A 5 hour drive along the Colombo - Batticaloa highway will lead you through a small town, surrounded by misty mountains and filled with lush green tea plantations giving it a calm and rustic feel. A tranquil retreat to some and a destination for trekking and hiking to others, the up country town of Bandarawela has fast become a famous tourist attraction.

Top Reason to Visit

The town’s ideal location and its surrounding environment takes the top reason to visit. The likes of Lipton’s Seat and Pilkington Point that provide a view of the lush green tea plantations, the intriguing story of the legendary Ravana Falls and the architectural marvels like the Adisham Hall, St. Anthony’s Church and the Dowa Rock Temple makes the little town of Bandarawela an amazing one.

While You're There

Explore a waterfall and cave shrouded in mystery and legend:

Bandarawela is home to Ravana Falls, sometimes called ‘Ravana Ella Falls Cave’. According to the epic ‘Ramayana’ (a book that chronicles the feud between King Ravana of Sri Lanka and King Rama of India), King Ravana kidnapped and hid Rama’s wife, Sita in the cave as a way of retaliation. It is believed that Sita bathed in the pool where the falls would eventually crash down on. More recently, archaeologists claim to have found human remains dating back 25,000 years, which certainly would heighten the curiosity of any traveler.

Colonial influence:

As a result of the Second World War, many inhabitants that lived along the coastal belt settled in Bandarawela since it was deemed less likely for Japanese attacks to occur. The end result of this was the building of many colonial buildings that have not changed since its completion. The likes of the Adisham Hall, St. Anthony’s Church and the Bandarawela Hotel prove that with its timeless architectural displays.

Marvel at a 2000 year old temple:

Bandarawela is deeply rooted in traditional culture as well. This can be seen clearly, walking into the Dowa Rock temple founded by King Walagamba, said to be over 2000 years old. The 39-foot Buddha statue carved out of the rock will make you wonder how the masons actually achieved this using only chisels and hammers.

Great opportunities for hiking and gaze upon the exquisite sceneries:

Great hiking and trekking opportunities such as the hike to Lipton’s seat and Pilkington Point. It is not only challenging, but also rewarding as the end of the trail leads you to the best vantage points of the hill country’s lush green tea plantations with the backdrop of other mountain ranges. It is claimed that on a clear day, the landscapes of 5 provinces can be seen.

Insider Advice

Travel: The best and most scenic way to get to Bandarawela is by train, however, expect it to be a few hours longer than a car ride. Train tickets would cost from LKR 265 - LKR 700 depending on the class. Getting about within the town and to the nearby attractions are also quite easy and is best done either by bus or foot. Tuk-tuks are also an option, however, they quote their own prices and can be quite high.

Money: It is important to carry with you cash, with small notes like LKR 20s, 50s and 100s, for your everyday expenses as many of the shops do not accept credit or debit cards.

Essentials: When venturing out on a hike it is vital to carry essentials such as water, snacks and first aid since the terrain is uneven and sometimes can be damp and slippery due to the misty weather.

Weather: The weather is quite unpredictable as one can experience clear blue skies and gloomy weather on the same day. When travelling there do look into the weather reports to make your experience much more satisfying.

Clothing: With its unpredictable weather, it is ideal to bring some layers with you along with your usual travel clothes since it can get freezing cold, especially in the nights. Entering the Dowa Rock Temple would require you to cover your arms and legs.

Customs: The society is a quite conservative and closely knit due to its small geography, however, feel free to talk to them and ask for any assistance as they will be more than willing to help out.

If you are looking for that off the beaten path, which offers you history, culture, heritage, nature and adventure, the small town with its many attractions will surely not disappoint in fulfilling those requirements.

Title image by: Jehan Gamalathge
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