- Encounters with locals
- Nature Reserve / Wildlife Observation / Safari
- Park and garden
- Culture (paddy field, coffee, tea ...)
Under British rule, Nuwara Eliya became a mountain resort to escape the heat of Sri Lanka. I visited Nuwara Eliya mainly for the tea plantations, where the Tamils are the symbol. It's also the departure point if you want to go to Adam's Peak. In my case, I was content to wander the calm streets of the small town: there is a charming public garden, houses in the colonial style and a mountain air that really does you good.
I visited the plantations at the beginning of the afternoon, on a small local bus as it is much cheaper than a tuk-tuk. After visiting a tea-making factory, where they explained the different stages of the process from the harvesting to the drying, I went walking on the slopes of a neighbouring hill to see the village from there.
If you like meeting people on your travels, you will enjoy it here as the people are very welcoming, happy and curious, as at the end of the day not many people come to these villages - the majority of them usually content themselves with the factories and guided visits of the plantations. If you want to rub shoulders with the tea harvesters, you must get up very early: I found a guide in the village to take me to the plantations, by which time the harvester had already finished their day.
A genuine change of scene when touring Sri Lanka. English colonials used to visit Nuwara Eliya, which lies at an altitude of 1,882 m, to enjoy the benefits of its cool, refreshing atmosphere. It has to be said that with the green mountains, the lake and the mist, you could easily think you're in Northern England here.
It amused me to see tuk-tuks and red telephone boxes together in the same place. The local market simply overflows with vegetables, with European cabbages sitting side by side with various Sri Lankan varieties, all perfectly acclimatised to this region.
What really surprised me was that the climate was cold and humid in August, and the wind was glacial. In fact it was so cold that the guesthouse lent me two hot water bottles for the night (even though I had my downy jacket), which I gratefully accepted!
Nuwara Eliya was one of the places I included on the itinerary for my trip to Sri Lanka. When I arrived, however, I didn't find the atmosphere to be at all like the tour operators described it. I also spent a good amount of time searching for that little touch of Britishness that makes the town such a charming place, but I have to admit I didn't find that either.
The large colonial residences, the golf course and Victoria Park do of course lend the town a particular quality. But I wasn't really all that impressed. Though I'd planned to spend a few days here, I actually ended up cutting my visit short. Nuwara Eliya today gives the impression of city fallen into obsolescence.
You will perhaps be able to get some bargains in the many textile shops. But do beware, however, as most of them sell counterfeit goods. If, like me, you find you aren't really taken with this city, stop at one of the many cake shops on the main high street and stock up on sweet treats to enjoy back in your hotel room.
It is possible to go hiking in the area around Nuwara Eliya, including to Pidurutulagal, Sri Lanka's highest mountain; or alternatively there's the Pedro Tea Estate to visit, which is one of the country's most famous.