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The Heart Of British Ceylon – Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

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The waiters, elegantly dressed in white livery, move sophisticated and smooth between the tables. “Would you like some more tea, madam?” It must be the fifth time the waiter asks me if I want a refill on my cup of tea, and, of course, I say yes every time. The table is beautifully set with white exclusive porcelain tableware, and the cake stand is bulging with perfectly groomed sandwiches, mini burgers, and tiny cakes of all shapes and colors.

I look over my shoulder, and I swear I get a glimpse of both Poirot and Miss Marple sipping on a cup of tea with their pinky finger sticking out discussing a complicated crime.

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Me and my parents having high tea at The Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya

We are having high tea at the Grand Hotel Nuwara Eliya, and it feels like we have stepped back in time by 200 years, back to when Sri Lanka was called Ceylon and was ruled by the British. Only the guest`s modern clothes and smart-phones reveal that we are not in the era of the British colonists that once chopped down the jungle in these hills and built the town Nuwara Eliya, also called “Little England,” and started planting tea bushes here.

We have brought my mom and dad for their first visit to Sri Lanka, to show them this beautiful country that we fell in love with in 2014. We had, however, never been to this city before and to our surprise, there are lots of things to do in Nuwara Eliya.

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Nuwara Eliya is surrounded by beautiful lush tea plantations

The History Of Nuwara Eliya

This cool hill area of Sri Lanka was once wilderness consisting of forest and jungle, located in the shadow of the 2524 m high mountain Pidurutalagala, aka Mount Pedro. The hill area was “discovered” by the British colonial officer John Davy back in 1819 who decided to build a sanatorium here.

The town Nuwara Eliya was founded in 1846 by Samuel Baker, an explorer that also discoverer Lake Albert in Uganda and explored the Nile river.

Nuwara Eliya, which means “City of Light,” soon became a favorite cool-climate escape for the British as well as a “home away from home” where they could grow English vegetables and fruits such as lettuce and strawberries. They also started to grow coffee here, but when the coffee plantations suffered a disease and died, they switched to tea.

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A green sea of tea bushes overlooking Nuwara Eliya

The first tea bushes were planted in the mountains between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy and were a huge success both in taste and how fast the tea bushes grew here. The British soon started planting vast areas with tea bushes and one tea plantation after the other popped up, making Nuwara Eliya the tea capital of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country.

Well, the British did of course not plant these bushes themselves, oh no, they used Sri Lankan workers as well as Tamils brought over from India.

Nuwara Eliya Today

Today Nuwara Eliya still has this English country village vibe to it, with its red telephone boxes, pink brick Victorian post office, a well-maintained golf course, horse racing course, colonial bungalows, and rose gardens.

But at the same time, it is very Sri Lankan with water buffalos grazing the hillsides, green tea bushes everywhere, crazy traffic roaming the streets, the smell of rice and curry, and bustling markets and small shops in the streets.

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The Nuwara Eliya post office
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Nuwara Eliya market

Best Time To Visit Nuwara Eliya

Except for June till the end of August when there is a monsoon season in the highlands of Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya is a great place to visit all year round.

From November to February/ March, Nuwara Eliya is quite chilly with temperatures below freezing at night, quite the opposite from the west coast with its tropical climate and temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius. So bring warm clothes, or buy some at one the street markets, or you might catch a cold like my mom did. We visited Nuwara Eliya in January and had only 5 degrees Celcius in the evenings.

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Nuwara Eliya downtown

April is the big spring month in this area, and all of a sudden this sleepy town explodes into a busy and crowded party-party town. It gets packed with Sri Lankan holidaymakers enjoying horse racing, street food, and hill climbing as they celebrate Sri Lankan New Year together with friends and family. In April the cost of accommodation skyrockets and it gets hard to find a hotel room. So it might be a good idea to avoid April if you can.

Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya

1. High Tea at The Grand Hotel

Hight tea at The Grand Hotel is the best tea experience in Nuwara Eliya, and maybe in the whole of Sri Lanka. Sipping tea and eating delicious cakes and sandwiches, in the middle of the tea capital Nuwara Eliya, in the majestic colonial Grand Hotel from 1891 is a must-do!

I would say it was one of the highlights of our visit to Nuwara Eliya, and I just wanted to have high tea here every day. That little chocolate fudge cake, ahh, just loved it!

