The splendid island of Sri Lanka is simply a land of beauty. From its charming golden shores, to its majestic white cascades, it has so much to offer for the nature lovers. Going beyond, the brilliance of the vibrant blossoms, that can be seen among the lush greenery on this island cannot be ignored. And with regard, the Botanical Gardens in Sri Lanka hold a major significance. Moreover, out of five major botanical gardens in Sri Lanka, Hakgala Botanical Garden happens to be the second largest botanical garden. And why not? The allure surroundings of the Hakgala Botanical Gardens has made this place one of the best reasons to visit Sri Lanka. Thus, we thought of sharing with you delight of this magical paradise!
The Location of Hakgala Botanical Gardens
Hakgala Botanical Gardens is situated 16km from Nuwara Eliya on the main road of Nuwara Eliya to Badulla. In addition, it is close to the Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve. And of course, you can get there from Nuwara Eliya. Simply, ride along the Peradeniya – Badulla – Chenkaladi highway, through Katumana and Seetha Eliya, to Hakgala, to reach the Hakgala Botanical Gardens.
Climate and Temperature around Hakgala Botanical Gardens
The route to Hakgala Botanical Gardens on Badulla Road is a wonderful downhill drive, mainly through pine forests. Similarly, the pleasant cool weather that prevails all year round complements the tropical flora and fauna, making it a real paradise. The garden has a cool temperature climate due to its altitude of 1620 meters (5,400 feet) above sea level. From December to February, the temperature is cool, although the climate is mild from April to August. However, Hakgala Botanical Garden’s mean annual temperature is typically between 16°C and 30°C.
History of the Garden
Dr. G. H. W. Thawaites founded the Hakgala Gardens in the year of 1861 as an observational cultivation of Cinchona, a commercial crop that grew in Nuwara Eliya at the time. Once the tea was replaced by the Cinchona, it was converted into an observational tea cultivation in Nuwara Eliya. And since then, many subtropical and some temperate plants have been grown in the gardens.
As per the Sri Lankan chronicles, the Sri Lankan lord Rama Ravana is said to have abducted Sita, kept her concealed in this area and offered it to Sita as a pleasure garden. Hence, the Ramayana describes this place as Ashok Vatika. Later, the place which is called “Sita Eliya” and “Sita Amman Temple” was built on this site.
The Pleasingness of Hakgala Botanical Garden
As you might already know, Hakgala is a tropical hill-country garden. The way the lovely Low-Country Lotus and Water Lilies there, mingle in their serene beauty with sophisticated classical flowers are simply delighting. And why not? How they blend with the prehistoric fountains and similarly with endemic orchids are more fantastic. Moreover, the arduous rock of Hakgala offers an impressive background to the garden, rising 450 meters above it.
Besides, at present, Hakgala’s gardens of flowers, shrubs, ferns and mountain trees are marvellously set in a safe setting. The small streams that flow, wooden bridges constructed over them, and the birds soaring around further enhance the delight of this garden. Also, the charm of this garden, the cool and shady climate and the enchanting landscape help your mind soothe your anxieties.
The gardens stretch up the steep hillside, from the anodyne ornamental areas around the entry to the much larger and more interesting woods up the slopes. However, the best views are from the stairs. Moreover, the walk to the right directly after the entrance gate leads through the azalea garden to a small pavilion.
Further, below are some of the most significant garden flora species that can be found on this wonderful land.
- Old Tea Trials
- Cupressus Macrocarpa
- Syncarpia Glomulifera
- Rhododendron zeylandicum
In addition, the impressive Rose Garden, Conifers, Cedars, Cypresses, Pine Trees and English Oaks make their home in the garden.
Main Sections of the Hakgala Botanical Gardens
Hakgala Botanical Garden consists of 10 main sections as follows.
- The Spice Garden
- The Rose Garden
- The Orchid House
- House with Small Plants
- The Cactus House and the Herb Garden
- The Fernery
- The Rock Garden
- The Bulb Garden
- The Arboretum
- Forested Areas
Indeed, their splendours are worth exploring! So, let us get to know about each of them.
The Garden with Spice
The pleasant Spice Garden on the right at the main entrance bears a good array of cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. A few of the oldest nutmeg trees are already available in excellent form since the year 1840.
The Rose Garden
The Rose Garden, a twin cottages block of land, is home to over 100 varieties of Roses. Further, the British colonial emperors of Ceylon planted some of the other varieties of the Roses here. Also, glass house, indoor garden shows flowering species & varieties of Begonia, Peperomia, Saintpaulia, Primula, Gloxinia, Steptocarpus & Pelargonium.
