifetime experience to camp or hike on this splendid island. Thus, we thought of sharing its delight with you. So, here we begin the amazing exploration of the beauty of nature, while hiking and camping!
Hiking in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka offers wonderful opportunities for long, strenuous walks through the woods, generally on trails or footpaths. Thus, it is no wonder that many choose this island for walking for leisure, amidst the scenic landscapes and the greenery of the surroundings. In addition, another commonly known kind of hike is a religious pilgrimage. It has been going around for a long time, which includes walking a long distance for a spiritual reason connected with a particular religious faith.
Finest Hiking and Trekking Trails in Sri Lanka
There are trails for all levels of fitness, from simple strolls to strenuous hikes in Sri Lanka. Moreover, Sri Lanka contains over 400 waterfalls, and several hikes include a visit to at least one of them. These waterfalls allow hikers and trekkers to cool off while on the trail. Besides, below is a list of Sri Lanka’s finest hiking and trekking trails.
- Adam’s Peak
- Knuckles Mountain Range
- Horton Plains
- Little Adam’s Peak
- Ella Rock
Planning to witness the delight of a wonderful hike in Sri Lanka? If so, you will certainly need more information. Take it easy, because we have lined up everything that you need to know with regard. Just have a look at the below sections!
1. Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak is a highly popular 8-9 kilometer out-and-back trail in Maskeliya in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. In addition, it provides wildlife viewing, which is rare. Climbing up Adam’s Peak for sunrise is the most common activity. But, people climb up and down, day and night at all hours. Since the months of November to May are notoriously rainy and difficult to climb, it is best to visit Adam’s Peak at a later time of the year. The trail is best from January to May and mainly used for hiking and nature trips.
Besides, the hike to Adam’s Peak involves a pilgrimage rather than a stroll. The four sects in Sri Lanka have their own explanations for climbing the 5200 steps to a height of over 2000 meters.
Is Hiking in Adam’s Peak Worth it?
Of course, yes! Adam’s Peak is an enjoyable hike with spectacular scenery. Moreover, Adam’s Peak is a sacred mountain in the middle of Sri Lanka. All religions seem to come together on this mountain. Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha took his first step here, while Christians and Muslims believe that this is where Adam took his first step on earth. However, Hindus believe that Lord Shiva took his first step on earth through this peak. Owing to all these reasons, Adam’s Peak can also be known as a spot that reveals the harmonious entanglement of all cultures in Sri Lanka. Thus, after all, efforts to reach this holy spot with a picturesque scenic beauty is undoubtedly worth the hike.
2. The Knuckles Mountain Range
The Knuckles Mountain Range, named after its strange resemblance to human knuckles, is located in the Central Highlands that lies between Kandy and Matale. Furthermore, it is a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site, that houses an extensive range of wildlife species. Besides, the Knuckles Mountain Range is one of the country’s most challenging hiking trails. However, it’s best tackled by those with considerable hiking experience. Surely, approval to the hikers to access the protected reserve is under the condition of taking a professional guide along with them. That is clearly due to the vastness of the region and the risk of being lost.
What are the Hiking Routes to the Knuckles Mountain Range?
Undeniably, Knuckles Range provides a number of hiking routes for all types of hikers. One choice is to go on a day hike to one of the lowest peaks, have lunch at the summit, and then return down on a different path. Another choice is to go on a three-day, two-night trip to Meemure. Aside from the typical routes, travel guides can also lead one on some other adventures. Hikers can expect to encounter all forms of habitats, including drastic changes in weather and temperature, in the Knuckles Range, which is one of its unique features.
3. Horton Plains
Situated 2000 meters above sea level in the Sri Lankan Highlands, is the world-famed Horton Plains National Park. The place is rich in a lush plateau with dense forests, shady grasslands, misty lakes, and beautiful waterfalls. Hikers on Horton Plains have a variety of choices, ranging from short one-hour trails to longer ones that cover the entire plateau. Furthermore, World’s Edge, with a steep 800-meter drop overlooking the countryside, is on one of Horton Plains’ astounding edges. On a clear day, the ocean can be visible to hikers. The walk is 4 kilometers long, but the trail bounces back to Baker’s fall, which is 2 kilometers, before returning to the entrance, which is another 3.5km. The 9.5 kilometers hike takes three hours.
