Nuwara Eliya region is famous for its cooler climate, its abundant tea plantations, and its unique architecture. The city is worth spending a couple of days, relaxing, breathing the fresh air, drinking tea, and, of course, doing some trekking to discover the amazing landscape the area has to offer. Read on to discover all the places to visit in Nuwara Eliya and the best things to do there.
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About Nuwara Eliya
Called Little England, Nuwara Eliya was founded by Samuel Baker in the 19th century. Its name come from Sinhalese, it means city on the plain and city of light. Located in central Sri Lanka, at an altitude of 1 900 meters, the town will surprise you with its colonial architecture, so far from what Sri Lankan cities usually look like. The city center will remind you of where you are though… But as soon as you leave the town center, near Lake Gregory, surrounded by hills, you’ll see all the European-like houses. It’s like being transported to the Alps.
During the colonization, the town used to be a hill resort, where colons came to enjoy the fresh air, hunt, and play cricket and polo. Cricket has become a national sport for Sri Lankan people, and if you’re lucky, you may watch a game at the field there.
In Asia, you’ll often find town looking like that, especially in the highlands, the European colons weren’t used to the hot weather, so they always built cities in the mountains where it’s cooler. In this type of cities, I’ve always felt like I was back in Europe.
Places to visit in Nuwara Eliya:
Nuwara Eliya town
Nuwara Eliya is pretty small, and its main attraction being its architecture, I advise strolling around town.
At the Hippodrome and around Gregory lake, they rent ponies and horses if you want to take a ride. There’s also a golf course nearby, and you can rent a boat for a ride on the lake.
The city is home to a nice botanical garden and park near the city center, but the entrance is a bit expensive for foreigners (300 Rs). Victoria Park is a great place for a stroll or a picnic. There are also a lot of birds coming here, especially in the early morning and just before sunset. You might spot many endemic bird species such as the Indian Blue Robin, the Pied Thrush, or the Kashmir Flycatcher.
A couple of kilometers farther, there’s a bird sanctuary, Galway’s Land, it’s small, but many birds come in this area, you might also see wild boars and barking deers there.
Other great places to visit in Nuwara Eliya:
- The Post Office, built in 1894 and the oldest post office in the country;
- The Grand Hotel, where you can stay or just visit for tea or a meal;
- The Bale Bazaar (also known as the winter market);
Pedro Tea Estate Factory
If you haven’t visited a tea factory, it can be a good idea to go there. Pedro tea factory is really famous for tourists, and they make quality tea. You will be able to visit the factory with one of the employees explaining the whole process. I was surprised to learn that black, green, and white tea all come from the same tree, only the way they process it is different.
There are a lot of other tea factories in the area you can visit, just as nice, it’s just that Pedro is the most organized when it comes to receiving tourists. If you want to take pictures of the women picking tea, be careful, they often ask for money, and they only tell you once you took their pictures. Some will even come to you and ask you to take a picture with them.
The factory is open every day from 8 AM to 5 PM (they often take a lunch break). When you get there, it isn’t guaranteed the factory will be processing any tea, they still do the visit, and in my opinion, it’s still worth it. Go in the morning to have more chances.
The entrance fee is 300 Rs and includes the visit and a cup of tea.
From the bus station, you can grab a bus heading there, it’s not far. On your way back, you can visit Lover’s Leap Waterfall.
Lover’s Leap Waterfall
Just after visiting the tea factory, you can trek through the tea plantations to Lover’s Leap Waterfall. Another great place to visit in Nuwara Eliya and one of the best things to do.
The fall is really high but pretty thin, there’s a couple of spots where you can enter the water in between the rocks.
It’s called Lover’s Leap because legend says that two young people fell in love, but being from two rival clans, they couldn’t be together, so they climbed on top of this waterfall and jumped.
The story is a bit morbid, but the place is really nice, the more adventurous type can climb up to the top. The view over the region is just amazing. And the trek through the plantations and villages is super nice. If you don’t feel like walking, you can also take a tuk-tuk almost all the way up. The paths are really steep, but if you follow the road, it’s paved all the way.
Horton Plains National Park
Only an hour drive away from Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains is a nice 3 hours trek in the highlands. The area of the park is a plateau so the trek is easy and the views are spectacular. There’s a viewpoint, near cliffs, where you have an amazing view over the surrounding mountains, on clear days you can even see the ocean. It’s really worth a trip if you have time because, in my opinion, it’s one of the nicest places to visit in Nuwara Eliya.
Best time to visit Nuwara Eliya
April is one of the nicest times to visit Nuwara Eliya, during the Sinhalese and Tamil new year. It’s just before the flower harvest, so it’s really colorful. There are also a lot of events going on (pony race, go-cart races, auto rallies, ceremonies for the new year…). It’s also a peak season, so book your accommodation in advance.
Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya
There are plenty of accommodations to choose from, mostly nice hotels and guesthouses. Here are a few great options:
- Siril Guesthouse (Budget): New and modern hotel, they offer dorms and private rooms, a great place to meet people, with a garden and a restaurant
- Cottage San Francesco (mid-range): great rooms, decorated with taste and an even better view, breakfast, wifi, king-size beds;
- The Westbury Palace (high end): colonial house, spa, pool, spectacular views, professional staff, a unique experience, it’s like staying in a castle in Europe.
Related articles to help you plan your stay in Sri Lanka:
- Everything you need to know before visiting Sri Lanka
- Ella complete travel guide
- Horton Plains – Trekking to the World’s End
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