Knuckles Forest Sri Lanka

Knuckles forest is one of the most valuable natural assets of the island of Sri Lanka. It was declared a natural world heritage site in 2010 by UNESCO, due to its ecological importance. Knuckles is the second natural world heritage site on the list of natural world heritage sites of Sri Lanka and the first is the Sinharaja rain forest.

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Knuckles forest Sri Lanka

Knuckles forest is one of the most valuable natural assets of the island of Sri Lanka. It was declared a natural world heritage site in 2010 by UNESCO, due to its ecological importance. Knuckles is the second natural world heritage site on the list of natural world heritage sites of Sri Lanka and the first is the Sinharaja rain forest.

Why knuckles forest is important?

Knuckles forest range is important because it is a patch of forests with very high biodiversity. Knuckles forest range harbours a large number of endemic fauna and flora of Sri Lanka. The knuckles rain forest range is situated in Kandy, Knuckles forest is one of the most important tourist attractions in Kandy. This valuable natural asset is shared by the districts of Kandy and Matale. Knuckles forest is separated from the Central Mountain range by Mahaweli (longest river) Valley in the directions of South and East, and the Matale valley in the direction West.

Origin of name: Knuckles

Knuckles“, is the name derived from the word knuckle or clenched fist because Knuckles mountain looks like a clenched fist from the distance. The geographical location of the reserve has made it a forest reserve with unique characteristics.

Useful readings

Threats to Knuckles forest

Other than human activities, there are several numbers of natural threats to the native vegetation in the forest. The distribution of invasive plants is recognized as one of the leading natural threats to the vegetation of the knuckles forest range.

Distribution of Knuckles forest

The mountain range spread from Laggala to Urugala and there are three distinct smaller ranges in size, parallel to the main mountain, same-times there are many much smaller mountains running parallel to the knuckles mountains range. Altogether thirty-four such ranges are identified within the 62 square miles that rise up from 3000 to 6500 feet in height.

The geographical upheavals of Knuckles Mountain rise up to 6500 feet. One important unique characteristic of the Knuckles mountains range is the collection of different climate conditions within its borders. Therefore there are different floras corresponding to these different climatic zones in the reserve. Knuckles forest contains a mountains and cliffs range that begins in Laggala and ends in Urugala. These mountain ranges add some unique characters to the Knuckles reserve.

The historical value of Knuckles mountain range

The historical value of the Knuckles mountain range is considered to be very high and therefore it is been considered an important heritage of the island. The existence of knuckles is known to the island since the pre-historic period. One of the earliest names of the Knuckles is “Giri Divaina” which was inhabited by stone age man. According to the archaeological founding,s there had been settlements of Yaksha tribe in the area.

With the arrival of Vijaya and his followers, Yaksha clan had lost their control in the mountain and had retreaded more towards the South-East slope of the central mountain range, where they were waiting for the perfect opportunity to regain their control. Kandy is the proud owner of the Knuckles mountain range and the historical and natural importance of Kandy is considerably heightened due to the presence of Knuckles within its border.

The knuckles mountain range is unique due to many factors; perennial water resources, a large number of mountains and peaks, high biodiversity of the forest, and the formation of cloud forests are being considered the main factors. The history of Knuckles goes back many millennia. The knuckles mountain range is also a cultural heritage of the island and can be considered a mirror of the past.

Knuckles Trekking

The knuckles mountain range is one of the very popular places for jungle tours and trekking in Sri Lanka. Many local tour operators such as Seerendipity tours offer tours to knuckles mountain from Colombo and many beach resorts on the island. A trip to the knuckles mountain range can be booked as a stand-alone trip or it can be combined with other Sri Lanka trips such as 5 Days Sri Lanka tour or 7 days Sri Lanka tour.

The Knuckles mountain range has a unique and remarkable climatic condition within its borders. Sri Lanka trekking tour of Knuckles forest is one of the very popular activities among adventure travellers. Travellers can experience vivid climate conditions during trekking. The visitors can experience all these different climate conditions within half an hour’s walk.

The mountains and peaks of Knuckles forest are the major factors for the existence monsoon effect within the forest, it regulates the course of the wind while contributing to the climatic diversity in the forest. It recorded a very high rainfall in the forest throughout the year.

Tours to Knuckles Forest

Sri Lanka’s trip to knuckles is at least a 2 days tour as it is tucked away more than 130 km from Colombo. Usually, Knuckles forest is not a part of most Sri Lanka cultural tours and heritage tours. But, it may be included in Sri Lanka adventure tours and Sri Lanka nature trips.

01. Knuckles Mountains Range Day Hiking.
(160 USD for 2 persons per day hiking + Extra-person 40USD)
Entrance tickets to the forest + Village lunch + Mineral water bottles + Tea + Guide & helper included.

02. Riverston Knuckles 2 Days hiking & one-night Camping.
(110 USD per person per day + Camping free)
Entrance tickets to forest + Camping accommodations + Village all meals + Mineral water bottles + Tea + Guide & helper included.

03. Hanthana Mountains Range Day Hiking.
(140 USD for 2 persons per day hiking + Extra-person 40USD)
Village lunch + Mineral water bottles + Tea + Guide & helper included.

The weather pattern of Knuckles forest

The rainfall is measured between 3000-5000 ml. The temperature fluctuation within the forest is also very high and it is between 5.5 degrees to 35 degrees Celcius. The approximate wind speed in the forest is 7.2 km/hour, and the main contributor to high wind in the forest is the southwest monsoon that enters the valley through a gap in the mountains. The humidity of the forest is measured to be between 57%-90%.

