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World Heritage Sites

There are two World Heritage Natural Properties in Sri Lanka managed by the Forest Department and used for research, education, and recreation.

  1. Sinharaja World Heritage Property
  2. Central Highlands of Sri Lanka World Heritage Property

Sinharaja World Heritage Property is a single site while Central Highlands of Sri Lanka World Heritage Property is a serial site which includes Knuckles Conservation Forest, Peak Wilderness Protected Area and Horton Plains National Park. Peak Wilderness Protected Area is a contiguous block of forest with four different forest areas namely Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve, Morahela Conservation Forest, Walawe Basin Conservation Forest, and Sri Pada Conservation Forest.

Sinharaja World Heritage Site is managed by the Forest Department. Knuckles Conservation Forest, Morahela Conservation Forest, Walawe Basin Conservation Forest, and Sri Pada Conservation Forest of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka World Heritage Site are also managed by the Forest Department. Horton Plains National Park and Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka World Heritage Site are managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Sinharaja World Heritage Forest

The word ‘Sinharaja’ means ‘Lion’ (Sinha) ‘King’ (raja). This area was declared as a forest reserve in 1875 and as an International Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 1978. Subsequently it was declared as a National Heritage Wilderness Area in 1988 and in the following year it was declared as  a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The extent of the Sinharaja is 11,185 hectares.


Sinharaja can be accessed through 3 main entry points.

  1. Colombo-Ratnapura-Kalawana road
  2. Colomo-Rakwana-Morning-side road
  3. Colombo-Deniyaya-Mederipitiya road


Click here to get large map

Climate and topography:

Mean annual rainfall varies between 3000-6000 mm without a distinct dry period. Mean annual temperature is between 20C-25 C. The landscape consists of a rolling terrain with a series of ridges and valleys and some flat plains which contribute to the variety of ecological niches in Sinharaja.

Vegetation Types:

The vegetation type of Sinharaja consist mainly of primary tropical lawland wet evergreen forests. In addition there are sub montane forests and sub montane grasslands. Fresh water habitats, rocky terrains and other associated eco systems contribute to the ecological diversity of this unique rain forest.

Vertical stratification of the vegetation is very clear and can easily be distinguished. The top most layer consists of very tall (over 45 m) emergent trees such as Hora, Boo-hora, Dorana and Dun. The second layer which rises to 30-45 meters consists of Batu-Na, Atamba, Wal-Del, Liyan, and Nawada whose branches are interlock to form a closed canopy. Dawata, Hedawaka, Kitul, and Walukeena are in the third layer with average height of 15-30 meters. Below these layers are under story layer (5-20 m), shrub layer (2-4 m) and ground layer (below 1m).

Biodiversity - Flora:

There are 337 woody plant species in Sinharaja that include192 endemic species, 30 nationally threatened and 116 globally threatened species. This is the highest number of woody plant species recorded in any single forest in Sri Lanka.

Floristics of Sinharaja exhibits the climax or dynamic equilibrium vegetation type where there is no net increase or decrease in the biomass of living organism which is one of the most fragile and least resilient eco system in the world. It also act as a repository of the valuable germplasm of plant species whose usefulness and potential human value is yet to be discovered. Sinharaja witnesses the highest range of floristic richness and the highest proportion of endemics among the woody vegetation having the traces of gondwanic flora that have evolved over a long period of geological time scale.

Biodiversity - Fauna:

Sinharaja provides shelter for a wide variety of animals ranging from slow moving land snails to the charismatic leopard. Over 140 families of fauna are recorded from Sinharaja.

There are 19 fish species, 33 amphibians, 71 reptile species, 147 bird species, and 44 mammal species in Sinharaja. About 60% of the country’s native birds and all 33 endemic birds including recently discovered Serendib Scops Owl can be seen in Sinharaja. One of the most enchanting display of color to be found in Sinharaja  is the sight of mixed species foraging bird flocks, a phenomenon found in rain forests.

