Sri Lanka is famous for its golden-sand beaches, diverse weather conditions, rugged mountain ranges, series of waterfalls, terraced farmland & tea estates and of course it’s an incredibly rich culture and heritage. In fact, Sri Lanka is home to eight  UNESCO World Heritage Sites, coveted the world over.
Did you know that beyond all of its sights and experiential adventures, Sri Lanka is also the perfect destination for both beginners and advanced trekkers and hikers?
Home to 400+ waterfalls and equally magical spaces, deep inside Sri Lanka’s central highlands, there are plentiful, untouched, lush tropical jungles; whereas the island’s lowlands are dotted with rising rock structures, some of which were ancient palaces and constructions from centuries before.
Whether you’re considering Sri Lanka for your next holiday of adventure and exploration, or if your heart is set on an action-packed getaway to Paradise Island, here is your ultimate guide to hiking and trekking Sri Lanka’s diverse terrains.
Ella is a beautiful village-town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, best known for its scenic, winding train ride that goes over the Nine Arches Bridge giving you a glimpse of tea estates, farmland, dense forest, hilltop villages, waterfalls, Ella Gap, Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak.
Now somewhat modernised to offer restaurants, cafes and bars that keep the laid-back spirit of this sleepy town alive, Ella is a hiker’s paradise. Whether you choose to hike to Ella Rock or Little Adam’s Peak, or even choose to find your own path to many of Ella’s waterfalls and mountain-tops, you’re bound for an unforgettable trekking experience.
Recommended for Beginners: The trek up to Little Adam’s Peak, about 1141m above sea level takes approximately an hour (one-way) and is ideal for beginners wanting to enjoy the view from the top.
Recommended for Experienced Hikers and Trekkers: Ella Rock is a day hike from Ella town – approximately four  hours one way and is ideal for more experienced hikers. In order to avoid the afternoon rains, leave during the early hours of the morning to reach the top of Ella Rock by sunrise, and be prepared for an interesting route that not only takes you through thick jungle and mountainsides but also over train tracks and across Ella’s most abundant natural springs.
Knuckles Mountain range
The Knuckles Mountain Range (located between Kandy and Matale) receives its name due to the shape of the range resembling that of a closed fist (knuckles). This mountain range offers a versatile host of trekking and hiking trails for all levels of enthusiasts, as well as all types of ecosystems, that result in sudden changes in weather conditions and temperature.
Waking up early to start your trek on the path less travelled could also result in you catching a glimpse of wild boars, toque macaque monkeys, purple-faced monkeys, elephants and even leopards.
Recommended for Beginners: Take a day hike to one of the lower peaks along with this range, enjoy a light meal at the top and make your way down the range.
Recommended for Experienced Hikers and Trekkers: 3-day expeditions across the range that lead to Meemure. A little bit more taxing on the body and spirit, but this hike leads you across the majestic mountains that reach up to 2000m, dotted with huge cascading waterfalls, and tiny villages, only to experience the best nights of wild camping in the mountains.
Meemure is considered to be one of Sri Lanka’s most isolated villages in Sri Lanka and generally takes a few days to hike to and back. Home to a tiny village with a population of about 400 people, it features paddy terraces, natural bathing pools, and stunning mountains.
Recommended for Experienced Hikers and Trekkers: Starting at Knuckles Range, be prepared for a breath-taking, adrenaline-pumping trek that could last up to two  days, but is worth the journey as you reach the jagged mountain (Lakegala) looming over the village of Meemure.
Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park is considered a rich plateau with thick forests, grasslands, lakes and magnificent waterfalls, with plenty of trails for hiking, no matter how adept you are.
Home to World’s Edge, a sudden 1,200 (4,000ft)) cliff drop overlooking the countryside, allows hikers to look as far as the eye can see (and even spot the ocean on a clear day). The trek to this sheer drop is remarkable and takes you in a neat circle past the majestic Baker’s Falls waterfall – a true Utopia for the adventurer.
Remember to start your trek early to avoid the descending clouds that will eventually block your view over the edge of the cliff.
Recommended for Beginners: This is a popular hike with many as it only takes around three  hours to complete the circle and is worth the view over World’s End.
Heads up: Plastic and any form of carry-on that could be considered litter isn’t allowed past the entrance to Horton Plains.
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a naturalist’s dream haven, due to its diverse ecosystems and thick lush forest is one of the best places for hiking and trekking in Sri Lanka. From the above (seriously, get this thing onto Paris Fashion Week), you’ll find all sorts of stuff in the Sinharaja. It is tightly packed though, so seeing the wildlife can be trickier than in more open rainforest areas.
Recommended for Beginners: Be prepared to experience a truly unique hike through the dense jungle – home to leeches – hundreds of species of exotic bird life, Purple-faced Langur monkeys (and more varieties), green pit vipers and even lantern bugs!
Recommended for Experienced Hikers and Trekkers: The trek to the Mulawella peak or the Sinhagala Peak will both be hikes that will demand a lot of you, but the opportunity to do a proper rainforest hike is something you don’t get every day.
The best time to hike Adam’s Peak is from June to October.
The hike up to Adam’s Peak is approximately 2,000m (6,560ft) and is more a pilgrimage than a hike which is done by thousands of Sri Lankans and tourists annually. The mountain top is considered sacred and houses a Buddhist temple at its peak, and many hikers leave during the early hours of the morning (approximately 2 am) to reach the entrance in time for sunrise.
There are four different paths that lead to the top of Adam’s Peak – all varying in difficulty. However, hiking those 5,500 steps to the top – whether a beginner or expert in hiking – is achievable, but taxing on your calves and heels.
Described as Sri Lanka’s most famous viewpoint. Located in the Sigiriya Region, Pidurangala is a large rock that rewards successful hikers with fabulous views of Sigiriya Fortress (also known as Lion Rock and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and 360-degree views of the valley surrounding it. Whether you’re aiming to get to the top of Pidurangala for sunrise (leave at dawn) or sunset, it takes approximately one  hour to reach the top depending on your fitness level. Either way, be prepared for a spectacular soundscape, as you take in the beauty of Sri Lanka all around you.
If you’re looking for a good dose of adventure and adrenaline, exploration and magic, or romance amidst the wilderness – Sri Lanka’s ultimate trails for trekking and hiking await. Embark on a journey full of surprises, beauty and breathtaking sights.