TikaWeeks #10/2023: Sri Lanka update

Posted by John on 10th March 2023

Sri Lanka's beautiful and enigmatic Tea Country

I am sure you will have heard of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, Peru's Inca Trail or the well-trammelled route to Everest Base Camp, but do you know about the world's newest walking trail? No, well it's Sri Lanka's very own Pekoe Trail, a 300-km, 22-stage network of hiking trails, part funded by the EU with additional help from USAID, which winds its way through the island's dramatic and enigmatic Hill Country, an area synonymous with growing tea. Intended to be walked in stages (each stage represents one daily trail) or in full, it was conceived to encourage more visitors into the island's most remote regions. It is a social enterprise aimed at promoting, protecting and preserving the historical and cultural heritage of the Sri Lankan Tea Country.

For visitors who love slow travel and exploring on foot, this is the best way to really get under the skin of this beautiful area. Spanning seven valleys, the network of trails takes you through isolated villages, up into some of the country's highest and remotest mountain regions, along colonial-era tea trails, beside waterfalls, alongside railway tracks, through pine and cloud forests, past whirring tea factories, farmland, temples, churches, kovils and lakes. The scenery is stunning and each stage is designed to offer the most immersive experience.

The following section in italics is an abridged and amended version of an article by Juliet Coombe called Walking the walk in Sri Lanka’s Tea Country Trails published in the online version of the Daily News.

The Pekoe Trail is the brainchild of Miguel Cunat, one of the world’s most visionary sustainable tourism experts, who has created a trailblazing 25-day hike across Sri Lanka’s tea country, which is of enormous heritage value to the world. Fashioned along similar lines to the deeply spiritual pilgrimage of the Spanish Camino, the Sri Lankan Tea Country trail will go one stage further by engaging visitors directly with local communities in the afternoons after walking from 7am to 1pm. Local experiences may include tea tasting, painting, or making jams and pineapple wine, or even having a go at tea bush furniture making.

The individual trails can be either guided or self-guided. All the trail GPRS coordinates are published and ‘open source’. However, Miguel strongly recommends travelling with a guide, as they enrich the journey through their knowledge of the history and cultural heritage of the various areas, as well as act as interpreters with the locals.

So, go and put on those walking boots and discover the amazing hikes of The Pekoe Trail as it meanders through gorgeous countryside, meeting a huge diversity of people, travellers and locals alike, in some of the most peaceful and beautiful surroundings the world has to offer.

In the next editions of our blog we will catalogue the various stages of The Pekoe Trail, beginning at the northern trail head of Hanthana near Kandy and ending at the Pedro Estate near Borlanda in the southern Hill Country.

Categories: Culture, News, Sightseeing, Sri Lanka, Sustainability, Travel tips

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