Two endemic species of monkeys, kalu wandura (black monkey) and purple faced leaf monkey can be seen there. Other mammals in Sinharaja include sambur, barking deer, mouse deer, wild boar, golden palm civet, small flying squirrel, fishing cat and rusty spotted cat. A very lucky visitor can get a glimpse of the biggest cat, Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), who lives within the deep reaches of the jungle.

Around 65 species of butterflies with several endemics, including Ceylon rose, the tree nymph and the common bird wing are found in  Sinharaja. There is a wide array of spiders, reptiles, fresh water fish and amphibian fauna in Sinharaja forest.

Hydrological Importance:

An intricate network of waterways that eventually feed two of the major rivers in Sri Lanka, ‘Kalu Ganga’ and ‘Gin Ganga’, originate from Sinharaja. The waterways that start from the southern part feed Gin Ganga while Napola Dola, Kosglana Ganga and Kudawa Ganga feed Kalu Ganga.

Nature Trails:

Nature trails have been designated for visitors to explore the important historical, ecological, biological sites and to reach other spectacular sites safely with relative ease. However tourists should seek assistance from a trained nature guides when starting trekking along these trials to ensure safe travel along the path.

Mulawella trail Gallenyaya trail
Dorana ella trail Pitadeniya Selpaura ecotourism area
Wathurawa trail Lankagama Ecotourism area
Halmandiya Dola trail Morningside Duviliella trail
Yoda Nawandagaha trail Morningside Jalathataka Manpetha
Sinhagala trail

The historic Nawanda tree , Sinhagala, and the ‘Gal-len-yaya” range of caves can be reached through Wathurawa-Mulawella Trail. This majestic Nawanda  (Shorea stipularis)  tree over 500 years old is a magnificent sight in Sinharaja. This endemic tree is 40 m in height and has a 6.4 m diameter. An observer who can climb Mullawella peak may rewarded with spectacular view of vistas of forest. Sinhagala is the most prominent of all the nine peaks found in Sinharaja. Kudawa - Sinhagala trail is a main attraction in Sinharaja as the continuous unbroken canopy in various hues of green can clearly be viewed from this vantage point.


  • Trained guides operate around Kudawa and Pitadeniya .
  • There are 2 information centers. at Kudawa and Pitadeniya. They provide auditorium facilities with audio visual equipment.
  • Informative materials are available for sale at Sales Centers.


Forest Department maintains lodging facilities within the reaches of the forest while several privately – owned hotels and lodges situated within easy reach of the forest.

Apartments Location Nature of Residence Number of Guest
Kudawa base camp Kudawa Dormitory 30
Kudawa base camp Kudawa Cabin 12
Kudawa base camp Kudawa Cabin 06
Kudawa base camp Kudawa Cabin 04
Murakele Bunglow Kudawa House 11
Morningside bunglow Morningside House 11
Wanigasekara hall - Pitadeniya Pitadeniya Dormitory 16
Pitadeniya Niwahana Pitadeniya Dormitory 16
Ginganga wana nivahana Pitadeniya House 05

Reservation of lodging and camping facilities

Reservations of all Forest Department bungalows/ campsites can only be made through the Head Office situated at Sampathpaya, Rajamalwatta Road, Battaramulla. Requests should be made on working days of the week between 9.00 a. m. to 3.00 p.m.

Contact Numbers +94 11 2866631, +94 11 2866632, +94 11 2875540
Ext 250
Contact Point Forest Inventory and Management Division
For Further Inquiries : Contact
  • Divisional Forest Officer, Divisional Forest Office, Rathnapura , Tel ( 045) 2222171.
  • Divisional Forest Officer, Divisional Forest Office, Galle , Tel ( 091) 2234306.


Central Highlands of Sri Lanka - Knuckles Range of Forests

The Knuckles Forest Range is named after the five peaks; Kirigalpottha, Gombaniya, Knuckles, Koboneelagala, and Dotulugala, which look like the knuckles of a clenched fist, that could be seen from many viewpoints.

