Nestled in the heart of Sri Lanka, Horton Plains National Park is a breathtaking natural wonder that beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. This article takes you on a journey through this picturesque landscape, providing insights into its rich biodiversity, captivating history, and the ultimate guide for planning an unforgettable visit.
Introduction to Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains is the highest mountainous park in Sri Lanka and is one of the 25 tallest mountain parks in the world. This is one of the national parks that lets you walk around and explore by yourself. There is an easy 9 km walking trail that takes about 3 hours to complete.
The park is located at an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level. Covering an area of about 7800 acres, it has the highest plateau in Sri Lanka as well as beautiful views, all the way to the coast on a clear day, waterfalls, and lots of wildlife.
This plain was formerly known as the Mahaweli Plain because the Mahaweli River originates in this area. However, after the British conquered the country, Wilmot Horton who served as Governor of Britain from 1831 to 1837, was on a hunting trip when he came across this area. This place, discovered by Governor Horton by chance, was named “Horton Plains” in 1836.
The Natural Beauty of the Park
Diverse Flora and Fauna
The Horton Plains park is rich in both vegetation and animals with high botanical value. It is home to the largest herd of sambar deer in all of Sri Lanka as well as many other animals, including elephants, wild boars, Deers, leopards, and monkeys..
The vegetation of the park is semi-mountainous rainforests or cloud forests, wetlands, and grasslands. 39 of 1236 hectares of the total land area are covered by cloud forests. The third-highest mountain in Sri Lanka, Kirigalpottha Mountain, and Thotupala Mountain are both found in the park.
There are 63 plant species that are indigenous to Sri Lanka out of the 188 types of plants that have been found in the area. There are also found 64 bird species, 19 mammal species, 14 amphibian species, and 11 fish species.
The Iconic Baker’s Falls
One of the park’s highlights is Baker’s Falls, a stunning waterfall cascading from a rocky ledge. The trail leading to it is a treat for nature lovers, adorned with moss-covered trees and ferns. Capture the essence of this natural beauty as you hike along.
Prepare to be awestruck at World’s End, a sheer cliff that plummets a jaw-dropping 880 meters. The view from here is nothing short of breathtaking, especially during the early hours when the mist swirls around, creating an otherworldly atmosphere.
A Glimpse into the Park’s History
Horton Plains National Park has a rich history, with evidence of early human settlements dating back to the Stone Age. Over the years, it has transformed from a hunting ground for British colonists to a protected national park, preserving its natural treasures for generations to come.
Ancient records indicate that elephants lived in large numbers in the area in ancient times. Major Thomas William Rogers, then serving in the Ceylon Rifles Department, was well known for hunting large numbers of elephants. He has reportedly killed about 1,400 elephants. This inhuman elephant killer was struck by lightning and died on June 7, 1846, at the Haputale Rest House. Rogers’ tomb is located in Nuwara Eliya.
There are rumors in the area that his tomb is still getting struck by lighting. In addition, Major Thomas Skinner and Samuel Baker were also leading elephant hunters of the time, which they documented in their books with notes that indicate that they hunted large numbers of elephants in the Plains.
Planning Your Visit
What is the best time of year to visit Horton Plains?
To experience Horton Plains National Park at its finest, plan your visit between December and March when the weather is cool and dry, ensuring clear views and comfortable trekking conditions.
How much is the entrance fee to Horton Plains National Park Sri Lanka?
Before embarking on your adventure, be sure to check the latest entry fees and obtain any necessary permits, which can be obtained at the park’s entrance. It would cost about $ 60 for a ticket to enter the park including all taxes
Consider joining a guided tour to enhance your experience. Knowledgeable guides can provide insights into the park’s ecology, history, and hidden gems you might otherwise miss.
The Thrilling Trekking Experience
Trails and Hiking Options
Horton Plains offers several trails catering to varying fitness levels. The most popular is the circular trail, approximately 9.5 kilometers long, taking you past Baker’s Falls and World’s End.
Preparing for Your Hike
Ensure you wear comfortable hiking shoes, carry adequate water, and don’t forget your camera to capture the mesmerizing landscapes you’ll encounter.
Unique Avian Species
Birdwatchers will be delighted by the park’s avian diversity, including the Sri Lanka whistling thrush and the strikingly colorful Sri Lanka bush warbler.
Mammals of Horton Plains
Keep an eye out for the park’s inhabitants, including the curious purple-faced langur, Sambar deer, and the elusive leopard, All of which call Horton Plains home.
Horton Plains National Park is dedicated to conserving its pristine environment as a UNESCO heritage. Learn about the park’s efforts to protect its fragile ecosystems and what you can do to contribute during your visit.
Nuwara Eliya – The ‘Little England’
Extend your journey by exploring Nuwara Eliya, a charming town known for its colonial architecture, tea plantations, and pleasant climate.
Spend a relaxing afternoon by the picturesque Gregory Lake, surrounded by lush greenery and offering opportunities for boating and picnicking.
