Nuwara Eliya is in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka and located between the old capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy and the city with the Nine Arch Bridge, Ella. The name of this city has a beautiful meaning – “city of light”. Nuwara Eliya is also called “Little England”.
Nuwara Eliya was established by the British discoverer Samuel Baker in 1846. It is understandable why the British chose to live here. Due to its altitude at 1,868 meters the weather here is quite different from the coast cities. It is considered to be the coolest region in Sri Lanka with regards to temperature. Plus, it is the most important region for growing tea.
Of course if you are traveling in a rental car it is not a problem, just follow the google map and I am sure you will get where you need. Although you should prepare yourself that in the Hill country the speed can’t be more than 35 km/h and that the roads are very swirly with lots of blind spots. You also can rent a private driver with his car and knowledge of the roads and it will be easier to get there.
But if you are on the low budget or don’t drive or simply want to get here the same way as locals do you can take a bus or a train. If you don’t have a lot of luggage except small back packs then it is not a problem to get on a bus. Buses in Sri Lanka are very cheap and the ticket for one will cost around Rs 250 from Kandy ($1,5). However if you have large luggage then the bus driver might just not let you get on the bus for a simple reason: there is no space for luggage. You of course can buy an extra seat just to put your baggage there, but if the bus is crowded that might not work as well.
Another solution on how to get to Nuwara Eliya, and in my opinion the best one, is by train. The train system in Sri Lanka is quite good. Trains are comfortable and come air conditioned if you are sitting in first class. There is no station called “Nuwara Eliya” instead you need to buy your ticket to the station called “Nanu Oya” which is located 10 – 15 minutes by tuktuk from Nuwara Eliya. The price for the first class ticket from Kandy to Nanu Oya costs Rs 2000 ($12) and from Ella to Nanuoya Rs 1500 ($8,5) per person. Another reason to take this train ride is the fantastic view of hills covered with tea bushes.
Lake Gregory is a man-made lake and you can probably guess who was the person that decided to do this. It was Sir William Gregory. And, it was made for generating electricity. Now the lake is not used anymore for this purpose and it is manly a tourist attraction and a place where competitions for water sports take place (mostly in April).
Lake Gregory is a very maintained place, spotlessly clean with a nice walking path around. Before the entrance there are lots of kid’s attractions like ponies, swings and candy stores. The lake itself is surrounded by a fence and you need to get an entrance ticket. For locals it is just Rs 20 and for tourists it is Rs 200 ($1,5) which was weird for me since it was a first time where I had to pay just for a walk by the lake in a city.
While walking around the lake you will see a ton of the rental places where you can get a motorboat or a small pedal boat and enjoy a boat ride. That looked like a fun activity although I got so cold walking around the lake that I didn’t want to go to the middle of it.
Overall it is a nice place to spend your afternoon. You can bring some food with you and sit at the picnic tables or just get some snacks around the lake in the small kiosks.
Price: Rs 200;
Hours: everyday: 8 AM to 6 PM;
Location: Nuwara Eliya 22200, Sri Lanka;
The park Victoria was named after the Queen Victoria in 1897. It is a beautiful place and a home to various plants and birds. There you can see the rose gardens, the Japanese garden, a few cute pond,s and lots of cute isolated corners with benches where you can take a rest and enjoy the sound of nature.
The park is located in the middle of the city and has two entrances. The entrance fee to the Victoria park is Rs 300 ($1,7) for one person. To see the whole place you need from 30 minutes to an hour, but you can easily bring a book and enjoy the afternoon under the trees for much longer.
Price: Rs 300;
Hours: everyday: 7 AM – 7 PM;
Location: PBC Hwy, Nuwara Eliya 22200, Sri Lanka;
The reasons that the post office in the center of Nuwara Elia is so special and worth your time are simple. First: it is one of the oldest post offices in Sri Lanka and it is always nice to see how the modern civilization started, especially the post office that was so important at that time. And the second reason is the post office in Nuwara Eliya is gorgeous.
This colonial building is built in the Tudor style and it is one of the most popular places in Nuwara Eliya among tourists. The walls of red brick are very noticeable and attract lots of people even if they don’t know what the place is.
The post office inside still operates and if you want to send a post card to someone you can just buy it there (it is very cheap) and get it done at once. The building has a beautiful clock tower that helps to complete its charming colonial style.