High tea is served outside in the big garden in front of the Grand Hotel and the semi-open-air tea lounge to the left of the hotel`s entrance.

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Me, my mum and dad having high tea
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Plenty of tea selection of Dilmah Tea, Ceylon tea
  • When: Every day 15:30 – 18:00
  • Cost: 800 Sri Lankan Rupees = 5 USD (and you can drink as must tea as you can manage!)
  • Webpage

2. Victoria Park

The beautiful Victoria Park is located in the middle of Nuwara Eliya. It is well maintained and well worth a stroll around for an hour.

We accidentally met the chief gardener of Victoria Park when we were walking there with my parents, and he ended up showing us around and telling us about all the plants, trees, and flowers. Very interesting and so nice of him!

To our surprise, many of the flowers and plants were imported from our home country Norway because of the cold climate in Nuwara Eliya. Rather odd, who would have thought that?!

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Me, my mom, and dad in Victoria Park

The gardener told us that the park is at its peak and most beautiful around March to May, and August and September when all the flowers are in bloom with all their colors.

  • Opening hours: 07 – 18
  • Cost: 300 Sri Lankan Rupees = 2 USD

3. Gregory Lake

We visited Nuwara Eliya on the weekend, and Gregory Lake and its surrounding park were filled with locals having an afternoon stroll, playing around with their kids, flying kites, and having some snacks at one of the many food stalls.

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Gregory Lake

The paved walkway surrounding the lake is perfect for an afternoon stroll.

And if you get tired of walking, you can always rent a swan-shaped paddle boat, a water scooter, a rowing boat, a motorboat, or why not go for a pony ride?

Or do like us, grab a table at one of the small food stalls and order some roti and fresh potato chips.

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The food stalls next to Gregory Lake are popular
  • Opening hours: 08 – 18
  • Cost: 200 Sri Lankan Rupees = 1,5 USD

4. Nuwara Eliya Town

Take a walk around the downtown of Nuwara Eliya and soak in the English town vibe. There are several colonial style houses like the old pink post office where you can send postcards to your loved ones.

Nuwara Eliya Golf Club

Nuwara Eliya Golf ClubYou can`t miss the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club, which is located right in the center of town. It was founded as early as 1889 and is well-maintained.

For 500 Sri Lankan Rupees per day, you can even do some putting if you want, and pretend you are an original British colonist. To hire golf clubs cost 1500 Sri Lankan Rupees per day, and golf shoes 500 Rupees.

In the Golf Club`s garden, right by the entrance, there is an old gravestone of a mad British governor that killed thousands of elephants just for sports. One day when he was out elephant hunting, a lightning strike hit him, and he fell dead to the ground. He got buried where the Golf Club is, and a couple of years after his death, another lightning strike hit his grave and broke his gravestone in two! Well, he had it coming if you ask me. Talking about karma and God`s revenge……

Hill Club

The Hill Club is a beautiful colonial style building, dating back to 1876, surrounded by a lovely garden covering 26 acres.

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The majestic Hill Club Nuwara Eliya

It was once a gentlemen’s club exclusive for the British colonists with a bar and a billiard room. Women and locals were only allowed in 1967. Today it is a hotel with 39 rooms.

You can also have dinner at the Hill Club, which is an event in itself with a four-course menu of typical English meals. There is a dress code, however, where men must wear a tie and jacket (you can rent this for free at the hotel), and women must wear formal clothes.

If you want to break a sweat, you can pay a visit to the Hill Club`s Tennis. It cost 500 Rupees per hour, including balls and racquet, and the club has four clay tennis courts. Be careful, however, not to kick the ball too hard as it might end up at the neighboring president`s residence. You might not get it back……

5. Tea Factory And Tea Plantation

A visit to a tea factory is a must! There are several tea companies in the area, obviously since we are in the middle of the tea capital of Sri Lanka.

We visited the Storefield Tea Factory where we got an informative guided tour of the factory and saw how the tea is picked, dried, heated, and sorted into different kinds of tea.

The tea production inside this factory takes place during the evening and night when it is colder, so we did not see much action. In the end, we got to taste the different type of teas that they produce.


Pedro Tea Estate, built in 1885, is another option located 3,5 km east of Nuwara Eliya.

We also went for a little walk up in the hillside above Nuwara Eliya town, through tea bushes belonging to Pedro Tea Estate. It was a nice walk, it felt like walking on a sea of green and lush leaves. From the tea plantation, we got a beautiful view of Nuwara Eliya town and Gregory Lake.