Often hikers witness a blurred view from World’s End due to the mist unless hikers arrive early. Similarly, the wet season, which runs from April to September also happens to interrupt the view. After nine in the morning, hikers can only expect to see a spinning white curtain view from the world’s end. The best time to arrive at Horton Plains is early in the morning, around 6 to 10, before the clouds show up.
What is the significance of Horton Plains?
The Horton Plains, along with its surroundings, trees, and the neighbouring peak wilderness make up Sri Lanka’s most significant catchment area for nearly all major rivers. The plains are also notable for their scenic beauty and ecological value. Clearly, they host the majority of the country’s wet and montane zones’ ecosystems and native plants and animals. Also, montane evergreen forests, grasslands, marshy lands, and aquatic habitats are among the ecosystems found there.
4. Little Adam’s Peak
Adam’s Peak, near Nuwara Eliya in the central province of Sri Lanka, is another hike in the mountain town of Ella. It is 2243 meters high, far more exhausting, and a tough climb. 1141 meters high, Little Adam’s Peak is relatively straightforward to ascend, with a good route. Moreover, the hike is around two to three hours long. The route begins by passing through lush green tea plantations populated by tea-picking women. While one can start at a high elevation, the hike will only take a few hundred meters up to 1141 meters above sea level.
What is the Best Time to Hike Little Adam’s Peak?
Early morning is the perfect time to hike Little Adam’s Peak. The hike is very clear the whole way to the first set of viewpoints, with well-kept paths and stairs. Once one reaches the top of Little Adam’s Peak, numerous platforms, cliffs, and viewpoints ideal for pictures, are clearly visible. However, the more one continues along the hill, the better the view he gets. It is better to start the hike while it is dark, as when one reaches the summit, one can witness the spectacular Little Adam’s Peak sunrise.
5. Ella Rock
Ella Rock is a day hike in the highlands, about 1000 meters above sea level, from Ella city. The place offers a panoramic view, particularly in the early mornings and late evenings, with mist and clouds surrounding the city. Furthermore, hiking up and down takes around 4 hours with diversity on the way to the top there. However, the place is ideal for trekkers. As one begins the ascent, one will witness a waterfall, a rubber tree forest, and tea plantations. Besides, many admire Ella due to its echo-liveliness and peaceful countryside environment.
Where is Ella Rock?
Situated in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka, Ella is a lovely town, at an elevation of 1,041 meters or 3,415 feet. It is an excellent starting point for exploring the surrounding hills and taking in the stunning views of the Badulla green valleys. The weather is typically hot, with mild humidity levels, sunny mornings, and frequent afternoon rain showers.
Camping in Sri Lanka
Camping in Sri Lanka, is simply a broad aspect that encompasses a variety of activities and approaches to outdoor lodging. However, Sri Lanka offers wonderful opportunities for spending the night in a wonderful shelter, away from home. In fact, most people consider camping in Sri Lanka as an investment rather than a pointless exercise. That is simply because camping in Sri Lanka is one of the best ways to spend time outside, soaking up the natural beauty in awe. Typically, it is common that not only tourists, but also Sri Lankans flee from urban areas to spend time outdoors in more natural settings in search of pleasurable activities.
Why is Camping Important?
Camping can be different from day trips, picnics, and other related short-term leisure events. It is more an outdoor event, which involves spending the night outside. In the early twentieth century, camping as a leisure activity became common among the upper crust. It gained prominence among other socioeconomic groups over time. National and state parks, wilderness areas, and commercial campgrounds are all popular destinations for modern campers. Certainly, camping is an integral aspect of many youth organizations around the world, including scouting, which uses camping to teach self-reliance as well as teamwork.
