Among the protected areas of Sri Lanka, the Horton Plains ranks among the most popular for the breathtaking view of its World’s End. As an important watershed on the island of Sri Lanka, this national park is crossed by almost all its rivers.
If you want to escape nature, its hazy setting will make you change your mind. Beneath this nebulous mass lies an amazing wildlife and floristic biodiversity. Discover the Sambar Deer and the Hail Lori, roaming through a cloud forest. Without being easy or difficult, it is an adventure made for everyone except those who can’t stand the altitude.
If you are looking for a unique adventure, our complete guide on Horton Plain national park will suffice to get you to a place you will never forget.
History of Horton Plains
The Horton Plains cover a captivating story. It is said that this area is home to stone tools dating back to the Balangoda era. At the time, local residents used to roam the mountain to extract precious stones and iron. They also stayed there to establish irrigation canals and to look for wood.
There was a time when this protected area had the name “Maha-Eliya Tenna” meaning “great open plains”. It was later named “Horton Plains” in honour of Sir Robert Wilmot Horton, a former British governor of Ceylon. The creation of this national park is part of an initiative of a British, Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. This man recommended that the government of the day make mountain forests over 5,000 feet untouchable.
Thus, in 1873 an administrative decree was issued. It stipulated that any logging in the area had become a reprehensible act. On December 5, 1969, the Horton Plains was declared a Wildlife Area and on March 18, 1988, it was designated a National Park. On 30 July 2010, the highlands in which the park, the Knuckles Mountain Range and the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary were set up as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Discovering the Horton Plains
The Horton Plains region of the highlands of Sri Lanka remains a very touristic stop and much appreciated by travelers. The beauty of nature manifests itself clearly. Fauna and flora reserve you pleasant surprises. Following the beaten track, you will have the opportunity to discover the most beautiful jewels of this national park!
Horton plains are home to a rich biodiversity endemic to the mountainous areas of the island. Animals and vegetation flourish in harmony. There is a large foggy cover. It is a stop for any nature enthusiast. If an adventure in this part of the Peninsula calls you, know that it is the coldest and windiest region of Sri Lanka because of its high altitude. Its mountainous ecosystem is distinguished by cloud forests, swamps and some meadows.
It is a valuable habitat for about 750 plant species from 20 families. This wet vegetation represents a haven of life for a wide variety of wildlife species including 24 mammals, 9 reptiles, 8 amphibians, and 87 birds. The most widespread animal in the region remains the large Sambar Deer endemic to Sri Lanka. You can easily see them in multiple herds.
If you hope to meet the Asian elephant, you will have to change your address. This pachyderm disappeared from the park registry in the late 1940s. With a little luck, you will cross the path of its rare Hail Loris, a kind of primate in danger of extinction. Resident mammals include the Kelaart’s Long-Clawed Shrew, European Otter, Ruby Cat, Sri Lankan Panther, Wild Boar, Indian Buckthorn, Ceylon Giant Squirrel, etc.
For birdwatchers, this reserve is home to one of Sri Lanka’s largest IBAS (Important Bird Conservation Areas). 21 flying species are endemic to the island and 4 of them live only on the Horton Plains side. Among the specimens found are the Zosterops ceylonensis , the Ceylon Pigeon , the Ceylon Gallopartridge , the Lafayette Rooster , the White-Bellied Swift , the Peregrine Falcon , the Buzzard , etc.
In reptiles, you will have the Snake Rat, the Rhinoceros Horn Lizard, the common Coarse-Faced Snake and others. In fish and crustaceans, you will see rainbow Trout, endemic Crabs, freshwater Shrimp Caridina Singhalensis, etc.
Aren’t you excited yet to explore the natural richness of this place?! If so, continue then reading.
Attractions and Activities
Apart from observing the wildlife and floristic life of the plains, you will also enjoy enjoying its beautiful and picturesque misty landscape. It is easy to get caught up in the charm of its altitude and its woodland setting. Following its pre-defined 9-kilometre trails, you will reach the top of its famous cliff – the World’s End – which plunges more than 800 meters and offers a superb view of the valley, the waterfalls below, and even the distant sea.
