Great Western is situated at the western slope of Nuwara Eliya district. 6th highest mountain (2216m) in Sri Lanka. Tough for beginners but there’s a trail for the peak of the mountain and you can ascend easily to the top of the mountain.
How to arrive at Great Western
First, you have to come to the Great Western Railway Station. The name for the mountain "Great Western” is from the Great Western railway station & the Great Western tea estate which are located in front of the mountain. The railway station is 1464m above mean sea level.
Then you have to walk about 1km from Great Western railway station towards Radella railway station via the railway. Then you’ll find a stone staircase to a Hindu Kovil on your left side. Go through it.
There’s a small water stream near the Kovil. Turn right from the Kovil and you’ll find a trail. That’s your way. When you reach about 1850m above mean sea level (according to google maps) you’ll find another water stream. Turn right from there. If you have a strong rope it is valuable to your hike.
Your ascending pathway to the top via a beautiful forest. You can see Piduruthalagala the highest mountain in Sri Lanka, Kikiliyamana, Shanthipura the highest village, Radella, Meepilimana, Conical Hill, Ambewela, Thotupola, Kirigalpoththa, Adam’s Peak & Saptha Kanya from the top. There is a camping site at the top of the mountain but no water source is there.
When you come back there’s a fresh & cold water spout. You can have a bath from there. You have to walk another few meters passing the entrance of the Kovil, towards Radella railway station via the railway. The railway bridge is also there.
Great experience for your day-to-day busy life. Come here, enjoy the environment. Feel the natural beauty. Don’t ruin it. Don’t throw garbage. Don’t disturb the balance of nature.
When you go along the railway path, you will find a stone staircase to your left just before a black railway bridge across a small stream. Climb up the stairs and you will reach a small Kovil at the end of the stairs.
There is a small stream right side of the Kovil and behind the Kovil you will find a small footpath climbing along the stream. Follow that footpath and at the top, the path will turn directly to your left taking you away from the stream. Remember this stream is the last easily accessible water source you will find along the way.
The path is usually very clear (but with the curfew and long vacation this path could be overgrown with vegetation now). It will alternate between Maana and Gini grass (Tall grasses) patches and montane forest patches. This ascend will be really slippery and tough in the rainy season so better to use a rope for your protection.
You will reach a virgin montane forest with taller trees after the last grass patch. The climb is almost always to your right of the mountain until you find a pygmy forest with low-laying bushes. Then the path is almost flat and to the left of the mountain range. (as the main viewpoint is just above the railway station)
You will find many viewpoints along the way but if it is misty be very careful as there are so many steep and narrow edges just next to the footpath.
If you could reach the main viewpoint at around 12 noon you may be lucky enough to have a bird-eye view of Podi Menike trains (world famous blue train) both from Badulla to Colombo and from Colombo to Badulla will pass each other at the same time, exactly at the Great Western railway station just below you.
There is a nice place for camping just before the viewpoint on the first peak of the mountain. It is said that the second peak is the highest place in the mountain range and there is a small footpath leading to it, starting from that campground.
The mountain and the surrounding highlands are well known for Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) therefore if you plan to camp there be aware that this place is their home and respect that. (if you doing a one-day hike it is recommended to start climbing down before the evening)
If you are going to catch a train on the way down, remember to plan your timing very well as you have to repeat that extra kilometer back along the railway to reach the station. The weather here can quickly change from a sunny day to a thunderstorm, so better to avoid the rainy season.
Long-armed attires are recommended as there are tall grasses and many thorny bushes. The amount of water will be a limiting factor for how far you will hike, so bring at least 1.5 liters per person.
Always remember, this is one of the very sensitive ecosystems on the island. So as responsible travelers, we have to protect this treasure. Take only memories, leave only footprints. Safe journey!
(Updated by THARINDU DILSHAN RANASINGHE)