Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains National Park “Maha-Eliya” in Sinhala is a national park in the highlands of Sri Lanka. It lies at a height of more than 2000 m in the central highlands, and its altitude means that it has a much cooler and windier Climate than the lowlands of Sri Lanka , with a mean annual temperature of 16 °C rather than the 26 °C of the coasts. In the winter months it is cold at night, and there can even be frosts, although it rapidly warms up as the tropical sun climbs higher in the sky.

The park covers 31.60 km², and is a mixture of highland forest and wet grassland. Annual rainfall is high with the area being affected by both monsoons as well as the inter-monsoonal periods; it is driest between January and March.

This is the only National Park in Sri Lanka in which visitors are allowed to walk. At ‘Worlds End’ the 2000 meters plateau comes to an abrupt end, plunging 700-1000 meters to the valley floor. This gentle walk takes two to four hours depending on how much time is spent identifying the impressive bird life seen along this route. It is worth starting early to avoid the crowds, the mist that drifts up the valley can often obscure the views as the day wears on. ‘Little Worlds End’ is another popular location, falling a mere 300 meters, along with Baker’s fall.

The plains appear to have a lot more in common with the moors and highlands of Britain than with the rest of Sri Lanka’s National Parks. The extensive grasslands are bleached brown by the frosts at this altitude and the herds of sambar are reminiscent of red deer roaming the Scottish Glens. This large sambar(Srilankan Sambar Deer) population, along with the Purple-Faced langurs, wild boar and barking deer support a small number of leopards, although seeing them requires a huge amount of luck. Your best chance is offered by driving around the park late in the evening and listening for the alarm calls of the sambar.

Every seventh to twelfth year the jungle paths become a mosaic of pink and purple and blue when the nilloo bursts into bloom in periodic splendour before it seeds and dies. Flowing streams and their rocky banks are lined with delicate ferns, while beneath the clear waters lies a fine tracery of flora which is constantly woven into an ever-changing pattern. The forest-clad escarpment of Hortons is source and watershed to Sri Lanka’s two mightiest rivers – the Kelani and the Mahaweli – as well as many other streams, rivers and lakes, providing water to the western, southern and northeastern sectors of the island.