The Orchid House
The Orchid House displays the captivating tropical flowers of Cattleya, Dendrobium, Arachnis, Oncidium, Phalaenopsis, Vanda and their hybrids. Similarly, around the Orchid House you have the ability to see numerous hardy orchids, including the largest orchid in the world (Grammatophyllum speciosum), which grow a flower spike up to 2.5 m long and a green orchid (Coelogyne mayeriana).
House with Small Plants
Next to the Orchid House is a small plant house with a number of green indoor plants, such as ferns, begonias, African violets, Episcia dieffenbachia, Philodendron bromelia and Anthurium.
The Cactus House and the Herb Garden
The Cactus House exhibits over 800 species, such as Agaves, Opuntia, Kalanchoe, Cereus, Rebutia, Rhipsalis. Similarly, the Flower Garden showcases various annual flowers organised according to the height and colour of the plants.
It offers a shaded environment. Wood Fern is one of the kinds of ferns (Cyathea crinita). Many species of natural ferns grow in the shadow of tall trees. This section also houses old tea bushes (Camellia sinensis) which have been used to experiment with the cultivation of tea in the hill country. Moreover, this collection forms the very appearance of the Assam Tee Hybrid brought to Ceylon in 1967.
The Rock Garden
The major rock garden, founded in 1921, provides an area for several kinds of herbaceous plants. However, these plants survive well in the beds of rock and boulders. Similarly, the reservoir underneath the sloppy grass is home to the water lily (Nymphaea mexicana).
The Bulb Garden
The history of Bulb Garden runs back to the year 1924. Besides, it comprises a good selection of subtropical bulbous plants and some of them are as follows.
Indeed, all of them hold a significant place in this wonderful paradise, and they are worth seeing!
The arboretum is one of the most significant aspects of the garden. This segment includes a wide area in the rock garden. Various native species as well as species imported from subtropical countries occur here.
The wooded areas of the gardens contain several magnificent Monterey cypresses from California, U.S.A. and fine ancient cedars. Also there are areas of huge tree ferns, Japanese camphor stands, and pines and eucalyptus, a shaggy cluster of Australian melaleucas.
Hakgala Botanical Gardens as a Home for Birds
Hakgala Botanical Garden has become one of the best destinations on the island to spot endangered mountain bird species and migrating birds during the North East monsoon.
You have the ability of finding a good number of native birds in the garden premises. Some of them are as follows.
- Sri Lankan Wood Pigeon
- Southern Crow Pheasant
- Layard WoodPecker
- Powerful Fan Tailed Warbler
- Yellow Fronted Barbet
- Tickell’s Flower Pecker
- Ceylon Jungle Bird
- Forest Eagle Fowl
- Yellow Eared Bulbul
- Green Willow Warbler
- Black Heaven
Besides, the most visible migratory birds out there are as follows.
- Gray wagtail
- Pied field thrush
- Bungalow swallow
- Pied & brown shrike
- Indian woodchat
- Gray-headed flycatcher
- Black winged kite
- Pintail Snipe
- Brown shrike.
The playful flatters, and the vibrant shades of all these bird species, not only enhance the charm of this wonderful garden, but also add a sense of value to this wonderful attraction.
Biodiversity at Hakgala Botanical Gardens
If you read our article up to now, there is no wonder that you have realised that Hakgala Botanical Gardens is a biodiversity hotspot. To be specific, there are over 10,000 species of flora at Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Besides, Hakgala Botanical Garden is world famous for the number of species of orchids and roses that it houses. Also, it is home for an extensive range of massive trees, plants and fauna. All these together, makes it one of the ideal places to observe the biodiversity of nature at its best.
The Opening Hours of the Garden
The opening hours for the Hakgala Botanical Gardens are from 8.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., and the plant nursery is closing at 3.30 p.m. Wheelchairs are available for a small rental. While light motor vehicles are allowed to access the gardens. However, visitors are encouraged to walk all around Hakgala Gardens if they want to discover the best of the delightful spots in this very spacious garden.
The Bottom Line
Above all, let us sum up mentioning you that the Hakgala Botanical Garden is a magical paradise that you should never miss. And the amazing fact is, the number of visitors to this garden exceeds 500,000 annually. So, why miss it? If you are ever planning to backpack on this splendid island, make sure that you add Hakgala Botanical Garden into your list. Its astounding beauties, coupled with the relaxing cool breeze of charming Nuwara Eliya will surely make your visit memorable and delighting like no other. Happy and Safe Travelling!