Eerie yet strikingly beautiful, the Horton Plains National Park is a surreal grassland filled with rolling plains and a fragile ecosystem. Perched at 2,000 metres above sea level, the unkempt and misty plateau covers an area of 3,169 hectares.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the National Park has a diverse set of natural attractions, whether it is the spectacular waterfalls, the dramatic escarpment or stunning mountains. The park also has a camping site for those who are adventure savvy. For the more conventional crowd, there are plenty of bungalows such as the Yoho Hill View 02 and hotels such as the Yoho Unique Place.
The Horton Plains is home to the second tallest mountain in the country; Kirigalpoththa. Towering at 2,388 m, it is the tallest mountain in the country that can be accessed by the public. It can be reached via a separate trail in the park that boast great views of the rolling plains. You can find surrealistic stands of cloud forest, with their distinctive umbrella-shaped keena trees, covered in a fine misty blanket. The journey to the summit is approximately fourteen kilometres. The surrounding air tends to get colder as you climb so you are advised to bring adequate protection against the cold. The trails are not frequented much hence it is best that you do not attempt this as a solo climber.
The particularly rewarding trails are lined with few of the most popular attractions in the plains. The cascading Baker’s Falls is one such marvel frequented by the locals and tourists alike. Only 20m in height, falls are surrounded by giant ferns and the water streams down a large rock formation creating a halo-like mist in the process. If you are lucky, you can also catch a glimpse of the elusive purple faced monkey inhabiting in the surrounding trees.
The highlight of the entire park is of course the World’s End. Located in the southern most edge of the park, it is a plunging cliff with a drop of about 880m. On a clear day, you can soak in the idyllic views of all parts of this tiny island nation, be it the many villages dotted over the hills or the coastline in the South of the country. The journey to the World’s End will take roughly 3 hours. The best time to reach the escarpment before the mist rolls in to blanket the view is before 9AM.
The undulating plateau is also an excellent location for bird watching. The biodiversity of Horton Plains makes it an excellent place to see montane endemics such as the dull-blue flycatcher, Sri Lanka bush warbler, Sri Lanka whistling thrush and the pretty yellow-eared bulbul. You will have the chance to see a few magnificent lizards, some of them boasting outlandishly fluorescent green scales.
Image courtesy Yoho Bed CTO Chamara Peries.