A place that is known for its scenic and captivating views of mini lakes and streams everywhere, with birds and butterflies it is a paradise for nature lovers out there.
Horton Plains National Park is located in the central highlands at a height of 2535 m in Ohiya, and is one of the popular tourist destinations in the country, with people from all walks of life visiting the park throughout the whole year. The park is protected and conserved since it is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. Environmentalists and nature lovers regularly visit, especially for research purposes.
The Horton Plains National Park is abundant with biodiversity, and with over 3160 hectares of land space there is still plenty of undiscovered territory, which provides opportunities for research activities and educational purposes, too. There is an extensive amount of flora and fauna species that is endemic to Sri Lanka and to the area itself.
There’s a collection of chilly river streams, crystal clear waterfalls and misty grasslands – everything is naturalistic and simple in its own diverse way. The high altitude plain is the cause for the cold breeze during the early morning and at noon.
One of the popular reasons as to why people go all the way to Horton Plains is because of the trek to World’s End, which is a sharp drop of 4000 feet, and on a clear day you are greeted with stunning views of the surrounding plains and valleys. It’s definitely an opportunity you would not want to miss, because you will not get such scenery anywhere else in the world.
The park is a breeding ground for 21 species of birds that are endemic, such as the orange-billed babbler, yellow-fronted barbet and the Sri Lanka Superfowl. The Sri Lankan White-eye bird and Sri Lanka wood pigeon are only found in Horton Plains.
When it comes to the mammals that are frequently spotted in the park, the Sambar deer is one of the main animals, and they are mostly found in both lowland areas and mountain forests; with a population that’s nearly 2000 they could be in potential danger of being endangered – but precautions are being taken to ensure this doesn’t happen anytime soon. It has a broad diet and is flexible to a wide variety of forest types. The Sambar deer species found in Sri Lanka is a sub-species that’s only found in Island Nations. It is also a paradise for different types of butterflies, as well.
The fauna includes 24 species of mammals, 87 species of birds, 9 species of reptiles, 15 species of amphibians in total. There is only one type of fish that is a rainbow trout called ‘salmo gardneri’.
The Horton Plains National Park is home to around 188 plant species, of which 83 are endemic to Sri Lanka. Horton plains is abundant with rich biodiversity, and there is herbaceous flora that is cultivated on the patanas with numerous species of both temperate and topical origin. The ecosystem in Horton plains is unparalleled to any other place in the country. There are 101 flowering plant species and 14 of them are endemic.
The vegetation in Horton Plains can be divided into two – it consists of mostly montane wet grasslands and the lesser tropical montane evergreen cloud forests. Around 750 species of plants have been found here, including the Dwarf Bamboo species, Patana grass and the Binara (a type of flower) which dominates most of the plains.
It was first discovered by planter Thomas Farr in the early 19th century. It was formally known as Maha Eliya Thenna which translates to ‘great open plain’. In 1834 it was named in the honor of then Governor of Ceylon Sir Robert Wilmot Horton (1831-1837). In 1969 Horton Plains was declared a natural reserve. It is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country. It contains the most cloud forest that still exists in the country.
How to get there
From Colombo to Horton Plains
By car – It will take approximately 5 hours, 57 minutes to reach Horton Plains from Colombo.
By train – From the Colombo fort railway station it will take a little more than 5 hours, 15 minutes to reach the Hatton railway station.
By bus – When travelling by bus, it will be a very long journey due to the fact that it will take approximately 6 hours, 13 minutes to reach Horton Plains.
From Nuwara Eliya to Horton Plains
There’s also a route from Nuwara Eliya to Black Pool, then to Ambewala, next Pattipola, leading to the Pattipola entrance and finally to Horton Plains.
From Bandarawela to Horton Plains
When travelling to Horton Plains from Bandarawela, you will have to go through Boralanda via Haputale or Diyathalawa, then to Ohiya and finally Horton Plains.
The best time to visit the Horton Plains National Park would ideally be during March to May, because there isn’t much rain and it is not very cold either. Flowers are also in bloom during this time making it all the more worthwhile.
Other than from March to May, December to February is also a good time to visit the park as there’s less chance of rain and temperatures are moderately low, too.
From June to September there will be less rain and strong winds, so you have the choice of visiting during this time, too.
Trekking in Horton Plains – A day excursion to trek through Horton Plains, covering many tourist attractions such as Kirigalpoththa Mountain, Bakers Falls; the stunning drop at Worlds End whilst witnessing exotic birdlife, flora and fauna along the way.
Camping in Horton Plains – Indulge in a camping experience which gives you exposure to living outdoors on the plains with fully equipped tents. You would enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature all around you and see wildlife and birds roaming around free in their own environments.
Worlds End – The plateau of Horton Plains rolls across to a sudden end, World’s End – a remarkable escarpment that drops 880 metres and is a viewpoint along a 9km loop track through the forest and across the plains of the wildlife conservation area.
Baker’s Falls – Located in Nuwara Eliya, Baker’s Falls is 3 km away from the main entrance of Horton Plains. It is named after the late Sir Samuel Baker, who was a very famous explorer and game hunter during the British colonial period. It is one of the popular hiking spots which is part of the hiking trail called ‘Baker’s loop’ and it is the last destination in the trail through Horton Plains.
Devil’s Staircase – Devil’s Staircase is known as ‘the hike through hell’, which is apt since it is a difficult yet challenging hike through uneven areas and is considered a long trail of 14 km in distance.
Bambarakanda Ella Falls – Sri Lanka’s highest waterfall, the horsetail Bambarakanda Ella Falls cascades beautifully from a cliff face amidst high mountains in the hill country, in Kalupahana. Ranked the 299th tallest waterfall in the world, it has an impressive height of 790 ft.
Kirigalpoththa Hiking Trail – Kirigalpoththa Mountain is the second highest mountain after Pidurutalagala, and is 2388 metres above sea level. The length of the hiking trail is 5.6 km which includes beautiful views with features from wet grasslands, scrubs and cloud forests at the summit.
Thotupola Mountain – It is translated to ‘Landing Site’ because legend has it that King Ravana of India and his wife Rama reportedly lived in exile in the forest after first landing on the Thotupola Mountain. It is the third highest mountain in the country with the peak elevation that is 2357 m above sea level.
Ambewella Farms – The Ambewella farms consist of two farms, Ambewella farm and New Zealand Farm. The farms are equipped with modern technology and have been established with international standards in a local setting which facilitates fine quality production of milk and milk products.
Bakers Bend – It is a horseshoe shaped bend which is part of the trek to World End. This bend was named in commemoration of the incident when Samuel Baker and wife had gone horse riding along this bend and their horse had accidentally fallen off the cliff but they had survived.