It really feels like you are at the end of the world. It is a beautiful place to stop for a moment to enjoy the view of a sunrise, make an improvised picnic and take a bunch of photos. Here trekking, hiking, mountaineering are relevant. You can also visit the Baker waterfalls and the Slab Rock waterfalls. The owner’s tour is easy in one morning.
Climate and Topography
Horton Plains National Park is located on the Central Cordillera Plateau on the south side of the Peninsula. It is perched between 2100 and 2300 meters of altitude and extends over 3160 hectares. 2000 hectares of this area are occupied by humid “Patana” (steppes or mountain meadows) and 1160 hectares are inhabited by a subtropical evergreen mountain forest.
It is home to the second and third highest Sinhala pit: the Kirigalpotta (2,389 m) to the west and Thotapolakanda (2,357 m) to the north. These plains are the source of three large rivers on the island: Mahaweli, Walawe and Kelani. In terms of its warm ocean climate, it is characterized by foggy weather. Over the year, the average temperature is between 14 and 16°C, humidity is a tad high at 65%, and average precipitation is estimated at 1005.3 mm.
The weather is very versatile and capricious. For example: during the day, the thermometer can display the 27°C to drop to 5°C at nightfall. From January to March, there is a short dry but rainy season. In February, the ground freezes. During the rainy season, the mist can sneeze for much of the day. That said, the place can be visited throughout the year. The best times go from March to September, while including December.
How Do You Get There?
Horton Plains NP is located in Ohyia. It is located in the central highlands of the island, about thirty kilometers from the city of Nuwara Eliya. To get there, you have several choices:
- By road – Many opt for the bus option. If this is your choice, you can go there from the small town of Ginigathera, Ella or Haputale. Otherwise just follow the road ‘A’ connecting Peradeniya with Chenkalady, passing Gampola and Nuwara Eliya.
It is also possible to leave from Nuwara Eliya. On site, there are a handful of group vans providing the connection with the park. Alternatively, you can privatize a car with a driver or a tuk-tuk.
- By Rail – All you have to do is catch a car and reach one of the highest stations in Sri Lanka: Ambewela and Pattipola. Once there, you will only have to find a means of transport to take you to your destination. If you have taken the Kandy-Badulla line or the Colombo-Badulla line, just land in Ohiya. From there, a tuk-tuk can take you to the park for 2000 to 3000 Rs.
Horton Plains National Park Admission Cost/Fee
The tariffs for national parks in Sri Lanka are a bit complex. They combine the individual entry fee, the one for the vehicle, the guide or driver as well as the application fees or charges. For Horton Plains, here the regular fees:
- Entrance fee for one person: 2251 rupees
- Entrance fee for the driver: 60 rupees
- Entrance fee for tuk tuk: 60 rupees
- Service charge: 1200 rupees
- Total: 4050 rupees or $53.51
Suffice to say that for Sri Lanka; it is a little expensive compared to the other parks and cultural sites.
The little trick is that the application fee is not calculated by number of people but by group. If you are alone and you take a ticket, you will pay 1200 rupees in the same way as two people who arrive together. Hence, the interest is to go in groups the same transport.
Best Time to Visit Horton Plains
The best time to enjoy the park remains early in the morning at the opening time of the park. There are fewer people, the view from its famous cliff is just spectacular (during the day around 9am and 10am, this place is covered with its fog coat). Hence, the best time to venture there remains the low season: in December, January, July and August.
It is better to avoid weekends. The trail being circular, one can choose in which direction to take it according to his priorities; in a clockwise direction to arrive as soon as possible at World’s End, or in the opposite direction to avoid the crowd and fully enjoy the enchanting landscape of the park.
Horton Plains Hike and Excursion
Horton Plains National Park has only one possible route. The 9 km hike is an easy loop. Arriving at the junction, there will be signs indicating on which side are the different points of interest such as waterfalls, the little world’s end and world’s end. In order to have a chance of seeing the points of view, it is better to reach them as soon as possible.
