Nuwara Eliya was truly a magical stop in Sri Lanka. It was emerald green tea leaves for days, cascading waterfalls and quaint colonial buildings which made me feel like I was at home in UK.
You can tell why they call it Sri Lanka’s little England as soon as you arrive.
The weather is freezing, it rains more often than not and there are tonnes of Colonial style buildings dotted all over the place. Even the tea plantations are named after English cities and counties!
I was lucky enough to land into Nuwara Eliya on a super warm and clear day which was quite rare in October. Apparently it had been raining for weeks. So, I rushed straight outside to enjoy it in the sunshine.
Here are the top things to do in Nuwara Eliya: Sri Lanka’s little England!
1. Visit one of the many tea plantations
One of the main reasons that people visit this area of Sri Lanka is to visit one of the many tea plantations. As soon as you step off the train you are immersed in miles and miles of tea leaves. It’s endless, with plantations quite literally moulding into each other.
There are so many tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya to visit, you may be stuck for choice. So, visit a few! Most the plantations offer free tours and, even better, FREE TEA! The reason for doing this is because all the tourists exit through the gift shop and literally will be piling boxes of tea bags into their baskets. But, you’re not obligated to buy.
The most famous tea plantation in Nuwara Eliya is Pedro but I didn’t visit this one. I went to Mackwoods, which has more recently been taking over by Labookellie and Bluefields which had good reviews.
By far my favourite was Labookellie as not only did you get limitless free tea, but you also got a piece of chocolate cake for 100 rupees! It was heaven.
2. Sample some Ceylon tea
It would be criminal to visit Sri Lanka and not sample Ceylon tea and even more so in Nuwara Eliya where most of the leaves grow! Here is the perfect place to nab a taste as it’s all free and fresh from the source.
But, be warned, you may find that you get the caffeine shakes from so much tea. I think after my fifth cup of tea, I called it a day. There can be such a thing as too much tea, even for a Brit!
3. Chase waterfalls
There are many waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya to go and visit but there are only a few which are really worth visiting. I personally decided to visit Ramboda falls as it was recommended by my rickshaw driver.
Typical that it had to have one of the hardest treks to reach it (well, for me anyway). I had a bad ankle at the time and so walking up and down the jagged, uneven staircase was a challenge indeed.
Luckily, my rickshaw driver came to the rescue and quite literally assisted me by holding my hand the whole way up and down. I felt like I was around 90 years old but was thankful when I got to experience seeing the beautiful falls at the end!
Other falls in the area of note are Lovers Leap, Glen falls and Bomburuella.
4. Visit the Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya for High Tea
A favourite past time of the British is to have a spot of afternoon tea and in Nuwara Eliya it’s no different. I absolutely loved experiencing having tea at the Grand Hotel. There’s something so luxurious about taking an hour or so out of your day and immersing yourself in a tea room.
Despite the high tea looking absolutely scrumptious, I personally didn’t have it as I arrived quite late in the afternoon. I was determined to save my appetite for dinner at their Grand Thai restaurant (which was amazing by the way). But, I did sample one of the famous white teas which are famous in the area.
I loved the Grand Hotel so much that I came back the following day for a tea mocktail called the Ceylon Prince. It was a white tea with a twist of lemon and ginger. The Grand Hotel’s tea selection is truly vast and, if you have the time and the money, I’d recommend sampling a few of their creations.
5. Stroll around Lake Gregory
I had a stroll over here to take in the views around Gregory Lake but I was highly disappointed by it. Maybe it was the weather and the fact it was such a dreary rainy day but I felt it was nothing to write home about.
It is quite a cool place though as there is boating, cafés and all sorts of activities happening around this part of the town. Hopefully, when you go there, there will be some sunshine to enjoy it!
6. Trek Horton Plains
I didn’t personally do this but I heard that this trek is a magnificent one! You will have to get up super early (around 5am) to see anything before the clouds, rain and mist come in but the views look totally worth it.
It’s situated around 32 kilometres from Nuwara Eliya so make sure you pre-plan your taxi/rickshaw to take you there for sunrise!
This isn’t Horton Plains FYI, just some beautiful panoramic views of Nuwara Eliya 😛
7. Feel like you’re in UK
It was quite surreal for me to spend a few days in Nuwara Eliya. The climate was obviously quite familiar (it’s always cold and rainy at any point of the year in UK), we also drink copious amounts of tea, but it was all the colonial buildings and greenery for miles that threw me.
The one thing that I really miss when I’m in Asia is being amongst fresh luscious fields and forests. It felt so comforting to breath in cool, fresh air.
Edinburgh tea plantation
The super quaint post office
I love this photo as it’s a beautiful colonial style building…with a tuk-tuk outside 🙂
How to reach Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is a popular stop between Ella and Kandy to break up the famous hill train journey. If you are getting the train you can alight at Nanu-Oya station and catch a Tuk Tuk (3 wheeler) to your hotel.
It’s good to note that Nuwara Eliya is a BIG place. So, it’s worth checking where your hotel is before booking! Otherwise you may find yourself away from all the action.
Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya
In terms of places to stay, I would pick a nice warm hotel. I can’t tell you how cold it gets, especially after the rains come in.
I’m not sure why, but all I found on Booking.com were bad reviews for a lot of hotels in Nuwara Eliya. All reported cold rooms and old buildings. Plus, the prices seemed to be much more expensive than that of Kandy or Ella.
So, if you are after quality accomodation, I would personally recommend a place called ‘City Apartment‘ where I stayed. This was a beautiful new apartment in the centre of town which had two rooms and all the facilities you could ask for. There was hot water, a nice thick warm blanket, kitchen, TV, fresh flowers and everything you need to make it your temporary home in the hills. For rates, you can see here.
For luxury end accommodation, I would recommend staying at the iconic Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya or the Heritance Tea Factory.
Transport options for exploring Nuwara Eliya
As I mentioned before, Nuwara Eliya is a district. Although there is a town which acts as a centre, everything is spread out. That means that to get to some of the attractions you will need to hire a taxi or your own motorbike to easily get around. I personally grabbed a rickshaw from the train station, dropped my stuff off in my apartment and headed straight out with the same driver for my tour (just because it was sunny!).
A full day of sightseeing which included A LOT of driving around and a chaperone service which saved my life for the waterfall trek cost me around 1500 rupees (£8). A pretty reasonable deal for a full day tour.
Nuwara Eliya is a must stop in Sri Lanka in my opinion. Not only was the scenery and natural beauty absolutely stunning, it was really interesting to learn about one of Sri Lanka’s biggest export; Tea!
Even if you’re just here for one night, it’s definitely worth checking out. Just make sure you have a cup of tea and chocolate cake for me too, okay?!
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