Amidst the misty mountains of the Knuckles Mountain Range lies a stunning hidden gem: Pitawala Pathana. This natural sanctuary is a treat for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike. It is the Northern access point to the famous Knuckles Mountain Range.
Pitawala Pathana has a unique ecosystem with diverse flora and fauna, amazing geographical features, and spectacular views that will take your breath away. Pitawala Pathana is not just another scenic destination—it's a living, breathing ecological wonder with a unique array of flora and fauna.
It's an adventurer's playground, a photographer's dream, and a nature lover's paradise. Here, you will find not just beautiful landscapes but also the soul of Sri Lanka's incredible natural heritage.
This comprehensive travel guide will give you everything you need about this extraordinary destination.
Geography and Landscape of Pitawala Pathana
Pitawala Pathana is a sprawling plateau covering around 10 hectares within the larger Knuckles Mountain Range. The landscape varies in elevation from 450 to over 1,200 meters, creating a fascinating tapestry of natural features.
As you walk along the rolling grasslands, you will be greeted with views of sporadic rock outcrops, dense patches of montane forest, and distant blue mountains merging with the sky.
This area is far from just a pretty sight; it's a testament to the Earth's geological history, shaped by centuries of natural processes like erosion.
As you enter the area, you'll drive or walk up a winding road that cuts across a vast expanse of velvety grasslands. The grass here has grown on a thin soil surface on a gently sloping rock slab. This distinctive setup gives Pitawala Pathana considerable ecological value.
In fact, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has identified it as a special type of grassland developed under unique ecological conditions.
Flora and Fauna
Pitawala Pathana has a diverse range of plant and animal life, making it a biodiversity hotspot. The montane grasslands are mostly made up of unique and endemic species of grass.
Scattered across these grasslands, you'll find small patches of pygmy forests—tiny ecosystems with endemic tree species and medicinal plants. Keep an eye out for orchids hanging from branches and a range of herbaceous plants like Brachystelma lankana and Justicia royeniana that are found only in this region.
There is also a special type of grass called 'Patan Ala,' which is only found in Pitawala Pathana.
From small mammals and lizards to various amphibians, birds, and butterflies, you can spot many small animals in Pitawala Pathana. From reptiles like the Rhino-horned Lizard to birds like the Pygmy Woodpecker are commonly sighted.
Another notable animal is the frog known as 'Dumbara Galapara Mediya,' also known as the Marbled Rock Frog or Kirtisinghe's Rock frog, an endangered species endemic to Pitawala Pathana.
Mini World's End
The Mini World's End is the highlight of Pitawala Pathana. You will reach this point after an easy hike across the grasslands for about 900 meters. The Mini World's End is a rock precipice with a sheer drop of about 360 meters. Going near the edge will be a thrilling experience as you witness the valley below and the surrounding views.
There are also two other vantage points offering similar scenic views of the surroundings. They provide some stunning photo opportunities. A popular thing among travelers is to sit on one vantage point and have someone take a photo from the other one.
If you visit during the early morning, you will find the surrounding mists and clouds creating an almost mystical atmosphere. Visiting during sunset also offers otherworldly scenery and a great photo moment.
However, please be careful if you go near the edge, as it is very dangerous, and the winds can be strong enough to sway a grown adult.
The Waterfalls of Pitawala Pathana
Though less frequented due to their remote location, two waterfalls formed by the Pathana Dola River grace the area. Named simply as Ella 1 and Ella 2 (Ella being the Sinhala word for waterfall), they offer secluded spots for some tranquility.
Ella 1, deep within the jungle, stands at an impressive 75 meters. A short distance downstream is Ella 2, a wider waterfall that cascades over rocks, creating a picturesque misty scene.
Hiking and Adventure
For those who love to walk amidst nature, various trails meander through the grasslands and forest patches. These trails are designed for nature lovers, leading them through the grasslands and forest patches, with informational signboards highlighting the significance of the region's unique flora and fauna.
For those seeking an adrenaline rush, there are more challenging trails with steep ascents, rocky patches, and occasional streams to cross. After completing these trails, you will be rewarded by the mesmerizing scenery of the surrounding landscapes.
Tips for Travelers
- Weather: The highland weather is known for its unpredictability. While mornings might be sunny and clear, afternoons could get misty and cold.
- Clothing: Be sure to carry layered clothing rain gear, and wear comfortable trekking shoes.
- Safety Measures: Be very careful if you're venturing near steep areas like the Mini World's End. It's best to stay on marked trails and listen to the advice of locals.
- Sustainability: Pitawala Pathana's delicate ecosystem requires care. As visitors, practicing the "Leave No Trace" principle is crucial. This includes packing out what you bring in, not disturbing wildlife, and avoiding damaging plants.
How to Get There
Pitawala Pathana is accessible by two routes. The most common and easiest route is the Matale-Rattota road. It is about 33 km from the Matale town. You can also take the Dambulla–Mahiyangana Road, which passes through Pallagama. Both routes are scenic but can be rough, so consider your vehicle carefully.
Timings and Entry Fees
The area is open to the public from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. For locals, the entry fee is around 25 LKR. Basic facilities like toilets and a canteen are available right opposite the entrance.
1. Knuckles Mountain Range: This iconic mountain range, named for its unique appearance reminiscent of human knuckles, promises diverse ecosystems, from cloud forests to high grasslands.
2. Riverston: Situated within the Knuckles Mountain Range, Riverston offers some of the most magnificent views in Sri Lanka. With its mist-covered hills and diverse flora and fauna, it's a paradise for both hikers and nature lovers. The area is especially popular for its 'Riverston Peak,' which provides panoramic views of the surrounding area.
3. Thelgamuwa Oya: With crystal clear water and many natural rock pools, Thelgamuwa Oya is one of the most amazing freshwater streams in Sri Lanka.
4. Aluvihara Rock Temple: Just a short drive from Pitawala Pathana, this temple offers insights into Sri Lanka's rich Buddhist heritage, housing ancient scriptures and artistic frescoes.
5. More Waterfalls: The nearby Sera Ella, Waddapani Ella, and Bambarakiri Ella waterfalls make for excellent half-day trips, featuring refreshing swims and scenic beauty. Sera Ella, in particular, is a popular spot among travelers.
Beyond its beautiful landscapes and its incredible natural features, Pitawala Pathana offers something profound. It presents an opportunity to connect with nature, witness the delicate balance of ecosystems, and appreciate the intricate interplay of life in highland terrains. Here, the songs of birds, the whispering grasslands, and the distant echo of flowing waters combine to create a symphony that speaks directly to the soul.