Bible Rock [ Bathalegala ] Hiking guide

bible rock also known as bathalegala
Bible Rock from the west side | Photo Credit: Indi Samarajiva via Flickr, (CC BY 2.0)

When you travel along Kandy road passing Kadugannawa area,  look across the valley to witness a peculiar shaped rock at the distance. The shape reminds you of the famous rock fortress Sigiriya but it is in fact “Bathalegala” or “Bible Rock” as the British named it.  As a child, It confused me enough to think it was Sigiriya until someone was kind enough to correct me.

By the look of it, seems like it is a tough climb right? But the looks indeed can be deceiving. Read along to find out.

About the rock

The height of the rock is stated as 797.7 m in the survey map. The breadth spans a whopping 710 m across the rock surface. The surface is mostly flat covered in mana and some woods here and there.

If you are starting from the trailhead, the elevation gain would be around 150m. You can also start the hike from Hathgampola town. In that case, the elevation gain would be around 500m.

How to get there?

Bathalegala is located close to Aranayake. Whether you’re coming from Colombo or Kandy, turn onto Aranayake road at Mawanella. Follow the road until Gevilipitiya, turn right at the junction and drive about 2km to Hathgampola town. From there you’ll have to turn right to a narrow road (Bathalegala road) with a signboard “to the Bathalegala road” printed in Sinhala. (see below).

road to bathalegala

Following this road, you’ll reach a junction where you should turn left to a narrower road which runs past the trailhead.  After driving 2.5 km on this road, look towards your right to notice the starting point. There is a signpost so it is hard to miss. Parking space is available but limited.

Route

Mawanella ➡ Ussapitiya ➡ Gevilipitiya ➡ Hathgampola ➡ (Bathalegala road) ➡ (Turn left at the first junction) ➡ Trailhead (14 km)
[ Google Maps Directions ]

Important – From the junction off the Bathalegala road to the trail-head, the road is pretty narrow and fairly steep. Only bikes, three-wheelers and small cars can reach the starting point.

How to get there by Bus?

Get to Mawanella and take Mawanella – Aranayake Bus (#659) and get off at Gevilipitiya. As there is only less than 05 km from there to the trail-head, I’d recommend hiring a tuk-tuk to the trailhead to avoid any delays.

The Trail

starting point of the hike
(Left) The sign – (Right) The trailhead

Let me tell you this an easy hike. The total distance of the trail is around 400m with an elevation gain of 150m. It doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to reach the rock surface unless you’re in very bad shape. This is assuming you start from the trailhead.

If you feel like it, start the hike from Hathgampola town itself to make it more challenging with 3km walking and 500m elevation gain.

The trail starts with a narrow footpath with a mild slope and gets steeper. It is a continuous climb and there are no flat surfaces. In the midway, the footpath turns into steps laid with stone slabs. By this time you’ll be hiking through a dense jungle. At the end of this staircase, you’ll have arrived at the base of the Bathalegala rock.

sections of the bathalegala trail
(Left) The middle stretch of the trail – (Right) The start of the rocky stretch

In case you’re wondering, you don’t have to rock climb here as there are well-laid steps on the rock and wire to hold while climbing. After this, there are more stone steps and more steps on the rock until you reach an open area on a slippery footpath. This path directly leads to the summit.

trail and location map of bible rock
The trail map of Bathalegala (click to enlarge) | Map data via Google Earth

What’s on the summit?

two ends of bathalegala
(Left) Viewpoint to the Northside- (Right) The viewpoint to the south side which is close to the temple

There is a junction at the summit point (campsite). The path to the right leads to the abandoned temple with a small stupa and shrine room and the southern viewpoint just past it.

From this viewpoint, you’ll be able to see nearby Samasara mountain (right in front), Urakanda (to the extreme right), Ambuluwawa mountain, Rakshava mountain, Asupini Ella (towards the centre) and Kabaragala (to the left). If there is no mist, Sripada will also be visible.

samasara mountain, aranayake
Samasara mountain in Aranayake. Where a huge landslide took hundreds of lives in 2016

The trail to the left leads to another more spacious viewpoint. It is way better than the one on the other side. From this viewpoint, one can see Urakanda to the left, Kadugannawa, Colombo – Kandy main road and Central Plateau. Most prominent peak visible is the Mt. Alagalla. On a very clear day, Knuckles mountain range is also visible.

One special mountain I should mention is Urakanda which is visible to the west of Bible Rock. This became well known since the death of Minister Mr M.H.M. Ashraff by his helicopter crashing onto the mountain in the year 2000.

The temple

the temple atop bathalegala
Bathalegala Bauddhaloka temple with a small stupa and shrine room.

There is a small temple at the southern end of the rock. Opened in 1997, It had been occupied by a monk until his death. Thereafter, the temple was abandoned and now only opens for special occasions such as Independence day celebrations.

Tips for the hike

  • Avoid rainy days for two reasons. The rock slabs on the trail get slippery and the villagers say that the summit gets hammered by lightning strikes pretty often.
  • Best time to hike in January to April.
  • There are no known leech attacks even when it is raining.
  • Bathalegala receives a fair share of rain from the western monsoon. (May – July)
  • Carry at least 1 L water bottle as there is no water at the summit. It is best if you can carry a reusable water bottle.
  • Wear a cap/hat and bring sunscreen to be protected from the fierce sun.
  • Start early as possible to avoid heat and wear light colours.
  • Buy all your necessities from Mawanella or Hathgampola. The small shop at the trailhead doesn’t have much to offer.
  • Last but not least, Minimise the use of polythene and be responsible enough to bring back things you carry to the top. We saw a lot of polythene that were left around all over the summit and it is indeed a disheartening sight.

Happy hiking!

Let us know if you’ve any questions in the comments or contact us via our Facebook page.

Leave your comment