The Top Things to See and Do in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

The tea plantations stretch for miles across the hills
The tea plantations stretch for miles across the hills | © Suranga Weeratuna / Alamy Stock Photo

Sri Lanka Hub Writer

Nuwara Eliya, part of Sri Lanka’s lush hill country, is blessed with a temperate winter, rolling green hills and a dramatic waterfall. Read on for the top things to see and do once you arrive.

Known as Little England, because some British settlers built their holiday bungalows here, Nuwara Eliya offers plenty to do, from hikes and jet ski rides for the adventurous, to markets, farm visits and colonial-era architecture for pleasure seekers – and everyone should visit the tea estates. Your travel time from Colombo will be four to five hours if you drive, or about six hours if you take the train.

1. Stay at the Grand Hotel

Hotel

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Courtesy of the Grand Hotel / Expedia
Built in 1891 as the home for the governor of Sri Lanka, Sir Edward Barnes, the Grand Hotel is the perfect place to spend the night in Nuwara Eliya, with great dining options and a divine high tea. They can also organise activities such as trekking, fishing and sunrise safaris for you.

2. Take a boat ride on Gregory Lake

Park, Natural Feature

Sri Lanka, Central Province, Nuwara Eliya, Gregory Lake, view of lake and mountain in background
© DK / Alamy Stock Photo
Gregory Lake, in the middle of Nuwara Eliya, was created by Governor William Gregory between 1872 and 1877 for British colonial settlers. There are horses here you can ride, or swan-shaped paddleboats that you can take onto the lake; or, for a few hundred rupees you can hire a jet ski for 20 minutes. The cool air is refreshing and the sights are unbeatable, and there’s a park next to the lake that you can stroll around.

4. Roam the Winter Market

Market

The Bale Bazaar in Nuwara Eliya is aptly nicknamed the Winter Market because they sell winter clothes for the chilly Nuwara Eliya weather. Locals who live abroad shop here for inexpensive winter fare before going back. If you forgot a sweatshirt or just want to have a fun stroll, then head here.

5. Check out the Post Office

Post Office

post office nuwara eliya hill country central province sri lanka
© Art Directors and TRIP / Alamy Stock Photo
The Nuwara Eliya Post Office, housed in an antique Tudor Manor, was built in 1894, making it one of the oldest post offices in the country. It was even featured on a stamp in 1990.

6. Eat strawberries at Adma Agro Farm

Shop

No visit to Nuwara Eliya is complete without a visit to the Adma Agro Farm and lots of strawberry eating. Strawberries love colder weather and Nuwara Eliya is perfect for them. Eat them straight off the plants or in the cafe with cream or condensed milk, or drink in a juice.

7. Visit Ambewela Farm

Cafe, Farm Shop, Healthy

The largest and more prestigious dairy farm in Sri Lanka is also in Nuwara Eliya. Head just a little bit out of town and you will reach the rolling hills of Ambewela, where the cows are free to roam and graze. Visitors can see the milking stations and the calves in the nursery. The cows are well taken care of and a visit is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The farm is pretty big, so there is a lot of walking involved. Drink a fresh glass of milk at the cafe station up the hill and buy some cheese to take home with you.

8. Walk around the tea estates and see St Clair's Falls

Natural Feature

St. Clairs Falls is one of the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka and is commonly known as the Little Niagara of Sri Lanka
© Nuwan Liyanage / Alamy
Nuwara Eliya is hill country, so it’s also tea country, and you can expect to see tea plantations everywhere in the hills. There are hundreds of acres of tea plantations in Nuwara Eliya, and plenty of tea factories to visit. A little further from town is St Clair’s Falls, one of the widest falls in Sri Lanka, which cascades gently down various craggy tiers. It’s well worth a visit – and a photo, especially if you can align it with a tea picker at work.

9. Take a hike on the Moon Plains

Natural Feature

The Moon Plains of Nuwara Eliya are an open area full of fields, forests, walking paths and surrounding mountains. This is a place for visitors who love taking walks in nature or spending a day out in the open.

10. Smell the flowers at Hakgala Botanical Gardens

Botanical Garden

The Hakgala Botanical Gardens are the highest-altitude botanical gardens in the world. On the road to Badulla, stop at the green gates and visit the beautifully manicured gardens full of roses, orchids and other plant species.

11. Hike along the Horton Plains to World's End

Park

Landscape Horton Plains National Park in Sri Lanka
© Hilda Weges / Alamy Stock Photo
Further down south than Ambewela, and higher up the mountains, lies Horton Plains National Park. The hiking trails here are top-notch, and a must if you like walking. World’s End is a drop-off at the edge of a huge cliff at the end of the Horton Plains plateau.

A trip to Nuwara Eliya wouldn’t be complete without a stay in one of the best cheap hotels in the city, or one of the best hotels in the area, bookable with Culture Trip.

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