Sri Lanka is mostly famous for its beaches and watersports, but not many people visit the mountains which are in the middle of the island. Our first trip to Sri Lanka was exactly that, the usual beach vacation in the South of the island. It was beautiful and we enjoyed it very much, but for our second visit, we chose to see a different side. Our steps were directed to the beautiful mountains and jungle of Knuckles Mountain Range at the center of the island. The elevation is nearly 2,000 m and there are many hikes you can choose from. It all depends on the difficulty level and on how much time you have.
From Colombo to Kandy
The best way to travel through Sri Lanka is definitely a train. The trains are epic. You can travel through the whole island by train and see so much during the ride. Just breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the view into Sri Lankan’s greenery. You’ll see a lot of banana trees, palms and some animals along the train tracks.
We boarded our train in Gampaha (Uber from the airport to Gampaha Railway was 1500lkr) in the direction of Kandy. We got to choose 1st, 2nd or 3rd class, where 1st is the most “luxurious” one (you have your own seat and more space), 2nd class is a middle class (your own seat) and 3rd class (first come first serve, no space guaranteed). It took us approximately 2 hours to get to Kandy. And the ride was great. Even though it was morning, the train was almost empty. Although the trains coming in the other direction were completely full and people were standing almost outside of the train just holding onto a door handle.
Our hotel, Kandy City Stay, was just hundreds of meters away from the train station. Definitely a walkable distance. It was a small hotel with a couple of rooms, but an amazing outdoor rooftop restaurant, which gave us a hint of how amazing the mountains were going to be the next days during our hikes. After freshening up we wanted to explore the city. Kandy is a tiny city, you can walk through it on foot or take a tuk-tuk which is waiting on every corner. Apart from a nice lake and small temples, there is not much to see or do. I wouldn’t spend more time here than necessary based on your travel itinerary.
Cafe Koi is a nice café in the middle of Kandy worth visiting when you are there. Apart from this cafe, there were not many places open to have decent food and tasty coffee. The guys working in Cafe Koi were amazing and despite the fact that the electricity was switched off for a while when we arrived, we were offered a special menu and surprised with a very nice taste of 3 layers of iced Nescafe. The coffee was delightful and their cakes were just magical. During our coffee time the electricity went on and we could also try their local espresso from the coffee machine. Yey!!
1st Day Hike – Knuckles Nature Trail
At most of the places, you’ll need a local guide as you won’t be allowed entry to some of the parks without one. We arranged a full 3-day itinerary with Ceyllon Valley Tours and despite small hiccups can definitely recommend them!
They arranged a pick up at 6.30 AM at our hotel in Kandy and a car took us to meet our guide for the next 3 days. We met in a small village Bambarella which is in the middle of tea plantages and just in front of the Dawatagala – Knuckles Nature Trail. We hiked up the 2nd knuckles. It was a nice and easy hike even though it was quite steep, especially near the top. The views were well worth it.
Be careful, there are many leeches waiting for your blood. Dress and Spray yourself appropriately.
After the hike, we traveled by tuk-tuk to our camp. The ride was quite long and was not very comfortable in a tuk-tuk. Our tent was situated next to a river in a valley with beautiful mountains surrounding us. It was already a night when we arrived so we enjoyed a nice evening with campfire and BBQ.
2nd day – Pitawala Pathana & mountain above our 1st-night tent
We started with Pitawala Pathana, which means a “flat field”. There’s a rocky layer under the soil so trees don’t grow high. This was a short walk through the park until we reached the “Mini worlds end” with a breathtaking view of the jungle below. There were elephants, leopards, and buffalo (or at least it was advertised this, could not see any during the day).
Our second hike for the day was the mountain we slept in front of the day before. It was great to walk all the way up and see our camping spot from above. This hike was a bit more difficult than the previous ones because we carried all our things in our backpacks and it was quite steep. Luckily most of the hike was through the jungle (monkeys included) so we avoided the sun.
- 2.4km incline from 700 m to 1,200 m lunch at a plateau at 1,053 m
And we slept in the smallest village in Sri Lanka, which consists only of 2 buildings traditionally build from stones, mud, and wood. We set up our tent in ex-rice fields with huge cows all around. The second night was not that romantic due to ants under our tent, dogs jumping on our tent, cows running around our tent, and a group of people having a party next to our tent. Due to all this hassle, we did not catch the epic sunrise but at least we enjoyed the sunset evening before.
3rd day – Hiking back and Waterfall
This was our last day in Sri Lanka as we got a flight to catch in the evening. Therefore we hiked down to a village with a waterfall, where we had a break to wash and chill before our driver came to pick us up and took us to the airport.
We were really surprised by the organization of the hikes. It was just two of us hiking but it felt half of the village was involved in organizing our trip. We had packed lunches from one woman in a village, We had our chef doing BBQ the first night in the camp. There was one more person taking care of our tent. One person was driving us by tuk-tuk. A friend of our guide cooked us a second dinner and brought us fruits from his garden…. So many people made sure we enjoyed every second. We appreciate how local the experience was.
Hope you enjoyed it and it helps you plan your own trip.