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Maria overlooking Nuwara Eliya town and Gregory Lake from the tea plantation Pedro Estate


6. Moon Plains

Moon Plains National Park, also called Sandatanne and Sandagalatanne, is the newest attraction in Nuwara Eliya and opened in 2014, located just a few kilometers from Nuwara Eliya.

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Moon plains

We had arranged with a driver with a jeep to pick us up at the hotel at 08 in the morning. The drive to Moon Plains is very scenic, through potato fields and farms growing different kinds of vegetables.

The road goes all the way through the park to a plateau called “the second Worlds End” (about 3 km from the entrance), the name taken from the more famous Worlds End at Horton Plains, where we enjoyed a 360-degree view of the surrounding peaks and towns. The area is home to Elk, wild buffaloes, leopards, dear and many different birds.

We were the first ones at the viewpoint and got to sit down on the grass overlooking the valley below and eating the breakfast that our hotel had provided for us in peace and quiet, just listening to the birds. It was a wonderful experience!

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From the park you can see many mountains; Pidurutalaga (8,281 feet), Single Tree Mountain ((6,890 feet) Kikiliyamana Mountain (7,339 feet), Great Western Mountain (7,257 feet), Konical Hill Mountain (7,116 feet) Kirigalpoththa Mountain (7,835 feet), Thotupola Mountain (7,737 feet), Hakgala Mountain (7,110 feet) and Namunukula Mountain (6,667 feet).

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Moon Plains looks a bit like Horton Plains, but unlike the excursion to Horton Plains which takes 6 to 8 hours, the trip to Moon Plains only takes about 2 hours. So if you don`t have a full day to spend on driving and hiking, Moon Plains is an excellent alternative to Horton Plains. It is best to get here early in the morning or in the afternoon as it is less hazy.

  • Opening hours: 07 – 17:00 every day
  • Ticket price: 50 Rupees for a local and 250 Rupees for a foreigner

7. Horton Plains

The Horton Plains National Park is bigger and more famous than Moon Plains and offers some great hiking opportunities over plateaus covered with grass, areas of thick forest, rock landscape, waterfalls, and lakes. Longer hikes are also possible, like the one to Mt Kirigalpotta and Mt Totapola.

The end of the plain, called World`s End, is an 880 m deep ravine and an excellent viewpoint overlooking tea plantation villages down below in the valley. You can even see all the way to the south coast on a clear day. The hike to World`s End is about 4 km, and with the loop to Baker` s Fall and back to the entrance, it adds up to 9,5 km, which takes about 3 hours to walk.

The thing about Horton Plains, however, is that it gets misty and cloudy from around 9 o’clock in the morning, so the best time to visit is early morning from 6 to 10 to beat the clouds. It is especially misty during the rainy season (April to September). Sundays and public holidays can be pretty crowded.

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Great view from the road up to the entrance of Horton Plains

We only drove up to the gate of Horton Plains, and did not go inside the park nor did we do the walk to World`s End.

The reason for that was that the tickets are pretty expensive; 2175 Rupees/ person (14 USD) + 60 for the driver + 250 for the car + 1160 for service charge + 873 for tax! Yep, it adds up, for two people (one car) it will be 6550 Rupees.

It was also a Sunday and incredibly many tourists when we visited, so it would be like walking in a line like ants. Our driver was honest with us and said it was not worth the money. We had already seen the more peaceful and equally lovely Moon Plains. If you get there when it opens at 6, it might be worth it, otherwise, leave it.

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The entrance to Horton Plains

If you are interested in doing scenic hikes, you should go walking in the area around Ella instead.

  • Opening hours: 06 – 18
  • Ticket price: 6550 Rupees for two people in one car

8. Dinner at Grand Indian

Grand Hotel has not only the best High Tea in town but also the best restaurant! The Grand Indian serves rich, delicious and spiced northern Indian food that melts in your mouth. The service is excellent too. Book a table in advance or expect to queue up for a table.

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The Grand Indian at Grand Hotel in Nuwara Eliya
  • Opening hours: 11 – 23
  • Price range: Around 6-700 Sri Lankan Rupees = 4-5 USD for the main course
  • TripAdvisor Reviews

How To Get To Nuwara Eliya

The most scenic way to get to Nuwara Eliya is by train. Nuwara Eliya is located between Kandy and Ella, and is on the famous train route named “The Worlds Most Beautiful Train Ride”. 

