TikaWeeks #11/2023: Sri Lanka update
Posted by John on 18th March 2023
Earlier this year The Independent’s travel desk published their dream destinations for 2023 and Sri Lanka topped the wish list. After years of pandemic-related restrictions, this is the first year that travel has the opportunity to return to “normal”, with most countries having opened back up to tourists, without the need for extra testing and paperwork. Previously on the up as a seemingly universally loved travel destination and with so much pent-up demand, Sri Lanka is the place to visit in 2023.
The best destinations to travel to in 2023
Here is the article in The Independent online by Lucy Thackray highlighting Sri Lanka as a 2023 travel hotspot.
Previously on the up as a seemingly universally loved travel destination, this Indian Ocean island has had a tough few years, with political protests prompted by an economic crisis, Covid-19 shutting down tourism and a 2019 bomb attack. But despite all this, there remains lush natural beauty, diverse wildlife to see and a delightful independent hotel and tourism scene to explore. It feels like 2023 is the time to return, with the historic Galle Fort Hotel, set in a 300-year-old Dutch mansion, reopening after a major restoration, plus the nation is celebrating 75 years of independence in February. This year also saw the Uga Elephant Research Centre open at Ulagalla, with the first tourists visiting to learn about the island’s 6,000 (remaining but endangered) elephants this winter. And it’s worth checking out the Tea Country Trail, a 22-day, 200-mile network of hiking trails through verdant Sri Lankan tea fields.
The Pekoe Trail
I introduced the inspiration and background to The Pekoe Trail, Sri Lanka’s Tea Country Trail, in my last blog. Each stage of the 300-km, 22-stage network of hiking trails will be covered in subsequent blogs, beginning with Stage 1 below.
Miguel Cunat, the visionary creator of The Pekoe Trail, has uploaded all of the route details onto his website and I will use this free resource for each individual stage of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country Trail. Other source material originates from AllTrails.
The Pekoe Trail – Stage 1: Hanthana to Galaha
This 12.8-km stage starts at the Ceylon Tea Museum on the Hanthana Estate and the museum, which is housed in the shell of the old Hanthana Tea Factory, is well worth a visit. The track heads up to the central tea plantations of Hanthana, with its panoramic mountain range featuring seven peaks.
The area was used for backdrops in the making of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" with Harrison Ford, who plays the eponymous eccentric archaeologist in the classic Hollywood adventure. Steven Spielberg filmed in Kandy and the surrounding area around Hanthana for several weeks in 1983.
On a clear day you will see as far as the Victoria Reservoir and take in the entire Knuckles Mountain Range from the pass. The views are truly spectacular. The highest elevation reached on the trail is 1066 metres and the total elevation gained is 290 metres. It is not a difficult ascent and the highest point on the trail is at the 6.3-km point, from where it is all downhill until crossing the river 1 km from Galaha, the end point of the trail.
On your descent towards Galaha look out for a statue of the Buddha on top of a rock. At 10 km, the trail leads through a fabulous forest with enormous trees. The last few kilometres before crossing the river are more residential as the trail passes through a few villages on paved paths, where you may have the opportunity of chats with the very friendly locals.
The crossing of the bridge is the lowest point of the trail at an elevation of 776 metres and on the other side is a dense pine forest. Here you have the option of taking the steep track up the hill or following the road around the bend. Both ways lead you to the Galaha Road and the local Post Office, which is a kilometre away and the end of the trail.
Seasoned hikers would probably manage the trail in around 3 hours. Off the trail you may encounter leeches, particularly after rain, so please take precautions.
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