Horton Plains National Park, Srilanka: Visit Experience

Would you pay 15-20 USD just to access a park or open field?
Unfortunately that is the norm in Srilanka for foreign tourists. Most tourism based economies resort to this- even India is no different- in Mahabalipuram or Taj Mahal, foreign nationals pay INR 600 to 1000 whereas locals pay Rs 10-100. Even in Europe entry fees are in the range of 10-15 Euros but they don’t differentiate between nationalities and many attractions will have no entry fee during off peak season (October-Feb). Anyway there’s no point complaining about ticket price for an attraction when you go to visit a country-either pay the prescribed amount and get in or skip the expensive attractions.
At 20 USD per person, Horton Plains National parks was one of the most expensive entry tickets on our recent Srilanka trip. (Sigiriya could have topped the list at 30 USD per person but fortunately SAARC passport holders get it for 15 USD). I had done enough reading about Horton Plains before leaving for Srilanka to decide if the attraction was worth it. I figured out that it is nothing but a scenic spot with long walking trails. I was in split minds whether to include Horton Plains in our plan or not. After much deliberation, decided to visit it, due to following reasons
  • It was fitting perfectly well in my itinerary- between Nuwara Eliya and Rathnapura. There were no better alternative to explore that day if we were not to visit Horton Plains
  • Even if it was not worth, I can tell my readers what exactly to expect in Horton Plains so that they can plan better

We headed to Horton Plains from Nuwara Eliya after visiting Piduruthalagala and stopping over at Seetha Amman temple. There was also Hakgala Botanical garden which we had to skip due to shortage of time, coupled by its 1500 LKR per person entry fee. On the way we also passed New Zealand Farm- this was a 3km detour and wasn't in my plan- wasn't willing to make unplanned diversion hence decided to proceed. We arrived at Horton Plains National Park gate where we had to buy tickets. Looks like they charge the ticket even to pass through the park, not necessarily to explore the viewpoints and walking trails. The walking trail is 8 kms long- few members in our team were not keen to walk so much. I inquired at the ticket counter if they can enter without buying the ticket-the staff refused. So had to buy ticket for everyone + Srilankan driver- a cost of 18040 LKR for 6 of us + 1 local driver. No discounts for SAARC passport holders.
Upon buying ticket we had to register our details, were given a list of instructions and were allowed to go through. Instructions were mainly that we shouldn’t feed animals, should exit before 6 PM, shouldn’t litter and so on.  From the ticket counter we drove for about 15 mins and reached a spot known as check post by about 12.30. Spotted this fellow en-route looking eagerly into tourist vehicles

We asked the driver to park n wait here and went inside. At the checkpost our bags were checked for plastic, paper bags were given as replacement to carry stuffs that were needed for the walk- like biscuits etc and other items had to be deposited. A small canteen was also present, selling vada, bread and other items.
Check post also serves as an information centre- has some basic information about the fauna and flora, a 3D model of the plains and some exhibits like this cheetah

We began our walk and reached a split road where we had to make a decision which way to take. We decided to head left as that was supposed to take us to a view point quicker. In hindsight, taking either direction is fine- wouldn’t make much difference.

Some photos of the walking trail for your reference- smooth in the beginning, bit rocky at places, decent in most places
The path was mix of plains and forest. Road was nice and level at parts, got tougher for the rest- like some boulders or narrow walkways etc. After walking for about 2-3kms we reached at the first attraction- Mini World’s end. Couldn’t see much here due to fog. A small hill climb was also possible here, but we didn’t go up. Proceeded further to World’s End-another km or two away. Thankfully sky was clear here and got some amazing view of the valley below. Check the photos.

Next attraction was Baker’s falls. On the way there were few nice fresh water streams from which we could refill our bottles. We walked through the plains for a few more kms and reached the forest where Baker’s fall is located. Had to climb down some 50 odd steps to access the falls. This is how it looks like.
Back on the trail we headed to starting point- another 2-3 kms from Bakers fall. Enroute there were a few mini pools. Cloudy sky made the walk a lot more pleasurable. Got a few moments of rain and some sunshine but largely a cloudy sky.

Google map had suggested a walking time of 2 hours. I estimated we may need 3 hours- we took 4. The canteen was closed when we came back at around 4 PM. Overall, the walk was fine, the worlds end view was great, baker’s fall was Ok-ok- nothing world class and the landscape was surreal. Don’t regret spending 4 hours, 20 USD on this as one time spend, but may not want to repeat such walks at that fee. Depending on your time, interest and financial constraints you have to decide if this long walk is worth including in your itinerary.

Many visitors do a sunrise trek to Adams Peak, located in same region. It wasn’t viable for me to get the family up by unearthly 3-4 AM and head to sunrise trek-which costs more money and sunrise is luck dependent, so I had to abandon this idea. But you might want to consider.

A few possible suggestions for Horton Plains National Park management:
  • Walking path can be leveled a bit where there’re rocks
  • A electric kart service will be highly useful for senior citizens or families with kids who can’t walk 8 kms
  • Will be good if canteen can remain open and well stocked till closing time of 6 PM. It was empty by 4 PM
  • If there’re members in a group who do not plan to walk the trail, consider sparing them from buying 20 USD ticket just to pass through the national park
  • Couldn’t see any public buses- providing a few buses per day from Nuwara Eliya could get more tourists
Toilet access costs 20 LKR. Some basic items are available in a hotel building near the check post.

My plan was to stop at Bambarakanda waterfalls, before going to Rathanpura for night halt. But the road between Ohiya and Bambarakanda was too bad, forcing us a longer detour via Haputale without getting an opportunity to explore the waterfalls.

Do check this post for detailed FAQs that will help planning your visit to Horton Plains National Park

Similar: Silent Valley National Park, Kerala * Erawan Falls National Park, Thailand * Bannerghatta National Park, Bengaluru * Sa Nang Manora waterfalls, Phuket *

More Srilanka posts here  * 
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