Nuwara Eliya is situated in Sri Lankans inland and is at around 2000m above sea level. It is also being called as the “Heart of Sri Lankans Tea productions” because this area is producing the best tea in the world! Nuwara Eliya is where old-world English colonial influence meets misty mountains and lush tea plantations. But there is way more to explore in and around Nuwara Eliya! In this blog post you will find all the best places to visit in Nuwara Eliya.
How to get to Nuwara Eliya
The best, most fun and beautiful way to get to Nuwara Eliya is with the famous train ride from Kandy or Ella. This train ride is, if I may believe, one of the most scenic train rides in the world! You will pass many tea fields and beautiful local mountain villages. During the train ride itself you have the change to really connect with the local people, and if you choose to go with second or third class, you can make a picture hanging out of the doors from the train.
Of course you can also get to Nuwara Eliya with a private driver or Tuk Tuk. But especially if you come from Kandy, Hatton or Ella, I would really suggest to go with the train.
How to get around Nuwara Eliya
This depends what your plan is. If you want to explore a wider area around Nuwara Eliya and you’re comfortable driving yourself, you can better rent a car. The weather in Nuwara Eliya is very unpredictable, so renting a scooter might not always be the best idea. Another option is to arrange a tour of course. But make sure to make yourself clear in what you want to see and what not. Another option is to visit some places by Tuk Tuk.
We rented a car for $30 per day because we went to several waterfalls further away from Nuwara Eliya. And because we want to have the freedom to go where we want. Because we had a lot of rain those days we were happy we had the car!
Explore the lush green tea plantations
Nuwara Eliya is the best known tea-growing district of Sri Lanka with her impressive lush green tea plantations. Therefore it is one of the best and most important places to visit in Nuwara Eliya! This little English colonial town is the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea production and produces some of the finest tea in the world. There are several tea estates which you can visit in Nuwara Eliya, like Pedro Tea Factory and Blue Fields Tea plantations.
Watch the sunrise from Single Tree Hill
For a scenic view on Nuwara Eliya and Lake Gregory, you have to hike up Single Tree Hill. You can watch the sunrise with the amazing cloud formations from the top. Single Tree Hill is the 10th tallest mountain of Sri Lanka with the peak at a height of 2100 metres above sea level. The summit, with the single tree on it, offers a great viewpoint on the beautiful green surrounding landscape.
Enjoy a classic High Tea at the Grand Hotel
If you’re looking for an activity which is not weather-dependent you should give the High Tea at the Grand Hotel a try! It is a typical British afternoon tea that happens on the grounds of the hotel and anyone from the hotel or outside can join.
During the High Tea you can enjoy some good quality Sri Lankan tea and yummy finger foods. There are actually two tea experiences, one is inside the Grand Hotel and is served with tea and food. The other ‘High Tea’ is outside on the lawn and gardens and is served with champagne. For 1500 rupees you’ll get 12 finger foods per person and 9 cups of tea per person! The tea party is every day between 3:30PM and 6PM. Bookings are not essential but advised during peak season.
Stroll through Victoria Park
Victoria Park is a hideaway from the surrounding noise and busyness of Nuwara Eliya’s city centre. This is one of Sri Lankans most attractive and best-maintained city parks. A stroll through the park is a pleasure and absolutely one of the places to visit in Nuwara Eliya! The park comes alive with blooming flowers from March to May and in August and September.
Visit Lovers Leap waterfall
Nestled amidst the lush greenery countryside of Nuwara Eliya is Lover’s Leap waterfall located. With it’s height of 30 meters it is a beautiful small but scenic waterfall which offers sweeping views of tea plantations and the countryside of Nuwara Eliya. The charming Lover’s Leap waterfall in Nuwara Eliya is an attraction that absolutely deserves a visit! It’s only 3.5 kilometres outside of the city centre and if you have enough time it’s really worth it to climb to the top of the waterfall.
Explore the Hakgala Botanical gardens
The Hakgala Botanical Gardens are the second biggest botanical gardens of Sri Lanka! There are more than 10.000 species of flora to see. Due to the low annual temperature in this area of the island, the species of plants which grow in Hakgala are very rare and special. You won’t find many of these species in other Botanical Gardens in Sri Lanka. So if you love gardens, special flowers, or just looking for a walk in beautiful nature, take a trip to the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. It is located 20 kilometres outside of Nuwara Eliya and you can easily combine it on your way to Ella. The park is by far one of the best places to visit in Nuwara Eliya and draws more than 100.000 guests each year.
Visit one of the strawberry farms
If you love strawberries, just like me, you will love it to pay a visit to one of the strawberry farms! The season of the strawberries begins in September. In Sri Lanka the strawberries are grown in open fields and poly tunnels. The strawberries give crops in 3 to 5 months, and if you visit a strawberry farm, you can see how they grow and pluck strawberries which is a fun thing to do for every age! But if you don’t have the time to visit a strawberry farm, you will be able to find freshly picked strawberries being sold at many roadside stalls as well.
Take a walk around Lake Gregory and the park
Right in the heart of Nuwara Eliya lies Gregory Lake. This is a reservoir which was constructed by British Governor Sir William Gregory in 1873. Supposedly the purpose of the reservoir was to provide electricity. However the lake was mainly used for leisure and recreation activities after it was built. Nowadays, visitors can have relaxing picnics on the shore of the lake, or do other activities. There are fun things to do for kids like riding in a swan, hire paddle boats, do pony rides. And for the adrenaline junkies you can race on the like with a jetski or do windsurfing.
