Trekking the Knuckles Mountain Range in Sri Lanka was one of the main highlights of our trip to this incredible country, and one that certainly should not be missed by adventurers and nature lovers alike. It’s one of the best ways to escape the tourists and get out into Sri Lanka’s incredible countryside.
Set high in the Districts of Matale and Kandy, the Knuckles mountain range is named after the peaks and folds that create a knuckle shape when viewed from certain angles. I couldn’t see it personally, but the guide was very excited about it so I played along!
The constantly changing cloud and mist cover make the Knuckles Mountain Range an incredible place to explore, with different views at every turn and a plethora of wildlife to spot. You will not be disappointed by what this place has to offer. You can literally walk from eco-system to eco-system and there is such an obvious change in landscape that you feel as though you could be on several completely different treks.
Why Trek The Knuckles Mountain Range?
After booking our flights to Sri Lanka one of the first things we looked at was trekking options. We’re keen on getting away from crowded cities on our travels, and like nothing more than finding those remote places that aren’t so accessible. But researching treks in Sri Lanka wasn’t as easy as we had hoped. There were the popular walks, Adam’s peak, Ella’s Rock, Little Adam’s Peak (all of which are great-find out more here!) but we wanted something more off the beaten track. A bit more of an adventure.
We could find very little information but settled on trekking in the Knuckles Mountain Range. It was a bit of a slog to plan, with no clear guides on who to book through, how to get there or what options were available to tourists wanting to trek in the Knuckles Mountain Range.
We’ve put together an extensive guide in the hopes of making your trip a little easier to research! Hopefully this includes all the information you could possibly need before making this trip yourself, but if we’ve missed anything out then please do let us know in the comments below and we’ll get back to you asap.
Book A Guide For The Knuckles Mountain Range Trek
We would have loved to go alone but, along with being strictly prohibited, after reading up on trekking in the Knuckles Mountain Range we decided the many uncharted paths, unpredictable weather and lack of decent maps of the area meant we would have had to take a guide anyway.
We booked with Sri Lanka Trekking and rate them very highly (no affiliate link!). They offered competitive prices and we had excellent contact with them from the moment we booked. They provided us with all the information we needed well in advance so that we could be properly prepared for the trek. Your guide will sort out all your permits for you to make entrance to the national park smoother and easier.
After a nasty accident when trekking in the Himalayas I now always encourage people to take guides on remote treks where possible. I get that it doesn’t feel quite so adventurous, and can cost quite a lot of money, but you’re paying for expertise that could save your life (I have first hand experience of this!) Guides also provide such a wealth of knowledge. We would never have found the rare leaf-nosed lizard, or spotted deers, or a rattlesnake. We got a lot more from our trip because if our passionate and experienced guide. You’re also helping out local businesses – responsible tourism at it’s finest!
Prices For A Trek In The Knuckles Mountain Range
In 2018 we paid (per person, per day)
|2 People||3 People||4 People|
Transport, accommodation at the camp site, all meals in first day lunch to last day lunch (including a home made meal at a local village), entrance tickets to Knuckles Mountain Range, the fees for a professional guide for the whole trip, and the chef that cooked the evening meal, all drinking water.
Top tip: Make sure you tell your guide exactly what you want from your trip before you go. If the focus of your trip is to see the wonderful nature that exists on the mountain, they will be able to recommend the best route and guide for you. If you want adventure, or something a little easier, just let them know.
Also, keep in mind that they know these mountains a lot better than you. The weather will dictate your trip and the guides know which views will be completely hidden in the clouds, or which animals will be out with the sun!
Where Is The Knuckles Mountain Range?
The favourite approach to the Knuckles Mountain Range ranges begins on the main motor way running east of Kandy to Hunnsgiriya. At Hunnasiriya, another road leads to Corbett’s Gap, which opens up magnificent views of the Knuckles Range. Make sure you keep your eyes out the window from now on, as the views get unreal! From Corbett’s Gap the road that leads to the village of Meemure can be travelled (by a sturdy vehicle)!
