Best Sri Lanka Hikes: For Any Type of Traveler
June 25, 2020
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Sri Lanka is a country with so much to offer, bustling cities, delicious cuisine, great surfing, and some of the best hikes in the world. During my three weeks in Sri Lanka, we went on six different hikes across the country. No matter where in the world I am, I love finding the best hikes that the country has to offer. I think my love for hRead on to find out about the best Sri Lanka hikes for any fitness level.
The Best Sri Lanka Hikes
Adam’s Peak was by far the most difficult hike that we completed in Sri Lanka, but also my favorite of the Sri Lanka hikes. The Adam’s Peak hike is a greuling one, including a 6,000-step climb that most hikers aim to complete before the sun rises. It typically takes between four to five hours to reach the summit, which means you will need to start your hike around 2am.
Where to Stay for the Adam’s Peak hike
The easiest way to access the trail to the Adam’s Peak hike is through a town called Dalhousie (Nallathannyia). While there is not much to see in this area, Dalhousie provides an excellent starting point for the hike. You can reach the hike trailhead within 10 minutes on foot from most of the hotels in the town. It is important, however, that you do not book a hotel in Hatton. While many of the hotels in Hatton advertise Adam’s Peak excursions, the town is actually an hour and a half from the trailhead. You do not want to drive over an hour for a hike that starts at 2am!
I recommend booking a night at Grand Adam’s Peak.
Best Time to do the Adam’s Peak Hike
The peak season for Adam’s Peak is from December to May. This peak hiking season exists because the rest of the year can be quite rainy, so you are risking bad weather. However, I hiked during late October and had absolutely perfect weather conditions and far fewer hikers on the trail.
What to Expect on the Adam’s Peak Hike
The average climb to the Adam’s Peak summit takes approximately 3 hours, with faster hikers reaching it in only two hours, and those going at a slower pace requiring closer to four hours.
When you first reach the trailhead, the trail is relatively flat for the first 45 minutes or so. However, after this there are quite a few steps that you will need to climb in order to make it to the summit. Great ready to get a good booty workout!
Peak Height: 2,243 meters
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult
Duration: ~ 5 hours
Little Adam’s Peak
Although not quite as impressive as it’s older brother, Adam’s Peak, Little Adam’s Peak should definitely be added to your list of the best Sri Lanka hikes. The mountain gets its name due to it’s similar shape, although much smaller. This is a quick, easy hike that still offers spectacular mountain views.
Where to Stay for the Little Adam’s Peak hike
The Little Adam’s Peak hike is located walking distance from Ella town, a small town in the Badulla District of Uva Province. Ella is located in the hill country, sitting at approximately 1,041 meters. This makes it is a great place to explore surrounding mountains, since you’re already at a relatively high elevation. There are tons of great places to stay in Ella, but here are a few of my favorites for every budget:
Luxury: EKHO Ella
Mid-Range: Blooming Rose
Budget: Guest Inn Avendra
Best Time for the Little Adam’s Peak Hike
This hike is accessible all year round, but as with any of the hikes in Sri Lanka, you risk running into some bad weather if you hike during the rainy season. If you are hiking during the off-season, then you’re best bet is to hike early in the morning for the sunrise. I recommend giving yourself about an hour to hike up to the summit. During the off-season, or rainy season, the rain typically starts around midday.
What to Expect on the Little Adam’s Peak Hike
This hike is well-marked, and super easy, so there is no need for a guide. You’ll find the trailhead on the path by 98 Acres Resort & Spa. It is also super popular, so I recommend hiking for sunrise to avoid some of the crowds. There is no place to purchase food or drink along the way, so make sure to pack your own.
Peak Height: 1,141 meters
Difficulty Level: Easy
Duration: ~ 1-2 hours
If you’re visiting Ella, the hike to Ella Rock should not be missed! If you weren’t planning on visiting Ella, add it to the itinerary! A hike up to Ella Rock is one of the best Sri Lanka hikes. The view from the top is seriously breathtaking, and well worth any sweating and hard work to reach the peak. There was a moment at the peak where the clouds started rolling in, and the view was somehow even cooler because of it.
Ella Rock is located approximately 5km from the center of town, but depending on your accommodation, you may start closer to the trailhead. The trail starts along the railroad tracks, which despite “No Entry” signs, are perfectly fine to walk down. Even hiking with a guide, you will follow this same route. But please, be aware of your surrounding and check for oncoming trains. Once you leave the train tracks, there will be a good amount of uphill climb to reach the peak.
Where to Stay for the Ella Rock hike
Since this hike is located in Ella, same as the Little Adam’s Peak hike, you can refer to my section on recommendations on where to stay for the Little Adam’s Peak hike.
Best Time for the Ella Rock Sri Lanka Hike
Like most of the Sri Lanka hikes, it’s always better to hike early! During the rainy seasons this will help you to avoid the poor weather, and during the rest of the year you can avoid the scorching midday heat.