There is, however, no train station in the center of Nuwara Eliya, but the train station Nanu Oya is only a 15-min drive with taxi or tuk-tuk from Nuwara Eliya.

So you can take the train from Kandy to Nanu Oya (and then take a taxi or tuk-tuk to Nuwara Eliya). This train ride takes about four hours and costs around 400 Rupees = us$2,5. There are two to three trains per day. You can check the trains for the date that you want to go to Nuwara Eliya in the timetable search HERE (search from Kandy to Nanuoya).

The other option is to take the train from Ella to Nanu Oya (and then a taxi or tuk-tuk into Nuwara Eliya). This train ride takes about three hours and costs around 300 Rupees = us$2. There are five to six trains a day from Ella to Nanu Oya. You can check the timetable for the date that you want to go to Nuwara Eliya HERE (search from Elle to Nanuoya).

You should buy these train tickets in advance as this is a very popular train ride.

Another option is, of course, to hire a car and driver like we did. The drive from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya takes about three hours, while the drive from Ella to Nuwara Eliya takes about two hours.

The End

“City of Light,” “City on the plain (table land)”,”Little England”, Nuwara Eliya, the small hill town tucked away among thousands of tea bushes really lives up to its many names and there are lots of nice things to do in Nuwara Eliya.

It is pretty incredible that one can travel just a few hours from the coast of Sri Lanka, from 38 degrees Celsius, and end up in a totally different climate zone where the temperature drops below freezing at night!

The lazy atmosphere, yet the posh vibe of high tea and colonial styled high-class hotels are also a great part of Sri Lanka’s history and culture, alongside the white sandy beaches and crystal clear water that this island is famous for.

We really enjoyed our four-day stay in Nuwara Eliya, although I must admit, it was colder than I expected so the next time I will bring more warm clothes! My mom even got a heavy cold and a sinus infection after Nuwara Eliya and its cold temperatures.

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Full moon over Gregory Lake

Where To Stay In Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is a very popular place to visit, both for foreigners and local Srilankans, so there is plenty of accommodation for all budgets. Below are some of the best accommodation options in Ella, including the place we called home for 3 nights, Grand Camellia.

Top End

Heritance Tea Factory
If you are looking for a special and unique hotel stay, the Heritance Tea Factory is a must-stay! It is a century old tea factory that has been converted into a boutique hotel, making it both a museum and a luxury hotel. Many of the old tea machinery is a part of the design. The service is excellent. The hotel also has two restaurants, with top-notch food. One of the restaurants is actually inside an old steam train carriage! How cool is that?! The hotel is located a 30-minute drive north-east of Nuwara Eliya.
Click for latest prices

Ferncliff
This is also a pretty unique place, with its spacious lush garden and colonial style bungalows with vintage furniture that date back to the British time. It feels like being back in the British era! The staff is super friendly and serves delicious food. They only have a few bungalows, so book well in advance.
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The Blackpool Hotel
Located above and a little outside of the busy main street of Nuwara Eliya, this hotel has great views and is located in a more quiet area of Nuwara Eliya. It actually has an infinity swimming pool and a fireplace! The restaurant is famous for its delicious food.
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Grand Hotel
One can not visit Nuwara Eliya without stepping into Grand Hotel, at least for their high tea and dinner in one of their excellent restaurants like the Indian restaurant. The hotel is very British and I`m sure it looked like this even back in the Ceylon time. This hotel has it all, big green lawns, a reading lounge, billiard rooms, a British pub, and even a tea salon. Some of the rooms are a little tired and could do with a refresh.
Click for latest prices

Mid-Range

Grand Camellia
We stayed here February 2017. Grand Camellia is a brand new hotel, opened in autumn 2016, and has spacious modern rooms. The hotel is located on the hillside above Nuwara Eliya and has a great view over Gregory Lake, although it is a bit outside of Nuwara main road so a tuk-tuk is best when you want to go into town. The staff is very friendly and the food is good. They gave us breakfast boxes with delicious sandwiches and fruits when we had to get up early to go on our trip to Moon Plains.
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Heaven Seven Hotel Nuwara Eliya
Located on the hill overlooking the city center of Nuwara Eliya, this hotel has a great view of both the tea plantations and the town itself. Many of the rooms have a balcony where you can sit and enjoy the view of Nuwara Eliya.
Click for latest prices

