The Central Highlands is one of the must-see places when visiting Sri Lanka. Situated in the south central section of the island nation, the area is mainly composed of three parts – the Horton Plains National Park, the Knuckles Conservation Forest and the Peak Wilderness Protected Area.
Rising 2,500 meters above sea-level, the Central Highlands are surrounded by luscious montane forests. Because of its huge ravines, rushing waterfalls, steep green hills, rugged peaks, and tea plantations, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka are considered to be one of the most beautiful regions in the world. It is also the reason why it has been recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors are drawn to the Central Highlands because of its undisturbed and diverse habitats of flora and fauna. It is home to many endangered species like the Sri Lankan leopard, the Horton Plains slender loris and the langur. By road or by rail, the journey around this region is most likely to be one of your most memorable. The train service that goes through the Highlands is actually a slow diesel-powered locomotive train. It starts in Colombo and passes by Kandy, Hatton, Nuwara Eliya, Haputale, Bandarwela and Badulla. This route is quite spectacular because it will unveil the region’s scenic mountainous landscape. Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands can be visited year round, but the best time to visit most of the sites is between November to April.
While travelling around the Central Highlands, one important stop you will want to make is the historic city of Kandy. Regarded as the Royal City, it’s Sri Lanka’s last independent kingdom, which was able to withstand incursions made by the Portuguese & Dutch colonizers two centuries ago. Thus, it’s no surprise that you can still witness the culture and old traditions of the independent Sinhalese when you visit Kandy. These traditions are still so much alive in the locals’ dance, music and architecture. The most popular landmark in the city is the Holy Temple of the Tooth, which is considered one of the world’s holiest Buddhist temples. The presence of the Holy Temple is the reason why the amazing festival called Kandy Esala Perahera is celebrated.
After discovering the long history and fascinating culture of Kandy, you will want to spend some time experiencing the southern hilly countryside of the Highlands. This area is the actually the highest and most gorgeous section of the island nation. The towns populating this area feature the British colonial period’s influences such as colonial architecture, English gardens, vegetations and Gothic churches. Nuwara Eliya is the main settlement for the southern hill section of the Central Highlands, and is the most strongly British influenced town in the region. It is your main entry point for exploring the rugged uplands of the Horton Plains National Park.
If you go further south, you will encounter the lovely towns of Badulla, Bandarawela, Haputale and Ella. Each of this town provides incredible views of the hills, and opportunities to visit authentic Sri Lankan tea plantations. You can also head out to the Adam’s Peak, located on the most southern end of the Highlands. This mountain is known by many names including Butterfly Mountain (Samanala Kanda) and the Sacred Footprint (Sri Pada). It is a pilgrimage spot for Buddhists and other principal religions.