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Nuwara Eliya Tourism And Travel Guide
12.5° C / 54.4° F
March to June
2 to 3 Days
Bandaranaike International Airport (Colombo) (161 kms)
Nanu Oya (10 kms)
Nuwara Eliya is a quaint little city in the central region of Sri Lanka. Unlike most of the island country, Nuwara Eliya, at a height of over 6000 ft., has a temperate climate and is almost completely immersed in greenery. The city was established in the late 19th century by the British who were in power at the time. Even today colonial buildings and other remnants from the era can be found in good condition. Though the city was mostly used for retreats from the heat of coastal Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya was soon developed into a tea producing district. This accounts for the numerous plantations you would encounter if you were to visit. Tourism in Nuwara Eliya can only be described as calm, serene and enchanting; and if this was exactly what you were hoping to find then here is a travel guide to Nuwara Eliya that will help you plan the perfect trip.
How To Reach
While reaching Nuwara Eliya is rather easy, it can only be reached via Colombo. Nuwara Eliya does not have an airport but can be reached via road and by train. Taking a bus or driving to Nuwara Eliya is a bit faster than taking the train but both usually take about 6 to 10 hours.
By Air: The closest airport to Nuwara Eliya is located in Colombo, at about 161 km away. Travellers can take a taxi, bus or a train from the airport. While the Sri Lankan airlines is the major operator, Colombo is connected to most major parts of the world.
By Rail: Nuwara Eliya is connected to Colombo via Nanu Oya which is located at about 10 km away. There are trains departing from Colombo almost every day of the week but it is advisable to book tickets in advance. The train journey to Nuwara Eliya is considered as one of the most beautiful rides in Sri Lanka. On reaching the station in Nanu Oya, visitors can either take a taxi, a three-wheeled ride or a bus.
By Road: Located at about 180 kilometres from Colombo, there are two major routes running to Nuwara Eliya. One route that passes through Kandy and another route that passes through Hatton. Driving to Nuwara Eliya can be very adventurous and exciting. While both the routes are rather picturesque it would be important to keep the weather in mind. There are also buses that ply on both the routes with different kinds of services available from Colombo. They are quite cheap and easily accessible.
Weather and Best Time to Visit
The landlocked region of Nuwara Eliya experiences similar climatic conditions as most other places in the island-country of Sri Lanka, the only difference being the cooler temperature. Placed in the temperate zone, the place experiences some amount of rainfall all through-out the year. The decrease in the precipitation levels and the Sri Lankan and Tamil New year make the summers, especially April the best time to visit.
Summer: March – June
With the temperatures ranging from about 23 to 13°C, the summers are mostly warm in Nuwara Eliya. Summers are usually preferred to visit the region by both Sri Lankan’s and foreigners alike. The Tamil and the Sri Lankan New Year fall during this season, making it even more popular among visitors.
Monsoon: July – October
The monsoon season here is somewhat split into two phases and receives the highest amount of rainfall. While the monsoons are not preferred by many to visit the region, given the continuous rainfall, it could be a worthy experience to visit during this season. The rates of services also go down and this could be the cheapest time to travel to Nuwara Eliya.
Winter: November – February
While the winters are considered the coldest time of the year, the temperatures here range from about 15 to 20°C. The precipitation also reduces, allowing visitors to go about their activity. Winters are also a good time to visit the region.
Things To Do
There are a number of fun things you can do when you are at Nuwara Eliya, like hiking through tea plantations, exploring the highlands, fine dining in old colonial buildings or taking a lazy stroll along a lake. The best part of visiting Nuwara Eliya is that the landscape has great scope and only your imagination is your limit. Here is a list of a few typical things to do in Nuwara Eliya.
Tea Estate Tour: If you are at Nuwara Eliya, this is a must. The leaves from here travel all around the world and become the famous ‘Ceylon tea’. In fact, Nuwara Eliya is often called the Tea Capital of Sri Lanka. There are a great many tea estates that offer tours to visitors. Most tea tours take tourists around the estates and explain the entire process and often end with a lavish tea tasting. There are also Shops nearby from where you can get yourself some of this fabulous tea.
Hiking and Trekking: Though the slopes are pretty gentle if you explore enough, there are many trek-able places in Nuwara Eliya. Hiking is pretty common here. In fact, a couple of trails lead to some popular waterfalls like the trail to St. Clair’s Falls involves a gentle hike through tea estates until you emerge facing the majestic falls. Another popular trail is the one to World's End at Horton plains. This may be a whole day event but the trail and the view from world’s end is totally worth the time.
Sight-Seeing: There are quite a few tourist sites in Nuwara Eliya. One such place is Victoria Park with its many trees and birds sprawled over the many acres that comprise the park. Gregory Lake is another popular tourist spot and many a people can be seen taking strolls or indulging in some good street food by the lake-side. There are also paddle boats that tourists can use to cruise the waters of the lake. One of the few high altitude national parks is located here as well. Known as the Hakgala Botanical Garden, it is one of the largest gardens and is home to thousands of plant species.
Nuwara Eliya has restaurants that serve both Sri Lankan and Indian food. The eateries range from inexpensive to splurge-worthy. If you haven’t had a chance to taste Sri Lankan street food yet then this is a good chance. Popular street food dishes like Kothu Rotti can be found easily and should be on the list for foodies. Some of the fancier restaurants are colonial structures that have been remodelled, so this is a good opportunity to catch some great architecture while enjoying a first class meal.
The Bale Market or the winter market is one of the main market places in Nuwara Eliya. A great many winter clothes are sold here and are rather inexpensive too. Since Nuwara Eliya and nearby regions can get cold, this is a great place to stop by at the beginning of the trip. There are a number of souvenir stores as well. The shop at the Grand Hotel is one and Laksala Gifts is another. No souvenir is better than tea and you can find a good number of tea retailers in the city and outside. Most tea estates have shops that sell their products.