Ambuluwawa Tower Sri Lanka : Stairway to Heaven
Ambuluwawa Biodiversity Complex
from Kandy – 25KM
On your way to Kandy
How much time do I need
Half a Day
Ambuluwawa Tower, Sri Lanka – Located 3,567 ft. above mean sea level, Ambuluwawa mountain hosts a hilltop tourist spot that houses a biodiversity complex celebrating environmentalism, culture, and religious diversity. A notable feature of this complex is a large winding tower resembling a Buddhist stupa, which is located on the mountain peak.
A Spiral Stairway to Heaven
How do I reach the Ambuluwawa Bio-diversity complex?
You can get there by any mode of transport. Space for parking your vehicle is available at the entrance to the Bio-Diversity Park. Unfortunately, buses will have to disembark passengers at this point. There was no fee for parking your vehicle but it could change based on demand. The road from Gampola city, up the winding mountainside until you reach the car park is a smooth, well-carpeted road. Road width is large so that vehicles can easily pass, be mindful of the larger vehicles such as buses, give them ample space to complete their turn at hairpin-bends. As you proceed further up the views beyond the cliff edge might begin to give you goose-bumps. (*Use Google maps to navigate as I found them to be accurate in Gampola)
How do I go up the mountain to reach the tower?
Note: Tuk-tuks might tell you that you cannot proceed by car due to bad road conditions. It is not true from my experience. There were several personal vehicles at the summit.
Using your own vehicle (motorcycle, car, van, and jeeps only) can easily reach the tower at the summit and it will take you around 10 minutes. The road is decently carpeted and wide enough for two vehicles to easily pass. Only a small stretch of road had any boulders on either side. There is no danger of your vehicle hugging the edge of the cliff. If you choose not to proceed further beyond a certain point, there always is enough space to park your vehicle mid-way and proceed on foot. (It is a steep climb, so unless you’re young, fit, and adventurous with plenty of time on your schedule, I wouldn’t recommend trekking up)
Hire a Tuk-tuk at the bottom for round trips. All prices are for a round trip per tuk-tuk (not per person). As per usual two different pricing schemes are run by the drivers for locals and foreigners, ranging from maybe five hundred rupees to several thousand. (I will greatly appreciate your feedback on the prices offered to you so I could better inform readers – write to me). Remember to take your driver’s name, mobile number and tuk-tuk number to find or contact in case he has temporarily gone MIA. (Some make multiple trips while you climb the tower, so he might appear soon or he will call another taxi to complete the run on his behalf). Max of three persons could usually travel per tuk-tuk, but I’ve seen some carrying four. (The trip up would be far difficult for the taxi with four passengers)
Advice: Drive yourself until the summit. Tuk-tuk prices could be bargained down, and it is as I always feel, making a trade off at an acceptable price is better than an argument. Keep in mind that the summit and climb up the tower is an experience well worth it.
The compound at the top consists of the tower structure, the gardens around it, and various religious structures. When you reach the compound at the top you are welcomed by a horde of monkeys, so be careful with your items and kids (if any). Do not feed the monkeys. Bathroom/toilets are there on the left of the entrance.
As you enter through the gates, you are directly at the foot of the Ambuluwawa Spiral tower. The entrance of the tower itself is on the opposite side. The complex area, initially, opens up to a garden and observation deck with scenic views overlooking the surrounding city of Gampola. It is an ideal spot to grab your first group pictures. Also within the grounds are several other small structures, a Hindu kovil, an Islamic mosque, a Christian church, and a Buddhist statue. The gardens have plenty of shade from the trees, very tranquil with the high-altitude winds complementing the overall environment.
The tower itself can be described as having a wide circular base, with the inner stairway opening onto a 360-degree observation deck with panoramic views. Depending on the day and weather conditions, there will be strong winds, which I experienced, it gave us the feeling of literally being swept away. Every step felt lighter than usual and holding out our cameras felt unsafe. As I got to know it is not always like this, but it was quite an experience even before we got to climb the spiral stairway which hugs the exterior of the tower.
Further up, the inner stairways come to an end. The external spiral stairway is narrow and barely enough for two people to pass. One has to squeeze and hug the walls while the other person has to hug the hand railing as they pass each other. The stairway keeps on getting narrower as you go up, making it an even tighter squeeze, as well as the realization that the person coming down and on the outer side has nothing to hold on to. The person going up and on the inner side has the luxury of holding onto metal bars embedded on the wall.
Once every 2-3 turns there are small chambers that open into the center structure, you can take refuge here to allow people to pass by. If you’re not distracted by heights and if your eyes are not glued to your feet, you can enjoy the magnificent views of the surrounding areas. If you have the fortune to not encounter strong winds or at least get some moments when the high winds do die down, a small window of opportunity opens for you to stretch that selfie stick and grab those iconic and sought-after pictures. On other days the mist would obscure the panoramic views but still leave you breathless.
(Make sure your selfie sticks are not flimsy and that they do come with a hand strap. Even more important than the phones or action cameras are fastened tightly to the stick – Anything falling from the top could be potentially deadly upon impact)