Nuwara Eliya: A complete guide

Jan 17, 2020 | Asia, Global travel, Sri Lanka

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(Last updated on: 01/04/2020)

Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful part of Sri Lanka that shouldn’t be missed! In this post I will tell you why it should be included on your Sri Lanka travel itinerary and everything that you need to know before you go.

Nuwara Eliya

Where is Nuwara Eliya?

Located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya is a city within the rolling hills. Its name means city of light or city on the plane. It has a stunning landscape, mild climate and colonial buildings.

The closest airport is Colombo International Airport. At around 167 km away, it isn’t particularly close – the drive takes around three hours. You can hire a car from the airport, or get a taxi. The journey costs between £35 and £50 GBP in a taxi. If you are already in Colombo, you can head to Colombo Fort and get the 79-1 bus towards Welimada. This takes around 5 and a half hours, but saves on costs for budget travellers.

If you happen to be staying in Kandy, you’re around an hours drive away from Nuwara Eliya. A taxi will set you back around £26 GBP. There is a bus route too: get the 22-9 from Kandy in the direction of Colombo Fort, and get off around an hour later at Peradeniya. From here, take the 79-1 towards Welimada. This takes you to Magasthota Junction, a 5 minute walk from Nuwara Eliya. The whole journey takes a couple of hours, but is worth it if you’re travelling on a budget.

The temperature in Nuwara Eliya is really mild. Ranging from 10°C – 20°C in the winter, and 14°C – 19°C in the summer, it’s never too cold or too warm. April is the warmest month, though, with temperatures reaching up to 23°C.

Things to do in Nuwara Eliya

The area is the most important place for tea production in Sri Lanka, so there are many tea-related activities you can do in Nuwara Eliya. There are hundreds of acres of tea plantations across the city. You can visit tea factories, drink tea, eat tea-flavoured ice cream… the possibilities are endless! Head to St. Clair’s Falls to see a beautiful waterfall surrounded by tea plantations.

Seetha Amman Temple is high on a lot of people’s lists when visiting Nuwara Eliya. It is a stunning Hindu temple, adorned with bright colours and said to be the place where Sita was held captive by Rawana, the demon king. She prayed daily for Rama to come and rescue her. There are circular impressions on the rock face across the stream from the temple – these are said to be the footprints of Rawana’s elephant. Devoted Hindus flock here due to the legend associated with the temple, and it is a beautiful to visit for non-Hindus too.

Hakgala Botanical Garden in Nuwara Eliya is the highest-altitude botanical garden in the world. Not only this, but it is the second largest garden in Sri Lanka. The space was transformed into a botanical garden in the late 1800s, and there are so many beautiful plants and perfectly groomed flowerbeds to admire.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK-UZl7MRNs
See some drone footage of the area in this video.

There is plenty of colonial architecture to admire in Nuwara Eliya. The post office is a popular one, but walking around the streets is a treat. The Grand Hotel is another example of this. They served afternoon tea, which is really luxurious and a great way to spend a few hours. They also serve all sorts of tea-related drinks (even cocktails) if you don’t fancy a full on spread!

Gregory Lake is amazing for boat trips. You can also jet ski or go speed-boating, and there are pony rides and chopper tours available. Bikes are available to hire here too! The lake is incredibly scenic, and a lovely place to relax and enjoy the weather.

Nuwara Eliya
Taking a stroll around the lake at Nuwara Eliya

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya

There are plenty of places to stay in Nuwara Eliya. Whether you’re looking for luxury, or hoping to save your coins for another cup of Sri Lankan tea, you’ll be able to find the perfect place for you. Here are some options…

Booking.com

Laughing Leopard Hostel, on Udapusewalla Road, is around 1.7 miles from Gregory Lake. It has free WiFi, a garden and terrace area, and a 24-hour front desk. There is free private parking, a shared kitchen and a buffet-style breakfast too. Choose from private rooms or a shared dormitory, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. Previous guests have praised the staff, the cleanliness and the common areas.

Heritance Tea Factory is the height of colonial-style. Right in the mountains, this luxurious hotel has a spa, organic tea leaves for you to make tea with, and rain showers in every bathroom. Mini golf and billiards add to the colonial feeling, and the restaurant serves a mixture of Eastern and Western dishes. You can even dine inside a train carriage! Free WiFi and parking are available, and the hotel has all the amenities you might need. Previous guests really rate the food, friendly service and the tea plucking experience.

UYOU Ceylon Guest House is a bright blue building just a 5 minute walk from the bus station. You can’t miss it! There is an on-site restaurant, free private parking and free WiFi. With twin, double and triple rooms available, there is something for everyone. There is a bar with a fire and a pool table, and everywhere is lovely and colourful. Previous guests praise the comfortable beds, great location and friendly staff.

Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful part of Sri Lanka, with so much to do – especially if you like tea. The colonial style of the area is fascinating, and it really does feel like a ‘Little England’. If you are travelling around Sri Lanka, a visit to this hilly city is a must!

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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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