Sri Lanka’s hill country: Horton Plains!

Horton Plains National Park is one of the BEST places to visit in Sri Lanka. Amazing views, gorgeous environment, clean air and water…Natural beauty at its best!

horton-plains-2 horton-plains-3

I last visited Horton Plains in March 2010. This is a super place to see “Sambur” deer (early morning or late evening) and if you are lucky, the laziest and best fed Leopards. It is a 10km walk to Worlds End and back. It can get chilly and wet, so go well prepared. Take some water or warm beverage as there are no shops once you are in the park. Wear warm clothes (a hoodie, hat, umbrella or even a rain coat). Carry as little as possible. Wear sensible footwear (walking boots or sports shoes are the best). If you walk leisurely, admiring the beauty and giving yourself little breaks, it will be much easier on your legs the next day! There’s amenities along the way but bring your own toilet paper.

directions-of-the-nature-trail-2 map-of-the-nature-trail

There are 2 paths to take to visit the 3 main attractions: Mini worlds end, Worlds end and Bakers falls. The route to the right where you can visit the bakers falls first, is the most scenic route and the easiest. I think it’s wise to use that route, so you visit bakers falls, worlds end and mini worlds end last. The walk ways can be a bit muddy. There are a couple of walkways (one near the 2km post, where you can walk down to the lake and have a dip. The water is icy cold but so pure and clean and the view is amazing down there.

sambur-deer-1 sambur-deer-2 srlkjg-1382

Remember not to take any disposable plastic or foil bags, covers. You can bring water bottles but the outer covers must be removed. Even biscuits or snacks must be put into paper bags which are provided at the entrance. It’s a bit annoying, but once you are inside the park, it’s clear how important it is to keep the environment safe.

We stayed in Nuwara Eliya and hired a car and driver who picked us up at 5am. It took about an hour to get there and the sunrise was spectacular. Also, make sure you make an early start- aim to get to the start of the walk by 7-7:30am, this should get you to Worlds End by about 8:30-9am. Any later and the clouds might start to roll in!

 

 

 

 

 

worlds-end-2

The car cost us 5,000 rupees and the ticket prices were a bit steep by Sri Lankan standards (3,000 rupees per person).

The only challenging bit was the short climb down to the waterfall but well worth it.

Sri Lankan Highlands – Famous for Ceylon Tea!

Tea plantation4 Tea plantation 2with rom

Sri Lanka’s highland tea plantations range over 2000 square kilometres of rolling green hills, now annually produce over 300 million kilograms of the famous Ceylon Tea.

Drive into the highlands from Kandy and discover Sri Lanka at its most dramatic: a land of stunning waterfalls, gurgling mountain streams and steep hillsides cloaked in luminous green tea, sweet-scented Cyprus and Eucalyptus trees.

Kandy Train Tea picker1

Dickoya, Bandarawela, Haputale and Ella are all quaint hill country towns and villages. The uphill journey by train is one of the most enchanting train journeys in the world. I would recommend to take the first class observation carriage in the train from Peradeniya (near Kandy) to Badulla. The FIRST CLASS observation car  costs LKR 1500 (under £9:00), you can buy your advance tickets on-line at www.exporail.lk . The travel time is 7.5 hours.

Tea factory2 Tea factory

There are many plantations open to visitors for tours and tea tasting. On an organised tour, you can visit a plantation, its picking areas and tea factory. Some of the world’s finest tea is grown and processed in Sri Lanka – known around the world as Ceylon tea.

Tea plantation2 Tea plantation1

My recommendations during your visit to the tea plantations of Sri Lanka are:

  • Take drive along winding misty mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls
  • Walk through lush green tea plantations, mountainous landscapes and rural villages
  • Stay in a tea planter’s bungalow surrounded by tea plantations
  • Take a train journey to the southern highlands and enjoy the stunning landscapes
  • Take a jeep ride to Horton Plains national park and hike to world’s end
  • Go on a gruelling night-time climb up the sacred Adam’s Peak and watch the sunrise
  • Play a round of golf at the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club

Yala – Sri Lanka’s most visited National Park

Yala spotted deer Yala Bufffalo

This is my favourite wild life park in Sri Lanka. I have visited the park over 10 times. Whenever, my friends visit Sri Lanka and I recommend them to visit this beautiful park situated in the South East cost of the island.

Yala wild boar Yala croc

Yala National Park is the most visited national park in Sri Lanka. It consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public. The park covers 979 square kilometres and is located about 300 kilometres from Colombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu it was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals.

Yala Peacock Yala1

The western part of Yala (block one) is named as the area with the highest leopard concentration in the world. With only 35 leopards in the entire park the chances of actually seeing a single leopard are still relatively slim.

