Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon, is a country with a microcosm of beautiful destinations, cultures, flora, fauna and delicious food. Being on the top of travellers’ destination lists, Sri Lanka provides a breathtaking travel experience despite the location since every place is equally beautiful and exciting. However, while enjoying the tropical climate and beautiful beaches of this splendid island, one can even escape to the eye-catching Nuwara Eliya to feel its cool breeze, fresh air and misty climate. Nuwara Eliya has the meaning of “The City of Light” or “City of Plain” and it is famous among tourists as a miniature version of England. Hence, the city is known as Little England. However, since many long to experience the splendour of this wonderful misty mountain town, we thought of sharing its delight with you. Here we go!
Is Nuwara Eliya Worth Visiting?
Indeed, yes! A visit to Nuwara Eliya is worth it not only due to its beauty but also because it is a complete package of adventure, fun, excitement, seasonal changes, historical reveals, and a soothing climate. To be specific, travelers can take trolls through windy roads bypassing green valleys. Most of the paths and hills are surrounded by the lush greenery of the tea estates and beautiful water streams. Besides, this is a city with a harmonious blend of cultures, while the majority living in Nuwara Eliya are Tamil and Sinhalese. However, a variety of cultural developments and ethnicities are around the city and the values of each culture are equally high. Also, it is a fascinating location where one can enjoy a local hot brew in excellent quality since Sri Lanka is famous for its good quality tea exportations all around the world.
More importantly, every traveller can spot the change in architecture in Nuwara Eliya from other parts of Sri Lanka because it shows the building structures of the British colonial era. Among all, Nuwara Eliya is a well-planned town in the hill country and still, its British style is maintained. Apart from these, this is the main city for growing vegetables and fruits and one can experience how the local villagers grow these by fixing the fine lands on hills. All these features add an impressive value to the city as a tourist destination and none of the travellers would choose to miss the opportunity to spend a good quality time in the city of Nuwara Eliya. And thus, owing to all these wonderful features, we would simply mention to you that this alluring city is worth a visit!
Geographical Location of Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is the administrative capital city in the Nuwara Eliya district of central province and lies at an elevation of 6,199 feet above sea level. Further, the city is at the south of Sri Lanka’s highest summit, Pidurutalagala and 40km southeast of Kandy. Originally this city was a patina and had no trees or greenery. To be specific, Nuwara Eliya was a hidden valley in between peaks of mountains. However, Samuel Baker found this spectacular area in 1846. After his discovery, the land was developed and turned into a town. In fact, the black soil which covered the land in it was ideal for tea, coffee and cinchona plantations, and this became a major point of focus when developing this city.
However, the current urban area of Nuwara Eliya city is about 13km2. And when considering its geographical features, its elevation can never be ignored. In fact, mainly due to its elevation, this city has got the perfect meteorology for vegetations. Hence, many neatly arranged vegetation plots are a scenic icon in the city of Nuwara Eliya. Besides, apart from Mount Pidurutalagala, there are plenty of other mountains that guard this city. And yes, they are super famous and ideal for hikes. This range of mountains together adds a characteristic value to the destination “Nuwara Eliya”. Moreover, the beautiful and scenic waterfalls that start from the peaks of those mountains and flow through the plains are another significant geographical aspect of this city. And yes, they are major reasons that further enhance the city’s delight as well.
Climate of Nuwara Eliya
In brief, Nuwara Eliya has a subtropical highland climate due to its highland location. The mean annual temperature is about 16 °C (61 °F). Further, May is the hottest month of the year and January is the coldest month of the year. However, the climate is mostly mild and relaxing throughout the year. Besides, Nuwara Eliya has a significant rainfall and the annual rainfall is around 2550 mm. Precipitation is at the lowest in February with an average of 108 mm. Besides, it is reaching its highest in October with an average of 374 mm. In the winter months, frosting is visible in Nuwara Eliya at nights but it warms up gradually due to the high angle of sunlight in Sri Lanka.
Anyhow, Nuwara Eliya is the coolest city on the island and throughout the year villagers wear a jacket to tolerate this cool climate. In some periods of the year, ice fallings are present due to the frosting climate at night. Humidity lies around 90%. Further, on average June is the most humid month while March is the least. Most mornings, Nuwara Eliya has a misty environment and mountain peaks are covered with clouds throughout the day. After all, the cold breeze in Nuwara Eliya is soothing and relaxing, and it indeed reminds anyone of the climate of England.
