Nuwara Eliya, which means “city on the plain”, is a popular tourist destination in Sri Lanka, recommended by both tourists and locals alike due to its quaint scenery filled with lush flora and green hills. It’s referred to by many as Sri Lanka’s “Little England” because of its cold weather, old colonial houses littered around, and of course, the very prominent tea leaf plantations. Places to visit in Nuwara Eliya is a pleasant remnant of British influence over Sri Lanka, and is definitely the place to be for a few relaxing days.
What to do in Nuwara Eliya
Visit a Tea Factory
Tea is a very important part of Nuwara Eliya, which has a sizeable number of tea factories and plantations just like in the tea plantations in Munnar . There are three prominent tea estates here: the Mackwoods, Pedro Tea Estate (the most famous one), and the Blue Fields.
We personally decided to visit the Blue Fields, which is the least frequented by tourists among the three but is highly recommended by locals.
Here, you’ll learn about how tea is made, the difference between various tea brews and leaves, and how the final product is exported throughout the country and to major tea companies abroad.
After your tour, visitors will be given a chance to have a free taste of their tea product. They have a shop as well, where you can purchase some more of their crafted brews.
While your guided tour at Blue Fields is completely free, it is usually expected that you give a tip.
Note: Be careful while walking around in the leafy tea plantation as there may be leeches. No need to worry as all you have to do is get some salt and water and place it over the affected area. My friend got a leech on her——it’s not a bad or scary experience, but just be mindful, especially if you don’t like bugs and leeches.
2.Go hiking and see beautiful places in Nuwara Eliya
Hiking is definitely one of the most popular things to do in Nuwara Eliya. It’s a large locale with many different wonders of nature to see and/or trek, such as:
Nuwara Eliya has many waterfalls scattered along it which are all a sight to behold. Some of the most visited ones are Ramboda Falls and Lover’s Leap, which are great places for pictures or just to sit back and enjoy the sound of splashing waters nearby and maybe have a picnic. Keep in mind that it usually takes quite a trek to get to these waterfalls (so bring along a pair of rubber shoes!), but the scene you arrive to is worth the exercise.
Another great trek—-the catch is that you’ll have to wake up very early in the morning for the best views, unhindered by clouds and fog. Lines in the morning tend to be hefty so be sure to get there ASAP to secure your place in the front of the line. Aside from the magnificent view, there are also some native animals roaming around the Horton Plains, such as the sambar deer.
Entrance fee for foreigners is 3000 LKR.
World’s End is a UNESCO site located within the Horton Plains, where you can sit down on the wooden flooring, snap pictures of the view from high up, and stare out into the distance for a relaxing couple of minutes.
Be sure to get there early because the fog tends to block the incredible view.
The Moon Plains are a more recently opened attraction similar to the Horton Plains in its spectacular view of the mountains and its wildlife—-albeit a little less crowded. The path leads to a plateau which is referred to as the “Second World’s End”.
If you don’t want to spend almost an entire day driving and hiking to the Horton Plains, then perhaps a visit to the Moon Plains is more suitable for you – it only takes around 2 hours. It’s also a lot less expensive.
The entrance fee to the Moon Plains is 250 rupees for foreigners. It is open by 7:00 a.m.
3.Chill and Relax around Lake Gregory
Lake Gregory is another dazzling destination. Aside from admiring the view of the hills over the waters and walking over the greenery and bridges, you can also hire a paddle boat for a relaxing ride across the waters or maybe have a little picnic by the lakeside.
There’s also a small restaurant and lots of small food stalls around for your convenience, if you don’t have any food with you.
The entrance fee to Lake Gregory is 200 rupees.
4.Stroll Victoria Park
Located at the center of the main town, Victoria Park is hard to miss. It’s a beautiful place filled with plants and flowers (some even imported from as far as Scandinavia!) where you can just relax, walk around, take a load off. Its beauty and condition has earned for it a reputation as one of the most well-maintained parks in the whole of South India.
The entree fee is 300 rupees for foreigners.
5.Visit the Town
Walking along the town of Nuwara Eliya, you’ll definitely feel as if you’ve been transported to England. The streets are dotted with colonial style houses, gardened shrubs and bushes. Their old pink post office still functions as one to this very day – you can go there to send a postcard to your family and friends.
6.Go Shopping at Nuwara Eliya Central Market
Undoubtedly, one of the best places to go for shopping and buying souvenirs is the district’s Central Market located on New Bazaar Street. The town might feel like a little English village, but the market is distinctly Sri Lankan. Here you can purchase a variety of items ranging from clothes (especially sweaters and warm tops to help with the cold water), produce, flowers, and of course – tea. Haggling and negotiating is the norm in the Central Market, so don’t be afraid to ask for a little discount during your shopping spree.