Yala4  Yala2

Yala National Park is one of the best places for sightings of wild Elephants. The park is home to many animals including Buffaloes, Leopards, Monkeys, Circles, Crocodiles, Wild boars and Bears. Feb-Jun/Jul is the optimum time to visit when water tables are low. Leopard, elephant and many smaller animals are competing for the same drinking source. You are likely also to see sloth bears, deer, wild boar, buffaloes, crocodiles and monkeys. Birds are abundant – up to 130 species.

To get to the National Park you can take a tour and most of them leave around 5:00 am or 14:30 pm, but it depends on if you are going for half/full day or overnight. The entrance to the park is 3,700 rupees. The tours should cost about 4,000 to 6,000 on top of the admission ticket.

Cycling in the beautiful tablelands of Bali

 

Cyclists

We were picked up from our hotel in a mini-van by our guide, Made, and taken north, to the beautiful (and surprisingly cool) tablelands of Bali.

It was about an hour and a half drive and Made used the time to talk about Balinese traditions, like the naming system and the cast system.

Coffee_beans1CoffeesPurple_Flowers Butterfly_Flower

We were first taken to a local tea/coffee plantation and shop to taste a variety of coffees and teas. The stop at the plantation was interesting and we had a lot of fun tasting all the drinks and learning about plants which some of us had never seen before.

We had a breakfast of banana pancakes and coffee (included in price) at a restaurant in the Kintamani area overlooking the stunning Mt Batur before being driven to our bikes.

Rice_fields3 PineappleCyclists2

What followed next was a two-hour mostly downhill run, winding through back lanes, tiny villages and rice fields.

We stopped whenever someone in our party wanted to – which was often- as we chatted with school children, toddlers, rice farmers, even a family making bricks from hand on the side of the road.

We also walked through a rice paddy field and got to sift some rice. Finally, we were brought into the home of Yoga, the owner of Halo Bike Tours.

We’d never been inside a Balinese family compound before and Yoga showed us around their home where we saw the family temple.

Yoga’s wife prepared a six-course buffet – real, home-made Balinese food, not restaurant food….and it was divine.

You don’t need to be fit for the tour as it’s 90 per cent downhill and we breezed through the day. Definitely worth the 400,000 IDR per adult each.

Kandy – Hill Capital and the home of the Temple of the Tooth

SRLKJG-912 SRLKJG-991

Kandy is the hill capital of Sri Lanka and the island’s second largest city. Kandy is 465 meters above sea level, Kandy is located 129 Km North-East of Colombo. Nestling midst low hills, and looped by the Mahaweli river; Kandy is the country’s religious and cultural centre and a World Heritage City.

SRLKJG-984 SRLKJG-963

SRLKJG-961 SRLKJG-926

For Buddhists, Kandy is the sacred city. The focal point is the Dalada Maligawa also known as the temple of the tooth, where the Sacred Tooth Relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined.

Dalada Maligawa is one of the most blessed sites of worship for Buddhists from all over the world. The temple that was built during the 16th century is the abode for the Tooth Relic of the Buddha (left canine tooth to be precise). Rituals are enacted daily in the temple to venerate the relic, accompanied by flute playing and drumming. The ‘Dalada Maligawa’ is in the UNESCO list of World Monuments.

SRLKJG-907 Perahara

The highlight of the year is the Kandy Esala Perahera, when a replica of the relic casket is taken in procession accompanied by costumed drummers, dancers and about 80 – 100 caparisoned elephants during ten glittering nights in August.

The beautiful city, surrounded by hills and valleys, rivers, lakes and cascading waterfalls, boasts of the Royal Botanical gardens at Peradeniya .

Gardens SRLKJG-827

Kandy is an exciting place for shopping with souvenirs of wood, copper, silver, brass and bronze. Ceramics, lacquer work, handlooms, batiks, jewellery, rush and reed-ware too could be purchased.

SRLKJG-795 Kandy Train

There are thee options to travel to Kandy – Bus, Train or car!

Bus: From Colombo public buses start from the CBT or private ones from the bus terminal opposite the CBT (3 h, about LKR130). From Negombo bus terminal by direct public buses over CBT for LKR153 (November 2014).

Train: (from Colombo or Badula) – Intercity express train are hassle free and scenic. Reservation are needed for these trains, it can be done just before the departure depending on the period but is best done in advance especially if you are traveling on a weekend or holiday. There is a decent observation saloon (1st class) in this particular train. Normal trains are slower and 3rd/2nd class unreserved tends to be crowded. The trip from Colombo to Kandy costs LKR220 in second class, reservation however will set you back another LKR600, but apparently the first class is just LKR750 wherever you get off (Kandy, Badula, Ella, etc.).