Like the Camino de Santiago, the Inca Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the Transcaucasian Trail, the Milford Track, the Sunshine Coast Trail, The Red Sea Trail, and so many others, we want this walking journey to be a space for exchange between people and a riveting source of storytelling.
The Tea Country Trail is a 21-day, 200-mile network of hiking trails through the Sri Lankan tea country.
The Trail starts at the Buddhist Temple Of The Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka’s spiritual heart. The trail then crosses over 5 valleys, across the eastern hills, and over some of Sri Lanka’s most dramatic and challenging mountain terrain.
The trail can be done in any direction, with a multitude of entry and exit points. It has been purposefully designed to connect important towns and villages, train stations and interesting sites, so that walkers can easily enter and exit the trail.
Pilgrims and planters.
People have been walking on these hills for millennia.
Perhaps the first reference of a trail of significance in the hills of Sri Lanka relates to the Sri Pada pilgrimage. In the 5th century chronicle, the Mahawamsa, it is stated that the Buddha visited the mountain peak, now known as Adam’s Peak. Buddhist tradition holds that a “sacred footprint” rock formation near the summit is the footprint of the Buddha. Marco Polo noted the importance of Adam’s Peak in his travel of 1298 and the Arab traveler, Ibn Battuta, climbed to its summit in 1344.
Yet, the overwhelming majority of the trails you will be walking on are paths developed by tea plantation companies. The story of these tea trails begins over two hundred years ago, when the country was still a British colony. In 1824 a tea plant was brought to Ceylon by the British from China and was planted in the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya for non-commercial purposes. As the tea industry grew British planters developed and expanded the network of trails within their own estates and between the various settlements across the tea country creating this vast network of trails and paths.
The physical network of trails replicates the woven fabric of its stories: those of pilgrims and planters, naturalists, birders, gardeners and landed gentry. They take you through pilgrimage sites, past great lakes and spectacular waterfalls, up stunning peaks and deep into bird and wildlife-rich rain forest. You will see the great tea industry at work – the tea factories, tea sheds and warehouses – step back in time at the old planters’ clubs and visit the lovely plantation homesteads.
Each day is planned to cover an average of between 5 to 10 miles, keeping walking times to between 4 and 6 hours, but not more. That said, if you are an experienced hiker and want to cover more ground, that is also entirely possible.
There is something for everyone, for young and old, from the experienced hiker to those who want a fun day out. The tea trail is a journey in itself or an add-on to a country-wide visit.
Inspired by his adventures on some of the world’s greatest walks, Miguel couldn’t shake the vision of Sri Lanka’s own “camino”. Having hiked Sri Lanka’s mountains for over 18 years, designed hiked the Tea Country Trail. Miguel and wife, Irstel, have lived in Sri Lanka since 2002 and share a passion for hiking, the Sri Lankan tea country, its people and heritage. Miguel drinks an average of 10 cups of Ceylon every day and never travels without his Ceylon tea.
When to go
Hiking in Sri Lanka is entirely possible all year round. However…
Sri Lanka is affected by two South-East Asian rainy seasons
The driest months of the year in the hills and in Sri Lanka in general are:
December, January, February, March. During these months you can expect less rainfall than the rest of the year.
Daily average temperatures are also cooler in November, December, January and February.
Perhaps the most enriching part of walking on a trail is to experience a great leveling of minds and to have the time to look for the beauty within yourself as well as in the world around you.
I would head straight down to the walled coastal city of Galle and check into one of my favorite hotels in the world, Amangala. Colonial in style with graciously large rooms, high ceilings with lazily spinning fans…this is, to me, one of the most romantic and comfortable hotels in the world. I could stay for a long time here.