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The Viceroy Steam Train Near Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya - Legendary Hill Station Of British Tea Planters

The Viceroy Steam Train Near Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya - Legendary Hill Station Of British Tea Planters


The former British Hill Station of Nuwara Eliya was founded in 1846 by Sir Samuel Baker, the explorer of the Nile. It quickly became the focus of social life for the large community of British tea planters who resided in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka.


The center of attention was the rather exclusive Hill Club, a gentleman’s club founded in 1876. It is still there today and despite the fading glory they try (perhaps too hard) to ‘keep up appearances’ – it has perhaps one of the few bars left in the world that excludes women! You can visit with ‘suitable attire of jacket and tie’ or even stay there at certain times of the year.


Other than this only a few choice colonial era bungalows remain such as the Queen's Cottage and General's House, as well as The Grand Hotel and St Andrews Hotel. Afternoon tea on the lawn at either establishment is highly recommended. The ‘pink’ colonial era Post Office is another of the few remaining buildings from this era.


Lake Gregory and the Old Racecourse are still there along with many tree lined avenues leading to government circuit bungalows and private holiday residences. The emergence of market gardening has greatly changed the character of the town. The once well laid lawns and grassy plains are now covered with terraces growing potatoes, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks and roses, mainly for export to the Middle East.


The town is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka (8281 ft) which is often overlooked. At nearby Sita Eliya is a most important Hindu temple that forms a part of the Ravana legend.


Getting There From The Airport?

6 Hours From Colombo Airport


Getting There Within A Tour?

The Classic Tour Of Sri Lanka includes a stay at a Tea Estate Bungalow near to Nuwara Eliya.

If traveling from Sri Lanka’s South West Coast beaches, its best to include a 2 night stay.


Things To Do

Nuwara Eliya Golf Course

This public course is reputed to be one of Asia's finest and one of the world’s oldest (1889). It features fir-tee lined fairways, bunkers and scenic surroundings. A part of the course runs through the middle of the town! It is located 6,100 feet above sea level.


Hakgala Botanical Gardens

Established in1884 as a botanic garden with many sub tropical and temperate plants. There are over 10,000 species of flora planted here and during the Spring Season thousands of visitors come to see the blooms. The garden is famous for its Orchids and Rose Gardens.


Mount Pedro And Labookellie Tea Factories

These are the two major visitor centres for those interested in learning the art of manufacturing tea. Observe how plucked tea is dried, crushed, fermented and fired using machinery that remains largely unchanged since Victorian times. Both estates have sales outlets where you can buy the famous Orange Pekoe tea of this region.


Horton Plains

The ‘big trip’ from Nuwara Eliya requires a very early departure, ideally at around 5:30 am in order to get to the plains before the mists and clouds roll in. Horton Plains is a plateau at an altitude of 6,900–7,500 ft that is rich in biodiversity. The main feature are unique rolling grasslands (patanas) interspersed with beautiful cloud forests drenched with mosses, ferns and rhododendron. Dwarf, twisted trees are a common sight due to due to the speedy wind.


World's End is a sheer precipice with a 2,854 ft drop down to the plains below. Baker's Falls (66 ft) are named after Sir Samuel Baker, and are a very pretty sight surrounded by the beautiful forest all around.


Note: It must be said that some ‘well traveled’ visitors may feel that they have ‘seen it all before’ if they have been to the Himalayas or other mountainous regions of the world.

Our Experience And Advice

The honest view we can give is that the glory days of Nuwara Eliya have long faded into distant memory. The last British planters left in the 1950s and since then the town has become a rather awkward place with a rather shabby town centre and surrounding mountainsides crammed with holiday bungalows and a myriad of guesthouses catering mostly to a local clientele.


If you want to experience the cool and sublime beauty of the Hill County, the perfect way is to actually stay at one of the many tea estate bungalows that provide luxurious accommodation among the surrounding hills of the Great Western Range. Some of the bungalows are located in highly scenic locations too. Here you will actually find the colonial ambience missing at Nuwara Eliya. The British built plantation bungalows are still mostly named after their departed owners or Scottish towns (many planters had Scottish ancestry) and feature fireplaces and little English rose gardens that provide a poignant reminder of a planter’s life in the Ceylon of yesteryear.


You can actually visit Nuwara Eliya within an hour of most tea plantation bungalows in the Western Hill Country, so this makes an ideal day excursion if necessary.


Tea From Nuwara Eliya

Teas from the Nuwara Eliya district are called the "Champagne of Ceylon" teas. This area has some of the highest-situated tea estates in the world. Partly due to the slow growth of the plant in extremely high altitudes, the broken leaf Ceylon Orange Pekoe is full of aroma and flavor with a fresh, lemony taste.


The Season At Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya really comes alive in April for the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year, and it is difficult to find accommodation as Sri Lankans holiday in the region during this period. The festive "Nuwara Eliya Season" starts on April 1 annually and lasts through the New Year on the 13th and 14th of April right up to the months end.


The main attractions in Nuwara Eliya during the April season include numerous motor racing ‘hill climbs’ and horse racing events that are still held at the old racecourse. Parties are held nightly in the hotels and private bungalows, and the season culminates in the nine furlong (1811 m) Governor's Cup, the Golf Tournament and the annual Nuwara Eliya Flower Show.


Note: It is essential to book many months in advance if you are planning to stay at Nuwara Eliya during the ‘Season’. Hotels also charge heavy room supplements during this period.


Best Time To Go

Winter Season: November - April

In the winter months from December to February, it is quite cold at night, and there can even be frost. The temperature changes quickly and sometimes it can be as low as 3°C at night, although it rapidly warms up as the tropical sun climbs higher during the day.


April is without doubt the best time to visit Nuwara Eliya.


Summer Season: May – October

The warm climate persists through May to August after which rainfall can be expected until October.


  • Mandira Bungalows

    Mandira Bungalows

    Set deep in the heart of Sri Lanka's tea country are a series of beautiful old colonial tea estate bungalows that once belonged to British planters of old Ceylon, These are now luxurious retreats for those who wish to relive the past on an authentic journey to days gone by.

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