Did you think Sri Lanka was only about beaches? Yes, it is a small island country, but it has so much packed into it. No doubt the country’s coast line is stunning but in our opinion, the middle part of Sri Lanka is truly spectacular. This area is called the Hill Country of Sri Lanka.
If you’re wondering what Sri Lanka’s Hill Country is all about, then let me refresh your memory – do you remember my epic train ride pictures? Yes, that stunning train route goes through the Hill Country with waterfalls, tea estates and lush green little hills. You can find all of this (and even more) if you visit Nuwara Eliya..
There are two kinds of people – those who hate the rain and those who love rain so much that they would want to dance in it. Even those who fall in the first category will love Nuwara Eliya’s rains, because everything just comes to life.
If it isn’t raining, Nuwara Eliya is usually surrounded by clouds and is misty. As a result, there’s a feeling of walking on the clouds when here. The fact that Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by so many waterfalls surely helps. Now isn’t that something?
Nuwara Eliya is often called Sri Lanka’s “Little England” because of the rains and its colonial buildings. It feels a little different than the rest of Sri Lanka. I enjoyed my stay in Nuwara Eliya so much that I visited it twice on two different visits to Sri Lanka.
Nuwara Eliya isn’t the only stunning destination in Sri Lanka. There’s the lovely Sigiriya that’s famous for its Lion Rock fortress, there are many national parks where you can see wild elephants, stunning beaches that are perfect for surfing, and many other laidback destinations. So, have I convinced you to book your tickets for Sri Lanka?
How to Reach Nuwara Eliya
One of the best ways to reach Nuwara Eliya is by getting on a train from Colombo (or even Kandy, or Ella or Badulla). In fact, the train route that runs from Kandy to Ella is often said to be one of the most scenic train rides in the world. The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya and is towards the end of the journey, before Haputale.
Another way to reach Nuwara Eliya is by hopping on to bus. Bus system in Sri Lanka isn’t as complicated as many websites claim. We pretty much arrived at most of the bus stations and asked for bus tickets. Often we had to change the buses multiple times but we didn’t mind. Yes, we did get confronted by taxi mafia who claimed that buses don’t go where we need to go but thankfully we didn’t fall for that.
For my second visit, I did not travel by buses but we had a coach to ourselves. It was pretty easy and fast to travel between Colombo and Nuwara Eliya in a van. If you’re a group of 4 people then renting a car or getting a taxi to reach Nuwara Eliya from Colombo is a smart thing to do since you can split the fare.
Traveling Around in Nuwara Eliya
The easiest way to travel within Nuwara Eliya is by tuk tuk. That’s how we moved around and loved it. You can also consider getting a taxi or renting a car and driving on your own. Yes, I did use buses to travel within Sri Lanka but I wouldn’t recommend them within Nuwara Eliya.
Please note – some of the most scenic natural places that Nuwara Eliya is famous for are actually outside the city, so you can definitely not walk there easily. You will need to get on a bus or tuk tuk or a taxi.
Ramboda Falls are pretty big. At 109 meters, Ramboda is the 11 highest waterfall of Sri Lanka. It is very easy to reach here with a tuk tuk or taxi. They will leave you at a point from where you have to hike up for just 1-2 kilometers and from there you can see the beauty of this waterfall at multiple levels.
Honestly, there are so many waterfalls around Nuwara Eliya but this one stood out because we really enjoyed the little hike. Moreover, the waterfall was very full because it had rained a lot for a week before we visited.
The entry fee for Ramboda Falls is LKR 50 per person for non Sri Lankans and LKR 20 for Sri Lankans. It is barely 25 cents, so the entry ticket is very affordable.
Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by many waterfalls but I totally understand if you don’t want to see all of them. If you want to visit just one then let Ramboda Falls be that one. It is easy to visit, has a small fun hike (1 KM, so 10 – 15 mins) and at 358 feet high, it is stunning.
Horton Plains National Park – World’s End
Horton Plains National Park is famous for its cliff with a drop of around 4000 feet, called the World’s End. Just like most of the places to visit in Nuwara Eliya, this isn’t actually inside the city. It is 32 KMs south of Nuwara Eliya.
It is expensive to reach the Horton Plains National Park because you can only arrive here by a taxi or a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk ride costs LKR 2000 and the park ticket is LKR 5800 per person. If you’re lucky to experience the beauty of this national park on a clear day, then it is totally worth the price because it is beautiful and well maintained.
Start your visit to Horton Plains national park early in the morning so that you are done by 10 am and can avoid the heat. The gate opens at 6:30 am. It can be very cold in the morning but suddenly very hot at 10 – 11 am.
Carry enough water with you. When you arrive here, be sure to check out the Baker Falls and Mini World’s End too and don’t just focus on just the main attraction – the world’s end. Even though the World’s End is more famous, the waterfall is more beautiful. Did I mention before that Nuwara Eliya is mostly about misty hills and waterfalls?
Be prepared to walk for 20-25 kilometers inside the national park. It may take around 3 hours but it is totally worth it. If you’re visiting for purely photography purposes then be sure to check the weather forecast beforehand.
Bluefield Tea Gardens
Sri Lankan tea is famous all over the world and a lot of it comes from Nuwara Eliya. You will surely see a lot of tea estates all around Nuwara Eliya but I highly recommend you take out time to visit one.
One of the most visited tea estates in Nuwara Eliya is Bluefield Tea Gardens. It is free to visit (+ free tour) and is really good. I’m not one to rush at freebies but the tour at Bluefield Tea Estate was actually pretty awesome. Actually, it is right outside the town.
The tour inside the tea factory was short (15 mins max), fun and informative. At the end of the tour, we even got to sit in a lovely spot outside and sip a steaming cup of tea. Before you ask – yes, I did this tour twice because I visited Nuwara Eliya twice year after year.