However for the hiking experience, we find it more fun to start on the other side because the landscapes are more beautiful so it is more motivating to start. It takes between 3 and 4 hours to complete the loop. The height difference is not at all important and there are no major difficulties. The hike is completely accessible to families provided you carry your child if he/she doesn’t walk much or allow more time.
After all, you will enjoy a nice excursion and hiking experience through this beautiful plateau, which takes you to the Baker Falls and World’s End; impressive escarpment that dives over 880 m, from where you can discover splendid panorama on the tea plantations and the valley. Remember to cover yourself well in several layers (onion technique) because early in the morning; it is very cool, but it can warm up during hiking. There is not much shadow on the trail.
Here’s a video of Horton Plains National Park. You will find people hiking on the trail and enjoying the beauty of nature. Surprisingly, there is a waterfall within the national park which is extraordinarily beautiful. You will find it in the video as well! After hiking, you can catch your breath and visit the waterfall. It is a good place to relax and soak in the beauty of nature.
Horton has some water bodies as well. Animals can visit these water bodies to take a swig of water. Another thing you would notice is that Horton Plains is filled with lush greenery. Anywhere you see, you will find trees, plants, and flowers. It is certainly a visual treat for sore eyes.
Exploring Baker’s Waterfall
Since you will be hiking to the Baker’s Fall, you will enjoy seeing how blessed the park is! There is natural beauty everywhere. You will be walking on little hills, crossing unique plantation zones, encountering few animals, and even seeing the clouds from a close distance.
As soon as you reach closer to the waterfall, you will find a wooden path that takes you to Baker’s Fall. This is not just another waterfall! The water drops from a great height and it looks spectacular. Yes, it is quite tempting to stand under the waterfall and get drenched. But, even from a distance, you will enjoy the beauty of Baker’s Falls. Here’s a video that beautifully captures the Baker’s Fall. You will get to see why Horton Plains is a top choice among fellow travellers.
Once you are done with the Horton tour, you can enjoy eating some delicious seafood or end the day by taking a stroll on the beach. The locals keep their surroundings clean! The beaches are sparkling clean, and even the hotels are beautiful.
Here’s a quick revision for all those who are planning to head to Horton Plains:
- Cover the whole area (Horton Plains) within 3 hours. You need to cover total of 9 kilometres. You will witness short trees, tall trees, and a vast grassland.
- Horton is known as the ‘Montane Cloud Forest’. Since it is too windy, you must wear warm clothes to keep yourself snug.
- Baker’s Fall was named after Sir Samuel Baker. He was a famous British explorer! It is of 22 meters height and you will certainly get drenched once you reach closer to the waterfall. Dipping in the waterfall pool is not allowed. This is strictly for security purpose! Check out the waterfall from the observation deck.
- There is a chimney pool near the Baker’s Fall. During the Colonial period, the British must have made it for fishing purpose. As of now, you can walk along the path and witness the beauty of the pool. The Chimney Pool is not meant for swimming! However, you can sit along the path and catch your breath.
- Wish to see a steep drop? The vertical drop is around 800 meters. Wow! The World’s End is the main attraction of Horton. You must visit it! It will be worth all the pain. Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes while hiking. There is a platform which is safe to carry tourists. Please be careful when you are looking at the view!
Visit the National Park Ethically
Focus on reusable packaging and keep your waste
Horton plains National Park is weakened by its success and attendance. Not every tourist that comes to Horton is responsible and kind. When you are visiting someone else’s island, you are supposed to showcase feelings of empathy and love. You are a guest of the nation and should behave responsibly. Ideally, tourists should keep the surroundings clean. Even if it is not their island/country, they should have basic manners of not soiling the vicinity or throwing plastics. Sadly, tourists have made the national parks in Sri Lanka a dumping ground. The staff is doing the best they can to keep the surroundings clean, but the problem remains. The good part is that the staff have taken measures to protect the environments. The plastic bags have wreaked havoc and at the entrance you will be asked to separate from them so that they do not end up in the park.
