i suspect visitors to Sri Lanka can be divided into two groups, the primarily beach people and the primarily tea people (=the mountain people). i’m definitely a tea person, and if you’re a tea person you go to the Hill Country which is where tea is grown. if you go to Hill Country you’ll probably end up in Nuwara Eliya. if you end up in Nuwara Eliya, you’ll probably go to Horton Plains National Park.
and so i did.
what’s in horton plains?
the biggest attraction is World’s End, a precipice (a precipice without guard rails, mind you) that plunges over half a mile to the valley floor below. for me, though, the highlight was the serene and somewhat foreign landscape you have to walk through to get to World’s End. there’s a circuit hike that basically everyone does that will take you to a waterfall (Baker’s Falls), World’s End, and a smaller precipice called…Small World’s End. (yup.)
most people come in a van or car organized by their accommodations. it’s about 20 miles from Nuwara Eliya, but will take a good hour plus or so to get there, at least.
costs and facilities
it ain’t cheap — and for what you pay you’d expect better trails and facilities, but oh well. as of this writing (mid-April 2016), here are the costs for what i paid (you, the visitor, will likely be paying for your driver and car’s entry):
- Local adult: 60 rupees
- Foreign adult: 2058 rupees
- Van: 250 rupees (a car is 150)
- Service Charge: 1097.60 rupees
- VAT: 381.22
- TOTAL: 3846.82 rupees, or $26.32 (US)
so, if you had a van with 4 visitors + a driver, you’d pay 4 foreigners, 1 local, and 1 van (plus tax and service charge). i’m not sure if they take card–i thought i heard mumblings that they did and i could have sworn i saw someone with a credit card out, but i’m not sure if it was accepted or not. best to plan on just having enough cash with you.
speaking of facilities, once you enter the park there’s pretty much just a pricey cafeteria and restrooms. further in, on the trail, i only came across one unisex bathroom (well, 4 stalls and 2 sinks), but they were in such a state that i ended up holding it. YMMV, especially if you really have to go, but good luck.
there are some things to note:
- get there early (like, leave town at 5 AM) for many reasons:
- it’s less crowded (for much of my walk i had the trail to myself — amazing)
- it’s cooler
- sunrise colors and shadows — two big thumbs up
- the bestest part is the mist that covers everything like a blanket — beauty made mist-ical, if you will!
- on the other hand, the earlier you reach World’s End, the less misty it will be. as the day goes on more and more clouds fill the valley and well before noon you might not be able to see the valley floor.
- your accommodations will likely pack you a breakfast. there is a “plastics” check before you enter the trail. they will swap any plastic bags you’re using to carry your food for a paper bag and remove the plastic seal and label from your water bottle (the bottle itself is ok). my airbnb host knew what was up and packed my lunch in a paper box with paper napkin wrappers and removed the seal and label from my water bottle, and put everything in a cloth sack. i was the only one i saw who didn’t have to do anything *smug*. (thanks airbnb host!)
- it will start of cool but the sun will get warm as the morning progresses, so dress in layers. i did the right thing in bringing a pair of shorts in my bag — i changed on the trail (beauty of being the only one there) and transitioned three times before i was halfway through the hike:
- jeans + t-shirt + long sleeve
- jeans + t-shirt + rolled-up long sleeve
- shorts + t-shirt + rolled-up long sleeve
- shorts + t-shirt
- the standard loop trail is nearly 6 miles long and will probably take at least 3 hours at a fairly brisk pace with minimal stopping. be sure to wear comfortable athletic or hiking shoes you don’t mind getting dirty, as the vast majority of the trail is unimproved. yes, i saw chinese tourists doing them in meshy flats and a guy in sperrys and several people in sandals and flip-flops, but your feet will thank you if you wear appropriate shoes.
- speaking of the loop, the branching point to the circle happens after a bit of a straight path from the entry (where you get your bags searched). you can go either right or left; i chose right (=i did the loop counterclockwise, hitting Baker’s Falls before World’s End). i think this ended up being for the better because there seemed to be more shade on the second half of the loop going counterclockwise, which is handy because the sun is higher and stronger by then.