Wandering in the hills of Sri Lanka- Nuwara Eliya.

If you have read our other Sri Lanka posts, all you have heard is basking like a croc, sunbathing, tanning, sunshine, turquoise beach and some rolling hills. Let us now take you to the temperate region, Sri Lanka’s coldest city Nuwara Eliya – A town of rolling hills, tea estates and quaint colonial buildings.

Here is your complete guide for a day trip to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka.

Index

How to reach Nuwara Eliya.

The nearest airport is Colombo the international airport is a 160km 4+ hour journey. Nuwara Eliya is a hill station (altitude is 6100+ feet). You will need a longer time to travel on these windy roads. So we recommend a train journey

The Nearest Train station is at Nanuoya 9km from Nuwara Eliya. Major trains that arrive here are from Colombo.

How long is the train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya?

Ella to Kandy train goes through Nanuoya station. Most tourists take the train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya. The uphill journey is slow around 3 to 4hrs. but the journey is charming amidst tea estates and forest. Many travellers find this journey “The most scenic train route in the world”

Horse wuth saddle  by the lake Gregory side surrounded by green tea estates and colonial buildings in Nuwara Eliya

The horse rides around Lake Gregory are limited and famous among tourists.

Ella to Nuwara Eliya by bus

Our Ella homestay owner suggested we catch a bus to Bandarwella instead of waiting for Nuwara Eliya’s direct bus from Ella. There are very few direct buses from Ella to Nuwara Eliya. So we had to transit a few.

  • Ella – Bandarwella- Bus number 31 
  • Bandarwella – Sita Amman temple by a bus that goes to Kandy.
  • Tuk-tuk from the temple to Strawberry farm
Red colour Non AC public buses in Sri Lanka

This might seem to be too many transits, but at the busy bus station of Bandarwella, the bus drivers and the conductor will notice you soon with your backpack and ask you where you want to go. They even stopped a bus that was about to move for us to get in. It all happens within a minute, even before we saw the bus route number- So friendly Lankans make the transits less painful.

Is Nuwara Eliya worth visiting?

A sloped roof estate house surrounded by tea estate on all sides in Nuwara eliya, Sri Lanka

What is Nuwara Eliya known for?

Strawberries, weather and colonial architecture. 

nine chocolate dipped fresh strawberries kept on a white plate at Nuwara ELiya

The weather was cool, with a temperature of 18*c in April. The cashier at Strawberry farm said, “It rains here more than not” So the cloudy weather and carpet of tea estated with colonial buildings dotted amidst them make it a pretty town. Since our native is in the Western Ghats of Karnataka, the spice gardens and tea estates are familiar to us. But for those who are unfamiliar with the aroma, the town gets much prettier. 

Ramayana stories and their location is what made Nuwara Eliya more interesting for us.

Things that I didn’t appreciate about Nuwara Eliya

Plastic boats and tourists flocking Lake Gregory at Nuwara Eliya

We both love “People Watch” Many times, we love the places where domestic travellers hang out. Sadly, Nuwara Eliya is taking too much load of travellers. Lake Gregory is so serene, reflecting the tea estates and British-style Bungalows. But multiple plastic boats and rides spoil the beauty. The town has been manifested to suit group traveller’s needs. You find plastic trash at many points. You are often interrupted by nagging travel agents and horse owners when you walk on the streets. I love the bazars of Tehran for their buzz and vibrance. We loved Bruges (which many travellers complain is infected with mass tourism), but I found Nuwara Eliya too touristy and noisy.

Thanks to tourists like us who have successfully managed to (over)commercialise the place too much like what we did to Phi Phi, Ooty, Kodaikanal and Oia. The enchanting town must have hosted too many of us – So “the Little England of Sri Lanka” is getting spoiled.

Why is Nuwara Eliya called Little England?

The buildings say it all! It is where the British settled in Sri Lanka during the 19th century as the cloudy and cold weather must have reminded them of their home town. So it reminded me of Darjeeling in two things – Firstly, the tea is common among them, and secondly, the mass tourism is gobbling up both historical towns.

How many days should you spend in Nuwara Eliya?

We made a stop of around three hours and moved to Kandy. I am happy we didn’t choose to stay here. So we personally we recommend a day trip. Consider an overnight stay if you want to go hiking (which is better to do in Ella than here).

Amazing Things to do in Nuwara Eliya

Red brick post off in Nuwara Eliya with steep roofs and clock towers

Of course, you can go hiking on the hills to see waterfalls. Then there are spice gardens (You can’t impress a South Indian with spices – our houses are surrounded by spice farms back home in India.) The one thing I wish we saw was the Nanuoya train station. After Ella, I know how wonderful Sri Lanka’s railway stations are.