Culture of the City
Nuwara Eliya is a well-planned city, with the history of city planning running back to the British colonial era. Besides, when considering its cultural values, Nuwara Eliya can be known as a city of festivals as well. The reason behind this festivity is the blend of cultures of the community out there. The majority of the people living in the city of Nuwara Eliya are Sinhalese, and Tamils. Owing to these reasons, Buddhist temples and Hindu Kovils are common around this mountain city.
The most important festival of both Sinhalese, and Tamils, the Sinhala and Tamil new year is one of the most alive and vibrant festivals of the city. Parallel to this traditional and cultural festival, Nuwara Eliya hosts a celebration named “Salalihini Wasanthaya”. And yes, it indeed brings light to the city in the season. Thus, April is undoubtedly the major festival season to attract many visitors to this city. Hence, the organizers of ‘Salalihini Wasanthaya’ plan various events to give enjoyable experiences and excitement to the people. Flower exhibitions, horse races, motor and bicycle races, boat and jet ski rides are some of the events which occupy the people’s attraction during this festivity.
Apart from that, Hindu festivals like Deepavali, Thaipongal, Maha Shivarathri, and Buddhist festivals such as Vesak, and Poson, and Catholic festivals such as Christmas, are also celebrated with much festivity and joy in this charming city. Besides, a plate of rice and curry with the bliss of Sri Lankan spice taste, and the Sinhalese and Hindu cultural food items, enlighten the cultural value of Nuwara Eliya furthermore. And yes, they grab a special taste note from the tourists. Along with these food variations, scenic beauty, and the cool breeze, a local hot tea or coffee makes a perfect combination for a feast.
How to Reach Nuwara Eliya
Most travellers begin their journey to Nuwara Eliya from Colombo. Many foreigners directly take the ride to Nuwara Eliya soon after they land in Sri Lanka (Bandaranaike International Airport) to get the feeling of “home away from home”.
However, there are two possible routes from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya. They are as follows.
- Via Hatton
- Via Kandy
Roads to Nuwara Eliya are slightly narrow and once passing the borders of the central province, all the roads till Nuwara Eliya are a bit circuitous. Even though the roads are not in a good condition, the views it serves of the green environment are magnificent and scenic.
Travelling to Nuwara Eliya by Bus
Route from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya has about 175km distance and it has 76km distance from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya. If you are aiming at public transportation, many intercity busses start from the main bus station in Fort, Colombo. The buses leave regularly almost every hour. Bus fare differs depending on the type of bus service. The normal bus rides cost less than an intercity bus ride. However, the fastest way to reach Nuwara Eliya is by taking the bus or a taxi. Yet, taxi fares are quite higher than bus fares.
Travelling to Nuwara Eliya by Train
Train to Nuwara Eliya is the most favoured mode of travel by many local and foreign visitors. And yes, these train rides are considered to be some of the very best train rides in the world.
However, there is no railway station in Nuwara Eliya city. The closest railway station is at Nanu Oya which is only 10km away from Nuwara Eliya. Nanu Oya station is on the main railway line from Colombo to Badulla. The train ride takes nearly 7 hours, yet the duration could change depending on the changing weather conditions.
However, a trip by train to Nuwara Eliya is much slower than a trip by bus. Still, the views they offer are picturesque and breathtaking. Many Railway tunnels are on the route and the longest tunnel passing on the way to Nuwara Eliya is the “Singimale Tunnel”. It lies between Hatton and Kotagala railway stations. However, a train ride from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya is not just a mode of transportation, simply, it is one of the main highlights.
Beautiful countrysides, villages, mist capped mountain peaks, green tea estates, streams of waterfalls, yards of pine trees, and blooming flowers give fascinating and spectacular views for the passengers. Thus, some trains even have compartments that are made explicitly to give a complete view of the surrounding environment to the people.
The Cost of Travelling to Nuwara Eliya
The approximate cost to reach Nuwara Eliya by a normal bus varies between USD 3 – USD 5. Further, a ride to Nuwara Eliya by intercity bus might cost USD 10 – USD 15. A comfortable taxi ride may cost USD 50 – USD 55 depending on the services it provides. Anyhow, the most preferred train ride’s cost varies within the range of USD 2 – USD 15. It is better if reservations to a train ride are done two weeks before the travel date to guarantee a seat on the train because there is a high number of passengers who visit Nuwara Eliya by train throughout the year. However, you can make a train seat reservation by simply logging on to the Sri Lanka Railways website. Further, anyone can check the train schedules on it as well.
