Around the world are several natural and man-made formations that have earned the name ‘the Devil’s Staircase’. Amongst them, Sri Lanka has one of the most dangerous. This famous route is a 14km long trail of sharp zig-zag twists that are extremely steep and difficult, but quite thrilling to travel. The trail begins from the Horton Plains road in beautiful Ohiya and passes through tea estates to the region of Kalupahana on the A4 Main Road; or vice versa. You can also choose to end the trail near Bambarakanda Falls; a kilometer or so before Kalupahana.
The Devil’s Staircase can be hiked or traversed by a 4WD vehicle as it is quite uneven in some places despite having a reasonable width. The route also features some breathtaking sceneries and other interesting things to see.
The Hike through Hell
You can choose to hike uphill or downhill. Each has its pros and cons. The route is quite steep; so going on a continuous uphill in the mountainous region of Central Sri Lanka can be hard on the lungs; whilst the downhill is hard on the legs as you need muscle strength to balance. However, these two starting points have their own thrills and challenges. The description here takes the uphill option and starts from one of the most popular spots, Bambarakanda Rest near the beautiful waterfalls of Bambarakanda.
The hike is best begun at dawn. Then you can watch the sunrise reflecting off the waters of Bambarakanda Falls as you refresh yourself before starting. The terrain will be quite rough so it is suggested that you wear good hiking boots, and fairly warm clothing as the temperature can drop suddenly. It is also important that you bring a raincoat or other protective clothing to be ready for the sudden rainfalls of Ohiya. A good hiking guide will be necessary as it is quite easy to be misdirected on the trail.
The Devil’s Staircase passes by the stream that creates Bambarakanda Falls and along dangerously narrow ridges before widening. The trail remains quite uneven throughout; but often opens up to beautiful vistas of the valleys to the South or the mountains to the North.
You will pass by many challenging areas where you will have to traverse carefully, which will make you recall the name of the trail. You will also be able to visit a natural pool fed by a clear spring and a Hindu/Buddhist temple along the way.
As you get towards the end of the Devil’s Staircase, the trail will pass through beautiful green tea estates. You will also pass through the ’V Cut’, a popular attraction of the route. Here a ‘V’ shaped channel has been carved into a hill in a time long past, to allow the Devil’s Staircase to pass through. You pass through a harsh section before coming out on the Ohiya Road, not far from Horton Plains. This will mark the end of your hike. You will be able to finish it by 4 pm.
If you chose to take a 4WD; the Devil’s Staircase takes 4 hours to travel due to the bumpy route.