Walpolamulla, the remote village within Knuckles

Walpolamulla is one of the ancient villages in Sri Lanka that is extremely rich in natural wealth. It is considered one of the places to go in Sri Lanka, especially for nature lovers and history enthusiasts. The beginning of the village is going back more than 5,000 years or the era of Rama Sita. The first written evidence of the village originated during British rule in Sri Lanka. The village is situated in the deep jungle of Knuckles forest range and there are only three houses in the village.

This small village is inhabited by only 6 people and they have a verdant thick jungle with wild animals around the village. The village shows the simplest form of living that one can imagine in the world. There are no electricity and electronic appliances such as audio set-up, TV, fridge, washing machine, Telephone, etc.

Even though they have no running water; people are using the nearby stream with pure water gushing down from the mountain to fulfil their water requirement. These villagers are blessed with unpolluted, fresh air amidst the calm and serene environment. The people of the village enjoy the fresh fruit and vegetables that grow in their gardens. The vistas around the village are breathtaking with verdant hills that are full of green.

The people of Walpolamulla have minimum contact with the outside world and they are rarely leaving the village to get dry rations. It is believed that these villagers have a close relationship with the Vedda community in Sri Lanka. They are very good at hunting like the people of the Vedda community. Their houses are made of a mixture of mud and cow dung while the roof is thatched with leaves.

The village of Walpolamulla is totally free from the so-called modern changes in society and that could be a reason for its isolation from the modern generation.

Mountains / Peaks

Nowhere else in Sri Lanka, an area of comparable size does one find such a collection of magnificent peaks.

Natural Threats

One of the most devastating invasive plants known as “Sudda” (Austroeupatorium inulifoium) has started to spread in the forest of Knuckles. It is one of the fastest invading plants in the world and it is capable of suppressing the growth of native plants. Today, it has spread to many parts of the central mountain range including Peradeniya, Nawalapitiya, Kadugannawa, and Bulatkohuitiya and it will invade the other parts of the island in the near future.

This plant is known as Ostro in English and it is a plant of Asteraceae family. This devastating plant is native to countries such as South America, Argentina, and Brazil. It is believed, that the plant was introduced to the island to use for manufacturing organic fertilizer. It was used for suppressing the propagation of the illuk plant in Indonesia by the Dutch in 1935. It is a thick perennial shrub that grows up to 2-5 meters; the leaves are long, measuring 7-14 cm.

Austroeupatorium inulifolium is recognized as a weed in agriculture in the Global Compendium of Weeds (2008). It has become a very destructive invasive plant in the Philippines. It creates very dense shrubs in plantations such as tea and rubber making it difficult to work on the plantation. Same time it suppresses the growth of valuable crops.

The distribution of plants takes place mainly through the wind. The lightweight seeds are dispersed very quickly in areas with heavy wind such as knuckles. Therefore the distribution of Sudda is considerably faster in the knuckles forest range.

The maximum growth of the plant is recorded in semi-mountainous areas with heavy rain and low temperature. Even though detailed studies are not carried out with regard to the plant, it is capable of creating many devastating effects for the native plants. This plant has been categorized as a highly aggressive plant and it is listed as a plant, not allowed to enter Australia.

Man-made threats

Cultivation of cardamom under the forest canopy has become one of the major contributors to the degradation of forest habitats in the Knuckles Mountain Range. This involves the clearing of the shrubs and undergrowth canopy trees.

Overgrazing is occurred by large herds of domestic/feral cattle and buffalo and it can clearly be seen in Pitawala patana plains in the Knuckles range.

Overuse of agricultural chemicals by farmers for paddy cultivation in the area is also a major threat to the fauna, and flora of the forest reserve. Lack of knowledge for use of the chemical inappropriate manner and suitable quantities in the fields have caused over usage of them, ultimately additional quantities being released to the environment.

Further, those who visit the Knuckles Mountain Range tend to litter non-biodegradable materials such as glass bottles, plastic, and polythene into the environment carelessly.

Illegal gem mining can be seen in certain areas of Knuckles Range and this course for degradation of habitats in the forest reserve. Hena cultivation and man-induced fires in chena land have resulted in the destruction of forest, especially in the buffer zone of the Knuckles.

Direct exploitation of species is also a major problem in this area. Human activities such as illegal felling of timber and fuelwood species and illegal hunting of animals can be seen in this area. Further shooting animals or setting trap guns and noose trap to kill animals, the collection of fish species from streams for the ornamental fish trade, and the collecting of herbaceous plants for ornamental plant trade are threats to the natural resources in this area.

Over-collection of plants and animal species for commercial purposes and research /study purposes is a major threat to the sustainability of the forest reserve. These activities are challenging for the existence of endemic and threatened species in the forest reserve.

Discovering new flowering plant species at Knuckles forest

Due to its ecological importance, Knuckles forest is subjected to new research from local and foreign scientists. A Sri Lankan researcher had able to discover a new species of flowering plant in the forest recently and the information was publicized on 15th May 2022. The flowering plant is categorized as a critically endangered plant, which is restricted to a small area and its population is declining fast. According to the Mongabay ( the plant is named Impatiens jacobdevlasi in respect of the founder of the Dutch botanist Jacob de Vlas. He is the co-author of a series of illustrated guides that published more than 3,000 known flowering plants of Sri Lanka.