If you need to bring your picnic, opt for reusable packaging (the ones we use) and a gourd. When hiking, keep your garbage. Do not throw it around because the national park is the dwelling of wild animals. Can you imagine the amount of damage it does to the animals and the plants? It is possible that a wild animals may be curious to ingest the plastic and this could create a series of health problems.
Hence, travel responsibly and keep the environment clean.
Respect animal welfare and wildlife
Some visitors feed Cervids. This has many harmful consequences for these animals (health problem, dependence on humans etc.).
Respect for wildlife also means not making too much noise during the hike. If you are hiking in the national park, make sure you are not trying to feed the animals. They have enough food in their habitat! The wild animals have smaller animals to feast on. The smaller animals have enough number of vegetarian options. Giving the animals seafood, chips, candy, and meat is not the best idea!
Finally, keep your distance from the animals. Being too close to animals makes them more vulnerable to poaching or accidents. The rabbits, monkeys, and elephants may seem friendly, but they are out in the wild. If they feel threatened, they might attack your jeep. You must respect their habitat and keep a safe distance. Why do we step out for a safari? It is to watch the animals, witness the gifts of nature, and have a good time. It does not entail harming animals or troubling them.
Points to Remember
Hortons Plains National Park is open every day: Monday to Sunday. The venue has a fixed daily schedule: from 6am to 6pm.
It is possible to use the service of a guide from the NP (National Park) office for only 800 Rs. If you prefer a volunteer guide, remember to thank him with a donation after the visit. They are truly passionate about the region’s wildlife.
As visiting this protected area requires long hikes through a marked loop, it is important to prepare well: put on sturdy and comfortable walking shoes; bring a hat and sunglasses against the sun; provide sunscreen, snacks and water; and especially to bring warm clothes (the weather is capricious, and often the mornings are icy and foggy with its 13°C).
During your visit, it is imperative to follow the marked trails especially on the cliff side of the World’s End. This is essential since the terrain can be very slippery in some places.
There are rules to follow once you get there: keep your garbage on you and respect wildlife by keeping you from feeding animals or trampling on local flora.
There is one entry point to the park in Pattipola and another in Ohiya.
- Pets are not allowed inside. Do not bring dogs, cats, guinea pigs, or other animals inside the park. The wild animals could attack your pets.
- Littering is not allowed. If you are planning to carry plastic bottles or containers, you need to give up the idea because it is not allowed.
- At the entrance, you will read a sign board that says, ‘No fire/lighting allowed’. Keep your matchsticks and lighters at home. Do not even think of smoking inside the national park.
- You are not supposed to feed animals inside the national park. It is not safe for the animals. Animals are not human beings and cannot digest human food.
- Alcohol consumption and taking alcohol bottles with you is not allowed. Respect the rules of the national park.
- Since you are in a natural habitat, do not shout or scream as the animals get scared of human intervention. Maintain silence and enjoy the magnificence of Mother Nature.
When tourists visit Horton, they get mesmerized by the beauty of the park. The hiking adventure should be on your to-do-list. Some trails are quite good and others have a uneven and rocky base. You must wear proper sports/running shoes to avoid any injuries. Do not commit the mistake of wearing heels or open shoes. Ideally, wearing warmer clothes in the morning is ideal. The air is nippy and you may feel cold.
Certain trails take you through lush plants and trees too. When you reach certain spots, you will be able to witness tall mountains and the open sky. The view is stellar! Plus, there are boards that tell you where the Baker’s Fall is and you can easily spot the ‘end of the world.’
The ‘End of the World’ is the most amazing point! You can watch the clouds and mountains, but you may not be able to see what exists at far-off distances. It feels like you are in heaven and have left the world behind! It is extremely beautiful and one cannot miss it while they are in Sri Lanka!
Here’s a video you might like! It shows you the true beauty of Horton Plains National Park.
We hope you enjoyed reading the elaborate post. Make sure you plan your tour in such a way that Horton Plains is a part of your list. If you do not pay a visit to this beauty, you are missing what Sri Lanka has to offer you!
So, go ahead and plan your trip! Stay at one of the finest hotels and don’t forget to explore the beaches and hilly towns where you find the best-tasting tea in the world.