Finest Camping Destinations in Sri Lanka
The delight of camping in Sri Lanka is simply assured owing to the enchanting natural marvels Sri Lanka holds. In fact, camping in Sri Lanka involves admiring the island’s natural beauty, while making the dark blue skies shelter the campers. However, now it is high time to get to know a bit about a few of the best camping sites in Sri Lanka. The below list will surely help you with it.
- Knuckles Mountain Range
- Wilpattu National Park
- Gal Oya National Park
- Yala National Park
- Kitulgala Forest Reserve
- Veddha Village Camping
- Udawalawe National Park
- Ella Camping
Let us go through some of the best camping destinations in Sri Lanka.
1. The Knuckles Mountain Range
As mentioned earlier, the peak resembles the knuckles of a hand from a few vantage points, resulting in the place of this particular name. However, camping in the Knuckles Mountain Range seems to be a little different from camping in the coastal National Parks. Hiking along a beautiful mountain range is diverse from wildlife spotting in this region. Moreover, the climate and ecology of the region are very diverse, ranging from lowland valleys to highland rainforests. Further, Knuckles Forest Reserve has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009.
How to get to the Knuckles Mountain Range?
The Knuckles Mountain Range, also identified as the Dumbara Mountain Range, is off the coast of Kandy, in Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands. The Mahaweli river basin lies to the south and east of the mountain range, while the Matale plains lie to the west. Matale is the most prominent entrance to the reserve. From this point on, there is no public transportation into Knuckles. Moreover, the other entry, which is closer to Kandy, is via Hunnasgiriya. Many buses travel to Hunnasgiriya, but private transportation is necessary after that.
2. Wilpattu National Park
Wilpattu National Park is on the island’s west coast, near the city of Anuradhapura. The best way to experience the site is during a jeep safari. Recommended time to visit Wilpattu is between May and early September when the severe drought attracts wildlife to the open area surroundings. Indeed, the Sri Lankan sloth bear and the spotted deer are two of the most well-known species found in Wilpattu National Park. Leopards are the star attraction in all Sri Lankan National Parks, and there are plenty of them in Wilpattu. Leopard Hikes and Wilpattu Safari Camps provide overnight camping in this park.
What is the Special Feature of Wilpattu National Park?
Certainly, the presence of “Villus” which is known as a natural lake, sand-rimmed water basins, or depressions that fill with rainwater, is a unique feature of this park. Wilpattu boasts about a hundred lakes and tanks spread out around the park. The most significant fact is that Wilpattu National Park is considered the oldest as well as the largest national park in Sri Lanka. In addition, many unusual animals call this park their home, including the Sri Lankan leopard, elephant, and sloth bear, which are the most special out of them all. The park has wonderful camping spaces, managed by several groups that are entirely responsible for their clients’ comfort while preserving the spirit of living in the wild.
What are the Camping Sites of Wilpattu?
Big Game Camp is a camp near a locals’ farming and vegetation area, where elephants are frequently visible. There are fully furnished tent quarters, a BBQ meal, a bonfire, and free breakfast at the campsite. Safaris can be booked separately or as a part of an all-inclusive package. The all-inclusive kit includes all three meals, tea, coffee, and beer, as well as snacks. They deliver a half-day safari that includes all entry and permit fees, a jeep, a picnic basket, and chilled drinks to ensure that the client has the best safari experience possible. The location where the tents are set up is calm and relaxed. The price of this camp ranges from SLR 6000 to SLR 8000.
Wilpattu Base Camp is another campsite which is a little out of the way of the wildlife, but with a little extra money, one can go on safari. The place offers a morning safari at 5 a.m. and an evening safari at 4 p.m. with the sighting of animals such as elephants, leopards, and mongoose. Base Camp is also an educational location where one can learn about the forest’s flora and fauna as well as the people living there.
