Best things to do in the hill country of Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya: Top 15 Things To Do In The Hill Country

The Hill Country’s tea capital, Nuwara Eliya, is a picturesque destination in Sri Lanka that seems to exist in a different dimension where peace and tranquility are the norms. For those who don’t know, Hill Country is the term broadly used to describe the mountainous region at the center of Sri Lanka. This region is home to lush green forests, national parks, and a rich ecosystem of flora and fauna.

Nuwara Eliya is a small town in the Hill Country known as Little England. The quaint hill station offers an aesthetic blend of colonial architecture, a rolling carpet of dense tea plantations, and a pleasant climate reminiscent of the English countryside. Nuwara Eliya is not just a treat for sore eyes but a thriving playground for thrill-seekers and adventurers. 

This guide essays the top 15 things you can do in Nuwara Eliya to get the best out of your visit. So let’s get right to it.

Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya

1. Cross By The Ramboda Waterfall

While traveling from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, you’ll pass through the majestic Ramboda Waterfall. You can park your vehicle by the road and admire the fall’s beauty. However, beware, as several monkeys will be swinging from the trees and rocks above. So keep your belongings safe, and don’t feed the monkeys anything.

2. The Tea Estates

Damro tea estate

After the Ramboda Waterfall, you will encounter the Damro Tea Estate en route to Nuwara Eliya. The place is quite refreshing as you get to relish a variety of teas. But what truly had my heart was how the guide explained the tea-making process. It was educational yet engaging and provided an insight into what occurs at ground zero. I experienced all this and didn’t spend a buck. However, if you want to carry fine tea back home, you’ll need to purchase it at the estate.

Since Damro is a popular estate, tourists flock to it, and you’ll find it crowded. However, if you’re looking for something quieter, you can visit other lesser-known tea estates in the region.

3. Send A Postcard From The Oldest Post Office

Nuwara Eliya Post office - the oldest post office in the country

Located at the heart of the city, just opposite the Nuwara Eliya bus stand, is the oldest post office in Sri Lanka, built in 1894 during British rule. You can buy stamps and postcards (LKR 50) from here and post them to your friends and families. It is one of the best souvenirs you can acquire while traveling in a foreign land. For instance, I sent a postcard to Agalya in Denmark, and surprisingly she received it in a week.

4. Play At Victoria Park

With lots of activities for children, Victoria Park is an ideal place for families and people with kids. The park has two entrances just a stone’s throw away from the post office. You can either walk around the park, play with kids at the children’s playground, or even take a mini toy train that takes you around the park. The garden looks most scenic during March and May and August and September as flowers bloom during these months.

5. Take A Stroll At Little England

Little England Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is said to be discovered by colonel officer John Davy in 1819. The town is famously known as Little England as it was solely a British creation where English veggies and fruits like lettuce and strawberries were grown in abundance. The area near Gregory Lake and the Grand Hotel has cozy buildings that create an ambiance similar to England’s. The weather enhances that vibe, and you feel transported to the country when you go for an evening or morning walk. The misty air envelops you and gives you a sense of peace.

 

6. Try Water Sports Activities At Gregory Lake

Gregory Lake

Nestled amidst mesmerizing landscapes, the lake offers a range of exciting water activities, including jet-skiing, cycling around the lake, speed boat riding, and pedal boating. So whether you’re looking to relax at the lake or get adventurous, the lake has something for your different moods. So take a moment to relax and unwind as you bask in the serene ambiance, sitting on the lush green grass surrounding the sparkling lake. 

7. Eat At An Indian Restaurant

If you need Dosa, chapati, or any Indian dishes, you can find them in Nuwara Eliya. During the British era, most of the laborers at tea plantations were Indian Tamilians brought from Southern India to Sri Lanka by British officials. As a result, their descendants today have set up several restaurants in the region. After eating kothu, noodles, and rice curry, I yearned for Indian delicacies and found quite a few at the Indian restaurants here. Nothing can beat the smell, texture, and taste of a crispy dosa.

