Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka

The Horton plains national park better known as hill country wonderland is considered to be one of the most important forest reserves in Sri Lanka (about Sri Lanka). It is recognized as one of the biological hot spots due to its very high biodiversity. The Horton plains national park is situated in the central part of the country towards the southern end of the central province.

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Where is Horton plains national park?

The Horton plains national park is one of the highest mountains with a national park in Sri Lanka and it is located more than 2000 meters above sea level. Horton plains national park is sandwiched between the 2nd and 3rd highest mountain peaks of Sri Lanka, namely Kirigalpotta (2395m) and Totapola (2359m).

What are Horton plains national park?

The Horton plains is one of the coldest spots in the warm tropical country of Sri Lanka. The average temperature in the Horton plains national park hovers around 18 degrees Celsius. The ‘plains’ form a plateau of rises and fall steeply more than 2000m. The major part of the wildlife reserve is covered by a type of wild grass that is commonly found in the region and these grasslands are interspersed with patches of forests, huge rock formations, waterfalls, lakes and streams. World end located towards the eastern side of the plateau marks the end of the plateau, where the surface makes a dramatic steep 880 meters fall.

Using Horton plains national park for hiking and trekking

There is no other better place in Sri Lanka’s hill country to experience the rich biodiversity, unique vegetation, gorgeous mountain scenery and beautiful landscape on a hike like Horton plains national park hike. The hiking trail through the national park is well-marked and easy to find teh way. Most of the trail is on a flat surface, however, at a time it can be difficult, it may even involve a bit of rock climbing at a time. This is the only national park in Sri Lanka, where visitors can leave their vehicles outside of the national park and take walk in the park. The sheer drop of the mountain better known as “the world’s end” and baker’s falls are the major highlights for most travellers, who visit the national park.

The nature of the Horton plains hike

The Horton plains national park offers 6 different trails for visitors. They have different strenuousness and scratch the different areas of the forest. So choose the most suitable trek for your hike based on your interest, based on your age, and health. The Horton plains trek can be a leisurely family trip activity or a more thrilling adventure based on the trail you choose. The main hiking trail of the Horton plains national Park is on a circular route and it is about 9 km long.

For most travellers, it takes between 3-4 hours to complete the circular track. The hike starts at the moon plain, which is a huge expanse of grassland with patches of forests. If you like to learn about the history of the park and the fauna and flora of Horton plains in the most scientific way, please visit the museum established at the visitor’s centre.

How to reach Horton plains national park?

Horton plains national park is easily accessible from many major cities in the hills country. However, the most convenient way to reach Horton plains national park is via Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya and Horton plains are connected by a well-maintained motorable road, therefore, the travellers can reach the Pattipola main entrance from Nuwara Eliya within a 1-hour drive. teh distance to cover from Nuwara Eliya to Horton plains national park is about 3o km. The travellers, who start their journey from Haputale can reach the Ohiya entrance of Horton plains national park after about a 1-hour 30-minute drive.

Importance of Horton plains national park

The Horton plains national park is one of the last remaining primaeval cloud forests in Sri Lanka. Most Fauna and flora species discovered at Horton plains are endemic to Horton plains national park. A large number of vertebrates found in the Horton plains

The Horton plains national park better known as hill country wonderland is considered to be one of the best places for Sri Lanka safari and one of the most important forest reserves in Sri Lanka (about Sri Lanka). It is recognized as one of the biological hot spots in Sri Lanka due to its very high biodiversity. The Horton plains national park is situated in the central part of the country towards the southern end of the central mountain range. Apart from its biodiversity Horton plains national park also pals a major role as a catchment area in the hill country of Sri Lanka. It feeds many rivers including 3 major rivers the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe.

Being one of the last remaining mountain forests that lies at the elevation of 2300 meters above sea level, it has a very strange atmosphere and beauty unique to the reserve. Many species of endemic fauna and flora of the wet zone forests can be seen in Horton Plains. This biodiversity hotspot is part of most Sri Lanka nature tour packages.

Horton plains national park is a tourist hotspot and it attracts a large number of local as well as foreign travellers every day. Horton plains national park is one of the very popular hiking and trekking sites in Sri Lanka, and therefore a very important national park for Sri Lanka’s nature-based tourism industry. Horton plains national park is included in most Sri Lanka hiking and trekking tours as well as Sri Lanka nature tours. It can also be part of adventure tours of Sri Lanka.

History of Horton plains national park

As the name “Horton Plains” suggests part of the reserve is a plateau of grass supposed to be originated after clearing the primaeval forest by the Stone Age man of the country (Homo sapiens balangodensis). The historical forest is believed to be inhabited by Stone Age man more than 28000 years ago. Archaeologists have discovered many artefacts and stone implements that were supposed to be used by the historical man and proved to be many thousand years old, after the carbon 14 method.

Rainfall and climate of Horton plains national park

Horton plains is an important catchment area in the country with very high annual rainfall, which is nearly 5000 mm. Walawe, Bogawanthalawa Oya, and Mahaweli are some of the most important rivers for the island, starting from Horton plains. Kirigalpotta (2393m) and Totupolakanda (2359m) second and third-highest mountains in the country are also located within the borders of the Horton Plains.

Horton plains national park has a very unique weather conditions. Horton plains weather pattern is closely connected with the monsoon weather pattern. Most of the day it is covered with clouds. Frequent wind swipes the forest very often. Due to the frequent strong winds and the mist resulting from the encroaching cloud, the temperature in the forest sinks sharply. The temperature inside the park hovers around 15 degrees Celsius. The temperature further sinks after sunset and reaches the point of 0 degrees Celcius very often.

