Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park information
Horton Plains is a beautiful, silent, strange world with some excellent hikes in the shadows of Sri Lanka’s second- and third-highest mountains, Kirigalpotta (2395m) and Totapola (2357m). The ‘plains’ form an undulating plateau over 2000m high, covered by wild grasslands and interspersed with patches of thick forest, rocky outcrops, filigree waterfalls and misty lakes. The surprising diversity of the landscape is matched by the wide variety of wildlife (although many of the larger animals are very elusive).
Get there for a 7am start and you may be lucky enough to have the paths to yourself. The plateau comes to a sudden end at World’s End, a stunning escarpment that plunges 880m.
As an important watershed and catchment for several year-round rivers and streams, the Horton Plains hosts a wide range of wildlife. There are a few leopards, sambar deer and wild boar about, but you'd be very lucky to see the boar or leopard. The shaggy bear monkey (or purple-faced langur) is sometimes seen in the forest on the Ohiya road, and occasionally in the woods around World’s End (listen for a wheezy grunt). You may also find the endemic toque macaque.
The area is popular with birdwatchers. Endemic species include the yellow-eared bulbul, the fan-tailed warbler, the ashy-headed babbler, the Ceylon hill white-eye, the Ceylon blackbird, the Ceylon white-eyed arrenga, the dusky-blue flycatcher and the Ceylon blue magpie. Birds of prey include the mountain hawk-eagle.
A tufty grass called Chrysopogon covers the grasslands, while marshy areas are home to copious bog moss (sphagnum). The umbrella-shaped, white-blossomed keena (Calophyllum ) stand as the main canopy over montane forest areas. The stunted trees and shrubs are draped in lichen and mosses. Another notable species is Rhododendron zeylanicum , which has blood-red blossoms. The poignant purple-leafed Strobilanthes blossoms once after five years, and then dies.