3. Gal Oya National Park
The Gal Oya National Park is located on the island’s eastern coast, right on the top of Yala. Although this park was opened in 1954, it was closed to visitors during the Sri Lankan Civil War. Tourists can now visit Gal Oya, which is reopened to tourists immediately after the battle. The Senanayake Samudraya Lake and all the birds that flock to the island in the center are the biggest draws in Gal Oya. Tourists can go on boat safaris on the lake to see the wildlife. Besides, in Gal Oya, there are different places, which are not typical camping spots. Moreover, Gal Oya Lodge is a cozy lodge in the middle of the wilderness with bungalows for those who love the outdoors but cannot handle camping.
Why Camp in Gal Oya National Park?
Gal Oya National Park invites one to live with swimming elephants and rare leopards, as well as more than 180 other species of mammals and birds, in an evergreen forest and a dusty savannah. The place secludes one in the grasslands, which spans around 25,900 acres. Gal Oya is home to an ancient Veddha clan, in addition to the wildlife. The Veddhas are Sri Lanka’s native people, and they still reside in the Gal Oya National Park’s Nilgala area.
4. Yala National Park
Yala National Park is on the island’s southeast corner. During British rule, the elite used the area as a hunting ground until designated as a national park in 1938.
Enriched Bio-diversity and Camping in Yala
Yala National Park is home to 44 mammal species and over 200 bird species. Leopards, elephants, and spotted deer are visible in this area. Certainly, Yala National Park gets a lot of business due to this reason. Boarded by the Indian Ocean, Yala National Park, in Sri Lanka is home to a diverse range of wildlife and scenic beauty. Its impressive scenery includes freshwater lakes, dense vegetation, and forest. It also supports endemic mammals such as leopards and black bears as well as a diverse range of birds such as paradise flycatchers and Ceylon Shamas. Going to bed with faded sounds of growling animals in the wild and waking up to the tuneful chirping of birds and the shining sun is a surely exciting adventure.
The park separates into five blocks, with campsites scattered about in which park’s Block 1 has the highest leopard density and is the most reliable leopard spotting location. The park management and various companies operate the campsites, which provide a pleasant camping experience with tented camps.
What are the Kinds of Camping in Yala?
Wildlife enthusiasts can spend the night in the animal kingdom thanks to a series of tents. Onsite toilets for campers and barbeques are available for campers. Besides, Yala National Park offers three types of camping. They are as follows.
- Yala Wilderness Safari Camp
- Leopard Trail Camp
- Big Game Camp
The following briefs will further enlighten you about them!
Yala Wilderness Safari Camp
Basically, it is a tented bungalow with a kitchen available at Yala Wilderness Safari Camp, which enables customers to cook their meals. In addition, you can find a balcony and a seating area in some units. Hiking is open to visitors at this property under the guidance of a guide. It costs SLR 1500 per day if booked ahead of time.
Leopard Trail Camp
Located on a 14,000-hectare plot of land near the park’s noiseless entrance, it provides the customers full ownership of the camp and a calm environment. It holds tented rooms with modern luxuries while maintaining a romantic atmosphere. Moreover, the sights and sounds of the wilderness are visible.
Big Game Camp
The Katagamuwa park entrance, on the outskirts of Yala national park, is a 20-minute drive south. Rooms are likely to cost anywhere between SLR 5000 and SLR 40000 per day.
What is the Best Time to Camp in Yala?
Recommended time to visit Yala is during the dry season, from February to June, for the most accurate wildlife sightings. It is easier to spot animals when the water level is low as they come out to the lagoons to drink water. Each year, the park closes during September allowing for management.
5. Kithulgala Forest Reserve
On the Colombo-Avissawella-Hatton route, Kitulgala is 95 kilometers west of Colombo. Situated on the outskirts of Sri Lanka’s wet zone, the forest receives rainfall from two monsoons each year, resulting in a lush landscape and the Kelani River’s large waters. The Kitulgala Forest Reserve is the major center of Sri Lanka’s adventure activities. Canoeing, white-water rafting, trekking, camping, waterfall abseiling, and many other activities are available. Further, this spectacular setting was the background for David Lean’s Oscar-winning film “The Bridge over the River Kwai”, which was released in the 1950s.
