Hiking Trails for the Ultimate Mountaineer
“Just a little further,” you think to yourself as you make your way up the final few feet before you summit… At this point, you’re drenched in sweat, your whole body aches and you’re dragging your legs trying to persevere through the exhaustion and thirst, until finally, you make it to the top. The air is cool, crisp and clear, suddenly your tiredness just melts away and you are left with a feeling of total contentment.
Any avid hiker knows that blissful feeling of accomplishment after a long and arduous climb, the moment when you know all your hard work has paid off and you can finally reap the rewards of your labour and appreciate the stunning view from the top of a mountain. With endless green vistas and surrounding peaks which kiss the clouds, it is truly magical. If you are a hiking aficionado and you are planning a holiday to the paradise island of Sri Lanka, here are three hiking trails that will make you fall in love with the country but keep in mind that these are not for the faint-hearted and not suitable for kids.
Looming over Great Western train station and tea estate is Great Western Mountain, a massive 2,216 m tall peak that is shrouded by cloud forests and thick plumes of mist. Great Western is Sri Lanka’s seventh-highest mountain and even though the hike is quite pleasant, it is quite steep so it requires strength and experience. The trail begins along the train tracks which then leads to a small Hindu Kovil (temple) whose colourful walls stand out against the greenery. Next to the Kovil, there is a series of steps which lead up to the forest and the proper hiking trail. From then on you will be trekking through dense forest– which is when a machete would come in handy.
The whole hike will take about 5 – 6 hours (depending on the number of breaks you take or the pace you hike) and as you make your way up, it becomes steeper which is why you will need a rope.
Yahanagala is one of Sri Lanka’s most fascinating and challenging mountains to climb. Rising from the grassy plains of the Central Province, Yahangala is believed to be the final resting place of the demon king Ravana from the Hindu epic Ramayana, although some ardent Ravana devotees believe he lies here sleeping before he reawakens. The rock is also believed to be protected by a local god and it is said that only travellers with good intent can go through which is why most travellers leave an offering at a makeshift shrine.
Yahangala looks unlike any other peak; it has a flat mountaintop- almost as though the tip has been cut off- covered in a layer of greenery, but the sides of it are bare ash-grey rock. The mountain is by no means an easy climb, standing at 1,220m, this is a difficult mountain for even the most experienced hiker. Try and start climbing the mountain as early as possible as this region tends to have thick clouds of mist, and be sure you go with a guide as it is very easy to get lost!
Burrowed deep in the verdant hills of the Nuwara Eliya District, you will find the small village of Mandaram Nuwara, one of the most idyllic and remote villages in Sri Lanka. Often referred to as the ‘Misty City’, Mandaram Nuwara is encircled by large misty mountains. The town is said to have roots which date back to the time of King Ravana, but its most alluring feature is the tall surrounding mountains and the many cascading waterfalls.
Kodiyara Gala is one of the peaks which you can climb here, and enjoy beautiful green vistas of the other surrounding peaks, including Pidurutalagala which is the country’s tallest mountain. The hike is perhaps not as difficult as Yahangala, but it is certainly not for novice hikers as it can be quite strenuous. One popular way to hike the mountain is to camp at a campsite close to the foothills of the mountain and trek through the Kodiyara forest till you finally summit and see one of the most idyllic views on the island.
Best time to visit: January – March
What to take:
- Climbing ropes
- A GPS
- Camping equipment
- Plenty of water and food
- Leech socks and saltwater or lime juice
- Warm clothes as it can be quite cold when you summit
- A raincoat as this area experiences light rainfall throughout the year
- A machete or a knife to cut through the thick vegetation
How to get to the Central Province from Colombo:
The most comfortable way is to travel by car. You can rent a chauffeur-driven car from a number of service providers.
Another option is by bus. Bus routes are widely spread across the country and you can purchase your tickets on the day of travel or the day before.
Travelling by train is a great way to get around the country, but some of these peaks can be quite isolated, so you may need to take a bus or a tuk-tuk from the train station in order to reach the mountain.