When planning my trip to Sri Lanka, I was most excited for the tea plantations and their beautiful scenery. Pinterest photos of Sri Lankan women picking away with delighted smiles on their faces, surrounded by lush hills had me sold. And they were beautiful, but they were far from the highlight for me. It was the national parks that took my breath away.
Horton Plains is located near the town of Nuwara Eliya, also known as Little England. The hotel we stayed in was very dated but had all of the charm of the England countryside and was actually a club with private dining halls, tennis courts and gardens. We left before first light and arrived at Horton Plains just in time to see the sun rise over the mountains. The entrance was surrounded by elk grazing in the clearing, and the air was cool and crisp. At the start of the hike I was a bit worried that we would be surrounded by others the entire time, but just about a kilometer in the crowd thinned and for much of the time it was as if we had the place to ourselves.
The highlight of the park is said to be Worlds End, a lookout point. The view was gorgeous, but the highlight for me was just the flat landscape found in the middle of the park. It wasn’t the green tropical look of South East Asia I’m used to and that made it so much more of a stark contrast. Just to be on this hike with bubbling streams everywhere, and nothing man made for as far as the eye can see was so refreshing. The walk itself was fairly easy and with the lower temperature it made for a great hike.
Yala was equally as beautiful. We went on a safari in the park for a few hours and took in the wildlife from the comfort bumpiness of our jeep. In hindsight I wished we had listened to our guide and gone later in the day, but it was still beautiful. We saw crocodiles, wild boar, exotic birds, monkeys, caribou, an elephant and lots and lots of deer. The best part is that we were the strangers in their territory and got to watch them carry out their normal everyday lives. Yala boasts a large leopard population, but unfortunately we didn’t get to see any. I’d definitely like to go again and actually stay overnight in the park and see it at all hours.
What I loved most about both Yala and Horton Plains was how immaculate it was. The staff was so diligent, making sure that we didn’t take anything in the park that would leave a footprint. Alcohol, plastic bags and even the labels on our water bottles were confiscated. As a result, I didn’t see even one piece of litter, which in South East Asia is such a rarity. Both parks were pristine and their beauty left me in awe and with a strong desire to return again soon.