8. Hike Up To The Single Tree

Single Tree hike, Nuwara Eliya

The single-tree hike is one the best things to do in the Nuwara Eliya to get an aerial view of Little England. It is a 20-30 minute hike to the nearby hill overlooking Gregory Lake. The route is visible and frequented by tourists. So you won’t have any difficulty traversing the path. After crossing the Single Tree Buddhist temple, you must hike on a path riddled with rocks, boulders, and gravel. From the summit, where telecommunication towers are present, you can see the entire town of Nuwara Eliya, the surrounding mountains, tea estates, and more.

9. Take A Day Trip To The Horton Plains

Located 30 Km from Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains is a reserve forest area with numerous hiking trails. The hike to the “world’s end” covers Baker’s Falls, Great World’s End Drop, and Mini World’s End. A few accommodations are available nearby, making it convenient for travelers to explore the region.

  • Entry fee for foreigners: LKR 5000
  • Hike duration: 3-4 hours
  • Hike distance: 9.5 Km (both ways)

We didn’t personally visit this place, but if you’ve enough time, you should consider taking a mini-trip to this place.

10. Explore The Hidden Places

Nanu Oya Waterfall, Nuwara Eliya

Beyond all the touristy things to do, we took an off-beat path to explore the unexplored. We stumbled upon beautiful bridges on the village side, untouched waterfalls, tea estates, and more. If you’d like to explore the underrated places in Little England, check out our blog, where we dive into the intricacies of such places and on how to visit them.

11. Ride A Horse

Constructed in 1840, the Nuwara Eliya horse race course is a vintage venue and is the only horse racing venue in Sri Lanka. Situated at 6129 feet above sea level, the race course is one of the highest race courses in the world. The place spans a vast area where numerous horses gallop around. People hop onto the backs of these horses to go a few rounds. You can do so, too, for a few bucks. 

As responsible travelers, we strongly discourage engaging in such activities for the well-being of the horses. Instead, you can witness animals thriving in their natural habitat without being distressed by human intervention.

12. Play Golf

The Grand Hotel is located in the heart of the city with a massive golf course. You can try the sport on different courses that vary in difficulty. So whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a beginner, the hotel has a golf course for you. The courses offer a unique and enjoyable experience amidst lush green fairways, landscapes that soothe one’s eye, and more.

Additionally, the golf club at The Grand Hotel has excellent facilities and amenities, including pro shops, driving ranges, practice areas, and clubhouse restaurants where you can unwind and socialize after your game.

13. Chill At The Lover’s Leap Waterfall

Lover's leap waterfall, Sri Lanka

The Lover’s Leap Waterfall has an intriguing backstory to it. According to the legend, a prince fell in love with a girl, but the king did not agree to his relationship. So, on a full moon day, the disheartened prince climbed to the top of the waterfalls with his fiance and jumped off the rock. The place is named ‘The Lover’s Leap’ due to this story. You need to hike briefly to reach the waterfall, but it is pretty difficult to go near its bottom pool. This is because of the huge boulders present at the base. However, you can admire nature’s work of art from a distance.

You can also visit Devon Waterfall and St. Clair’s Waterfall.

14. Hakkala Botanical Garden

The second largest botanical garden if Sri Lanka is the Hakkala Botanical Garden. Located 16 Km from Nuwara Eliya, the park thrives with 10,000 varieties of fauna. The Garden is known for the orchids and roses planted here. During the spring season, the garden is vibrant with fresh blooms.

There are two golf carts to go around the flower garden.  But you must wait a long time for the group to come around.

  • Entry Fee: USD 15 for foreigners, LKR 50 for Sri Lankans
  • Parking space: Available

15. Visit The Sita Mata Temple

Sita Mata Temple Nuwara Eliya

Just 2 Km before the Hakkala botanical gardens is the Sita Mata temple. Legends say that it was the spot where Sita was held captive by the demon king Ravana. It is also where Sita prayed for Rama (her husband) to rescue her daily. This temple is of religious importance to the local people. The region is also called Sita Eliya.

Note: Pidurtalagala (aka Mount Pedro, 2524 m) is the highest peak in Srilanka. But unfortunately, hiking has recently been strictly prohibited in the region.

How many of these things did you do or are you planning to do on your trip to Nuwara Eliya? If you think we’ve missed any locations, let us know in the comments below.

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