Most people visiting Sri Lanka will take the now-famous Kandy to Ella train, passing by some of the most beautiful scenery in the country and ending up in Ella, a cool town up in the hills that has become somewhat of a backpacker haven. What most people miss, however, is the gorgeous region of Nuwara Eliya, one of the main tea growing regions the train passes en route to Ella. Home to stunning waterfalls, terraced tea plantations, and an oddly strange colonial feel, there are plenty of things to do in Nuwara Eliya to keep the adventure-loving traveled entertained for a day or two.
Having visited this pretty tea-growing region 3 times now, I wanted to write about all the best places to visit in the area, my recommendation on where to stay and why it should definitely be on your Sri Lanka itinerary.
Top Things To Do in Nuwara Eliya
Visit Lovers Leap Waterfall
There are actually loads of waterfalls to discover in Nuwara Eliya but Lovers Leap is one of the most famous and easiest to get to. If you’re visiting Pedro Tea Estate, which I’ve written about below, you can spot the waterfall over to your left as you in the main entrance of the tea plantation. It’s about a one-hour round-trip walk to the waterfall, which, depending on whether you visit in the dry season or rainy season, could be a small trickle or powerful cascading falls.
Take a Tuk Tuk Ride
While this can obviously be done anywhere in Sri Lanka, or Asia for that matter, taking a tuk-tuk ride around the super green and lush hill station of Nuwara Eliya is a very unique and enjoyable experience. You can stop off at the various tea estates or have breakfast and a cuppa and the very tiny “Tea Train Cafe” overlooking the Edinburgh Tea Estate – home to quite possibly the most spectacular coffee shop view in the world! Tuk-tuks are super cheap and I recommend doing a little tour this way rather than with your driver just for the wild experience alone.
Do a tour at Pedro Tea Estate
Pedro Tea Estate is probably the most famous tea plantation in Sri Lanka and one I have written about in detail here. You can pay a small fee to get a full tour of the factory and tea production process and to learn about the company’s ethical and empowering employment schemes as well as the good they do for the local community, mainly women and young children.
I especially enjoyed strolling through the terraced tea plants, chatting to the women working there, trying on one of their giant tea collection bags and learning about the different types of tea leaves and how they are all grown on the one bush. Don’t forget to sit down and relax in their lovely tea rooms with panoramic views of the plantation.
Hike down to Ramboda Falls
I had never heard of Ramboda Falls until my most recent visit to Sri Lanka when our driver suggested we stop off at Ramboda Falls Hotel for lunch. I was delighted when I set my eyes on this spectacular and very powerful waterfall, situated within meters of this roadside hotel.
You can see my experiences and delight in the photos and video below. It’s a bit out of Nuwara Eliya, maybe about 20 minutes or so in a car, but it’s definitely worth the journey and there’s another huge waterfall was a massive drop off within view from the hotel. I couldn’t for the life of me find a name for this waterfall – so maybe it only appears in the rainy season!
Stay at Jetwing St Andrews
On my visit to Nuwara Eliya this year, my Mum and I stayed at the gorgeous Jetwing St Andrews. It was unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed at while travelling in Sri Lanka and had me feeling like I was staying at a posh country estate in the English countryside! The bedrooms were just gorgeous, on ours was a suite was brightly-colored furniture that sort of reminded me of my grandparent’s old house, but in a good way! They handed us soup as a welcome drink, both the buffet dinner and breakfast was flawless and I loved that they always had an entire selection of different teas on offer.
When it wasn’t raining, we strolled around the hotel gardens, where they grow lots of their own vegetables for the restaurants and the staff even printed out the recipe for the delicious welcome soup and gave it to my Mum. It feels set apart from the town, quiet and peaceful, but its actually only a short 10 minute walk away and I always felt very safe.
Stroll around Nuwara Eliya Town
While small, walking around town has to be one of the top things to do in Nuwara Eliya. There are still many Colonial-style buildings from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s when Nuwara Eliya was a hill country retreat for British colonialists.
Now the town is a popular holiday destination for native Sri Lankans thanks to its cool climate, beautiful views and famous tea plantations. If you walk around town you will see lots of buildings that have retained their colonial feel, such as Queen’s Cottage, the town Post Office and the General’s House. It was so strange to see a slice of England in Sri Lanka, and it imagine what it might have been like to live here 100 years ago.
Do a boat trip on Gregory Lake
If you have some spare time and are looking for something fun to do in Nuwara Eliya, why not take a boat trip on the flat calm Gregory Lake. You can take in the views of the surrounding countryside, the unique colonial architecture and hopefully let the soft breeze cool you down from the hot Sri Lankan sun!
Walk around Victoria Park
Victoria Park is the small but perfectly manicured park in Nuwara Eliya town. It’s a nice place to stroll around either early in the morning or just before sunset. Dating back to 1897, the park was named to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Before it was a public park it was actually a research field Originally the park was the research field for the Hakgala Botanical Garden.
Take the onwards train to Ella
Once you’ve ticked off all the fun things to do in Nuwara Eliya, it’s time to hop on the famous Kandy to Ella train and to head to Ella for a few days where there are lots more fun adventure activities to be found!