Budget

Heidi`s Home
Charming little guesthouse a few minutes drive from Nuwara Eliya town, or a 15-minute walk. Nicely decorated rooms and good breakfast, and awesome beds. It is a bit quirky property, located in a very green and lush garden.
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Have you been to Nuwara Eliya or other colonial cities around the world? Please comment in the comment area below! If you like this article and find it useful, please share on social media, thanks! 🙂 

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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

39 Comments

  1. This part of Sri Lanka looks so beautiful! I’ve never been but I would love to go to a tea factory and then high tea.

    Reply
    • Hi Erin,

      It sure is beautiful, but cold! We were actually a bit surprised that it was below zero in the evening and night and had not brought enough warm clothes with us. My mom even got a cold after freezing so much in Nuwara Eliya. 🙁

      Nuwara Eliya is all about tea, and I really loved the high tea at Grand Hotel! A real must if you ask me.

      Thank you so much for commenting! Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  2. Hi Maria,
    Thanks for writing another lovely article about my mother land Sri Lank. Yea Nuwara Eliya is one of the fascinating places to visit in Sri Lanka which is distant from the tropical beaches which surrounds this beautiful pearl of the Indian Ocean. Hope you had a great stay!!

    Reply
    • Hi Shadini,

      We had an amazing time in Nuwara Eliya and the rest of Sri Lanka on our trip in February. You are lucky who live in such a beautiful country!

      Love your blog, by the way! So much nice travel info and tips about Sri Lanka. On our next trip to Sri Lanka, we plan to visit the north and east, like the Jaffna and Trincomalee area. Have you been to these parts?

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Maria,

      A solo girl is travelling to Ella and Nanu Oya in end December Christmas.

      Thank you for all the wonderful ariticles and sharings. I cant wait to see them for myself.

      But, do u think it is safe to engage driver/ guide when i am alone? I am a bit worry. Wonder how should i travel around the places when i am alone. Is tuk tuk ok?

      Many thanks,
      Grace Kor

      Reply
      • Hi Grace,

        Thank you so much! Awesome that you are going to Ella and Nuwara Eliya/ Nanu Oya at Christmas!

        Yes, I would say that it is safe to hire a private driver/ guide in Sri Lanka on your own. Of course, it depends on the driver.

        We had Sadun as our guide and driver for three weeks, and he was excellent and such a nice and polite guy. He speaks good English, has been a guide in Sri Lanka for over 25 years, and lives in Kandy with his family and daughter. You can hire and contact Sadun here (at TourHQ). I highly recommend him!

        Tuk-tuk is safe and ok for shorter distances and within Colombo, but for longer distances, you should hire a car and driver. Ask at the hotels that you are staying at, all hotels have lists of reliable drivers (both tuk-tuk and taxi) that they recommend and can contact on your behalf.

        Have a fantastic Christmas trip to Sri Lanka! I’m sure you will have an amazing time! The Sri Lankan people are extremely welcoming and friendly.

        -Maria-

        Reply
  3. Hi Maria, thanks for all the lovely comments about our blog 🙂 . Yea we are lucky to have such a beautiful country with so much bio-diversity in it. Its nice to hear that you guys are planning your next trip to those parts of Sri Lanka. Well we visited Trincomalee early this year and there are some nice tropical beaches over there. Specially Pigeon Island and the Beach at Nilaveli are some of the beautiful places in Trinco. However we haven’t visited Jaffna recently and planning to visit Jaffna in the coming months.

    Happy travels!!

    Reply
  4. Hi Maria,
    We’re off to Sri Lanka in June and I’m really enjoying your posts! We have 2 nights/3 days to play with after visiting Kandy and are trying to decide whether to go to Ella or Nuwara Eliya? Which would you recommend?
    Thanks,
    Vicky

    Reply
    • Hi Vicky,

      Thank you so much! Glad you find our Sri Lanka articles useful!

      Regarding Ella or Nuwara Eliya, it depends on what you are looking for. Ella city center is not so nice and basically nothing to see or do. There are much more to see in Nuwara Eliya town itself compared to Ella. As for hiking, Ella is more beautiful and pristine in my opinion. You can stay the 2 nights in Nuwara Eliya and do a day-trip to Ella if you want to see both, as it only takes 2 hours to drive between these two towns. Or you can do Ella on your way down to the south coast.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  5. I have a few business ventures in the pipeline and I’m hoping to visit Sri Lanka late next year if they all work out. This is a great comprehensive post. I like your writing style – keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Hi Raymond,

      Cool! You should definitely head over to Sri Lanka, I`m sure you will love it. It has become one of our favorite countries, one that we keep coming back to over and over again!