When is the best time to visit Horton plain national park?

The early hours of the day and the mid-day is the best times to visit Horton plains national park. Early morning at around 05.00 am is the best time to start the Horton plains hike, thereby you can make sure that you scan the scenic hill country wonderland before it is covered by the mist.

The visibility is high in the forest during the early hours of the day due to the heat of the sun. Towards the afternoon the visibility diminishes as the clouds gather in the forest while the strong wind and cloud formation make it unbearably chilly. The clouds usually start to invade the territory of Horton plains national park at around 11.00 am and keep on increasing their presence the rest of the day.

Biodiversity of Horton plains national park

With a unique mixture of trees and plants, this natural wonder covers 3160 hectares in the mountains. It has both Grassland or Patana and Sub-mountain wet evergreen vegetation, which spread in the direction of the west and mingle with Peak Wilderness Sanctuary.

Horton plains were used as a hunting ground starting from the mid-1800s and caused the extinction of hill country elephants from the country. Considering its importance for the environment, ecology, and biodiversity, it was declared a nature reserve in 1969 and later on further increased its importance by being declared a National park in 1988.

The world’s end is considered to be one of the most important attractions of the national park and one of the most visited places within the nature reserve. The world’s end drops 884 meters abruptly from the ground and provides a beautiful view over the tea plantation below. Worlds end is located 3 km from the entrance and needs to have nearly a half-hour walk to reach the viewpoint.

Horton Plains is home to many species of endemic freshwater fish and bird species. Some of them are the Yellow-eared bulbul (Pycnonotus penicilatus), Sri Lanka white-eye (Zosterope ceylonsis), and Sri Lanka whistling thrush (Myiophonus blight). Strong wind in the dark and cold nights with mist and frost make the trees to be bent and huddled resulting in small trees with twisted trunks. One another characteristic of the trees is small leaves in order to save heat.

Horton plains are ideal for jungle tours in Sri Lanka as it accommodates a wide range of wild animals. Purple-faced langur locally known as the bear monkey is only seen in high elevations such as Horton Plains. The unusually dense coat of these vertebrates is an adaptation to the cold climate in the region. Barking deer (Muntiacus munt-jak), Jet black giant squirrels (Ratufa macroours), wild boar (Sus scrofa), Sambhur (Rusa unicolor) and fishing cats (Felis viverrinus) also inhabits the park, Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) one of the biggest mammals in the country also inhabits Horton Plains.

Trekking through Horton plains national park

A world apart from Sri Lanka, the plains can be used for trekking. Horton plain national park is ideal for Sri Lanka jungle tours and treks. In fact, Horton plains are included in most trekking and hiking tours of Sri Lanka. Horton plains national park provides a nine-kilometre circular walk to the world’s end, where the cliff plunges dramatically for nearly 1,000m, offering a marvellous of the south. The Horton Plains are inhabited by many species of animals such as sambar deer, monkeys, leopards many species of birds, and many numbers of amphibians. Surrounding Horton Plains is charming countryside with many sites for trekking and a number of waterfalls. There are a few sites where one can perform Canoeing and rock climbing as well.

This is why you should be careful while visiting the world’s end.

Worlds end is one of the most visited spots within the borders of Horton Plains national park. One can have a breathtaking birds-eye view over the surrounding low-land area from the world’s end. Visiting worlds end is included in every Horton plains national park visit. The travellers encounter worlds end as they walk along the trek in the park.

A newly married couple arrived from the Netherlands recently and they were enjoying the cool and fresh breeze in the forest reserve of Horton Plains. It was their first foreign trip after the marriage. They were just wandering along the footpath in the forest while enjoying the beautiful scenery across the grasslands and patches of forests. After a while, they reached the world’s end.

The world’s end is a precipice with an 870-metre drop. Undoubtedly, the end of the world is the best location to see the great vistas of the lowlands. The interesting combination of nature in the park fascinated the couple. With great enthusiasm, Mathleen hurried to take several photos. It would be an important remembrance of their first Sri Lanka trip after the wedding. Mathleen was trying to judge the best angle to take a photo of his wife with a beautiful background. Unfortunately, Mathleen lost his balance as he moved backward and fell off the peak.

Fortunately, it was not the end for Mathleen even though he was fallen off the 870 meters precipices. He was lucky enough to grab a branch of a tree as he was slipping down through the woods. He was hanging on to a tree branch for about 3 hours until the rescue mission was started. He was about 35 meters down the cliff.

There had been many tourists at the end of the world as Mathleen was fallen off the mountain, but they were not in a position to rescue him. And “Linda” his wife was helpless on foreign soil. The news was passed to the park rangers and police paving the way for the rescue operation.

The first attempt of rescue operation with the help of a helicopter had to be abandoned due to the bad weather conditions in the area. As the hopes faded away and no other option to think of to rescue the valuable life, a brave soldier of the Sri Lankan army appeared on the scene. He was Corporal Sudesh Nalinda attached to the Nuwara Eliya army camp. Knowing the danger of the mission he was not afraid to take the risk of going down the precipices. Momentarily, Sudesh started to move down and reached exhausted Matheleen after a perilous journey, who was hanging on to a tree branch for many hours.  Later Matheleen was rushed to the hospital due to minor injuries and discharged on the same day.

Matheleen and his wife did not forget to visit the soldiers, who helped them in the nearby camp and extend their gratitude.  The couple was received with great warmth and they had the opportunity to have a friendly chat with the soldiers, who took part in the rescue mission.