As we mentioned above, it is not possible to do this trek without a guide, so make sure they know where to pick you up from before you start your trek and they will know all the local information on the best routes to take to get here! Kandy gets pretty busy with traffic, so a guide will make sure you take the route that is quickest!
Popular Knuckles Mountain Range Trekking Routes
Nitro Caves In The Knuckles Mountain Range
Nitro caves is a massive cave in the Knuckles Mountain Range that’s inhabited by thousands of bats. But this isn’t the only part of the trek that will take your breath away. With some of the trek being at an elevation of 1216 metres, you will take in incredible views of the mountain range. The 11-kilometre path starts at Corbett’s Gap and will take about five hours to complete.
Mini World’s End
This dramatic 1,192-metre cliff (with no barriers! Watch your step!) offers sweeping views of the mountains. The trek begins at the Knuckles Conservation Centre (KCC) and is 1.5 kilometres in length. This trek is shorter in distance but no less impressive.
Top Tip: If you want to see the real World’s End then we can thoroughly recommend a trip to the famous Horton Plains National Park.
Dothalugala Nature Trail In The Knuckles Mountain Range
The Dothalugala nature trail in The Knuckles Mountain Range will have you trekking your way up the Dothalugala Mountain. It offers breathtaking of views from the south of the range. You can complete this trek as a circuit by coming down the other side of the mountain, making the entire trek 5.8 kilometres. The trek begins at the Knuckles Conservation Centre in Deanston and your guide will sort out your permit for you.
Duwili Ella trail
The Duwaili Ella trail leads to a 40m waterfall hidden in the forests of The Knuckles Mountain Range. What makes this waterfall special is the cave behind it, meaning you can walk behind the waterfall. It’s a pretty cool experience, but check with your guide before you head there to make sure there will be water running when you arrive.
The Cloud Forests Of The Knuckles Mountain Range
Make sure your guide takes you to the cloud forest on your trek in the Knuckles Mountain Range. The cloud forest is a very unique eco-region. It can only be found above 1000m in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is considered a hot spot for endemic flora and fauna. Because of the high humidity here, the cloud forest is evergreen and the only home in the world to more than 20 endangered species.
These treks in The Knuckles Mountain Range can be completed in a day, but we recommend you spend a night there for reasons explained below! This way you’ll also get to see more than one of these amazing parts of the Knuckles Mountain Range, and have a pretty unique experience under the stars as well.
What To Expect From Your Trek In The Knuckles Mountain Range
You’ll be starting the trek early, so get a good nights sleep! Our guide, Prabeth, was prompt and very friendly. He took us to a local cafe and insisted on buying us a coffee before we set off on about an hours drive to reach the start of our trek.
Day 1 Of The Knuckles Mountain Trek
The beginning of the trek led us through beautiful green woodland covered in butterflies. Prabeth knew the name of every tree, flower and insect but his particular passion was birds and he was extremely excited when I bought out a pair of cheap binoculars. This is a huge benefit of having a trained local guide, there is so much we would have missed without his knowledge.
One of my favourite parts of the trek early on led us through a tiny collection of houses amongst fields and fields of rice paddies. We had lunch provided by the company and ate next to a waterfall, resting our feet in the cool water. If you don’t like spice then bring your own food, most of my lunch was fed to the hungry fishes!
After lunch we walked through the smallest village I have ever seen, watched the children playing beside the rice paddies and the villagers at work in the fields. It was a snapshop view into a completely different way of life. We spotted a rattle snake in the long grass, a countless array of lizards and numerous colourful birds (that to be honest all looked the same to us but apparently were very different!)
Over Night Accommodation
Sky camp was a line of metal roofed huts with tents set up in each. We had the whole camp to ourselves which was quite magical. The view was spectacular – get up for sunrise and you won’t be disappointed!
