Nuwara Eliya

Driving up the hill country for 5 - 6 hours will lead you to the highest town in Sri Lanka, known as Nuwara Eliya. The hill country retreat, popularly known as ‘Little England’ was a favoured escape for the English and Scottish tea connoisseurs due to its cool climate that is reminiscent to that of the United Kingdom. More recently though, the town has garnered much fame for many locals and foreigners alike, not only for its cool climate, but also for a number of other sights and activities such as the endless cascade of fertile green tea plantations along the great mountains and the opportunity to take on the highest mountain in the country, Pidurutalagala.

Top Reason to Visit

The top reason to visit the highest town in Sri Lanka is due to the collection of a number of great sights and activities that can be done quite easily, especially in the month of April. Some of the sights being the Victoria Park, the Pedro Tea Estate, Galway’s Land National Park, Lake Gregory, the Hakgala Botanical Gardens and the Seetha Amman Temple to name but seven. Moreover, the activities that can be experienced here are quite unique too, such as golf tournaments, horse racing, motor cross, carnivals and even clay pigeon shooting.

While You’re There

Nature’s bounty:

Nuwara Eliya, literally translated as the ‘City of Light’, really does show it in the form of the abundance of nature. In other words, it is a light for many species to thrive in due to its rustic backdrop. Places such as the Victoria Park, Pedro Tea Estate, Galway’s National Park, the Lover’s Leap waterfall and the Hakgala Botanical Gardens, showcase a great many species of flora and fauna that is endemic to the country.

Climb the fearsome Pidurutalagala:

Although considered to be the highest town in Sri Lanka, it is overshadowed by the tallest peak in Sri Lanka that stands at a height of 8,281 feet. It may not be possible to hike all the way up to the summit due to the presence of the central communications array of the Government of Sri Lanka and armed forces, however, the hike up to the 7,000 feet limit alone is a daunting task for any mountaineer. Moreover, the view of the surroundings from that high up makes you quite reluctant to descend the enamouring peak.

A temple of legend:

An interesting place of worship that is present in the mountain town is the Seetha Amman Temple. This temple is believed to be the site in which Sita was held captive by demon King Ravana and prayed for Rama to come rescue her, according to the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’ (a chronicle that talks of a mythological tale of the conflict between Sri Lanka and India). The depressions on the ground, nearby the temple, are believed to be the footprints of Rama’s elephant, when he came to rescue Sita. Exploring this area certainly gives a little shroud of mystery to the mountain town that further accentuates its popularity.

Recreational perfection:

The mountain town is home to one of the most picturesque lakes in the country. Lake Gregory has become a major social spot for locals and foreigners alike to experience some great recreational activities such as jet skiing, paddle boating and even pony rides. Looking to indulge in what the colonials used to do? The nearby Nuwara Eliya Golf Club offers club - class facilities for the amateur and pro golfer with great perks that even surpass what the colonial masters experienced. Another gentlemanly endeavour is witnessing the very posh horse races that take place at the Nuwara Eliya Race Course. Should you be the traveler looking for a more adventurous experience, renting a mountain bike and taking on the dirt trails that are located just outside the main town area, while crisscrossing some amazing tea estates along the way will definitely bring that much needed adrenaline rush.

Take in that Old World charm:

One of the more unique features of this mountain town is the abundance of many colonial bungalows that have been restored to its original condition, making for a very interesting stay for any traveler. Experience the lives that many colonial masters went through in the great stays, such as the Grand Hotel and the St. Andrews Hotel.

Insider Advice

Travel: Nuwara Eliya is a relatively small town that is quite easy to explore. The best way to explore the picturesque town is by hiring a bicycle, which should be easily arranged by your accommodation provider. Should you choose to hire a tuk-tuk though, there are many that roam around the town, however, some do not have meters, which mean they could overcharge on your trip.

Weather: The months from February to April are considered the best months in which the town experiences a moderate climate where the least rainfall is recorded. The town experiences almost the same climate during the other months as well, albeit with frequent showers.

Money: Due to the high influx of tourism, credit and debit cards have become an accepted medium of transaction. It is still best to carry cash in hand with small notes like LKR 20s, LKR 50s and LKR 100s to make life all the more easier.

Clothing: Due to the cool temperatures the town experiences all year round, it is best to be clad in a few layers even when partaking in a hike.

Safety: The town is generally very safe, however, it can get crowded during the season. Therefore, it is best to be very careful of your belongings, especially in the crowded areas.

Meals and refreshments: Dining options are surprisingly limited. You'll find cheap options in the town centre, but for dinner you’ll probably want to eat at your guesthouse or at one of the ritzier hotel eateries.

In conclusion, the little town of Nuwara Eliya is a wonderful concoction of all things serene and recreational, with the abundance of nature all around and the inclusion of many activities to fire up that adventurous soul as well.

Title image by: Roshie Kahandawela
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