The Knuckles , locally called as ‘Dumbara hills’ meaning misty mountains,  spans the Kandy and Matale Districts  covering  an area of approximately 21000 ha. The Knuckles massif is separated from the Central Highlands by a deeply incised valley referred to as the Dumbara Valley. It bears the pride of 35 peaks above 1000 m above sea level, 20 over 1500 m, and 2 peaks over 2000 m.

The area above 1500 m in the Knuckles Range was declared as a climatic Reserve in 1873. The Knuckles  was declared as a conservation forest in April 2000 and subsequently, as a National Man and Biosphere Reserve. The Knuckles along with Peak Wilderness forest area and Horton Plains (collectively called ‘Central Highlands of Sri Lanka’)declared as a World Heritage Natural Site in 2009.


The most convenient motorable access routes to popular Dumbara range reaches are Colombo-Ilukkumbura route via Kandy-Matale-Rattota, Colombo-Illukkumbura route via Kurunegala-Galewela-Naula-Pallaegama, Colombo to Bambarella route via Kandy – Wattegama/Teldeniya , Colombo to Deenston via Kandy-Rangala-Corbets Gap (Koratuwa Muduna).

Click here to get large map


The Dumbara range provides a microcosm of the entire variety of climatic conditions in Sri Lanka from extreme wet to nearly-arid. Highland forest areas are extremely wet with an average annual rainfall of 5000mm. while lowland areas are much drier with less than 2500mm average annual rainfall. Some areas have ground frost during January to March. The area is vulnerable to strong winds.

Vegetation types:

The tropical lowland semi-evergreen vegetation type is seen in the valleys and foothills . This harbours many large trees such as milla, mora, welang, badulla etc. Tropical montane humid evergreen forests commonly known as upper montane rain forests found on the upper slopes, ridges and summits.

The upper reaches are described as cloud forests rich in colourful orchids, ferns and mosses. Filmy ferns are common on barks of trees and moist rock. In between lowland and montane vegetation , on the lower slopes of the hills,  tropical sub-montane humid semi-evergreen forests are found.

Far drier slopes hold  dry sub-montane evergreen rain forests . Luxuriant riverine forests are found along the banks of rivers and streams. Savannas with isolated trees scattered over vast expanse of grasslands can be found on hilly slopes.. Patana grasslands , seen as a  sea of closely grown grassy cover, are common on hills below 1000 msl.

The unique grassland called “Pitawala patana” is a patana grassland with a great aesthetic appeal. The grass cover is up to 10 m tall and occupy an area of about 10 ha of a gently sloping rock slab covered with just a 10-15 cm deep soil layer.

Scrublands with thorny or prickly shrubs around two meters in height grown as an impregnable thicket occur around present and past settlements.

Pygmy forests known as ‘Kurugaskele’ to locals is another interesting occurrence in knuckles. Here hundreds year old trees with gnarled and twisted trunks and branches rise up to 1-2 m from ground. Their barks are covered with lichens, mosses, orchids and ferns. It is believed to be a product of exposure to continuous and severe gale force winds.

Biodiversity - Flora:

A total of 1033 flowering plant species belonging to 141 families have been recorded from the Knuckles. 288 woody plant species are among them. 15 % of the plant species are endemic. The herb Brachystelma lankana occur in Patana grassland areas, is restricted to Dumabara range. This small plant is locally known as "Patan ala (grassland yam )" as it has edible fleshy tuber.

Biodiversity - Fauna:

Dumbara range provides shelter to 128 bird species, 20 amphibians species, 60 butterflies species, 17 mollusk species., 31 mammal species, 53 reptile species, and 15 fish species.

Among the total vertebrate animals recorded in Sri Lanka, five endemic species consisting of 3 freshwater fish species , Phillips Garra, Blotched filamented Barb, and Martenstyn Barb ; one amphibian , Kirthisingha’s Rock Frog and one lizard, Leaf nose lizard are confined solely to the Dumbara range.