There were clean showers, cups of tea and a delicious cooked dinner. If you’re not completed exhausted there is more stunning scenery a short walk from the camp that you can explore on your own. We did a short walk through tea plantations and took it slow, taking in the incredible views as the sun was setting. We fell asleep, exhausted, to the sound of crickets.
Day 2 Of The Knuckles Mountain Range Trek
The next day was slightly more strenuous as we climbed to the top of one of the peaks. We were greeted with stunning views, even through the clouds.
The walk through a ‘cloud forest’ provided a completely different scene again and we spotted barking deer and leaf nosed lizards found only in a certain small area in the mountains.
Lunch was provided by a family from a village we trekked through. There was a wide choice of food and we were welcomed cheerfully into their house and made to feel at home. It was a great opportunity to see local village life and tourists obviously provide good business to these people who have made their home high up in the mountains.
We were disappointed that the second day wasn’t a bit longer (we were picked up at about 2pm) but even the drive back to civilisation was incredible (and a little terrifying, if you’re anything like me you’ll spend the whole way down gripping your seat belt).
Where To Stay Before You Trek The Knuckles Mountain Range
The Knuckles Mountain Range lies in central Sri Lanka. There are various ways to access it, but the easiest and most convenient for the majority of travellers is to start in the city of Kandy.
You will want to book at least a night as you will need to leave very early in the morning for your trek. Here there are numerous accommodation options, ranging from budget to luxurious. We’ve listed a few below, but for the best deals it is definitely worth shopping around.
We stayed over night at a home stay booked through air bnb. The family were lovely, and so were their many cats! They made us feel at home with tea and biscuits after our long journey and it was nice to be in a slightly separate part of the house so we didn’t feel bad about getting up at silly o’clock to start our trek (not that they would have cared as they were up way before us, making us feel incredibly lazy for our 5.30am lie in!) You can book with them here.
Air bnb offers many more home stay options. If you don’t plan on staying at a home stay in Kandy then we highly recommend you fit it into your trip elsewhere. We found home stays were the best way to meet local residents and get top tips on the area.
If you want something a little more mainstream that doesn’t break the bank, then try one of the many guest houses. Freedom Lodge is located near the scenic Kandy lake but is tucked away from the bustle of the city streets. It is run by a lovely couple who speak English fluently.
Their 8 homely, but immaculately kept, rooms all come with basic necessities such as mosquito nets and fans and all come with their own modern, private bathrooms. There are two different garden areas for you to relax in and the guesthouse offers a simple but filling breakfast to start your day.
The Kandy City Hotel is affordable but offers a little more luxury than a home stay. It’s in a great location, being near to the central railway station and the city sights. The rooms come with all the essentials, and even boast air conditioning, WIFI and a TV! You can eat in the restaurant here and they offer great advice about the surrounding area.
Things To Do In Kandy
We’re not huge lovers of cities so we planned our trip with minimal time in Kandy but what we did see of the city was beautiful. If you have time then it may be worth booking a few days here before or after your trek so that you have time to explore the area.
If you only have an evening to spare before your trek then make sure you visit the lake in the centre at sunset. It is truly stunning with the water turning pink and orange and huge bats flying over the water to nest in surrounding trees. There was a really pleasant feel to the city and we would have been happy spending a day or two here if time had permitted.
If you’ve got more time to spare then we’ve put together a comprehensive lost of the most beautiful places in Kandy to help you get the most out of your stay. There really is so much to do in this vibrant city, so try to leave a little time before or after your trek to get the most out of your stay here.
Top Tips For Trekking The Knuckles Mountain Range
- Leave as much luggage as possible at your home stay/hotel, you won’t need much and the walking will be easier without heavy backpacks! If you can’t leave them let the trekking company know and they can store them in the vehicle.
- Bring water for your first day. We were asked on the way there how much we would drink on the second day and our guide bought supplies for us which were dropped off at camp.
