Most people might think about white beaches when Sri Lanka comes to mind, which makes it easy to forget about the mountainous landscape of the island. With sacred mountains and beautiful viewpoints, Sri Lanka has many options for a spectacular hiking experience.
Here is a list of the most popular hikes in Sri Lanka that you shouldn't miss. So if you’re looking for the best hikes that are convenient and offer outstanding views, then you'll love this guide!
These five hikes are the most convenient because they can be completed in a single day. So whether you have 3 weeks or 1 week in Sri Lanka, you can definitely squeeze a hike or two into your ultimate Sri Lanka itinerary.
We have also included the difficulty levels, entrance fees, and many more tips to help you decide where to go.
Let's get started!
1. Pidurangala Rock
Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Best time to hike: Before sunrise
Entrance fee: 3 USD
Location: Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Pidurangala Rock is a massive rock formation located in Pidurangala village. This rock is popular for its panoramic views of the town as it overlooks the famous Lion’s Rock.
Compared to Lion’s Rock, Pidurangala Rock is cheaper. Yet it still offers a breathtaking view of the town and of Sigiriya.
The best time to hike is before sunrise or sunset to avoid the scorching heat. During these times, you'll witness the beautiful change of colors in the scenery. Wait for the sun to shine down on the lush lands and the Lion's Rock. This is a picturesque view you shouldn’t miss while in Sri Lanka!
Tip: Our top tip for hiking Pidurangala Rock if you visit for the sunrise or sunset is to head there early. Then pick a spot higher, away from the crowds, to give you more space to take photos and enjoy the view!
The trail at Pidurangala Rock is also easy to find, with a temple right by the entrance. You will need to pay 3 USD per person, which acts as a donation rather than a fee.
Also, make sure you cover your shoulders and knees when you pass the temple. Though the ticket office opens at 5am and closes at 6pm, these hours are not strictly enforced.
The trail starts with concrete steps built into the mountains, then tree branches. Towards the end, you will have to climb up a narrow boulder, and this can be a bit challenging for some. At busier times, you might also need to wait a few minutes to pass through the small passageways.
Hiking Pidurangala Rock is easy to moderate, depending on your fitness level. On average, it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to summit.
2. Lion’s Rock
Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
Best time to hike: Before sunset
Entrance fee: 30 USD
Location: Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Lion’s Rock, also known as Sigiriya, offers both history and amazing views. It is an ancient rock fortress listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the central province. On any Sri Lankan itinerary, a climb to Sigiriya is one of the things you have to do.
With an entrance fee of 30 USD per person, you get access to the museum and can climb to the top of the fortress. The best time to climb is just before sunset, at around 4pm when the weather is not too hot.
With over 1200 steps leading to the top, the climb is manageable and can take from 1 hour to 1.5 hours. Once you reach the summit, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
In the beginning, you will walk on wider concrete, and as you get higher, the steps get narrower. There’s also a part where you have to walk on a spiral staircase in the middle. Depending on how busy it gets, you might have to wait in line.
There are a lot of places to hang out and rest while climbing. These include a very polished wall best known as a "mirror wall" and some cave paintings.
Head out before sunset and spend some time exploring and taking in the amazing view at the top. You might want to bring some water and snacks with you to enjoy while waiting for sunset. But be careful with the monkeys!
3. Ella Rock
Time: 1.5 to 2 hours
Best time to hike: Early morning
Entrance fee: Free
Location: Ella, Sri Lanka
Hiking Ella Rock is one of the popular things to do when visiting the town of Ella. As impressive as the views at the top, the way to the rock from the main town is also notable. Depending on your fitness level, the hike ranges from moderate to difficult and can take up to 3 hours back and forth from the town.
Tip: We recommend starting your trek early in the morning to avoid the scorching midday sun.
You can easily hike to Ella Rock on your own. Start from Ella village and walk along the train tracks for a couple of miles until you reach the actual trail. Now, walking on the train tracks has a dreamy and charming vibe like being in a movie. But don’t get too carried away and be wary of any incoming trains. Overall, it’s safe to walk on the tracks, and there is a lot of space on the side to get away from any trains.
