The ultimate guide to Laxapana Falls - Updated
The Towering 126 meters high Luxapana falls is the 8th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. A Plunge waterfall that drops vertically into a deep and dark pool, Luxapana is almost unparalleled in its beauty. The thundering cascade with an almost continuous flow of silvery foam and billowing plumes of spray is breathtaking to watch. This Cascade should unquestionably be in your bucket list of waterfalls to visit in Sri Lanka.
The Fall is located about 8 km from Norton Bridge (town) in the Nuwara Eliya District, next to a village called Koththallenna.
Luxapana is always associated with hydroelectric energy in the island nation of Sri Lanka. Even the name "Luxapana" shows that: Luxsha – meaning “100,000” and "Pahana" – signifying “lamp” in Sinhalese.
Incidentally, these are the names given to the twin hydroelectric plants that are located on the outskirts of the falls – the Old Laxapana Power Station which generates 50MW of electricity and the New Laxapana Power Station which generates 100MW.
This power generation is accomplished with the help of large gravity dams that span the tight valleys. They create several surreal-looking narrow expanses of water that fuel the power generation process. The power stations themselves are located further downstream. Fed from the dammed waters flowing through huge penstocks, a few of the power stations can be seen as you make your way there.
Luxapana is also close within the boundaries of the peak wilderness sanctuary, more commonly known as the “Sri Padha Adaviya”. given the seclusively and wealth of biodiversity in this region, it is no wonder that the area enveloping Luxapana is alive with flora and fauna.
There are several folk stories focused in and around the general area. some local tales say that the Lord Buddha himself rested near the falls, mending his robes before embarking on Adam’s peak. Another tells a tale where King Nissankamalla stopped at this waterfall on his way to Adam's Peak. The king had lighted one hundred thousand oil lamps ( "Lakshaya" being Sinhalese for 100,000 ), an offering to the local guardian deity "Saman" in keeping with local and indigenous beliefs and worship.
Luxapana falls rests in the shadow of the Seven Virgins Mountain range. (සප්ත කන්යා ). This majestic mountain range gives a climactic backdrop. The often mist-covered peaks are a sight to behold. it is also a somber reminder of a tragedy many years ago.
The waterfall lies off the usual areas of traveling. Hense having your own vehicle is preferable since it offers you more flexibility. A car is sufficient, but make sure that it something with a decent amount of ground clearance. Our trusty small compact was well versed in these kinds of adventures and performed admirably.
If you are making your way from Colombo, You first need to get past Kithulgala, via Awissawella. The road is well paved and has cutbacks and here and there, letting you see the stunning valley through gaps in the foliage. And also be on the lookout for white water rafts perched on top of tuk-tuks. A whimsical sight that you are sure to catch a glimpse of.
After Kithulgala you come to Ginigathhena. A drizzle is uncommon on the way there. Here and there we came across the visible scars of the excessive rainfall – earthen embankments under construction or repair having been washed away with the excessive rain. The roads are narrow but enjoyable to drive.
After Ginigathhena you will be following the Nuwaraeliya – Hatton main road. The road is spectacular, with greenery and beautiful canopied trees dotting the mountainside.
Keep a sharp lookout though, there is a signboard on the left that indicates the road that takes you to Luxapana falls via Norton Bridge. Getting to Norton bridge is fairly straightforward. Once you cross the Norton Bridge ( or dam) be sure to take a right onto the Norton – Maskeliya road. There is a fuel station and a few shops here.
A memorial for the victims of Martinair Flight 138 which crashed onto the nearby seven Virgin hills (Saptha Kanya) mountains can be found here. A recovered tire of the crashed aircraft is part of the memorial to the 191 souls who lost their lives on that fateful day on 4 December 1974.
Take the Norton – Maskeliya road for a few kilometers. Don’t turn on any by-roads and you will come to a junction with a few signboards showing the way to the falls. when you turn onto this road you will have a clear view of the seven virgin mountains. Follow this road all the way down to where the Fallside Rest is located. From there you can ask for directions to the base of the falls.
Mistakes to Avoid.
A simple google location to Laxapana can end up getting you nowhere, as we discovered ( we spent a goodly while going here and there with our GPS giving us alternate routes - getting us nowhere! ) Set your destination to the "Norton Bridge police station" and once there to the "(Laxapana) Fallside rest" – this will take you right next to the trail leading to the base of the falls and to the top part too.
if you come across the Kalugala -Laxapana road on your way to Luxapana avoid it. There is a police checkpoint just at the start is a good visual cue to identify it. The road is utterly horrendous and only partially traversable. There is a bus that operates along the route but that too goes halfway. Avoid this route and continue on to Ginigathena.