      Thanks for commenting! Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  6. Dear Maria,

    Many thanks for all these useful tips about Sri Lanka. We are planning to visit the country and follow your two week-itinerary advice. We are only hesitating due to weather forecast since we would like to go there 2 weeks in middle of november. Would you recommend it if our plans are also to sunbath on the beautiful beaches?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Melba,

      Great to hear that you plan to take inspiration from our two week itinerary!

      The Yala Monsoon (rainy) season is from May till August, so November is a shoulder season. I would say that November is a good month to travel to Sri Lanka, as the prices on accommodation will be lower and there will be lesser tourists than December – March (high season).There might be some rain in November, but very little as the rainy season usually ends in August. So you should be fine sunbathing at the beaches on the south and west coast of Sri Lanka. Our recommended itinerary will be perfect to do in November.

      The east and north part of Sri Lanka is, however, usually wet in October till January (The Maha Monsoon Season). So you should skip the beaches on the east coast in November.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  7. Dear Maria,

    Thank you for the lovely write up on your Sri Lankan trip! Loved every bit of it.. 🙂 Was looking for recco’s on tea tasting at the plantations in Nuwara Eliya and that’s how I landed up in your page. Kudo’s to include many tips for the first time traveller to Lanka. 🙂 Your posts have allowed us to include few more places into our itinerary .

    We will be travelling in two weeks! Do you have any recommendations for the tour operators (guide/driver who can take us along the island)? Someone you have been in touch with during your stay over there.

    Will be greatful to hear back from you!

    Here’s looking forward to more of your lovely travel stories! ?

    Reply
  8. Hi Nithya,

    Thank you soooo much! So happy to hear that you find our Sri Lankan itinerary useful!

    We had a really nice driver and guide on our recent trip to Sri Lanka in February 2017, he drove us around Sri Lanka for two weeks. His name is Sadun, and you can reach him through his web page: http://www.naturetrailsknucklestours.com. He does all kinds of sightseeing trips and will happily show you all the highlights of Sri Lanka.

    Have an amazing time in Sri Lanka!

    -Maria-

    Reply
  9. Hi Maria,
    First of all congrats on your AMAZING blog, I am really happy I found it searching info about Sri Lanka. Love everything about it, the writing, the looks.
    We are heading to SL for 7 days at the beginning of April. We will spend a couple days in Sigiriya and then head to Nuwara Eliya for 1 night, Ella for 1 night and then down south to Mirissa and Galle. We are taking a train ride from Nuwara to Ella. I am worried our itinerary is going to be too tight to do a couple hikes in the Nuwara / Ella region. I am really interested in walking around / doing a hike through the tea plantations, interact with the people (I am a photographer). I have read you recommend doing the hikes from Ella, is that correct? Should we spend the 2 nights in one place (Nuwara or Ella) or spend 1 in each place? Thanks in advance for your help!
    Patrick
    (From Spain)

    Reply
    • Hi Patrick,

      Thank you so much! So glad to hear that you find our articles about Sri Lanka useful when planning your trip!

      The difference between Nuwara Eliya and Ella is that Nuwara Eliya is a bigger city, with more to see and do in the city itself. Nuwara Eliya has more cafes, nice restaurants and a big lake (Gregory Lake) with a beautiful park. It is great fun walking around the lake in the evening, meeting locals, and having some snack or dinner at one of the food stalls. Nuwara Eliya also has a nice botanical garden (Victoria Park) and some beautiful colonial old houses which are nice to visit. Since you are a photographer and wants to interact with the locals, I think you will find Nuwara Eliya great for that. Especially if you are there during a weekend, as the locals are out in the park and by the lake on Sundays.

      Both Ella and Nuwara Eliya are located in the middle of huge tea plantations, so you can easily go for walks and hikes through the tea plantations at both places. As for longer and more challenging hikes, the most famous and popular one in Nuwara Eliya is Horton Plains National Park to a place called World`s End (a 9,5 km hike altogether which takes about 3 hours). It is pretty popular and there can be a lot of tourists, it also takes a while to drive to the entrance to the National Park. Pluss the entrance fee is expensive. April is not a good month either to go hiking in Nuwara Eliya as there will be misty and you will not be able to see much. So you should skip hiking in Horton Plains as you don`t have much time and it will not be nice for photographing due to the mist and rain.

