The Knuckles Range, one of the island’s last great wildernesses, is situated to the north east of Kandy, or about an hour’s drive from the city. The unusual name of this mountainous massif refers to their resemblance to the knuckles of a clenched fist – a title assigned to them by early British surveyors more than a century ago. Sinhalese residents traditionally refer to the range as dumbara kanduvetiya, whose more romantic meaning translates as ‘misty mountains’.
Topped by stands of rare cloudforest, the jagged peaks of this rugged reserve rise to a height of 1,863 metres. Measuring 155 square kilometres, the Knuckles do not only boast spectacular scenery, but also an incredible biodiversity. Within the range there are numerous eco systems, including five major forest types, and these are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, many of which are endemic. Wildlife includes leopard, various species of deer, monkeys, giant squirrels, mongoose, rare lizards and many species of birds, including three quarters of the total number of endemic bird species found in the island as a whole.
The main attraction of the Knuckles, aside from its vivid scenery, is its trekking potential. The region sees few tourists, and many routes are largely unexplored meaning that you’re likely to be the only ones wandering along them. Trails take you to scenic viewpoints, secret waterfalls and to the most traditional of Sinhalese villages where residents live as they have done for generations. Most have only recently got electricity and access to them is possible only on foot.