Price: free of charge;
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 7 AM to 8 PM; Sunday:8 AM to 4 PM;
Nuwara Eliya is considered one of the best places to grow tea and naturally around there are lots of tea factories that you can and should visit. You can just rent a car or a tuktuk and get there within 20 minutes. Just negotiate with the drivers and you can see a few of them. The most popular tea factory with the tourists is Damro. It is always crowded, and I don’t recommend staying there for a tour, rather just walk to the courtyard and enjoy the view of the tea covered hills.
The second that you should visit is Oak Ray tea factory and museum. It is a nice place with less people. The excursion at the factory is free and at the end the tour the guide takes you to a souvenir shop where you can taste the tea for free and buy something if you want. The souvenir shop leads to an open terrace with incredible view. Prepare your camera and get some photos of this beautiful hill sight.
Although I think that everyone should visit at least one tea factory in Sri Lanka, I don’t recommend buying the tea there, since the tea shops at the factories overcharge a great deal, just go to a supermarket and get the same tea for less.
Price: free of charge;
Hours: everyday: 8 AM to 6 PM;
Location: Oak Ray tea factory;
For everyone who doesn’t mind spending $200 on a hotel room per night in Nuwara Eliya, you can stay at The Grand Hotel. It is a gorgeous colonial building with a fantastic courtyard full of flowers. And if you really want to see Little England in Sri Lanka this is a place to visit.
For everyone who doesn’t want to spend this much on a hotel room I suggest coming here for a lunch or for an afternoon tea with a dessert. The Grand Hotel has a restaurant with an open terrace overlooking the gardens.
The restaurant has a big variety of teas and delicious desserts. The prices are surprisingly not higher than everywhere else in the city and sometimes even cheaper. And since you need to eat anyway why not enjoy this place at the same time with a good meal. Although I must say that the staff at the restaurant were quite disappointing in their service, and not at all what I expect from a 5-star hotel.
Price: free of charge;
Sri Lanka is famous for its quantity of waterfalls and Nuwara Eliya is a place where some of the best are located. One of the most beautiful waterfalls I have seen is Ramboda falls. It is a complex of waterfalls that are located 50 minutes’ drive from the center of Nuwara Eliya.
To get to the waterfalls you can go by a car or tuktuk. The ticket price is Rs 150 (less than $1). Right by the road you are going to see the lowest fall. It is quite small and not something special, so after you get your ticket you need to go up the stairs to get to the high waterfall which is the most beautiful.
Don’t forget to take water with you, bring a towel if you want to swim and wear your sport shoes. While the hike contains mostly stairs it is not an easy hike and comfortable shoes will be a big plus. On the way to the top there are many small falls with lots of pools where you can take a swim. The water is cold, but the air temperature is higher than in Nuwara Eliya, so you are going to be tempted to take a dip.
To get to the high waterfall takes 30 minutes, and to get down around 15 minutes. The high Ramboda fall is fantastic. It is the 11th tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka and incredibly beautiful. At the top you will need to walk on the slippery rocks to get to the bottom of it where you will find a quite big pool. The few people we saw were having a swim there, although don’t come too close to the falling water as it is dangerous.
Price: Rs 150;
Hours: everyday: until sunset;
Location: A5, Ramboda, Sri Lanka;
Have you seen the iconic Sri Lanka photos of the people hanging out of the train with a beautiful view behind? Nuwara Eliya is actually in the middle of this train ride! The train goes from Kandy to Ella and if you are staying in Nuwara Eliya either of these directions would be worth to travel to.
At the Nanu-Oya train station you can buy a ticket either to Kandy or to Ella. Both cities have something to offer for a tourist. It doesn’t matter at what class are you sitting, first or the third, you probably just will hang out at the tambour where the doors are open. Sometimes the doors are completely absent and you can sit on the steps with your legs outside the train or with your hand on the handle and lean outside. I know it sounds like a stupid idea for an Instagram picture, but it feels so amazing when you do this that for me it was worth the small risk.
Grand Hotel (European);
Salmiya (Italian, pizzeria);
Themparadu (Sri Lankan);
Ayurveda Coffee Shop (breakfast);
Grand Thai (Asian).