      You could stay one night in Nuwara Eliya and enjoy the city and go for a walk in the tea plantations. And then spend one night in Ella, and do some hiking in Ella. You can, for instance, do the hike to Little Adam`s Peak in Ella, it only takes a couple of hours, before you drive to Mirissa/ Galle. Bring a warm jacket, a hat, gloves and a scarf as Nuwara Eliya is cold in the evening (5-10 degrees Celsius).

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in April!!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  10. Thank you for the information. We are excited to go in April. I hope it’s not too cold in April.
    What is your travel advice for us?

    Reply
    • Hi Nadia,

      Thank you so much! Happy to hear that our post about Nuwara Eliya could be of help to you when planning your trip in April!

      April is a great month to visit Nuwara Eliya and the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. The best time to visit this part is December – May. April is a shoulder season and the best time of the year to get good weather throughout the country. In Nuwara Eliya, the day temperature is normally around 15-22 degrees Celsius, but it falls down to 7-9 degrees in the night. So bring a warm jacket and scarf and you will be fine. Most hotels in Nuwara Eliya has a heater in the rooms.

      Srilankans do, however, celebrate New Years in mid-April, so the public transport can be a bit packed as many visit their family and friends.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in April!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  11. Hi Maria!

    First and foremost, many thanks on a great travel blog! I am Swedish but I’ll write you in English so that more people can benefit from your reply 🙂 We will be traveling to Sri Lanka in two days already and realized we might have made our itinerary a bit too tight, so I wanted to check som points with you.

    Our initial plan was to head directly yo Nuwara Eliya with a driver spend one night, enjoy the tea plantations and then take the train to Ella and spend two nights. Google maps says Colombo to Eliya is 4 hours but reading on different blogs it seems to be more like 5-6 hrs. Therefore, we checked if it would be faster/cheaper/more convenient taking the train via Kandy but not stopping there. What would you consider the best option? Our plan in Ella is to do little Adam’s Peak and another hike. The next stop is Udawawale for one night and safari and then Tangalle. All our hotels are pre-booked and I am getting worried it is too optimistic if the first part fails.. what is your best guess/recommendation?

    Thanks in advance,
    Ellen

    Reply
    • Hei Ellen,

      Tusen takk for hyggelige kommentar! Så kult at du skal til Sri Lanka! 🙂 I will continue in English…

      Your itinerary looks great! You will cover the highlights of Sri Lanka in my opinion.

      I think it will be faster and more convenient to hire a car and driver and go directly from Colombo International Airport to Nuwara Eliya. It takes 1-2 hours to get from the airport and into Colombo city to the train station, and then the train ride Colombo Fort – Nanuoya (the closest train station to Nuwara Eliya) takes 6,5 hours (express train). And there are only three trains each day, all in the morning, so you will have the stress of getting to the station on time. You can search for train times HERE (search from Colombo Fort to Nanuoya). The train ride will be cheaper, no doubt, but not faster and definitely not more convenient, especially if you are coming directly from Sweden and have a jetlag. 🙂

      I recommend that you stick to your original plan and take a car and driver from the airport to Nuwara Eliya directly. My guess is that this drive will take around 5-6 hours and that the total ride with a taxi from the airport into Colombo + train to Nanyoya + taxi into Nuwara Eliya will take about 9-10 hours.

      Ha en fantastisk tur til Sri Lanka!! Kos dere masse i sol og varme! 🙂

      Hilsen Maria

      Reply
  12. Great article. I would love to visit there someday. Do you know of some places in the US that sell Nuwara Eliya tea?
    Thanks,
    Thomas

    Reply
    • Hi Thomas,

      Thank you so much! You can look for the Dilmah brand, it is a Sri Lankan brand with tea from the Nuwara Eliya area. They sell it on Amazon so you can order it from there if you want.

      I love the Dilmah tea, it is my favorite tea brand. Hope you find some that you like too. Happy tea drinking! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  13. Hi! I love your blog! I found it looking for an itinerary for Sri Lanka, and your suggestions helped me a lot. We’ll visit Nuwara Eliya and other places you recommended this December and can’t wait! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Let’s keep exploring!

