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Mountain Climbing in Sri Lanka

Towering hundreds of feet above the low-lying plains, the mountain slopes immerse in a world of wonder. From nature trails backed by stunning landscapes to rocky viewing spots, from summits that serve up the full glory of Sri Lanka’s beauty to hidden waterfalls that ripple down hundreds of feet, the mountains are everything an avid climber will love.

Witness it yourself. Here are our top 8 picks for mountain climbing.

Let the adventure begin.

1. Adam’s Peak - 2,243 Metres

If there was ever a legendary climb to be named, this would be it. Take on Sri Lanka’s most sacred and breathtaking mountain, Adam’s Peak, famed for what’s rumoured to be Lord Buddha’s footprint etched into its ground. An iconic ascent embarked on by hundreds of hiking veterans and enthuses every year, is yet to lose its monumental magnificence afforded more and more, the higher you climb and the closer you are to the penultimate summit. 5,500 steps from the base to the summit have been counted in total. It should be noted that there are several trails through which its summit can be reached, each varying in level of difficulty and scenic offerings.

2. Knuckles Mountain Range - 900 Metres to 1,900 Metres

The holy grail of mountainous ridges. The Knuckles Mountain Range is renowned for many things, one of which is its distinctive feature of laying out several peaks in the shape of a clenched fist. Each peak varies in height, breaking through your climbing boundaries. Opt for a trail of your choosing, in favourable topographic conditions and take to its slopes for an immersive walkthrough of the isle’s finest. Pass tea plantations, low forests, open hill areas and cascading waterfalls on your hunt for the evasive summit. The best is yet to come.

3. Little Adam’s Peak - 1, 143 Metres

If you’ve been to the slopes of the giant Adam’s Peak, then this ridge is certainly not to be missed. Marked as its sister, Little Adam’s Peak affords sweeping views of the verdant countryside and mist-sheathed mountains that tower far across. The climb to the peak is surprisingly not that hard. Expect a fairly easy trek, with guiding signs marking every step of the way. Rolling plains, blankets of tea plantations and lush greenery… all this and more scrawl through its natural landscapes to make your climb to the top just that much better.

4. Hanthana Mountain Range - 3,800 Feet

A 7-peak ridge with a world of nature’s best to be discovered? The Hanthana Mountain Range lays out an easy climb to its many peaks, passing lush green tea plantations, miles of grassland and through canopied forests. A bit over a day is needed to explore all 7 peaks in one go therefore plan your climb carefully to experience the best of the iconic mountain range. Immerse in the panorama offered from every which way, be it the overhead views of the Kandy city, the renowned Knuckles Mountain Range or the hills of the Sabaragamuwa region.

5. Namunukula Mountain Range - 2,035 Metres

Conquer the slopes of the 12th highest mountain in Sri Lanka. Expanding its mountainous region further than that of Hanthana, the Namunukula Mountain Range towers across 9 scenic peaks. The climb begins from the gardens of tea estates leading to the peak’s low-lying forest areas. The slopes are no stranger to hundreds of trekkers and strewn along spontaneous regions of the range may be a concrete marker or two as guiding signs of sorts. Delightfully raw, preserved in its most primal, natural state in the wilderness, the plains within the slopes are peppered with enthralling features, including a well and a shrine for Lord Buddha. Immerse in its glory… due to its expansive mountainous ground, just when you think you’ve seen it all, you may stumble on something more.

6. Alagalla Mountain - 1,100 Metres

A lesser known yet uncompromisingly majestic peak to set your sights on is the Alagalla Mountain. The trail starts off easy enough at first, passing through tropical tea estates, forest patches and windy grasslands and finally winds through to the real deal. A series of towering and smaller rocks call to be climbed over. Note that this part of the trail is precariously risky and a single slip is detrimental. Bird’s eye views of the forests and natural landmass for miles greet as you emerge from the rocky gateway, with the mountain’s signature sheen of mist so thick that it obscures beyond the pale.

7. Kirigalpoththa - 2,388 Metres

Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Central Highlands is the 2nd highest mountain in Sri Lanka, the glorious Kirigalpoththa. Apart from its repute of being the highest mountain whose peak is open to the general public, Kirigalpoththa nurtures a world of hidden beauty. Take in the rich vibrance of the Belihuloya flowers that peek amidst the greens and the Nelu trees in full bloom with their hues of rosy wonder. Through daunting terrain and spontaneous rocks, climb on to the famed summit, partly blanketed by thick mist. Vistas from the drop are a highlight in itself. Bask in the sheer panorama of rolling countryside plains and the wilderness patches here and beyond.

8. Lakegala Mountain - 1,310 Metres

Perhaps your most arduous mountainous encounter yet. The Lakegala Mountain has earned itself a reputation as one of Sri Lanka’s most challenging climbs - a repute that it stays true to by way of its spontaneous natural hurdles. Trek on through forest, rocky surfaces, thorny bushes and past rippling streams. Pure, hard rock climbing is your next grueling task to the top. Having climbed across rock surfaces of around 700 to 800 metres in height, bask in the rewarding views afforded at its elusive summit; from sweeping far-off mountains to mist-sheathed plains.

Interesting Facts

  • Most of the mountains listed in our top picks are located within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Central Highlands.
  • Many and not just one trail may lead to the summit of a mountain. Although these trails have been tirelessly explored and recorded by climbers throughout the ages, there is still a great possibility of the mountain harbouring hidden trails yet to be discovered. Certain trails which existed previously may now be obscured by nature and new, off-the-beaten pathways may have opened up.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • Should you be venturing into guided mountain climbing, make sure to take two guides along instead of one. Should a member of your group be too exhausted to carry on, one of the guides would have to take the member back to camp or to a safe space while the other guide leads the way through to the summit.
  • Carry along the essentials for rejuvenation, including plenty of water and sunscreen.
  • A first-aid kid is a must as if not, you may be looking at hours of hiking back to civilization to get medical treatment for emergencies.
  • Make sure that nothing but steady, hard-wire equipment is used to haul yourself over steep ridges and rocky areas.
  • Thorough research and prior mapping of the mountain trails before you set foot on its slopes is advised for a hassle-free, climbing experience.
  • The mountains are such that despite one being a professional mountain climber or trekker, it’s best that you don’t stray away from your immediate group. Should you find yourself in a particularly difficult part of the mountain when darkness falls, it may be quite difficult to find your way back to the group.

Glorious ridges dissected by rippling streams, hidden and open nature trails snaking through varied aspects of the countryside, sweeping 360-degree views of low-lying plains and the cool, crisp, tropical breeze rushing past… the summits more than live up to their name of ‘heaven on earth’. If experiencing the raw, surreal beauty of Sri Lanka is what you’re after, the mountains are not to be missed.

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Nature and Outdoors

Sports and Recreation

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