We lucklessly fell victim and went all the way possible before turning back into the road. (There is also a Local Police checkpoint just before the junction to the road, and we didn’t ask directions and drove on ) A few miles later with our teeth rattling and stomachs woozy with all the jarring (the road is dotted in potholes! ), we turned back. The only silver lining to our wrong turn fiasco was that we saw the Polpitiya power station.
The Route to the top of Luxapana Falls.
Following the road all the way down to where the Fallside Rest you clome across the Jayabima Estate. You can park your vehicle here and continue down a small trail down to the upper part of the fall. Once at the base of the steps you can freely explore the upper portion of the falls. But keep in mind of your footing - especially if you make your way to the edges of the cliff, from where the waterfall plunges down.
The view is stunning but it is a long long way down. If you have a fear of heights or vertigo it's better not to venture onto the edges. And if you visit the falls in the wet season, in the months between September and January you should avoid coming here as the water flow can be very powerful and immense. Be particularly mindful of your foothold as the rock bed is very smooth owing to the effects of abrasion with the flowing water.
Making your way to the base of the falls.
The Fallside rest is the marker you should have on your GPS once you pass Norton Bridge. it will take you right to where the trail starts leading down to the falls. The Fallside rest is run by a very helpful couple who are marvelous hosts and will readily provide you with directions and help. The adjoining shop is also a place to stock up on provisions or a few snacks – But keep in mind to bring back every scrap of trash you discard. The place is very remote and this makes it pristine and almost devoid of garbage; be sure to keep it that way.
The trail is a flight of concrete steps that run in a series of flights. The stairs can be slippery at times due to moss. The steps run between charming village houses, whose occupants will grace you with a smile as you descend to the falls. Halfway down the steps you will HEAR the roar of the falls and start catching glimpses of it in-between clearings. The sight is absolutely breathtaking.
Luxapana is the 8th highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. A whopping 126 meters high – the fall seems higher in person. Luxapana can be categorized as a Plunge waterfall that drops vertically without touching the underlying cliff face. But surprisingly you see only a little of the underlying rock being eroded. Although the waterfall generates enough spray to erode the underside of the cliff you see very little of “caves” beneath the lip of the waterfall. ( Aberdeen falls has such features)
This may be because the waterfall is relatively new. You can see a more eroded area just next to the waterfall. This may be where the waterfall flowed earlier, Before changing its route.
Standing at the base you can gaze at the top of the falls with the billowing mist flowing around you. The surrounding rocks are covered with a spongy green carpet of greenery. The towering stone cliffs surrounding the falls stand tall and imposing.
The whole of the falls gets inundated with mist at times, especially with rain. The fall is a fair bit away from where the staircase ends, so you need to hop on the rocks and boulders to get a bit closer. Mind your step as the rocks are slippery with moss and algae growth.
The Icy cold waters that form the base of the pool have a glossy emerald color. we had seen this once before – on the river banks of the Sethi river in Nepal. (it’s icy emerald waters being somewhat of a novel sight to us.)
If you want to go and explore the lesser touched area of the wilderness – with relatively easy access, Luxapana Falls is the place for you. There isn’t an excessive amount of footwork, but negotiating the staircase needs a fair bit of endurance and strength. Make sure you talk to the locals for help and you’ve got a good mode of transportation with you. Make sure that it is mechanically sound - it wouldn’t do to end up stranded there with a broken car. If you want to explore the wilderness in all its beauty and don’t mind getting wet – This is a journey for you.
Important things to remember.
Always plan ahead. Especially the route. google maps can sometimes give you inaccessible routes. Make your way first your way to Norton bridge and then to the falls.
Drive safe. It's going to be a winding drive so be alert and aware. Make sure you doze off on your way back home (if it is going to be a one-day trip)
The journey to the falls and back ( to and from Colombo) can be undertaken in one day but it’s going to be hectic. Start early if you plan to do it in one day so you will arrive at the falls around midday.
If you are going to spend the night, there are a few spartan hotels nearby – We recommend the (Laxapana) Fallside rest inn. The place is run by a delightful couple who will extend their utmost hospitality. Accommodation facilities are reasonable, and rates start at about 3000/= LKR
It is usually going to rain. you need to be prepared for it. And make sure that your cameras don't get waterlogged. The spray from the waterfall can fog up the lenses and ruin your electronics.
The steps can be daunting. you need to prep yourself for it. Also, a small pocket light will come in handy if it becomes late or the skies are overcast.
The path is plentiful with leaches in the rainy season. make sure you’ve got adequate protection.
Regularly ask for directions from the locals. Use Goole – maps, but also get local input.
The pool at the base is DEEP and COLD. Some swim there but we recommend against it. especially with sudden increases in Waterflow.
Ask the people before you start the trail down to the falls if there have been any warnings issued about flash floods, or gate discharges from the dams upstream. Always be careful as the water levers can swell up with the rain.
Lastly – Don’t leave anything other than footprints, photographs, and memories. The place is super pristine and please make sure that you keep it that way.