Also, visitors can get all the required details about public transportation modes, and government regulations by simply calling the government information centre, on their hotline, 1919 to avoid any discomforts.
PS: Payments within the country should be done using Sri Lankan Rupees.
Best Things to do in Nuwara Eliya
As highlighted earlier, Nuwara Eliya is simply a complete package of activities and excitement. However, we chose the below as the best!
- Sporting Events
However, if you are planning to visit Nuwara Eliya any sooner, you might surely need more information on these activities. Keep calm! The following briefs would help you with it.
Nuwara Eliya has a terrain of mountains and plains which are obviously suitable for trekking adventures. Some of the places for trekking around Nuwara Eliya are as follows.
- World’s End
- Moon Plains
- Single Tree Hill
- Horton Plains
- Galway’s Land National Park
Out of these places, the below would be the best choices for you!
Horton Plains is a beautiful trekking area that is 20km away from Nuwara Eliya. In brief, this place is filled with rich and unique biodiversity. It constitutes natural habitats, endemic animals and plants. Also, Horton Plains are the headwaters of Mahaweli, Kelani and Walawe which are 3 major rivers of Sri Lanka. Vast areas of grasslands, forest areas with canopies reaching 20m heights, unusual vegetations, endemic and migrant birds add beauty to Horton plains. Sambar, Big Cat Panther, Bear Monkeys, Giant Squirrels, Barking Deer, Fishing Cats, and Hares, are a common sight in the area while Wild Boar, leopards are a rare sight. Rich flora such as Lichens, Mosses, tree ferns are all over the place.
Besides, World’s End is the main highlight in Horton Plains. It is a sheer cliff with about 4000 ft of a straight drop. It gives a magnificent view of tea estates and forest patches by acting as a viewpoint. There is a small cliff known as “Mini World’s End” at a distance of 1 km away from the main cliff. Mini World’s End has a plunge of 280 m. On clear and sunny days, the Indian Ocean is visible from the main cliff which is 81 km to the south.
Also, the boundary between the Sabaragamuwa province and the Central province is visible from the top. The trekking route to World’s End is about 4 km. It is important to reach World’s End before at least 10.00 am since it can be cloudy after that time blocking the view from up there. If the trail to World’s End extends for another 2 km more, there is a nice view of Baker’s Falls.
Moon Plains or Sandathenna is another trekking area located in Nuwara Eliya. It is a flat valley with a large open area. Wild Boars, Cows, Buffaloes, Deer and many bird species are present in this beautiful valley. Moon Plains give a fascinating 360-degree view of the surrounding peaks and towns.
Kirigalpoththa is also a trekking mountain. It is a small mountain top with dead trees but it is the second-highest mountain in Sri Lanka. Access to this mountain is from the Horton Plains.
Nuwara Eliya is a massive relaxing location. Even a quiet stay in the outsides of the city calms and relaxes anyone. In the centre of the city, there is Lake Gregory which gives a massive relaxing feeling to anybody who walks around it. Besides, horse rides and boat rides are available in the location for anyone who wishes to get the experience.
Further, the Hakgala Garden is another relaxing area in which one can walk around and see a vast variety of flowers and plants. There, the oldest tea bush on the island is present. Summer huts are available over the place to take rests.
Moreover, people who visit Nuwara Eliya never forget to visit Victoria’s park which is only 3km away from the city. Victoria’s park is famous for its colourful flowers and the blooming season is from March to May and also from August to September. These flowering seasons offer a bright and vibrant look to the park and many visitors come to see this beauty and to relax.
Lover’s Leap waterfall and Bomburu Ella waterfall are two beautiful water masses cascading down in the borders of Nuwara Eliya. Local visitors, as well as foreign visitors, add these landmarks as a must in their travel lists due to the magnificent view of these two waterfalls. These beautiful waterfall sights give peace to both body and mind who visit them.
Further, to witness a scenic view of the surroundings, people reach various viewpoints such as Shanthipura, Uda Radella and Pedro Mountain. Pedro Mountain or Piduruthalagala is the highest mountain peak of Sri Lanka and it is 4 miles long. It takes about two and half hours to reach there but the view it gives is breathtakingly awesome.
3. Sporting Events
The most famous sports events in Nuwara Eliya are Horse Races, Motor Races, Jet Ski and Boat Rides, Pony Rides, and Golf Sessions. More information about these sporting events at Nuwara Eliya is as follows.
