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Home > Discovery Top Attractions > Knuckles Mountain Range

Knuckles Mountain Range

Arugam BayThe Knuckles Mountain Range lies in the central Highlands of Sri Lanka to north-east of the city of Kandy. The range takes its name from a series of recumbent folds and peaks in the west of the massif which resembles the knuckles of clenched fist when viewed from certain locations in the Kandy District. Whilst this name was assigned by early British surveyors, the Sinhalese residents have traditionally referred to the area as Dumbara Kanduvetiya meaning mist-laden mountain range.

The entire area is characterized by its striking landscapes often robed in thick layers of cloud but in addition to its aesthetic value the range is of great scientific interest. It is a climatic microcosm of the rest of Sri Lanka. The conditions of all the climatic zones in the country are exhibited in the massif. At higher elevations there is a series of isolated cloud forests, harbouring a variety of flora and fauna, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Although the range constitutes approximately 0.03% of the island's total area it is home to a significantly higher proportion of the country's biodiversity.

Further east, the Knuckles Mountain Range, with its southern approach and northern approach, provides intrepid travelers with the opportunity to experience Sri Lanka at its most primal. A rugged area of pristine wilderness - including rare dwarf cloud forest - the Knuckles has 27 peaks over 1,000m, with the highest rising to nearly 2,000m.

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It is also home to an exceptional array of endemic animal and plant species. The region contains some of the most isolated hamlets in the island, where it is still possible to witness a way of life largely untouched by modernity. Trekking in the Knuckles is a prime eco-tourism experience in Sri Lanka.

More about the Flora & Fauna of Knuckles

The vegetation within the Knuckles wilderness ranges from lowland semi-evergreen forests to montane forests. These vegetation types harbour a rich composition of animals and plants, some of which are unique to Sri Lanka.


Though it is not a big National Park like Yala and Udawalawe, there are 31 species of mammals recorded in the Knuckles wilderness. Four of them are endemic and nine are nationally endangered. Some of the common species include Wild Buffalo, Wildboar, Black-naped Hare, Jackal, Toque Macaque & Purple-faced Leaf Monkey (both these primates are endemic to Sri Lanka). Other mammals recorded include Leopard, Fishing cat, Sambar, Mouse Deer & Elephants.


The Knuckles forest region has a rich composition of birdlife and has recorded over 130 species of birds. Over 10 migrant species are also found here. Of the total recorded species 20 are nationally endangered. Some of the endemics seen here include the Yellow-eared Bulbul, the elusive Sri Lankan Whistling Thrush, Sri Lankan Spot-wing Thrush, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Jungle fowl, Sri Lankan Super fowl, Sri Lankan Wood Pigeon, Sri Lankan Green Pigeon, Sri Lankan Hanging Parrot, Layard's Parakeets, Brown-capped Babbler, Crimson-backed Woodpecker, Sri Lankan Woodshrike, Sri Lankan Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lankan Myna, Bush Warbler and the Sri Lankan White-eye. Some of the migrants include Indian Pitta, Common Sandpiper, Gray & Forest Wagtails, Brown Shrike, Indian Blue Chat, Greenish Warbler, Large-billed Leaf Warbler, Brown-breasted Flycatcher, Asian Paradise Flycatchers and the endangered Kashmir Flycatcher.

Amphibians & Reptiles

Out of the 20 species of Amphibians that have been recorded in the Knuckles wilderness, 12 are endemic and are considered nationally endangered. Among them, the Kirthisinghe's Rock Frog is found only in the Knuckles Forest Range; inhabiting streamlets that drip along rocky surfaces. Several amphibian species inhabiting the Knuckles region are yet to be discovered and scientifically described. The Small-eared Tree Frog could be commonly heard in the lower and upper montane forests, while the Corrugated Water Frog can be near the steams flowing through the above forest. The reptiles in Knuckles forest region range from small geckos and skinks to large monitor lizards and pythons. Of the 53 species recorded from the area, 23 species are endemic, while 24 species are nationally threatened. Interestingly half of the Agamid lizard species in Sri Lanka are found in the Knuckles. Among them, the endemic Leaf-nosed Lizard is found only in the Knuckles region. A combination of both venomous and non-venomous snakes can be found in the forest, but their scarcity means that an encounter will only occur with a deal of luck involved! The network of streams in Knuckles harbours at least 25 species of freshwater fish with 8 endemics and 7 nationally threatened fish species recorded. 

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