The wildboar, Black- naped hare, and the mouse deer are the very commonly seen mammals. Attentive visitors may see Deer, Sambar, Elephant, Buffalo, Loris, jackal, mongoose , Macaque, Leaf monkey ,Squirrel, Civet cat, Golden palm cat, Bandicoot and porcupine.

Of the 128 bird species recorded from Dumbara Range, 17 species are endemic. Black eagle is the largest while the Pale billed flower pecker is the smallest. Barbets, Lorikeets, Egrets, Herons, and kingfishers Bulbuls, Babblers, and woodpeckers add gaiety to the forest environment.

Bird-eating spiders referred to as tarantulas  are seldom seen as they hide in crevices and tree holes waiting for prey. Though hailing from a clan well known for their high taste, the Nigger and Common Evening Brown feed on rotten fruit, animal dung and decaying vegetation on forest floor. Casual visitors may mistake the blue oakleaf for a dead leaf as it can disguise itself so well. Endemic Birdwing and Blue Mormon are among the largest butterflies in Sri Lanka.

Hydrological importance:

The Knuckles forest region is an important watershed with several streams feeding the River Mahaweli . Heen ganga, Maha Oya and Hasalaka Oya in the eastern zone, Kaluganga and Theligamu Oya in the nothern zone, and Hulu ganga and Galmal Oya in the western zone flow into the Mahaweli.

Socio - economic importance:

There are about 86 villages in and around the Dumbara forest region which form a unique bio- cultural landscape. 48% of the population depends mainly on subsistance agriculture.
Meemure , the most known village in the range is located by the Meemure oya stream surrounded by a ring of mountains rising to the sky. Meemure is said to have been a place of exile in the Sinhala kings era.

This village is a living example of the rich cultural heritage of the Dumbara valley. The name ‘ Meemure’ is said to have several meanings. One belief is that it be derived from the fact that the village abundant in Mee (Madhuca longifolia) trees . Even today this village is full of Mee trees.

Nature trails:

There are several designated nature trails as well as bicycling routes which give the opportunity to explore and feel the enthralling landscapes across the Dumbara hills and valleys all alive with the sound of nature’s music.

Deanstone - Mini World’s end
Deanstone - Dotalugala
Deanstone - Hapugaskumbura
Kumbukgolla - Nitre cave
Tangappuwa - Allugallena
Bambarella - Knuckles peaks
Pitawala patana - Mini World’s end
Illukkumbura - Kosgaswela
Kahagala - Pottawela - Sera ella
Illukkumbura - Rambukoluwa
Illukkumbura - Manigala - Etanwala
Rambukoluwa - Kurahangala
Narangamuwa - Lakegala
Rambukoluwa - Doowili ella
Etanwala - Walpolamulla - Doowili ella


Information centers established at Pitawala Patana and Deanstone provide information materials and introductory programs to visitors.


Apartments Location Nature of Residence Number of Guest
Dumbara Wana Niwahana Illukkumbura Dormitory 30
Telgamu Oya Eco Lodge Illukkumbura Log Cabin 08
Rambukoluwa Eco Lodge Rambukoluwa Log Cabin 08
Deanston Conservation Center Hunnasgiriya Bunglow 09
Deanston camping site Hunnasgiriya Camping site

Reservation of lodging and camping facilities:

Reservations of all Forest Department bungalows/ campsites can only be made through the Head Office situated at Sampathpaya, Rajamalwatta Road, Battaramulla. Requests should be made on working days of the week between 9.00 a. m. to 3.00 p.m . For confirmation the full amount should be paid.

Contact Numbers +94 11 2866631, +94 11 2866631, +94 11 2875540
Ext 250
Contact Point Forest Inventory and Management Division
For Further Inquiries: Contact
  • Divisional Forest Officer, Divisional Forest Office, Matale. Tel: (066)222 2138
  • Divisional Forest Officer, Divisional Forest Office, Kandy. Tel: (081)223 2873


Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 11:33