Trek through a Sri Lankan Village: Hiriwadunna

Immersing yourself with the locals many times means getting out of the flashing city lights and exploring smalls towns that are not known to receive hordes of tourists. In Sri Lanka that meant breaking away from the capital city of Colombo and heading northeast to Hiriwadunna Village.

Hiriwadunna is a tiny village of roughly 2,500 people.

The start of the trek, which was more of a saunter, led us to the home of a family of five who cultivates shallots.

Lots of shallots.

The entire patio was filled with these onion-related vegetables, and if you took a peek inside the family room of the home you’d find the floor there covered too — evidence that the crop yield had been good this season.

It’s not always that way due to the poor soil in the area, Hiriwadunna farmers use the slash and burn cultivation, a process where natural vegetation is cut down and burned in order to prep the land for farming. Roughly every two years, the soil becomes infertile and the farmer has move locations to begin the process all over again.

The fruits of their labor are then bartered with their neighbors, if one grows peppers the other grows beans and they trade amongst the village people. In some cases, Cinnamon Hotels (where I stayed during my Sri Lanka visit) will buy some of their vegetable overflo.

The walk continued along the path where medicinal wild ginger grows, laundry is strung from between trees and butterflies flutter about. There are 240 species of butterflies found in Sri Lanka and it seemed as if they were all here, hovering along the low shrubs.

When we reached a colorful set of catamarans, the trek turned into a boat ride.

The boats are typically used for cruising between villages, a water taxi of sorts. But it’s more than just a practical mode of transportation, it’s also a peaceful ride through the waters covered with green lily pads.

Where are all the frogs?

“Seeing a frog on a lily pad” is actually on my bucket list. Luckily, I was able to tick that one off while staying in a Tuscan villa, because there were none here.  It didn’t matter, it was a beautiful ride.

Boating to the other side of the man-made lake, brought us to the home of a 55 year old farmer who invited us to take a peek into his world.

He was cooking lunch when we arrived.

Life seemed simple here in a sense, away from the normal stresses of a bustling metropolitan town. His days were mostly spent tending to the crops, and protecting them by keeping a lookout for hungry elephants who are a threat to his precious produce.

His watchtower was a fort on stilts.

The treehouse watchtower, is not only where the village farmer sleeps when crops are in season, but also the perfect vantage point to spot elephants down below. When one comes within the vicinity, he screams “alea”, which means elephant, as an attempt to scare the them away.

If yelling doesn’t work, then the pop of a  Superman firecracker does.

The finale to the trek, was not a hiking expedition at all.

It was a double-ox cart ride.

We rode along bouncing in the back, through the rural village, paddy lands and green forests where men were working in the fields and children roamed about.

The few hours of this adventure was just a tiny glimpse into the everyday lives of the Hiriwadunna village people, who welcomed us into their homes and little piece of the world. It is rare to have tour visit like this, one that takes you to a rural community and doesn’t feel like a tourist trap.

. . . Check it Off Your Bucket List . . .


How to Book: You can book the Hiriwadunna Village Trek through Chanak Advneture and the Elephant Safari tour through Cinnamon Nature Trails.

Where to Stay: I stayed at in a nearby town, at the 4-star Habarana Village (from $88 USD), but for a more luxury experience try the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana (from $96 USD). If you are looking for a truly unique lodging experience. book a night in at Elephant Watch Hut (from $70), where you will be sleeping in a treehouse on stilts.

Other Nearby Must Dos: While traveling through Sri Lanka I highly recommend climbing the 1200 stairs to the peak of Sigiriya Rock (the view is phenomenal) and taking an elephant safari in Kaudulla National Park.

Where to Eat: Dewata Villas Village Restaurant for a Sri Lankan BBQ experience, eat local curries at Mihini or Yaan Oya.

Language: Sinhala and Tamil are the official languages of Sri Lanka, though English is sporadically spoken, especially in hotels and restaurants.

Currency: Sri Lankan Rupee (see exchange rate)

Electric: Voltage is 220v and the plug has 3 round pins (Type D/G) – (Buy Here)

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22 thoughts on “Trek through a Sri Lankan Village: Hiriwadunna”

  1. Compare than the city life this is some awesome experience. Very calm and green place, no pollution, no noises. I would like to invite you to make a visit in Tamil nadu, India. Here is a lot more places to visit, that will really make you feel different.

  2. The name Hiriwadunna comes from Siri+weda+unna or Himi+weda+unna, both meaning “Buddha was here”. The village temple at Hiriwadunna is the real Bodhgaya where Prince Siddhartha attained Buddhahood – the original Ficus religiosa still stands there. Hiriwadunna is a special place indeed, been there in 2014, The scenery and aura is like a different world, detached from the rest of Sri Lanka.

  3. Amazing post..! The pictures are stunning and so lively. Thanks for sharing..I am really proud that i born in this country. The beauty and the simplicity of this village, really urges me to go there.

  4. Every inch of this place was lovely and real treat of Sri Lankan village life. The bull-cart ride and boat rides were memerizing. Worthy to travel and Definitely recommended !

  5. Thanks for such a wonderful and comprehensive article. I am also planning to visit Sri Lanka before this winter ends with an intention to laze away few of my days hanging out village. I could already got an indea where I should hit right away. Thanks!

  6. Our last trip to Sri Lanka was just amazing! And its really heart breaking that this country has to go through yet another Financial Crisis! I really hope things pickup soon and tourism returns back to normal! My son and i Have planned another trio for 2021 to explore more of the island and help in any way we can!

  7. This looks like an amazing place to travel. I lived in Sri Lanka for nearly 2 years and feel like I barely scratched the surface of this amazing place. Have to add it to my list!!!!!!!!!


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