The park of Horton Plains is striking because of the particularity of its landscapes, unique in Sri Lanka. The vegetation in Horton Plains consists of a cloud forest, humid pastures, and transitional zones, known as ecotones. The cloud forest forms an ecosystem, which is characterised by heavy rainfall and the presence of almost permanent fog on the ground and tree tops. The mechanism of these forests, which is designed to capture humidity, is the base of its exceptional biodiversity.
The park is home to a large variety of plants, with a high level of endemism. As far as wildlife, the park has identified 14 species of amphibians, 64 species of birds, and 19 species of mammals, which include sambars, barking deer, boars, giant squirrels, hares, porcupines, purple-faced langurs, and rare leopards.
Horton Plains is the only national park in Sri Lanka that permits visitors to take hiking trips. The main circuit is 9.5 km and offers a number of interesting sites, such as the beautiful waterfall and, most importantly, the famous World’s End. This is where the plateau ends and plunges at once on a vertical drop of more than 800m. From here, we can see the tea plantations in the valley below, as well as a spectacular view up to the ocean in clear weather.
It is preferable to visit the park very early in the morning, before the fog blocks the view of the World’s End. In general, the weather is more favourable from January to March, and it is better to avoid the weekends. The path being circular, you can choose which direction to take according to your priorities: clockwise to arrive as early as possible to the World’s End or in the opposite direction to avoid the crowd and fully enjoy the captivating landscape of the park.
You can reach Horton Plains from Nuwara Eliya or Haputale (don’t miss the amazing ferns trees). At the entrance of the park, visitors must pay their entrance and vehicle fees, and then they will be taken to the visiting centre from where the main route starts. The centre was formerly the hunting lodge of the Governor of Ceylon, Robert Wilmot-Horton (the park which was originally known as Maha Eliya, has borne his name since 1834). There is the possibility to take a guide at the centre although the route is not at all difficult. You should take warm clothes as the park is situated at an altitude of 2 000 m, and can be cold.
The surroundings offer the most fascinating hikes in the country. You can reach Horton Plains by train, by getting off at the railway stations of Ambewala, Ohiya or Pattipola, and walking up to the park (still about 3-4 hours). Hikers can also get there from the waterfalls of Bandarawela, close to Belihul Oya. The route crosses the park, then descends towards Pattipola, from where you can leave by train. There are two cottages and three camping sites in the park, but it is necessary to reserve them.