Is Camping in the Kithulgala Forest Reserve Pleasing?
Indeed, yes! At the Kitulgala Forest Reserve’s Rainforest Camping, one will awake to the tuneful chirping of birds all around. In fact, camping in the Kitugala forest reserve is an opportunity to allow one to have a mix of adventure and relaxation. In Kithulgala one can explore deep into nature and experience all the adventure sports including Jungle Walks, Stream Jumps, Mountain Biking, and River Trips. Moreover, Kithulgala provides campsites nestled in the jungle, in a beautiful setting. These camps offer the opportunity to discover and appreciate nature at its finest. Besides, Colombo is about two hours and thirty minutes away from the camping base. Between February and April is the best time to sightsee. Close encounter with nature in Kithulgala Reserve is indeed a very pleasing experience.
6. Vaddha Village Camping
Certainly, a trip to Sri Lanka would be incomplete without understanding more about the country’s unique culture and civilization. Besides, the Vaddha village in Mahiyanganaya is an example of a place where residents have their own culture, which is deeply rooted in their ancestors’ practices and customs.
What is the Significance of Vaddha Village?
Camping in this location can be a wonderful experience because it allows you to meet the people of this clan up close and learn more about their way of life and culture. One can also enjoy the tranquil atmosphere, taste their delicious cuisine, and learn more about the area’s past.
7. Udawalawe National Park
With around 600 to 700 elephants, Udawalawe National Park is well-known for its large elephant population. So, catching a glimpse of them won’t be hard. Further, it occupies 31,000 hectares and is home to animals such as Sambar Deer, Common Langurs, Wild Boar, Jackals, Toddy cats, and 183 different bird species.
How to Reach the Udawalawe National Park?
One can either fly from Colombo to Dickwella Airport and take a taxi to the National Park, which is just a one-hour ride away. In addition, you can reach here easily by taking a bus ride from Colombo to Udawalawe, which will take approximately 5 to 6 hours.
What are the Kinds of Camping in Udawalawe?
Udawalawe National Park offers a series of luxurious and peaceful camping along with a picturesque scenic view. Each camping style by different travel guides offers a unique environment of nature and wildlife. A few of them are as follows.
The Hammock Lanka
The Hammock Lanka offers tents with attached bathrooms as well as other facilities such as a barbecue, safari, and food. Udawalawe National Park is 1.5 kilometres away from the campsite. The cost ranges from SLR 11000 to SLR 40000. Hiking to the Ulgala peak is a common activity in this region.
Gaga Bees Udawalawe
Gaga Bees Udawalawe is in the Ratnapura District Region of Udawalawe, which is about 8 kilometres away from Udawalawe National Park. It provides tents with toilets and a grill in the garden where guests can relax and enjoy a cocktail. Distribution of groceries takes place if requested, and it has a small kitchen. Undoubtedly, it offers a great camping experience that is both relaxed and luxurious.
Athgira River Camp
This is one of the most exciting camps in Sri Lanka at Rakwana River’s Edge, where one can see the tranquil waters right from their doorstep. Bird watchers and animal enthusiasts will enjoy the riverside, where animals will surely come to satisfy their thirst. A camp per day costs SLR 11513.84.
8. Ella Camping
Located about 200 kilometers east of Colombo, at an elevation of 1,041 meters high, Ella is a small yet striking town. Additionally, ruled by an Urban Council in the Badulla District of Uva Province, Sri Lanka, the region has a rich bio-diversity, with a wide range of flora and fauna. Ella is popular for its lovely tropical mountain ranges, such as the Ella rock, Little Adam’s Peak, and Ravana caves.
Is Ella Worth Visiting?
Surely, Ella is a must-see destination for tourists visiting Sri Lanka. Indeed, it is set in a picturesque mountain landscape dotted with tea fields. It is a fine stopover for travellers who want to get away from the beach and sun for a few days, or for the ones who are travelling to or from one of Sri Lanka’s safari sites. Hiking and camping enthusiasts flock to the massive and scenic highlands here. The recommended time to experience Ella is between January to March when the climate is the driest. People can easily enjoy hiking along with beautiful surrounding nature with less possibility of rain during this period.
