Horton Plains National Park (හෝර්ටන් තැන්න ජාතික උද්යානය) is a park centrally located in Sri Lanka and is often compared to the Scottish Highlands. And that is exactly the reason why tourists love to visit it. It is rich in a great diversity of plants and animals and lies at an altitude of 2100 to 2300 metres. And from here you can also see the end of the world. The end of the world? Well, it’s just a name, but the view from this point is certainly worth it. Are you planning to visit Horton Plains National Park? Then read on for more information and tips and discover the historical backgrounds of this beautiful park.
A brief history – Named after the Governor and a special legend
Before the British came to Sri Lanka, this area was called Maha Eliya Thenna (මහ එළිය තැන්න). This changed when the third Governor of Ceylon, Robert Wilmot-Horton (1784-1841) had a regular appointment here with someone from the former Kingdom of Kandy. For this simple reason, this plateau was named after the former Governor of Ceylon. Since 1988, it is also officially a National Park.
But there is a legend behind this place that has strong similarities with the epic Ramayana from India. Mount Thotupala (look closely!) is said to be the place where Rawana, King of Lanka, abducted the wife of Rama, King of India, in revenge for cutting off the nose of Rawana’s sister. Do you still understand? King Rama sent an army from India consisting of monkey-like people. They set the plain on fire and that led to the name Maha Eliya Thenna, which means ‘greatly illuminated land’. With a little imagination, you can see that the area looks like it was once set on fire.
The hike through Horton Plains
A walk through Horton Plains National Park takes about 3 to 4 hours. Basically, it is a 9-kilometre round trip and most tourists choose to visit World’s end first. If you do the other side first, you will in fact start at Baker’s Falls. At the visitor’s centre, you will find a map of the walk and you really can’t get lost here.
Horton Plains National Park is a wildlife sanctuary where, in addition to animals and beautiful nature, you can also enjoy beautiful views. And wherever you look, you will undoubtedly come across them: the cloud of mist. It gives something mystical to the walk and this is also part of the Horton Plains.
But the undisputed flavour of the whole park is the view that everyone comes for: World’s end. The way behind this spot is simple: you have the idea that no matter how far you look, there is no end to the beauty of nature. By the way, it is not a place to frolic or fight, because you can fall down hundreds (read 800) metres. And that has happened once in the recent past. Apart from that, you also have Small World’s End. Here you will find a small plateau and the precipice with 300 metres difference in height is a little less annoying…
Apart from the natural beauty, you will also find many animals in the park. Besides beautiful birds, also the sambar, the largest species of deer in Sri Lanka, lives here. But the real reason why a visit to Horton Plains should be done as early as possible is because of the chance of seeing leopards. But to be honest, that chance is quite small.
And finally, Baker’s Falls. It is perhaps not the most extraordinary waterfall you have ever seen, but with a little rain it is quite impressive. It is about 20 metres high and was discovered in 1845 by the British explorer Samuel Baker (1821-1893).
Practical information for a visit to Horton Plains National Park
Are you now convinced that a visit to Horton Plains National Park is a fantastic addition to your journey through Sri Lanka? Then there is only the question of how to get there? The best way is to arrange a taxi or tuktuk to leave around 5 o’clock in the morning. It is a 45 minutes drive from Nuwara Eliya and in the morning you have the best chance to spot wildlife. It is also true that a walk through the park is much more doable in the morning than in the hot afternoon (despite the altitude of 2000 metres).
The entrance fee is the next step: The bigger the group, the less you pay per person. I was with three others at the time and one of us paid first and then refunded the other. They didn’t do separate payments. Do you understand? With a bit of goodwill you can work it out, but count on an average of 15 to 20 dollars per person. Depending on how many people you are with, the bigger the group the cheaper it gets. The final question will be whether you want to spend 30 dollars per person for this beautiful walk.
Finally, a last remark: buy a breakfast beforehand or take along muesli bars for enough energy. There is no food or drink available in the park.
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