Perched on the very edge of the hill country midway between Nuwara Eliya and Haputale, Horton Plains National Park covers a wild stretch of bleak, high-altitude moorland bounded at its southern edge by the dramatically plunging cliffs that mark the edge of the hill country including the famous World’s End, where the escarpment falls sheer for the best part of a kilometer to the lowlands below. Set at an elevation of over two thousand meters, Horton Plains are a world apart from the rest of Sri Lanka: a misty and rain swept landscape dotted with beautiful patches of pristine cloud forest, whose characteristic umbrella-shaped keena trees, covered in a fine cobweb of old man’s beard, turn from green to red to orange as the seasons progress. The cool, wet climate has fostered the growth of a distinctive range of flora, including various rhododendrons, bamboos, tree ferns and many endemic species of plant, making the Plains an area of great biological value and fragility, though the stands of cloud forest are now receding, possibly because of acid rain generated by motor traffic across the island.
The Plains’ wildlife attractions are relatively modest. Herds of elephants formerly roamed the area, until they were all shot by colonial hunters, and though few leopards still visit the park, you’ll have to be incredibly lucky to see one.The park’s most visible residents are its herds of sambar deer, which can often be seen handing companionably around the entrance office waiting for handouts, while you milht see rare bear-faced (also known as purple-faced) monkeys. The P ams are also one of the best places in the island for bird watching, and an excelent place to see montage endemics such as the dull-blue flycatcher Sri Lanka bush warbler Sri Lanka whistling thrush and the pretty yellow-eared bulbul, as well as striking orange minivets.You’ll probably also see beautiful lizards, some of them boasting outlandishly fluorescent gree scales, through their numbers are declininig as the result of depredations by crows, attracted to the park by litter left by loutish visitors.