The trail is also well maintained and runs through a small village that has a gradual incline. There are friendly village dogs in the area that may follow you along the trail. Once you pass the long grass, the trail opens up into a view, and then there is a steep climb up to get to the rock. You will be in the forest, so there are lots of shades to protect you from the sun.
Once you get to the top, there is a vendor selling cold coconuts. But you may want to bring your own drinks and food to enjoy alongside the breathtaking view of Ella below. Surrounded by stunning nature, you can take your time and bask in the beauty of the landscape as you perch on one of the cliff rocks.
Tip: During the rainy season, be on the lookout for leeches. Wear long pants or high socks to avoid them.
4. Little Adam’s Peak
Time: 30 to 50 minutes
Best time to hike: Sunrise or early morning
Entrance fee: Free
Location: Ella, Sri Lanka
Little Adam's Peak is a great option for a short and scenic hike in Ella, as it offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Hiking Little Adam's Peak can take about 30 to 50 minutes, and it’s best at sunrise or early in the morning to avoid the heat and get the best views.
You can hike Little Adam's Peak on your own without a guide, as the path is well marked. It starts with an easy walk on gravel roads through a tea plantation. Then follow a few steps that lead you to a few meters of rocky terrain.
Though lower than Ella Rock’s, the view at the top still showcases the beauty of Ella’s lush mountains. Bring water and snacks to enjoy while on top. There are dogs around the area that will follow you through the paths as well. But don’t worry, they're very friendly.
Tip: Note that it can get quite busy given that it’s in a tourist area. That's why it's better to head there as early as you can. Despite the crowds, a visit to Little Adam's Peak is an enjoyable experience and definitely worth the trip.
5. Adam’s Peak
Time: 2 to 3 hours
Best time to climb: Before sunrise
Entrance fee: Free
Location: Delhousie, Sri Lanka
Adam’s Peak, also known as Sri Pada, is the 5th tallest and the most sacred mountain in Sri Lanka.
It is also one of the most frequented climbs by tourists visiting the country. Mostly to watch the sunrise and take in the breathtaking views from above. While for others, it is the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing the difficult climb that is not for the faint of heart. Go there for the views and witness hundreds of pilgrims perform their ceremonies.
Climbing Adam’s Peak is hard and exhausting, with over 5,500 steps, and it takes 2 to 3 hours to reach the top. If you want to witness the first ray of sunlight at the summit, you will have to start climbing at dawn, at around 2:30 a.m.
Depending on the time you visit, you may have to wait in line as hundreds of visitors climb every day. The pilgrimage season runs from December to May. Travelers are also welcome to climb alongside the pilgrims.
During those 6 months of the pilgrimage season, the steps up the mountainside are illuminated. But we suggest bringing a torch with you to be sure.
Tip: There are also little stalls and tea shops that are open for snacks and tea. But make sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks to give you strength through the grind.
Once you reach the top, find a spot to watch the sunrise and bundle up as it gets chilly in the morning.
Once the sun rises, the pilgrims perform a religious ceremony as they beat their drums. Then they make processions around the temple with flowers and offerings in hand.
The festive atmosphere along with the breathtaking views make climbing Adam's Peak worthwhile!
Here are our top 9 travel tips to help you make the most of your hiking trip in Sri Lanka, wherever you choose to go!
- Always check the weather before heading out for the hike.
- Bring plenty of water and snacks to enjoy at the top.
- Wear comfortable shoes no matter how easy the hike is.
- Wear sunscreen. Plenty of them!
- Take small cash for entrance fees and cold coconuts!
- Bring a flashlight if you’re planning on hiking for sunrise or sunset.
- Wear long socks if it’s raining to prevent leech bites.
- Download to view the trail offline.
- Bring an extra layer of clothes as it tends to get colder at the top.
And that sums up the top 5 most popular hikes you shouldn't miss on your trip to Sri Lanka. All five hikes offer a unique, breathtaking experience and stunning views that will stay with you long after your journey has ended.
Which of these hikes are you most excited to try?
Let us know in the comments section below.
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