What are the Camping Sites in Ella?
Hotel Ella Glamping is one of the best places that has everything you need inside your cosy little camp. In fact, the Pine trees there give it a real climbing feel, surrounding the site. Moreover, the atmosphere is lovely but uncomplicated, and the tents are comfortable and well equipped. Ella Camping Riverside and Nine Arch Eco are two other well-known camping spots in Ella. Moreover, Ella Jungle Campsite is another great camping site for nature enthusiasts. Demodara Nine Arch Bridge is 4.2 kilometers away, and Ella Spice Garden is 1.9 kilometers away from it. The camping location has a beautiful view of the countryside, and the tents are very cosy.
Moreover, Ella Jungle Edge is yet another camping place and the campground is close to Ella’s major draws, such as Adam’s Peak, Ella rock, Demodara Nine Arch Bridge, and Ella Spice Garden. They provide a complimentary continental breakfast, and the location has a beautiful natural setting.
Guidelines by Authorities for Hiking and Camping in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan authorities provide an atmosphere that welcomes nature enthusiasts because the country considers itself one of the best destinations for outdoor activities. Due to the country’s highly attractive number of hiking and camping sites, Sri Lankan authorities extend people the opportunity to go on hiking and camping while preserving the environment, particularly the national parks. Furthermore, hikers and campers should necessarily stick to the national park’s explicit guidelines, which include not littering on the campsite or anywhere else in the park. Sri Lanka strictly forbids the consumption of alcohol and smoking while hiking and camping. Any damage to the environment is a serious offence that would lead to prosecution with urgency.
Out of all the regulatory requirements, below stated are a few of them.
- Participants should be completely conscious of the rules and regulations concerning hiking and camping.
- These Sites do not encourage any noise levels that could be disturbing the environment.
- Authorities strictly forbid cutting down trees or their branches within the site or in the surroundings of hiking and camping.
- Sites in restricted areas should be located either at the request of the appropriate government authority or with the authority’s prior approval.
- Depending on the location of the site, limited or restricted campfires can be permissible by the relevant authority.
- Building hiking and camping sites in unrestricted areas should be in a way, there can be no negative effects on the physical or socio-cultural climate.
Equipment for Camping and Hiking in Sri Lanka
Normally, a range of factors, including the local environment, determines camping and hiking equipment. Day hikers often carry water, food, a map, first aid, and rainproof gear. Historically, for safety on rocky terrain, hikers use durable hiking boots. This has become less popular in recent decades as some long-distance hikers have switched to trail running shoes. In rocky terrain, boots are still widely used. In addition, campers need tents, cooking equipment, etc. However, if you choose a campsite from a service provider, you have nothing to worry about! Also, you can easily get any of these things from the local market, with the help of your travel guides.
The Bottom Line | Hiking and Camping in Sri Lanka
Hiking and Camping is simply a way of exploring a completely different world. It is the act of relaxing and being a part of a thoroughly natural and wild experience, in search of wild animals at one’s convenience. Moreover, the tented shelter, placed amongst a forest of tall trees, offers privacy and solitude by keeping out the sun’s harsh rays. One can hear the sound of rain spatters, at times of tropical downpours while engaged in hiking and camping. Undoubtedly, the sounds of water gushing in the nearby rivers are calming to one’s ears.
Moreover, moving a little closer to the simplicity of nature while hiking and camping is the best way to avoid the bright city lights and the perplexing noise of things going on in modern cities. Sri Lanka, with its lush greenery and stunning scenery, offers a welcome respite from the pressures of daily life. Indeed, exploring the wild while hiking and camping is a delightful involvement every human should experience. So, why not? Make sure you never miss the opportunities of camping and hiking in Sri Lanka, during your next trip. Happy and Safe Travelling!