    Reply
    • Hi Christina,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that you found our articles about Sri Lanka helpful when planning your Sri Lanka trip!

      Have a fantastic time in Sri Lanka in December, and enjoy beautiful Nuwara Eliya and the tea plantations! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
  14. Hi Maria …Loveddd the article …so detailed …just amazing itinerary. We are looking at a Weligama resort by Marriott … Would you recommend staying there vs in Galle …looks like both are in close proximity to each other?

    Also how would you fit Adam’s peak/Sri pada into the itinerary? ..meaning would you go there in the beginning or in the end? Is it worth it with a 2 yr old baby and where would you stay for Adam’s peak?

    Reply
    • Hi,

      Thank you so much!

      Weligama Bay Resort by Marriott is located an hour drive from Galle (one way), so I would say that it is not that close. But, of course, it is perfect to head for a day trip to Galle from Weligama Bay Resort. It depends on what you want. Weligama Bay Resort is right by the beach and is a big resort with a huge swimming pool as well. While if you choose to stay in Galle (the old town Galle Fort), the hotels are small and intimate (more like small cozy boutique hotels) and few of them has a swimming pool. If you stay in Galle you will have to go for a 10 min tuk-tuk/ taxi ride to get to the closest beach Unawatuna.

      As for Adam´s Peak, it is close to Nuwara Eliya/ Ella, so you should head there before or after. The closest place to stay is at Dalhousie. The climb up to Adam´s Peak is 7 km, but it is pretty steep uphill all the way (in stairs) so I don´t think it´s suitable for a 2-year-old. Instead, you could opt for the Little Adam´s Peak in Ella. It is a very nice little walk with awesome views!

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Thank you for commenting, Barrett! Awesome that you are visiting Nuwara Eliya in just a few days! Have a great time in this beautiful little city in the Hill Country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  15. Wowo such a great post, good tips and knowledge of the options in the area 🙂 Thanks for it, really made me feel like going to Nuwaya Eliya 🙂

    PS – Question without having checked before. I heard that Nuwara Eliya meant “capital of outside” and is kind of close to Kandy. Eliya in sinhala (depending on wher you put the accent) can mean “light” and “outside – out”. What do you think?

    Best from Spain

    Reply
    • Hi Miguel,

      Thanks a million!!! So happy to hear that you like our article about Nuwara Eliya! It is such an amazing little city, I loved it! It has a surprisingly chilly climate, though, even for us Norwegians….hehe.

      Yeah, I´ve heard the same, that Nuwara Eliya means “city of light” or “city on the plain (table land)”. But Sadly I don´t speak any Sinhala or Tamil who are the main languages of Sri Lanka, so I don´t know. But it sounds logical that it can also mean “capital of outside”, like you say, since Nuwara Eliya is not that far from the old capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy.

      Nuwara Eliya was founded by an English explorer, Sir Samuel Baker, and was called “Little England” back when Sri Lanka was a colony of Britain (1815 – 1948).

      So cool that you are from Spain, I love Spain, especially Barcelona! 🙂

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply
  16. Hi Maria ,
    Thank you very much for your amazing legendary post. I also Sri Lankan ; but I got lot of things from your posts!!!!
    Hope you visit Sri Lanka again with your friends!!!
    Thank you again .???????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????

    Reply
    • Hi Dhanushka,

      Thank you so much! Really appreciate it! ????❣️Your country is so beautiful and the Sri Lankan people is the most fantastic, friendly, and welcoming people we have ever met. Can´t wait to be back in Sri Lanka, our favorite country. We are planning on coming back to Sri Lanka at the end of this year.

      All the best, and lots of love ❤️
      Maria

      Reply
    • Hi Enisha,

      Thanks a million! I really appreciate it! ❤️???? Thank you for commenting!

      Happy travels!

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka, Shameem! I’m sure you will have a wonderful trip to this beautiful country!

      Thanks for commenting!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  17. Hi,
    I’m from Heidi’s Home Sri Lanka and we believe that u all are just fine.Hope u can remember us and Tks a lot for mentioning about us in ur nice blog.if u come on this some day looking forward to meet u all.
    Be safe and healthy!
    Regards from Heidi’s family

    Reply
    • Hi Heidi’s Home,

      Thank you so much! Can’t wait to come back to beautiful Sri Lanka when this Covid-19 pandemic is over!

      Take care and stay safe!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply

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