Serene Summits: Exploring the Highest Mountains in Sri Lanka

The highest mountains in Sri Lanka are concentrated in its Central Highlands region. Want to know more? Read on.

Travel and Exploration
14 December 2023

Dominated by its iconically pear-shaped main isle, Sri Lanka lies a mere 40 or so miles south of peninsular India. In fact, they share a continental shelf and several geomorphic characteristics. Almost the entire landmass of Sri Lanka is underpinned by a bedrock of hard crystalline rocks such as granite and gneisses.

In terms of topography, over 80 percent of Sri Lanka is made up of what are widely referred to as plains, a term that doesn’t quite reflect a landscape that ranges from sea level to 1,000 feet. Even so, there’s only one region of Sri Lanka with higher elevations. And it is here that we find the highest mountains in Sri Lanka. Ready to explore? Let’s go.

The Central Highlands

View of Central Highlands, Sri Lanka. (Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images)

At the heart of Sri Lanka’s main island, surrounded by plains, is the triangular mountainous area known as the Central Highlands. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it encompasses several protected places, such as the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, Horton Plains National Park, and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. Rising to about 8,200 feet above sea-level, these highlands harbour an extraordinary array of flora and fauna, including endangered species like the western-purple-faced langur and the Sri Lankan leopard. They’re also where one finds Sri Lanka’s highest peaks.


Tee Highland overlooked by Pidurutalagala (Credit: Bruno_il_segretario via Getty Images)

Pidurutalagala, or Mount Pedro, holds the distinction of being the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, with an elevation of 8,281 feet. Located some eight miles northeast of the city of Nuwara Eliya, this peak is part of a Precambrian gneiss complex. Its Sinhalese name, translating as “Straw Plateau Rock,” reflects the straw-like appearance of its grass during dry periods. With a military base and the communication array of the Sri Lankan Government and Armed Forces house on its summit, the biggest mountain in Sri Lanka is an ultra-high security zone.


The Kirigalpotta peak, Sri Lanka (Credit: SLmmc via Getty Images)

Kirigalpotta, standing at 7,858 feet, ranks as the second highest point in Sri Lanka. Located south of Nuwara Eliya within the Horton Plains National Park, it’s part of a region known for its unique landscape of wild grasslands, dense forest patches, rocky outcrops, waterfalls, and misty lakes. Indeed, the Horton Plains are a biodiversity hotspot, hosting diverse wildlife and a variety of bird species.


Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka (Credit: Paul Biris via Getty Images)

The third tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, Totapolakanda, reaches 7,733 feet. Nestled along with Kirigalpotta within the Horton Plains National Park, its surface is predominantly covered with shrubs adapted to the cool and windy climate of the area. The name Totapolakanda, translating as ‘Landing Site’ in Sinhala, is linked by some to a local legend involving Rama and Ravana, adding a mythological layer to its allure.

Adam’s Peak

Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka. (Credit: Beautiful_textures via Getty Images)

Rising to 7,559 feet, Adam’s Peak may be among the highest mountains in Sri Lanka, but it’s far better known for other reasons. For example, it’s famed for its distinct conical shape. It’s also celebrated for the Sri Pada, a footprint-shaped hollow revered by multiple faiths. In fact, pilgrims from around the world and from various religions have been travelling there for centuries to see it.

Adam’s Peak’s geological composition includes gneiss rock, and is rich in precious stones like garnets, rubies, and sapphires. Part of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, its surrounding tropical rainforest is a habitat for an isolated elephant population and the origin of three major rivers.


Knuckles Conservation Forest, Sri Lanka. (Credit: Nuwan Liyanage via Getty Images)

The biggest mountain in Sri Lanka’s Knuckles range is Gombaniya at 6,253 feet. The massif derives its colourful moniker from the formation of five of its 35 peaks. Together they resemble a clenched fist. Known locally as Dumbara Kanduvetiya, meaning ‘Mist-laden Mountains,’ it’s the northernmost mountain on this list, spanning the Matale and Kandy districts.

Sri Lanka's Highest Peaks

Sigiriya Lion's Rock, Sri Lanka (Credit: Sylvain Bouzat via Getty Images)

And so, Sri Lanka’s highest mountains form a small, but integral part of the island’s landscape. From the highest point in Sri Lanka at Pidurutalagala to the mystical Gombaniya, these peaks are not only geographical landmarks but also have immense ecological, cultural, and religious significance.


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