Renowned for its tea plantations, Nuwara Eliya is a quaint, postcard-worthy town located in the highlands of central Sri Lanka. Much less-densely populated and only a few hours’ drive from bustling Colombo, this tea town is a peaceful respite from the noise and heat of the city.
As one of the biggest tea producers in the world, this mountainous area is known as the heart of Ceylon tea. Nuwara Eliya is also famous for being the ‘Little England’ of Asia with strong British colonial influences from decades ago. Forget Cameron Highlands, let us show you why Nuwara Eliya is a must-visit destination!
Delightfully Cool Climate
First chanced upon by the British in around 1818 during a hunting trip, they found themselves surrounded with a climate very similar to England, with an average temperature of 16 degrees. As they grew fond of the place, the British colonists decided that it made quite the perfect relaxation retreat!
Thanks to their foresight, this chilly mountainous area remains well-loved as a tranquil haven for tourists today for the same reason. Imagine waking up to misty mornings with dewdrops on leaves, and taking a deep breath of that invigorating crisp air while surrounded by an amazing view of the tea valley! Pure bliss!
Good months to visit Nuwara Eliya are from February to September when there is lesser rain and more sunshine so that you can explore all that this charming little town has to offer.
Fine Tea Aplenty
This hilly terrain of Nuwara Eliya boasts the perfect climate conditions for tea production. It is a must to visit at least one of the many amazing plantations because wandering among the tea bushes is a remarkable once-in-a-lifetime experience!
From established companies such as Mackwoods to the less crowded smaller estates like the Pedro Tea Factory, most of them offer tours around their plantations.
Fin Fact: Coffee was initially grown here but an unfortunate blight wiped out the coffee plantation. Tea was then substituted in its place and grown commercially in the mid of 19th century. Within a decade, thanks to the cool climate and fertile environment, there were more than 5000 acres of tea growing in the hills of Nuwara Eliya and the neighbouring town of Kandy!
Affectionately known as the tea capital, Nuwara Eliya has grown to become one of the largest exporters of tea and produces some of the best quality teas in the world.
Hop on one of the tea tours and learn about their 150 years long history, sip on some of the best brews you can ever have in the world and take in the unbelievably picturesque sight of the lush tea terraces enveloping you. While having a leisurely stroll around the tea estates, do say hello to the friendly workers in the fields who are more than happy to reciprocate with a smile!
Nuwara Eliya Post Office. Photo by Poorfish . Source: https://amazinglanka.com
Quaint Colonial Architecture
The root of Nuwara Eliya’s moniker ‘Little England’ all started from the days of Sir Edward Barnes, who governed the place from 1824 to 1831. Along with him, many other British settlers built their homes in the area in the early years of development. Today, these impressive colonial structures, cottages and pruned gardens still remain, and they create a one-of-a-kind magical atmosphere reminiscent of the English countryside but truly unique in its own way.
In fact, many of the old buildings such as The Grand Hotel, The Hill Club and St. Xavier’s Church still retain detailed features that hail from the colonial period. A definite must-see for people who can appreciate its beauty!
The most iconic British structure has to be none other than the stunning red-bricked Post Office that was built in traditional Tudor architectural style. Located smack in the centre of Nuwara Eliya town, visitors are welcomed take a walk down memory lane and mail a few postcards back home from this heritage building.
Fun-packed Outdoor Activities
Play like the British colonists did and head to another attraction steeped in history – Gregory Lake. Popular with families and tourists alike, this idyllic lake offers various recreational activities and is dotted with quaint colonial-style cottages. It almost looks like one has arrived at the Swiss Alps instead.
Take a scenic paddle boat ride with your family or if you are feeling adventurous, go on a pony ride (yes, real ponies!). Trotting around on the adorable ponies while soaking in the splendid lake view is an extraordinary experience that you will not get back in Singapore!
Hop over to the Victoria Park with its ornate manicured lawns if you prefer a more relaxing afternoon. Renamed to commemorate the 60th jubilee coronation of Queen Victoria in 1897, this peaceful and beautiful park is home to many foreign species of trees and rare birds. Nature lovers will love it here!
If you lucky to come during the months of March to May, blooming season transforms the park into a magnificent colourful canvas of flora and fauna!
For travellers seeking an adrenaline rush, Nuwara Eliya has a variety of hiking trails and some of the most spectacular waterfalls. There are more than 30 waterfalls in this area, with Ramboda Falls and Lover’s Leap Fall being among the more frequented ones because of their exceptional beauty.
Another popular waterfall is the twin cascading St. Clair’s Falls, which is also otherwise known as the ‘Little Niagara of Sri Lanka’. This impressive waterfall is nestled within a charming tea estate which you can admire in awe from a viewpoint. But, take the experience up a notch and trek down the tea bushes to reach the base where you can feel the sheer power of nature itself!
If you have time, spend a day exploring the many incredible waterfalls around the region and let the beauty of nature rejuvenate your body and mind.
Note: Remember to wear proper hiking shoes because some parts of the route are slippery from the water splash.
Delicious Variety of Food
The food variety available here is as colourful as its history. As it is part of Sri Lanka, one in search of local tastes can easily find the Sri Lankan staple of rice and curries (usually fish, chicken, vegetables, or lentils) in many local eateries. Using a medley of aromatic spices, Sri Lankan food is hearty and deliciously unforgettable.
Holidaymakers can also choose to dine in more high-end restaurants that retain the British features and imagine to be an elite member of society way back in the 19th century. Do not forget to indulge in an afternoon of high tea with the daintiest of pastries and freshly brewed Ceylon tea!
Nuwara Eliya is a harmonious blend of the old and new, grandeur and simplicity. With stunning views of tea plantations, some of the best teas in the world, the friendliest people and the most comfortable climate, Nuwara Eliya is sure to leave an indelible mark in the hearts of every visitor!
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