7.Have a Cup of Tea at the Grand Hotel
Tea is everywhere in the district – but if you really want to have one of the best tea experiences in the region, and in a very elegant atmosphere to boot, then a visit to the Grand Hotel would be a nice addition to the itinerary. Alongside their soothing and delicious tea selections, you can also have finger foods, pastries, and small sandwiches.
High tea costs a quite affordable 800 rupees – and it’s all-you-can drink too!
8.See the Hill Club
This is another attraction where you’ll definitely feel the English vibe. It’s a large and beautiful colonial building surrounded by a spacious garden. Aside from being a hotel and a restaurant, you can also play tennis at the club for a price.
Where to Stay in Nuwara Eliya
Jetwing St. Andrews Hotel
Upon our arrival,we were served warm soup, which we initially thought was tea or like warm squash soup in a tea cup. It was so good that we ended up asking for more.
The hotel is a beautiful colonial building dating back to over a hundred years old – visitors can definitely feel the historic vibe as they walk in.
The exterior of the hotel is very picturesque—-a quaint garden as well as spacious green fields that seem endless.
The hotel also offers an amazing view of the hills and greenery of Nuwara Eliya down below, giving you the full experience of “Little England”.
The Room in Jetwings St. Andrews Hotel
Extremely comfortable, with pretty curtains and colour schemes, the rooms make you feel as if you’re spending the night in a doll house.
There are four different types to choose from:
– Superior Room
– Deluxe Room
– Gem Suite
Whichever room you pick comes with a garden view, so you get to wake up and pull open the curtains to a breathtaking view of flowers and meticulously manicured greenery below.
Dinner at the Jetwing Hotel
The Jetwing hotel houses two restaurants: The Old Course Restaurant, and the Road Hole Bar.
The Old Course Restaurant is the hotel’s main restaurant, which primarily serves fine dining options with a menu consisting of both local and international dishes.
The Road Hole Bar, on the other hand, is a more rustic and relaxed British-style pub where you can get your fix of wine and other drinks.
Depending on the number of current guests, the hotel either serves a set menu or a buffet spread. When we were there, we had the set menu, and it was good. I personally ordered their pasta and loved it.
One thing I loved about this hotel is that they understood when I asked for warm water. Most might find this weird, but I do personally enjoy drinking warm water – especially in a location with a cold climate like Nuwara Eliya. More often than not, people give me either cold water without ice, or boiling hot water. Each time I asked for warm water here at the Jetwing, however, it was always spot on.
– Fire place
– TV Lounge
– Snooker Room
All in all, the Jetwing St. Andrews hotel is one of the best accommodations in the area, giving you quality dining options and facilities. It is also a good starting point for exploring the wonders of Nuwara Eliya.
How to get around Nuwara Eliya
Although it bears the nickname “Little England”, Nuwara Eliya isn’t little at all. Nature, hills and plains abound—some of which are a good distance away from each other.
To get around with ease, hire a driver (taxi or rickshaw,which is also known as tuk tuk). There are many of them at the train station as you arrive at the district.
Best time to Visit Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is generally good to visit all year long, except for the monsoon months of June – August where there is continuous rain and downpour.
It’s coldest from November through February, and most crowded during the spring months of April to May. It’s harder to book a room and get around the cramped tourist destinations in the spring, so visiting during the colder months might be the best choice for a more relaxing travel atmosphere.
What to Pack and Expect in Nuwara Eliya
Sri Lanka is a rather hot country, so many tourists are surprised to find that Nuwara Eliya is actually quite a cold location. Take note that it can be quite gloomy most of the time, and lots of people say it constantly rains there. It rained during our visit.
The weather is similar to and as unpredictable as that of the UK, so it’s no wonder that Nuwara Eliya has earned the name “Little England”.
During your visit, be sure to pack:
– A cold jacket (I didn’t bring one as I didn’t imagine I woukd need it, but thankfully, my friend did)
– Long boots (for walks through the plantations, and to avoid leeches)
– Small bills and coins (riding tuk tuks and giving tips is the norm in the area)
– Rubber shoes (for hiking and trekking)
HOW TO GET TO NUWARA ELIYA
Aboard the most scenic train ride
Hop on a train that travels the Kandy to Ella route, get off at Nuwara Eliya.
It takes around four hours to get to your destination. Known as the most beautiful train ride in the world, it is an absolute thrill, and an experience in itself.
The ticket costs 400 LKR ($ 2.50 USD)