Strawberry Farms in Nuwara Eliya

In a tropical nation like Sri Lanka, coconut, mango, papaya, and pineapples are common. Having its origins in the USA, Strawberry must have been brought to Sri Lanka by the British. I say “must-have “because I tried so hard to find out who was the first to grow strawberries on the tropical island nation but found no answer. 

There are countable strawberry farms in Nuwara Eliya. But Adma Agro Strawberry Farm Shop is on the main road and closer to the bus stop, hence most visited. As I have seen only this, I won’t say this serves you the best strawberry, but they were super juicy and delicious.

 Their cafe has an exclusive menu of Strawberry dishes only. Pancake, smoothies, choco dipped berries are what we tried. They do sell fresh strawberries packed in a plastic container. They have a small set-up for the strawberry farm in front of the greenhouse. So you can walk around and see the red berries popping out if it is the season. If you know a bit of Sinhalas, you can ask the workers to explain how they do it. 

Strawberry plant with a fruit insidea Nursery at Nuwara Eliya

Do not trust if they say that it won’t get spoiled for the next 15 days. What we bought could last for three days only.

Sri Lanka’s oldest post office is in Nuwara Eliya.

The old red painted brick building as post office in Nuwara Eliya

The red bricks, white painted brick joints, orange roof tiles, red strips on the wall, clock tower – A building will give you a glance of how the British era was in Sri Lanka. Built-in the 1890s, and well preserved by the government, it is still an active post office. A quick stop for 30 minutes should be enough. It is near the main bus stand. So when you wait for your bus to Kandy or Ella, making a quick visit should be good. If you want to see inside, I am unsure if they allow tourists. You may act as if you are there for some work like how we did. But we were asked to leave the building as it isn’t meant for tourists. I don’t know if it happened for only us or the rules – Try your luck.

Seeta Amman temple – Ashoka Vana

South Indian style temple entrance for Seeta Amman temple in Sri Lanka

Yet again, a connection between India and Sri Lanka that dates back billions of years ago. The Hindu epic novel “Ramayana” ( and we both believe it happened, in reality, isn’t just a novel) of Lord Rama and his wife, goddess Seeta. The kind of Lanka, Ravana kidnapped goddess Seeta from India and took her to his homeland in Lanka. This is the garden where Ravana kept her with high security, and she waited for days together. This place is holy for Hindus and a nice spot by the riverside to spend with others.

Wandering amidst colonial buildings.

Group of colonial buildings in Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka

You must walk around the town and must not sleep while travelling by bus on the way to Kandy or Ella – the sights are unmissable. The rolling tea estates and those stone-cladded British bungalows with sloped roofs make you wonder if you are in a Tropical nation or any countryside town like Bournville of England. The view gets even more poetic because it rains most of the time here than not – So many call it “Little England.”

Two storey house with steep sloped roof, green windows lined with white paints

Some are historical buildings, and a few are modern homestays in a similar style. Though the plastic toys and games, and nagging sellers may have ruined the beauty, locals have tried their best to keep the vibe by following a similar architectural style.

Visit vegetable markets of Sri Lanka’s coldest region Nuwara Eliya.

Vegetable shop with variety of veggies covered with blue tarpaulin at Nuwara Eliya

You go to any country but never miss their vegetable markets. If Bazars are the most colourful places in the middle east, vegetable markets are vibrant in Tropical nations especially. Local markets amuse me whether it is my hometown or a foreign country. Nuwara Eliya produces a significant amount of vegetables, and it is a fine place to see local life happening. After the bus stand, take a stroll further ahead, and you find these gorgeous stalls.

Visit the Tea factory and sip some Ceylon tea.

Damro tea estate view from parking lot

Damro is one of the largest Ceylon tea producers and their factory is open for visitors

Sri Lanka is one of the top 5 tea-producing nations. So you got to try some Ceylon tea. Though I am a chai lover with tea running in my veins along with blood, I can’t explain to you how different Ceylon tea is from others, but it is. It is refreshing and feels too good when it goes down your throat. So seeing the Tea manufacturing process and tasting it in the factory is the most important thing to do in Nuwara Eliya. We went to Damro Tea factory as the tuk-tuk driver quoted the least for this place and was worth it. There are many more tea estates and factories in this area. So do your research before and book your slots in peak tourist season.

What are your thoughts on Nuwara Eliya? Let us know in the comment section below.

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