Horse races are a major event that all the visitors and locals are waiting for. During the festive seasons of Nuwara Eliya City, few main horse races are held. Some of them are as follows.
- Independence Cup
- Queen’s Cup
- RTC Magic Million Cup
- Brown’s Cup
- Mayor Cup
- Governor’s Cup
Out of them, the Governor’s cup happens to be the most prestigious championship race.
Nuwara Eliya racecourse provides the fine track for these championship races and it is the only remaining horse riding venue in Sri Lanka. The enclosing boundary of the track is about 1800m and the straight track is long for 333m. All the horse racing events are organized by the Sri Lanka Turf Club.
Motor racing is another event that takes place in Nuwara Eliya, during the wonderful April season. In fact, the Motor Racing Club of Nuwara Eliya, in collaboration with Sri Lanka Motor Cycle Club organize these motor racing competitions with licensed participants. Of course, motor vehicle enthusiasts never miss the chance to see this racing event and cheer for their favourite riders.
Jet Ski and Boat Rides
When it comes to water sports, Jetski and boat rides are a huge attraction for the people. There are small boats that take 10-15 people and ride all over Gregory lake. Moreover, there is a special type of boat with the shape of a big swan. These swan-shaped boats occupy 2 people or 4 people depending on the size and the individuals in the boat have to paddle it continuously to move forward. The cost of a swan boat ride is in the range of 400 LKR – 500 LKR and people could use the boat for about 15 minutes to move on the lake and observe the sight of the lake surroundings.
Another fascination that commonly happens around Gregory lake is Pony rides. Kids love to take a pony ride around the lake and it costs not more than 150 LKR per ride. Moreover, Lake Gregory is an ideal place for pony rides, as well as to have a picnic with the family.
Nuwara Eliya golf club is famous and one of the oldest golf clubs in Asia. Many foreigners visiting Nuwara Eliya never miss the chance of engaging in a golf session to have the bliss of a wonderful golf experience.
The city Nuwara Eliya comes alive in the season of April. Food fiestas, flower exhibitions, magic shows, cultural dance and singing programs are taking huge attention of the visitors. Anyhow, most local people contribute to these carnivals by arranging various stalls to sell flowers, food, and clothes to earn some money for their living.
In Nuwara Eliya, there are no big shopping complexes to do shopping. Thus, the Bazaar happens to be a major shopping attraction. In brief, Bazaar is a winter market where anyone can have a quality shopping experience. In the bazaar, good quality winter clothes such as jackets, caps, scarves, sweaters, gloves and socks are available for a reasonable price.
Best Places to Visit in Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya city itself has beautiful and incredible places to visit. Most of the places have a historical, traditional or educational value with a beautiful structure. Some of the best places to visit in Nuwara Eliya are as follows.
- Holy Trinity Church
- Pedro Tea Estate
- Strawberry fields
- Ambewela New Zealand Farm
- Seetha Amman Kovil
- Nuwara Eliya Post Office
- Galway’s Land National park
Excited to know more about these places? Simply, read the following sections!
1. Holy Trinity Church
This is a church of Anglicanism which follows western Christian traditions. The architecture of the church is Captain Nelson and it has the style of early English Gothic. It took 7 years to complete the constructions and the construction was completed in the year 1852. In the church, there is a blue carpet and a stained-glass window gifted by Queen Elizabeth II in remembrance of her visit to the service at church.
Mesmerizing memorial plaques of Dr G. Gardner, Captain William Fisher, Reginald Beauchamp Downall, and Lady Carolina Ridgeway are on the church walls. In addition to these, the tombstones of Lady Olive Mary Caldecott and family members of Sir Samuel Baker are in the churchyard.
2. Pedro Tea Estate
On the way to Kandapola from Nuwara Eliya, there is a tea factory nestled in the mountains. Distance to the tea estate from Nuwara Eliya is not more than 4km. The tea factory is open for visitors and they could request a guided tour of the tea factory which takes about 30 minutes. The factory was built in the year 1885 and engineering used in the 19th century is still in use.
3. Strawberry Fields
Many farms which grow strawberries are present in the Nuwara Eliya. And yes, paying a visit to these strawberry gardens during the strawberry season would surely be a fascinating experience. The visitors can walk all over the plantation site and pick up strawberries in any quantity. Besides, most of the strawberry farms have a shop attached to it that sells jams, cordials and many other strawberry based products.