- Bring a small bottle of Dettol. We were confused about where to get this but it turns out most small convenient stores in Kandy sell them. There are LOTS of leeches and the dettol really worked, though we weren’t sure about it’s effects on the environment. If you’re more prepared than us and you read up on it and decide it’s a bad idea, I’ve had luck with salt pouches before which could be easily made with a rag and some salt from a restaurant. We didn’t get a single bite (and they really are everywhere!)
- Wear decent walking shoes that are covered-protect yourself from those leeches!
- Bring sun cream and something light to cover up. Lots of the trek is in the shade but there are large sections that aren’t, and you won’t find any relief from the boiling hot sun.
- Take cash. There is a small village store along the way. Try to buy something here to support the locals. You will need to pay (and tip) your guide at the end, though if you’re not happy to carry around large amounts of money then the driver will stop at a cash point on the drive home.
What To Pack
If you’re heading off on a multi day trek in the Knuckles mountain range then you’ll want to spend a little time thinking carefully about what to pack. There are certain things you’re going to be really thankful you bought, and other things you’ll wish you left behind. Extra weight can really add up when you’re trekking for more than one day. Here’s our handy packing list for your trek.
- Filter water bottle – there are lots of streams along the way
- Sun cream
- Sun hat
- Light cover up to double as sun protection and evening layer
- Spare socks
- Extra underwear
- Camera – we have comprehensive guide to choosing the best camera for blogging
- Silk liner (check with guide about available bedding at your overnight accommodation, but I always take a silk liner when I travel to sleep in bedding that’s my own!)
Should You Book A Trip To The Knuckles Mountain Range?
We would highly recommend the trip, especially if you’re keen on seeing parts of Sri Lanka that are slightly off the beaten path. Trekking in the Knuckles Mountain Range was moderately strenuous (we’re not the fittest but have done lots of mountain trekking before), the changing scenery was beautiful and our guide was faultless. It was an amazing way to get away from the busy towns and cities and is still a very little known of trek, so you’re unlikely to see anyone else along the way.
Gear We Couldn’t Have Done Without
I have to admit, I have some Mammut walking boots that were pretty expensive (compared to most of my clothes!), but they have lasted me YEARS and they are hands down the best shoes I have ever owned. They are comfortable, waterproof and don’t look too bad either!
Adam, on the other hand, bought some cheap walking boots from Amazon and wore them around the whole of Sri Lanka. They won’t last too much longer but they did the job!
Essential really. We both took 40l rucksacks and they were plenty big enough for one night, though it may be worth investing in a slightly bigger one if you plan on doing any longer treks in the near future (just remember not to fill it for an overnight trek!)
You can go budget with something like this, or splash out on a high quality rucksack that should last a lifetime. We would recommend getting the right gender-better designs are made to suit either men’s or women’s body shapes so they should be a more comfortable fit!
If you aren’t such a keen photographer, but like something that you can have a play with when you feel in the mood, then I can thoroughly recommend the Olympus OM-D. It’s small and light, so I can take it anywhere. I have the option to change lenses (I love my zoom lens for wildlife shots), but it also works great as a point and shoot. It looks really stylish too-a great reason to buy a camera!
If you’re looking for more great treks in Sri Lanka then check out these guides on beautiful treks we completed here:
- Lover’s Leap Waterfall trek in Nuwara Eliya
- Horton Plains, The End of the World trek near Ella and Nuwara Eliya
- Lipton’s Seat trek in Haputale
If you’re planning a trip to Sri Lanka then check out the guides below for inspiration.
- 5 days in Sri Lanka: The ultimate guide
- 2 weeks in Sri Lanka: The ultimate guide
- How to travel Sri Lanka’s most beautiful railways
- Things to do in Sigiriya
- Whale watching in Mirissa
Been trekking in the Knuckles Mountain Range? Have any questions? Let us know your experiences below!