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Conquer Sri Lanka’s Mountains By Yourself!

Mountain climbing isn’t a particularly popular sport in Sri Lanka, but the central hills of the island provide a welcoming setting for avid mountaineers. Not only are these hills famous for their historical tie-ins, but their peaks provide a view of the country so breath-taking that they’ve been written into stories from foreign explorers of the past.

Sri Lanka has mountains that are perfectly safe and easy for novices to scale, as well as ones that stand at stupendous heights, reserved solely for those well-versed in the activity.

The following are five such mountains that are worth a visit, whether you’re a newbie or an expert.

1. Ella Rock, Ella

Ella Rock is famously convoluted, given its 16 different routes through which you could access the summit. It’s easy to get lost if you’re not careful. On average, the hike up could take about 1-2 hours, depending on the route you’ve chosen. The summit is over a 1000m off the ground, and the location is easily accessed via a three-wheeler. It usually draws quite a crowd, so it’s better to start early in the morning. The climb is certainly one of the most scenic ones in Sri Lanka, offering you a stunning view of the Ella Gap on your way up.

2. Pettigala, Balangoda

Balangoda town is an archeological gold mine as it is, which is why a trip to Pettigala is warranted. There’s a lot to see in the hill country, but conquering this underexposed mountain is a challenge anyone could and should take on. At 1,500m, Pettigala is a moderately tall mountain. The woods that densely coat the tops and sides of the mountain range give you shady, interesting routes to follow. The mountain range can be accessed by bus, the first of which leaves around 6 a.m. from Balangoda.

3. Bathalegala (Bible Rock), Aranayake adjacent

Bathalegala is called ‘Bible Rock’ for a reason—the peculiar flat-topped rock resembles a book. It’s often confused with the Sigiriya Rock Fortress. Standing at nearly 800m tall, it’s not a very difficult climb. The trail that’s been laid out is quite easy, and is about 400m long. Towards the end of the trail, there’s a further elevation of about 150m, so it takes about half an hour to reach the summit.

4. Kirigalpotta, Horton Plains

Kirigalpotta is the second tallest mountain in Sri Lanka. Standing at an astounding 2,388 m, it rises above the neighbouring plains in near-mockery. The climb is a bit arduous, and could take up to 5 hours, depending on each climber’s experience with mountaineering. Scaling will be required at certain points, so it’s not recommended for beginners. Kirigalpotta can be accessed through Ohiya.

5. Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak)

Ideal for climbers looking for a bit of solitude while being surrounded by religious devotees, the climb up Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, is a pilgrimage for many Buddhists in Sri Lanka. At 2,243m, it’s one of the island’s highest peaks. Avoid Sri Pada in December and during Vesak as those are the seasons during which Buddhists undertake the pilgrimage and it gets quite crowded as thousands of devout followers make their way to the summit. The near-rickety 5-6,000 steps leading to the summit make for quite a challenge, but it’s a rather straightforward climb. Sri Pada is located 40km northeast of the city of Ratnapura.