$25?! I balked. I thought the tout chatting me up during dinner was lying about the entrance fee to Horton Plains, one of Sri Lanka’s national parks known for its 3 mile hike to a viewpoint called World’s End. “No, madam. It’s really $25 per person. We can leave tomorrow at 6 am.”
I started thinking of all the things I can get for $25 in Sri Lanka. 3 days’ accommodation. 25 lunches. A tuk tuk load of Tambili coconuts. $25 is a lot of money in Sri Lanka. Not to mention I hate the practise of charging foreigners an arm and a leg just because “we can afford it” (in contrast, entrance fee for locals is 50 cents).
MORE: The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling Sri Lanka
Then again, I’m here, half way across the world. Do I really want to miss out on the World’s End trail? It’s arguably one of the most famous hikes in the country.
In the end, the decision was made for me.
Despite an afternoon of calling on other guesthouses in the city and leaving my phone number, apparently nobody else was going to the park the next morning. Hard to believe, but it was true. Even the tout called me back in the evening and said that there weren’t other people to share the van to the park, but maybe madam is interested in a private van? For another $25?
$50 for a 3 mile hike? I’ll pass.
I told the owner of the guesthouse I was staying at about the day’s failed attempt to get myself to the park and she said, “Why don’t you go to Haputale? You get to see the same thing. And it’s free!”
And so that was how I found myself in Haputale the next day – a small, unattractive highland town perched on a steep hillside by the rail track. Haputale’s market had a collection of the mangiest stray dogs I’d seen, busy fighting over scraps and avoiding the occasional kicks (with few successes based on the number of yelps I’d heard). It was all pretty depressing.
The rain didn’t help. It was raining a proper tropical rain. The kind of rain that seems to flow up as well as down and wetness is all around the air. Nothing could ever stay dry in that kind of rain. There was no view to speak of because of the rain and fog. I could barely see the road from my balcony.
Undeterred, I made an arrangement for plan B. Lipton’s Seat was another viewpoint that promises a view rivaling World’s End and it’s a 40 minute ride from Haputale. The Internet folks recommended to get there early… super early, before the fog would roll in and hide the view. So I walked to the market and made an arrangement with a tuk tuk driver to come pick me up at 5 am.
The next morning at 5 am on THE DOT the whole guesthouse was waken up by an insistent bleating of a tuk tuk horn from the street. Do you know how much more obnoxious a tuk tuk horn sounds pre-dawn? Ack! I hurried outside before the whole house realised who to blame for the chaos.
We got to the viewpoint just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. Thankfully there were little signs of yesterday’s downpour.
Here seems like a good time to say a little bit about Lipton’s Seat. This viewpoint tucked high among tea fields was rumored to be the place where Sir Lipton (your know, of the Lipton tea) used to sit to view his tea kingdom.
And what a view he had.
In terms of how it compares to the World’s End in Horton Plains, I can’t say. But what was good enough for Sir Lipton is good enough for me.
Tuk tuk price from Haputale: 800 rupees round trip.
Entrance fee: 50 rupees per soul starting from 7 am.
Tip #1: On the way back, ask the tuk tuk driver to go through Bandarawela for more beautiful views.
Tip #2: Sunday is the day off for the tea pickers, keep that in mind if you’d like a chance to meet them on your way back from the viewpoint.
I live in Sri Lanka and its not as cheap as you state it is… But tourist think so because of cheap local transport and a few dishes that you can get in restaurants for a good price. But 25 meals for 25$ is a bit exaggerated…. (unless you like really low quality food, that most of the locals wont dare to eat). If you just take the average living cost you will see its way higher than what you expect.
I agree the entrance fees are quite high, but a lot of them are set by UNESCO + I do not think 20$ for a safari park is too much. Anyway there are too many jeeps disturbing the animals so imagine it would be cheaper.
I do agree in a lot of places the difference between the local and tourist price is too big, but i do understand they couldn’t afford the tourist price…
We also need to understand locals that they can not work for free, and yes car transport is expensive – did you see the car prices here? An average lease comes to 400-500$ per month…
The amazing island is developing quickly and unfortunately so is the cost of living…
Charging the tourists a lot of money for the national parks in Sri Lanka is becoming annoying. Its also unfair. This trail is the trail I hiked up to the plateau of Horton Plains with my high school in 1990. Back then Horton Plains was free.
I was in Sri Lanka many years ago and I thought it was one of the most beautiful countries with the friendliest people. I’m glad to see it hasn’t changed much.
Wow! What a view. Definitely worth waking up for.