Camping in Sri Lanka – Two Days In The Mountains in Haputale
Traveling around Sri Lanka during the Covid-19 is not as same as it was before. While we always resorted to public transport for our travels around Sri Lanka earlier, we find it more comfortable to travel in a private vehicle or a taxi now. So this time, we hopped on a taxi to travel to Haputale. Haputale is a scenic town in the mountains of Sri Lanka, and it’s one of the best places to go for camping in Sri Lanka’s hill country, thanks to a wonderful camping site in Haputale setup by a warm, welcoming family.
Visiting Sri Lanka during Covid-19 pandemic? Here’s the latest information.
Sri Lanka is open for international travelers and the restrictions change frequently. So we suggest you go to Sri Lanka Tourism’s official web portal for the latest information.
As of now, vaccinated travelers don’t need hotel quarantine (except staying at a government-approved hotel for one day), but need to get tested upon arrival.
Camping in Sri Lanka: Haputale camping itinerary for two days
We traveled with our little sister so we weren’t looking for wild camping, and needed a quiet place for a getaway from our Colombo city life. We found the best place for that. Eco Lodge Haputale is a camping site in a secluded location. It’s the family business of Viraj Dias, the eldest brother of the lot. His younger brothers and cousins chip in for help, while others whip up delicious meals and his father cracks jokes to welcome you home.
6 AM – Leaving Colombo
We hired a PickMe (an alternative to Uber in Sri Lanka) to travel to Haputale. We reached Haputale in 4.30 hours, while also stopping for breakfast on the way.
8 AM – Breakfast on the go
We stopped by a small eatery on the way as soon as we crossed the Western Province border. A very enthusiastic uncle brought us a plate full of idiyappam (string hoppers – they look like round-shaped delicate rice flour nets) and a warm bowl of malu hodi (fish curry) flavored with goraka (gardenia) to add a subtle tanginess. There was also parippu (dal cooked in creamy coconut milk) and pol sambal, which is made of mixing freshly grated coconut meat with red chili, lime and sea salt. We washed it down with a cup of a hot plain tea served in bone china.
9AM – But there is always time for more tea
Yep! You read it right. One tea wasn’t quite enough. Along the way, we stopped by a small ramshackle shop serving tea so we can fuel ourselves more.
10.30AM – Reaching our campsite
When we arrived, Suraj’s father, uncle Dias welcomed us all to his living room. He had plenty of stories to tell while offering us more milk tea with store-brought tea-time biscuits that tasted quite creamy. Then we walked to the campsite with his youngest son. From their home, it’s a ten minute steep walk downhill through a sprawling tea plantation where swathed by mist. It was lovely!
The campsite has space for eight people but they can arrange more tents and host about 20 people in total. Our tent opened up to the Lipton’s Seat in a distance and the mountains far beyond.
Our stay (during our camping trip in Sri Lanka)
During our stay there, Suraj’s youngest brother (we really did forget his name) stayed at the campsite, made us as many cups of tea as we needed and served us warm water in chilly evenings. They prepare food at their home and bring down to the site — it’s quite arduous but they do have a little army of kids (family and cousins) running around to help them. For our first lunch, we had rice and curry that included a delicious chicken gravy. We spent the evening going for a stroll, sipping tea and counting stars by the bonfire as the crackling flames kept us warm from the Haputale cold.
Suraj came over for a dinner chat with his doggo friend as we hungrily gobbled up his mum’s fried rice. Garlicky, warm and eggy, we had it with the family’s traditional tomato gravy. Suraj though, didn’t eat with us. He was having a bad day as his team lost the village cricket match.
When the night falls, the team at Eco Lodge light up the place with lantharum — those old school kerosene oil lamps that come with a glass chimney. The cold breeze tightly hugs you as the lantharum beams. And for that moment, that’s all that matters — you, your soulmate and the hillside camp.
Camping in Sri Lanka: Day two
We woke up the next morning quite ambitiously, eager to catch the rising sun. While it wasn’t the best day for a stunning sunrise, the sun — the fireball of the universe that brightens us all — never disappoints you. Its rays slowly kissing the mountain slopes layered in shades of green is always a mesmerizing sight. Nathan took a bunch of phots as the the lantharum light dulled. I slipped into my muddy sneakers and walked into the bushes, to the perched boulder where I could bath in the warm rays of the morning light. It was bliss.
After breakfast and two cups of coffee, Nathan, me and sister took a stroll downhill. We listened to our favorite songs, sang some and soaked in the pouring rain. Haputale is a curious case. Weather here changes any minute. It’s blue skies now with the sun drying your soggy t-shirt on a clothesline but it could rain in five minutes; sometimes it’s just a light drizzle. Other-times, an angry downpour.
Fried rice never tasted better
Remember the fried rice from last night’s dinner? Suraj’s fam’s special? Yep, that one! We had it for lunch, again, just because we specifically asked for it. It was that good and we loved it. Maybe, just maybe, knowing our love for this warm rice mixed with thinly chopped vegetables, eggs and garlic, they served it in a tin bucket (like how they serve sambar in Tamil eateries). They also didn’t forget our favorite: the tomato gravy — a humble accompaniment but truly the star of this Sri Lankan meal.
PS: We actually have a *very* hilarious time-lapse of us gobbling up fried rice at Eco Lodge, Haputale. If we are brave enough, we may post it soon too.
Day three: Leaving our camping trip in Haputale, Sri Lanka
Leaving is always sad. We woke up early to catch another stunning sunrise, and the team treated us to a warm and filling breakfast. When our PickMe was near, it was time to head back. We climbed up the hill to reach Suraj’s home through the mist clad pathway, slightly wet and slippery with a sprinkle of rain.
Back at Suraj’s home, we met all their lovely cats and dogs, including an incredibly aggressive but ridiculously charming furry resident cat who was the real owner of the household. He sunbathed on the stairs leading to the main road, scratched my sister’s hands and snarled at the house dogs. On the other hand, a mix breed, who looked like a British Shorthair a tourist once misplaced in the island quietly napped in the comfort of the household couch. Next to him was another rather sleepy cat — she or he slept like it was the end of the world. Maybe it really is, now.
Do we recommened a camping trip in Sri Lanka?
Absolutely! Yes! Why not? Maybe not wild camping, but go to Eco Lodge Haputale here for a otherworldly experience. You can also hop on a train which passes through some beautiful landscapes of Sri Lanka’s hill country: sweeping mountains, tea estates, waterfalls, country cottages and charming railway stations.
Where can we go next?
From Haputale, you can move to Ella, which hosts many adventurous activities for travelers. See our Ella travel guide. We also highly recommend Nuwara Eliya, our favorite hill town in the country. If you are looking for some ocean fun, head down to Palatupana near Yala National Park or visit Tangalle.
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