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Updated: 7th September 2015
If you never thought tea could be beautiful, you haven’t been to Sri Lanka…
One of the things that amazed me most about the island formerly known as Ceylon is the diversity it offers in a relatively small area.
One of the most famous stops along the train route (book your train ticket for Sri Lanka) is the town of Nuwara Eliya. The temperate drops as you ascend to nearly 2000 metres above sea level.
That’s not the only surprise; however, it’s easy to see how it gained the nickname ‘Little England’. From the red brick Victorian-style post office to the quaint colonial-style buildings now serving as guest houses and restaurants.
The city itself offers a few bars, restaurants and friendly guest houses. I checked into the Windsor Hotel on a whim after the manager was so helpful with advice when I stopped in and offered by a great promotional room rate. Basic but comfortable and full of hospitality.
But you don’t come here for the nightlife, it’s all about the green stuff!
Nuwara Eliya is an ideal base for accessing and exploring tea plantations easily. You can either hire an inexpensive tuk-tuk or, for less than a dollar, head to the bus station for a 30-minute ride out of town.
I visited two plantations here. The first, and one of the most famous, is Mackwoods. You are free to wander the tea fields as well as take a guided tour through the factory to see the process of field to the tea bag. You’re meant to get a guide but in the true disorganised fashion, I follow I managed to see it all before being told off for going solo.
They also have a gift shop with surprisingly expensive tea but serve a great free cuppa!
Further along is Bluefields, it turned out to be quite the walk along bendy roads (google maps making 2 miles seem shorter than it is!) but the vistas and views you meet on the way are incredible. I didn’t see anyone else walking the path; instead, I took buses. Trust me – the views like those below are well worth the exercise!
At one point, I thought I had stepped into a greener version of the Norwegian fjords.
The area is also an agricultural hotspot, on the way back my tuktuk driver brought me a carrot to eat on the ride. He told me with pride it would be the best I have ever eaten. He certainly wasn’t lying.
Near the end of that beautiful train ride, you will hit Ella. A dusty street of bars, good eats and curd shops form the main ‘strip’ of the town. There is a killer kickback and relaxed backpacker vibe here, and with the temperature rising from Nuwara Eliya, it is an ideal place to get your natural dose before being beach-bound.
If you haven’t overdosed on tea plantations already, then there are plenty here as well. The picture-perfect 98 Acres Resort not only has tea in abundance but a great eco-style resort built into it. Certainly, not the cheapest but a great spot to grab a cup of the green stuff on the way to Little Adams Peak.
The climb up the peak isn’t too hard, and it’s just a short walk from town, but the views you get of the villages below, the lush green landscapes and the mountainous terrain are a big reward for little effort.
Ella Gap – a view point just off the town also has incredible views of the rolling countryside, I was told on clear days you can see to the coast.
It was one of my favourite places in Sri Lanka; the hospitality of people shone through here like everywhere else I visited. The guys at my guesthouse, The Tenth Hotel, couldn’t have done anymore to make me feel welcome.
Kandy and Hatton
Kandy, the second city of Sri Lanka and home to the famous ‘Buddha Tooth Relic’, is something I’ll keep for another post. It is the starting point of that train journey I can’t stop talking about and is certainly worth more time than being a pass-through in transit.
Another popular stop along the route is Hatton. From here, you can venture out to the real Adams Peak, a religious spot high above the world, which is famous for its pilgrimages. You can also visit the Horton Plains, home to the fantastic world’s end viewpoint. Time and weather weren’t on my side, but great write-ups about both can be found on The Planet D blog (their photos will have you flying tomorrow!).
Have you been to Sri Lanka? What was your favourite spot?