Take a safari over the Moon Plains
The beautiful vast slopes of the Moon Plains are one of the amazing places to visit in Nuwara Eliya. But can you imagine that these beautiful green hills were was once a dump site of the tons of garbage from Nuwara Eliya. It was cleaned and reconditioned in 2010, and now the Moon Plains are covered in healthy grass and are home to many wildlife like wild buffaloes, dear, the occasional leopard and many types of birds. However, the main point of interest is the viewpoint of the ‘Mini World’s End’. A sharply dropping cliff, that gives a 360º view of the surrounding landscape.
Visit the Horton Plains national park
One of the beautiful places to visit in Nuwara Eliya is Horton Plains national park. There is a lot to see and to do in the park which makes it a very popular place for nature enthusiasts as you have the chance to spot and photograph a whole array of local wildlife. There are many hiking trails which lead through the park to different peaks and viewpoints. The most famous is World’s End where you will pass the Baker’s Falls.
Read more in our complete guide about Horton Plains national park
Most hikes are easy to moderate but of course you will need some good hiking shoes. All the trails are well signed and throughout the park are signs written in English explaining the surrounding flora & fauna. So save your money because there is really no need for a guide. And the entrance fee of 3000 rupees for the National Park is already enough… If you’re lucky you may see some deer, a variety of birds and hopefully a beautiful view at World’s End!
Hike up to Worlds End
The major attraction at Horton Plains is called “World’s End” because the trail will come to a sudden end at one point. From there you can see a beautiful stretch out to all eternity. Throughout the 2.5 hour walk, you will pass Baker’s falls, Mini World’s End which is ‘only’ 270 metres and at the end the famous World’s End with a drop of 870 metres. You have to bring enough cash as the entrance is a bit of a rip off with 3000 rupees. The earlier you go, the better view you’ll have. So try to reach World’s End before 9 AM or otherwise you’ll have the chance to only see a white wall with clouds rolling in.
Visit the Royal Turf club
The Royal Turf Club hosts horse racing at the 1875-vintage Nuwara Eliya Race Course. The most important yearly event is the Governor’s Cup race, held in April Sinhala and Tamil New Year season. But horse racing isn’t the only sport that the Sri Lankans participate in, because there is also a huge field where they play and train cricket! We had a look at the training of a team playing cricket which was fun to watch. If you have some time, definitely pay a visit to the Royal Turf Club for some sportive watch time!
Explore the other beautiful Nuwara Eliya waterfalls
If you’re going to visit Nuwara Eliya, do not only go for the beautiful tea fields! The country side of Nuwara Eliya and the surroundings are exploding with stunning waterfalls. Because there are many beautiful waterfalls to visit in the area, I made a separate blog post about the best Nuwara Eliya waterfalls. The ones you have to visit are St Clair’s Falls, Ramboda Falls and of course Lover’s Leap waterfall. And if you have more time and your own transport, we can definitely recommend to visit the impressive Laxapana Falls, Aberdeen Falls and Ravana Falls in Ella as well!
Also read our ultimate guide with the best waterfalls in Sri Lanka for a complete overview!
Hike up to Adam’s Peak
If you’re in the right season and fit enough for the climb, then one of the best places to go in Sri Lanka is Adam’s Peak! To get to the start point of the hike to Adam’s Peak is a 2 hour drive from Nuwara Eliya. The hike to the top of Adam’s Peak is another 2-3 hours depending on your pace. It might be obvious that the hike is not for the unfit people. The best time to go is before sunrise because you will beat the heat and you’ll witness a magical sunrise from the top. The stairs are well maintained but you will still need good hiking shoes or sneakers. Make sure to check the weather forecast so you won’t be stuck with rainfall. If you want to stay closer to Adam’s Peak, there are lots of guesthouses close to the start point of the trail, or you can stay for a few days in Hatton, like we did. So you can easily explore the other beautiful places to visit in Nuwara Eliya like Aberdeen Falls and Laxapana Falls.
Seetha Amman temple
If you travel to or from Ella to Nuwara Eliya via the road, you will pass Seetha Amman Temple. This temple is considered by Hindus as the only Sita temple in the world. If you are interested in the history and culture of Sri Lanka, this is definitely a place you need to stop! You can combine a visit to this temple easily with a visit to Hakgala Botanical Gardens, it is only 1 kilometres apart.
Travel further south to Ella
If your time in Nuwara Eliya comes to an end, it’s time to travel further. Your next stop must be Ella if you plan to travel further south. You can take the scenic train ride from Nanu Oya train station to Ella train station to experience the real authentic Sri Lankan experience. But you can also travel by bus, TukTuk or a private driver to your next destination. We went with the train and to be honest, in our opinion the train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is way more beautiful!
Travel further west to Hatton
If your plan is to go to Kandy further up North, you should have a look at Hatton as well to make a stop. If you go by train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy, the train will stop at Hatton station. We stayed a few days at a tea heritage with an amazing view on the tea plantations and from Hatton you are really close to Adam’s Peak, Laxapana waterfall and Aberdeen waterfall. The country side here is just amazing and really off the beaten path.
Nuwara Eliya weather
The climate in Nuwara Eliya is generally cool and with a higher chance of rainfall than the rest of Sri Lanka. This is also the reason why there are so many waterfalls in this area and why it is so intense green because of the beautiful tea fields.
The wettest months are October until December. The peak travel time is from March until May which results in higher prices.
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