4. Ambewela New Zealand Farm
Ambewela New Zealand farm is in the New Zealand farm road, Nuwara Eliya. It has two dairy farms. One is the Ambewela dairy farm and the other is the New Zealand dairy farm. Ambewela farm does not allow people to visit it. Yet, the New Zealand farm allows people to have a visit and to observe the processes happening inside the farm. The New Zealand farm spans across a wide area of about 1500 acres, and cows can be seen in those grasslands. Besides, automated processes of making milk and cheese can be observed by the visitors. Still, they should abide by the health and hygienic guidelines to enter the manufacturing area.
5. Seetha Amman Kovil
Seetha Amman Kovil is in Nuwara Eliya and it is only 1 km away from Hakgala. The Kovil follows South Indian architectural style and it is the only Seetha Amman Kovil in the world that holds an impressive historical value. In legends, it says that this is the place where Seetha was kept captive by Ravana hidden from King Rama. A water stream near the kovil is famous as the place where Seetha bathed and the rock beside the kovil as the place where she sat for prayers. Seetha Amman kovil is famous as many other names such as Seetha Amman Temple, Hanuman Kovil, and Sri Bhakta Hanuman Kovil. Visitors can join prayers of the kovil in the mornings and afternoons.
6. Nuwara Eliya Post Office
Located in the heart of Nuwara Eliya, there is this post office which is famously known as one of the oldest post offices in Sri Lanka. This post office grabs the attention of every visitor due to its architecture. It is a red brick building built upon Tudor Revival style. The post office is a two-story building constructed in the year 1894. However, the upper floor of the post office is now used for tourist accommodations. This beautiful landmark contains a clock spire too.
Nuwara Eliya is perched on tea hills and many other mountain summits covered with verdant greenery. Thus, it is a common sight to observe waterfalls cascading down from many of those hills. Some of the most popular and attractive waterfalls around Nuwara Eliya are as follows.
- Ramboda Falls
- St.Clair’s Falls
- Laxapana Falls
- Aberdeen Falls
- Bomburu Ella Falls
- Devon Falls
If you are excited to discover the beauty of these waterfalls in detail, simply check our articles on the Most Amazing Waterfalls of Sri Lanka.
8. Galway’s Land National Park
Galway’s National park is a very small national park that comprises many birds and animals. For anyone who wishes to spend some time enjoying nature, a visit to this national park would be a perfect experience. Opening hours of the park are from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm and the entrance ticket fee is about 1000 LKR. The area of the park is nearly 27 acres. Overnight stays are possible at Galway Forest Lodge, yet pre-reservations are required.
Best Time to Visit Nuwara Eliya
The weather and climate of Nuwara Eliya are moderate throughout the year due to its location in the highlands. Still, the peak season when most of the people visit Nuwara Eliya is from February to April. And yes, it is the summer season. Even in the monsoon season from July to October, some people visit Nuwara Eliya ignoring the drizzles that fall once in a while. However, November to February is the coldest period in the city. Thus, the choice is yours to pick the best time to visit Nuwara Eliya, considering your interests.
Accommodation Facilities and Restaurants
Nuwara Eliya has various accommodation facilities, covering an extensive range. Their prices vary upon the services offered.
People can arrange a trip to Nuwara Eliya and spend a night there according to the budget they have on hand. There is a chain of hotels, cottages, and lodges with their offerings varying from the low budget packages to the very high packages. The lowest price for a room in a normal hotel is about 5000 LKR and some luxury rooms cost about 50,000 LKR or more.
Most of the tourists tend to book hotels such as Grand Hotel, The Blackpool Hotel, Little England Cottages, Heaven Seven, Alpine Hotel, Araliya Green Hills Hotel, Ashly Resort, and Daffodils Hotel since they offer extravagant facilities. Besides, most rated hotels provide panoramic views, private parking spots, hot tubs, traditional foods, sporting activities, and rides from the hotel to various travelling places. And yes, all of them surely make it a good stay at Nuwara Eliya.
The Bottom Line
Indeed, Nuwara Eliya is a must-visit! Despite the age, anyone would fall in love with the lush greenery, cool and relaxing climate, and the wonderful natural marvels within this city. Besides, Nuwara Eliya is famous as the City of Love. Thus, many couples choose this city as a romantic destination for their trips and they spend quite a few days in this spectacular town. However, owing to all these reasons, it is no secret that this city attracts a good number of visitors every year. So, why not visit it? Plan your next trip to this charming mountain city, and experience the true delight of a fascinating holiday. Happy and Safe Travelling!