Are you into trekking? Are you into camping under the moonlight? 360 degree views amidst the clouds? If you are, Matale is the place for you. Situated 105kms from the busy city of Colombo, the city of Matale stands at 546m in altitude from the sea level. It is not the stereotypical tourist hotspot but, the views and the sceneries are not something you can find any other place in the island.
Matale is the northernmost district in the Central Province. The locals earn their living through agriculture. The area is known for its major tea plantation sites that cover most parts of the district. The land is enriched with many minerals such as granites, Mica and world famous Sri Lankan Gems.
The location gives the city a very desirable weather to spend a quiet and peaceful vacation. But, if you are making time to visit Matale, you should not just sit on the couch or you hotel bedroom. Matale is a place to explore.
The Knuckles Mountain Range, Riverston, Aluviharaya Temple, Sera Ella, Sembuwatta and Pitiwala Pathana are few places that should be in your to-do list. We will give you all the information about all these places and more in this article. Also, how you can get to those places and a rough budget for you to place your vacation.
How to get here
The cheapest way to make it up to Matale is go by Train. There is a daily train that goes from Colombo to Matale every day at 1035H. You don’t get the luxury of a 1st class cabin, but if you get to the station early, you can get a 2nd class ticket and get a good seat by the window. The 2nd class ticket will cost you only LKR270. The journey will take approximately 5 hours and you will be in Matale before night fall.
Taking the bus is also an option but we would advise against it. Due to the time and hassle which you would have to endure. There is direct bus which goes to Matale from Colombo. The route is numbered as 8. The ride will take about 5 hours and it will cost LKR350-450.
If you’re willing to pay a few extra bucks and have a comfortable ride, then you can book yourself a cab and make your way there. It will probably cost you about LKR15000. But, you will save a lot of time, since the ride will only be for 2 and a half hours.
Given the options, we believe the best option for you is to use the train. It will save you some cash and it is a hassle free given the fact that you only need to get in and get off. And, of course, you can enjoy the serene views of the mountains and tea estate while you’re on your way.
Things to do in Matale
Aluviharaya – Rock Temple
The Aluviharaya temple is situated just 3kms away from the Matale town. The temple holds a very significant place in the history of Buddhism. Aluviharaya is where 500 budhist monks gathered and wrote Lord Buddha’s teachings into three religious doctrines known as the “Tripitakas”. It was written during the time of King Walagamba of the Kingdom of Anuradhapura in the 1st Century BC.
Prior to this, the teachings of Lord Buddha was passed on to many generations through word-of-mouth. The “Tripitakas” were originally written in Ola Leaf Manuscripts. Still to date, most monks from the Aluviharaya Rock Temple specialize in Palm leaf manuscript writing.
Now the caves provide a residence for present-day Bhikkhus residing in the temple. The caves also includes a library filled with ancient manuscripts and ancient murals adorned with paintings of Jathaka stories. The main cave has a reclining statue of Lord Buddha and the summit of the rock gives you a panromic view of the town.
Riverston is situated 30kms away from the Matale town. It is in the Girandurukotte road. Your ride to Riverstan itself, is a beautiful scenic drive. The Riverston Plain is spread across 180 square kilometers and its borders the wet zone in the south side and the dry zone in the west side.
The trek along Riverston is about two and a half kilometers, and it would take approximately two hours. Along the way you will go past ‘Pitawala Paththana, ’which leads to the Riverston Peak and the Mini World’s end. The Riverston Peak has a 300- meter drop to stunning misty views of the nearby knuckles mountain range.
During your trek to Riverston peak you will come across two iconic waterfalls, namely the Sera ella and the Bambakiri ella. You could also have fresh water bath in the Thelgamu Oya on your way back.
Pitiwala Pathana is found on your way to Riverston. Pretty similar to what you find in Riverston plain, Pitiwala Pathana also gives you beautiful views of the mountains and waterfalls. Its location gives it a cool and misty weather on sunrise sunset.
Sera Ella is Located at the Eastern end of the Knuckles forest reserve. The area is called Pothatawela Village. It can be reached through Matale-Riverston trek, or via the Illukkumbura main road. It stands at 32 feet in height and its originated from the Thelgamu oya. The name of the waterfall is derived from the ’sera’ species of fish inhabit the water.
Sera Ella stands out for two special reasons. It is one of the most widest waterfalls you can find in Sri Lanka. Also, there is a hidden cave behind the Ella. Most hikers make sure to spend some time in the hidden cave and enjoy its unique view through falling water. Sera ella falls throughout the year, but is at its fullest during the monsoon season between November and March.
Sembuwatta lake is situated in the Elkaduwa Plantation. It is situated 23kms away from Matale town. The ride will take about 2 hours by bus. The lake is man-made but it is filled with rain water that flows down from the mountains.
The lake is about 30-40 meters in depth so it is not advisable to have a dip. But, you should go over to feel the cool breeze and the beautiful views.
Knuckles Mountain range
Knuckles mountain range is located off Kandy, in the northern end of Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. To the south and east of the mountain range is Mahaweli river while to the west are Matale plains. The name “Knuckels” is given to this range due to its shape which looks like the knuckles of a clenched fist.
To access Knuckles mountain range, you have to go through Rattota which is situated 11kms from Matale. The highest peak stands at 1863 meters in height. This is a hikers paradise. There are many popular trails within this range. We will go through that in another segmant.
Sri Lanka’s first and largest spice garden is situated in Matale. The National Spice Garden consists of 20 spices from across the country. Black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and turmeric are a few of them.
There is production center inside the garden so that the visitors could get a better knowledge as to how these spices are produced. The spice garden is situated only 4kms away from the Matale town.
Kallebokka 360 degree view point
This has become an attraction since late amongst the locals and the tourists. It is situated just 26kms away from the Matale town. By bus, first you need to get to Wattegama and then take the bus to Kabaragala.
At the beginning of the trek, you will be charged LKR100. It is a small price to pay for breaktaking view. The payment is charged from the owners of the plantation for maintaining the area. Once at the top enjoy the panoramic views and try to identify the giants surrounding the area. There’s a nearby peak you can hike up as well for better views. The top can be windy, chilly and heavily foggy so be prepared for such conditions.
The diversity of the District of Matale make it a must in your travel itinerary. It is an ideal place for adventurers. The views will make you fall in love with this area. Even Though, the facilities are not up to 5-star rating, you can find decent and reasonable places within the town. Make sure you don’t miss this one out.