What to Expect on the Ella Rock Hike
Unfortunately the trail to Ella Rock is not well marked, making it extremely tricky to find your way at times. While it is definitely possible to hike to Ella Rock without a guide, especially if you are hiking midday, we decided to hire a guide. When we started out on the trail around 6:30 AM, we only passed one other couple ascending. Without a guide it would have been difficult to follow the correct path. On our way down, however, we saw tons of tourists making there way up on their own.
A guide for approximately 5 hours cost us 2,500 Rs, or approximately $13.50 USD.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Duration: ~ 4 hours
The view from Lipton Seat is often described as one of the most beautiful views in Sri Lanka, especially if you visit at sunrise. You’ll know you’ve reached the top when you come across the statue of the famous Sir Thomas Lipton.
The highlight of this hike, in my opinion, is walking back down to the town once the sun has risen. As we made our way back down from Lipton’s Seat, a winding 7 kilometers, we saw the hills to life. There were young children making their way to school, through rows of tea fields nonetheless. There were brightly clad women beginning a long day of daily tea plucking, carrying large bags of tea leaves on their backs. At the bottom of the hill you will come across a tea factory that offers tours. Not only was this the largest tea factory that I visited with in Sri Lanka, but it definitely felt the most authentic and operational.
Tea factory tour = 250 Rs/person (~$1.50 USD)
There is a 100 Rs/person ($0.50 USD) fee for entering the park area. This is typically paid when you arrive, however it is sometimes collected when you leave the park, if the ticket collection booth was closed on arrival.
Where to Stay for the Lipton’s Seat Hike
If you are planning to hike to Lipton’s Seat, I recommend spending at least one night in Haputale. It takes approximately one hour to drive from Haputale to the trailhead of Lipton’s Seat, so you can expect to leave your hotel quite early. We arrived a transfer with a tuk-tuk driver that we met in the town the day before, a very common practice while traveling in this part of the world. A one-way transfer cost us 800 Rs ($4.50 USD), and took just under an hour. We arrived at the Lipton’s Seat trailhead by 5:30 AM to start our climb.
We opted to book only a one-way transfer, since there is a direct bus that takes you back to Haputale from the tea factory. The bus was cheap, and incredibly easy to navigate. This simply wasn’t an option, however, when departing our hotel in the early hours of the morning.
There a handful of accommodation options in Haputale, but I would recommend booking a night at “Muthu View” Resort. The location is perfect, the food is delicious, and it is reasonably priced.
What to Expect on the Lipton’s Seat Hike
Due to the location of Lipton’s Seat, the views tend to cloud over by around 10 AM. For this reason, this is another one of the Sri Lanka hikes that you should attempt at sunrise. I’m definitely an early riser when I travel, if you haven’t caught on by now.Often times the gate is closed this early in the morning, which means that you need to walk the final kilometer to the trailhead.
Pidurangala is a hike that overlooks the Lion Rock in Sigiriya. While Lion’s Head is the more famous hike in the area, f the entrance ticket to Lion’s Rock is too expensive for budget, consider hiking up Pidurangala Rock instead! Pidurangala offers an amazing view of Lion’s Rock, with far less tourists and for a fraction of the price! A single ticket into the Pidurangala Rock complex costs only 450 Rs ($3USD).
Where to Stay for Pidurangala Rock Hike
It is also possible to spend the evening in either Sigiriya or Dambulla which would allow you to experience sunrise from the hike, which is undoubtedly an incredible moment. However, we decided to stay in Kandy, and take the bus from Kandy to Sigiriya, so that we wouldn’t have to switch hotels quite as frequently. Getting from Kandy to Sigiriya by bus is extremely easy, and definitely a doable day trip. If you’re staying in Kandy, be sure to check out the Theva Residency hotel.
What to Expect for Pidurangala Rock Hike
The climb to Pidurangala Rock takes 45 minutes to one hour, depending on your fitness levels. You should allot 2-3 hours for the hike, which gives you time to relax at the peak, spending some time to admire the views.
You will not find any spots to buy food or water along the way, so be sure to pack some!
What to Pack for Sri Lanka Hikes
It is important that you are well prepared for any of these hikes, given that you will be hiking in a foreign country.
Packing List for Sri Lanka hikes:
– Proper walking shoes – Hiking boots are not necessary, but definitely recommended if you have them. I hiked in my Nike running shoes for all of these hikes, and had no issues.
– Waterproof clothing – If you’re attempting any of the Sri Lanka hikes during the rainy season, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re well equipped with waterproof gear. This includes a rain jacket, waterproof hiking pants, and a waterproof bag to keep your valuables safe. If there is no rain in the forecast, I love to hike in leggings.
– Warm jacket – Although the weather in Sri Lanka is warm year-round, it can be quite cold at the peaks of some of these Sri Lanka hikes.
– Snacks and Water – Most of the hikes will have an option to purchase a snack or water along the way, but it is always best to be prepared. I always travel with my reusable Vapur bottle and a few of my favorite Bob’s bars.
– Small change – This is important for donations and/or tea or coffee along the way.
– Flashlight for any of the sunrise hikes
– Camera – The Sony A6000 is an affordable, lightweight travel camera.
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