Visit a tea plantation and witness the tea-making process, from plucking leaves to brewing the perfect cup of Ceylon tea.
Weather Conditions and rainfall
Stay updated on the park’s ever-changing weather conditions, as the climate can be unpredictable at higher altitudes.
However, It is foggy most of the day there, But there is a mild climate with no extreme cold or extreme heat. The average annual temperature in the area is around 13C. One can expect highs of 27 degrees Celsius during the day and as low as 5 degrees Celsius at night. To catch the active clouds, go to Horton Plains National Park. Here is the perfect place to see active clouds. On clear days can see the hot clouds that carry up water vapor from the lower areas.
The average rainfall in Horton Plains Park is about 5,000 mm, while the average rainfall in the surrounding areas is 2540 mm. The Horton Plains receives most of the monsoon rainfall, with the region receiving about 100 millimeters of rainfall per month throughout the year.
Hiking at high altitudes can be strenuous, so remember to stay hydrated throughout your adventure.
Respect the park’s wildlife by maintaining a safe distance and not disturbing their natural behaviors.
Discover how you can be a responsible traveler by minimizing your environmental impact during your visit to Horton Plains.
Camping in Horton Plains National Park
For an immersive experience, consider camping within the park. Be sure to obtain the necessary permits in advance.
How to book Horton Plains camping site?
READ THIS GUIDELINE – 5 Things You May Forget When You Want to Setup Horton Plains Camping
Lodges and Guesthouses
Alternatively, there are comfortable lodges and guesthouses in nearby towns, offering a cozy place to rest after your exploration.
How to get to Horton Plains National Park
There are two main roads to get to Horton Plains and the rest of the roads meet one of these roads when close to the park. One is Nuwara Eliya – Pattipola Road and the other one is Boralanda – Ohiya Road. If you come from Nuwara Eliya you can pick Pattipola Road. and if you come from Haputale, You should pick Boralanda Ohiya Road
- If you are coming from Nuwara Eliya by car, First, cross the Pattipola Railway Crossing on the Abeywela Pattipola Road, and go straight to the park entrance. The distance from Nuwara Eliya to the National Park is 32 km.
- If you going from Haputale you can come to Boralanda Ohiya Road and enter the National Park.
If coming by train you can get off at Pattipola or Ohiya train station and from there take a tuk-tuk or taxi to enter the park.
However, if you come without a private vehicle or you’re own vehicle to get to Horton Plains you will not have any other option except to take a taxi to park.
Things to do
- Take photos and videos
- Enjoy the fresh air whilst walking through the plains
- Sit quietly to see what wildlife you can spot
- If there is any debris in your path, take it out of the park as much as possible and dispose of it systematically.
- Take all your waste with you.
Things No To Do
- Do not use any non-corrosive liquid on the polythene
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs
- Do not harm the environment and animals
- Avoid adding your waste to water and the environment
- Do not give food or other things to animals
- Avoid going down water sources, waterfalls, and waterways
- Do not use fire
- Stay away from hills and precipices
Things To Be Carried
- Carry water, food, and other essentials but bring back what you carry with you
- Sun cream and Sunglasses
- Raincoats and umbrellas
Things Not To Be Carried
- Polythene and plastic
- Smoking, alcohol, and drugs
- Ignition Equipment
- Sound pipes and musical instruments
Horton Plains National Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural experiences. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking tranquility amidst nature, this park has something remarkable to offer every traveler. So, pack your bags, embark on this adventure, and let Horton Plains captivate your heart.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it possible to visit Horton Plains year-round?
While the park is open year-round, the best time to visit is from December to March when the weather is most favorable for trekking and enjoying clear views.
- Are there any age restrictions for trekking in Horton Plains?
There are no strict age restrictions, but some trails may be physically demanding. It’s essential to choose a suitable trail based on your fitness level.
- Is Horton Plains National Park suitable for families with children?
Absolutely! While some trails are more challenging, there are options for family-friendly hikes and picnics. Always prioritize safety and follow park guidelines.
- Can I visit Horton Plains in one day from Colombo?
Yes, it’s possible, but it’s a long day trip. Consider staying in nearby towns like Nuwara Eliya or Ella for a more relaxed experience.
- Can I spot leopards during a visit to Horton Plains National Park?
Leopards are elusive creatures, but they do inhabit the park. Spotting them requires patience and a bit of luck.
- What should I wear for a hike in Horton Plains?
Wear comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing, and sturdy hiking shoes. Layering is advisable due to varying temperatures throughout the day.
- Are there restrictions on photography within the park?
Photography is allowed, but flash photography is discouraged, especially when capturing wildlife. Always follow ethical photography guidelines.
- Is it safe to hike at Horton Plains Park?
Yes, it’s safe to hike at the park. However, it’s essential to follow park guidelines and stay on designated trails for your safety and to protect the environment.
- Is camping the only accommodation option within the Horton Plains National Park?
Camping is a unique option, but there are also lodges and guesthouses in nearby towns like Nuwara Eliya for those seeking more comfort during their stay.