Even though the tour inside the tea factory is free, I recommend you tip your tour guide. We actually also ended up buying tea at the tea factory. It is one of those things that you really have to buy when you visit Sri Lanka, and it was a good idea to buy it directly from the source.
Oh hey, if you are looking for a place to click amazing photos inside a tea plantation then there’s a spot very close to where you’ll park outside the Bluefield Tea Estate. Not only we got to meet and photograph the local women who were plucking tea leaves, but we also clicked some amazing photos of us here. But, beware of leeches, there are plenty. One of my friends had 2 of them on her leg and she was wearing shoes!
Lover’s Leap Falls
Our first visit to Nuwara Eliya was in 2017, and we made friends with a tuk tuk driver. We asked him to take us to a few scenic spots around Nuwara Eliya and the first place where he took us was the Lover’s Leap Waterfall.
Actually the tuk tuk doesn’t go exactly to the waterfall but you have to walk for maybe just 5 minutes to reach it. The walk is really a lot of fun because the area around the waterfall is full of boulders and is very green. We visited right after a heavy rainy day so the waterfall was very full.
Even though we arrived to the Lover’s Leap Waterfall by tuk tuk, you can easily walk to this point from the town if the weather is good. It takes around 30 minutes to reach here by hiking from the town centre. The hike goes through some really beautiful tea estates so it’s totally worth it if you’re lucky to witness a sunny day in Nuwara Eliya.
Nuwara Eliya Post Office
No matter where you stay in Nuwara Eliya or where you go, you will end up visiting the town centre at some point. After all, a lot of amazing local restaurants are situated here in the centre.
There is a colonial style Post Office building that’s an interesting sight. It is right in the middle of the town centre. You can’t miss it.
Make a trip to the town centre to eat some amazingly flavorful local food. Walk around the post office and click some photos. When you’re done, you can enter the Victoria Park. Victoria Park’s Entry Gate is right next to the Post Office.
Victoria Park is a good place to visit to get away from Nuwara Eliya’s busy town centre. The park has many walking lanes and some of the lanes are hedged with colorful flowers. You can use Victoria Park as a resting place or as a shortcut to reach one place of the city to another by walking through it.
There is a food court like restaurant that’s near the entrance of Victoria Park. San and I ended up eating a very delicious lunch here on a rainy day.
Single Tree Hill
Single Tree Hill isn’t easy to get to because of the bad road condition BUT is totally worth it if you’re a sucker for a good view. You can see the Nuwara Eliya city and Lake Gregory from up here. Don’t expect to see a big tree here, the hill is actually called Single Tree.
If you’re trying to look for it on Google Maps, then you may want to also look for Swarnagiri Wiharaya – a Buddist Temple that’s on the way. You may need to cross through a tea estate and go up to a place where you see a communication tower.
If you’re visiting for photography purposes, then you may want to check if the weather is good enough or not before visiting. You can reach here on a tuk tuk or even with your own vehicle. If you’re feeling adventurous, then you can also hike to this place for a sunrise. The sunrise view from here is better than the sunset view.
Gregory Lake is an artificial lake in Nuwara Eliya and is a bit touristy. You can rent a paddle boat and spend some time here. Or, you can walk around the lake and go over the bridge.
If you’re not a local, then be careful because the prices for the boat ride can go as high as LKR 4000 per person. The lake complex also has an entry fee but it is only LKR 300. Another way to enjoy the beauty of Gregory Lake is by getting into a lake side restaurant for a meal.
Bomburu Ella Waterfall
Right outside Nuwara Eliya town, there is a very scenic spots where a lot of tuk tuk and taxi drivers stop to show a view of Bomburu Ella Waterfall and Bomburuella reservoir. You can enjoy the view from the road or, if you are adventurous then you can actually visit.
Bomburu Ella Waterfall is situated between Welimada and Nuwara Eliya in Sita Eliya Kandapola Forest Reserve. It isn’t as easy to reach as compared to the Lover’s Leap fall. The tuk tuk or car can only take you 3 KMs away from the waterfall and from there you need to do a slippery hike.
Bomburu Ella waterfall is actually a group of several waterfalls – 10 or more in number. They are also sometimes called Perawella Falls and collectively known to be the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka.
St. Clair Waterfall and Devon Falls
St. Clair Waterfall and Devon Falls are next to each other. Many people see these two waterfalls from the road but I do know of some people who managed to reach very close to them for a better view. You can reach
Mlesna Tea Castle St Clair, which is located very close to the viewpoints of both the waterfalls. Haputale
While in Nuwara Eliya, visit the nearby town Haputale on a day trip. Haputale is smaller and has several scenic spots from where you can enjoy the view. One of the most famous places in Haputale is Lipton’s Seat.
We actually stayed in Haputale overnight and loved it. You can pretty much walk for a few minutes in any direction here and you’re sure to reach an amazing viewpoint because the entire town is surrounded by little rolling hills.
If you’re visiting Haputale from Nuwara Eliya on a day trip then be sure to visit Lipton’s Seat and then eat lunch in one of the local restaurants in the main town. They are so much cheaper than the ones in Nuwara Eliya.
Where to Stay in Nuwara Eliya?
St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya – Jetwings
St Andrew Hotel in Nuwara Eliya is where I stayed when I visited Nuwara Eliya for the second time and loved it. It is a charming hotel with an old school English feel. You can find a typical Sri Lankan place to stay in the rest of Sri Lanka but Nuwara Eliya is where you need to find a colonial kind of place to really enjoy the vibe.
The best part about St Andrew Hotel is that the rooms are very cozy and cute. It is a little away from the busy city centre so you can enjoy some peace. We had buffet breakfast and lunch here and it was really good.