I first went to Nuwara Eliya as a day trip from Kandy. It was right after returning from Dambana and my heart ached for some tranquil R&R. Kandy was nice enough but my prolonged lazy stay was beginning to rub off some of its charms. Its chaos was getting into me more than it did before and I reached a point when even the mention of the Kandy tuk-tuk drivers was making me rant. I decided it was time to move around a bit and so decided to drive all the way to Nuwara Eliya to get a glimpse of Sri Lanka’s famous Hill Country. Ironically, I hired a tuk-tuk driver from my guesthouse for this trip and the drive remains till today one of the loveliest journeys I have ever made.
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Kandy to the Hill Country
From Kandy, there are two main routes that take you to Nuwara Eliya. One passes west of Pidurutalagala Mountain and the other goes east of it along the Victoria Reservoir. The difference in distance between the two routes is negligible and while the former is 75 km long, the latter is 85 km. Both traverses through the scenic Hill Country and most people do make it as a round trip. Both the journey and the destination are so beautiful that the majority of the travellers prefer to stay back in the Hill Country and Sri Lanka’s tea clad central district is too alluring to leave. I was very excited about this trip and to be honest, a bit skeptical too. Don’t get me wrong, but I come from a state in India that is famous for stunning mountains and tea gardens and had the pre-conceived doubt of whether Sri Lanka’s famous Hill Country would be able to hold a candle to it.
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Hill Country is love at first sight
The reality turned out to a stunner and I fell in love with the Hill Country of Sri Lanka at first sight. We left Kandy early the next day to avoid its horrible traffic jams and soon were out of the city perimeters. The lush, green landscape of the Hill Country took over the scene fast and I spent the most beautiful part of the morning watching the hills come alive with wakefulness. Sri Lanka’s Hill Country highway was, as usual, a two-lane strip of metal road meandering in and out of the undulating slopes. It went up and down, twisted, looped, and ran as smooth as glass between coniferous clumps, eucalyptus groves, quaint villages, and immaculate tea plantations. A few waterfalls, silvery and frothing with water, came our way and we stopped at viewpoints to observe their unhindered beauty.
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Hill Country road trip is stunning
The well-maintained road added to the pleasure of the journey and thankfully, it was a beautiful clear day. A cloudless blue sky promised lots of sunshine and the air turned fresher as we went up the mountains. I remember smiling and poking my head out of the tuk-tuk during most part of the drive. Flowers growing along the road gave out wafts of scent and golden shower trees bordering the highway shed petals like gold coins. I still vividly remember a sight that sealed the deal about Hill Country for me and made me want to stay there. We were whizzing along a half-circular loop past beds of sprouting tea when a tree with masses of golden yellow flowers stood at a turn. It was a large shady one with more flowers than leaves and the bright yellow blazed against the blue sky. The scene was lovely enough by itself when a waft of scented breeze swayed the tree and it shed its petals like a real golden shower. From my vantage point, the sight seemed straight out of an imaginary world and as we puttered through the falling flowers, I knew that my heart was lost: lost to the tea clad slopes, skinny conifers, wildflowers, and undulating peaks of Sri Lanka’s Hill Country.
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Tea gardens, waterfalls, and quaint cottages
Later during my Sri Lanka travels, I have heard this “love-at-first-sight with the Hill Country” phenomenon to be quite common and there is no doubt that it is the loveliest part of this Asian island. It is commonly believed and for a reason that, Sri Lanka’s Hill Country is the island at its prettiest. A scenic, a mist-wrapped region, Hill Country consists of emerald peaks, hillsides carpeted with tea plantations and waterfalls tumbling down with incredible grace. The cool weather allows you to wear fleece during the daytime, sunny days ask for t-shirts, and the starry nights in the Hill Country are perfect for log fire cuddles. Traces of the English colonial lifestyle can be tangibly felt here and you feel the time slowing down in the hills. Prim English cottages complete with roses and honey-suckles abound the Hill Country and Sri Lankan planters with English surnames wax eloquence about the goodness of the Ceylon Tea.
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Nuwara Eliya is the introduction to the Hill Country
Hill Country train rides are bewitching and noted to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Ask anyone who has been on the train ride from Ella to Kandy and they will tell you about the picturesque rolling hills draped in emerald-coloured tea plantations, scraggy mountain ranges and puffy white clouds chasing across a deep blue sky. Colourful saris worn by Tamil tea pickers flash by like butterflies amidst the green tea fields, as do occasional silvery waterfalls. The friendly locals top up the experience and the brooding beauty of the untamed Horton Plains adds to the drama of the 7 hours epic train journey. As mentioned before, I fell in love with the Hill Country at first sight and remember rushing back to Kandy only to pack my bags and head back again. It is true that I went back to Nuwara Eliya the very next day and spent a gorgeous week there.
Hill Country is impossible to leave
I loved everything about Nuwara Eliya; its cricket fields, cottages, bustling markets, hilly hamlets, waterfalls, gardens, tea plantations, and the friendly Tamil local tea pickers. Its grungy smoke puffing buses did not stress me and the occasional cloudy days made me curl up next to the fire with a book. The Hortons’ Plains and the World’s End left me wanting more and it will not be an exaggeration to say that I spent my best time in Sri Lanka in the gorgeous Hill Country.
Follow the rest of the Sri Lanka series here
- WHAT I LOVED ABOUT SRI LANKA
- COLOMBO TRAVEL GUIDE
- COLOMBO VIBES
- KOLLUPITIYA MARKET IN COLOMBO PHOTO WALK
- MIRISSA DAYS
- THE STILT FISHERMEN AND CAVE TEMPLE OF KOGGALA
- MOONSTONE MINES AND MASKS FOR DEVIL DANCING: GALLE OFFBEAT THINGS
- A VERY RELAXING WEEK IN KANDY
- KANDY TRAVEL GUIDE FOR SLOW TRAVELING
- DAMBANA ADVENTURE
- THE ELUSIVE VEDDAS OF SRI LANKA
- THE STORY OF SIGIRIYA
- HOW TO VISIT SIGIRIYA
- THE HERITAGE SITE OF POLONNARUWA
- PAINTED CAVES OF DAMBULLA
NOTE: In view of the security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, the updated travel advisory states that the security situation in Sri Lanka is gradually returning to normal with the lifting of curfew & restrictions on social media and the opening of schools. Foreign nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE