Sri Lanka’s Hill Country is travel postcard pretty. It is a kind of place that lets you hike in shirtsleeves and cozy up in evenings in fleece beside the log fire. Think undulating lush hills carpeted with immaculate tea gardens, and forests filled with wildlife. Waterfalls gush down the slopes there and flowers fill its every nook. Erstwhile British tea planters’ cottages and estates still dot the Hill Country and it is home to some of the world’s most beautiful train journeys. Myths and folk stories of Sinhalese glory abound there, urban legends seem real given the region’s bloody history, and in the dark of the nights, drumbeats of Tamil tea plantation workers’ festivals ring through the air. Needless to say, the Hill Country is Sri Lanka at its scenic best and all you need is a book, a blanket, and a cup of Ceylon tea to rejuvenate your senses there. Though it is the best thing to do, the list of activities in the Hill Country does not end there and here is a list of the highlights of this very beautiful place.

hill country of sri lanka is famous for tea

Introduction to Sri Lanka’s Hill Country

Where is Sri Lanka hill country?

The undulating Hill Country is located in the middle of Sri Lanka. According to geologists, these young mountains are still forming and the central mountain range act as a wall between western and eastern flatlands. Since the mountains are mostly in the south-central part of the island, they are popularly known as Central Highlands. Sri Lanka’s highest peak Pidurutalagala standing tall at 2,524 m is located here.


The Hill Country weather

Sri Lanka’s Hill Country region due to its elevation offers a cooler temperature than the rest of the island. The day time temperature averages around 17 ˚C with cooler evenings. In winters, it can get as cold as -2 ˚C. There is a lot of rain in these mountains during the wet season and the clean unpolluted air makes the region suitable for refreshing breaks.

Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful intrduction to the hill country

Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

What’s so special about Sri Lanka’s Hill Country

The natural beauty of this region is enchanting. Complete with rolling mists, historic tea estates, waterfalls, forests, and precariously perched villages, the Hill Country also has deep ravines, grassy plains, dense forests, open valleys, and gentle streams. Microclimates exist there and it is a biodiversity hotspot. Many hardwood trees can be found here, along with plenty of endemic flowers, birds, and animals. Once upon a time, Sri Lankan elephants and tigers roamed there freely and nowadays, only the lucky ones can get glimpses of the remaining leopard. In recent times, the Hill Country has become popular for hothouse agriculture and of course, the world-famous Ceylon Tea is cultivated there.


hill country of sri lanka is famous for tea

The land of lush greenery and tea estates

Hill Country’s Ramayana connection

The Ramayana trail of Sri Lanka has become popular with Indian tourists nowadays. For those unaware of what Ramayana is; it is an epic Hindu mythological tale that spans across the Indian subcontinent especially what we call today as India and Sri Lanka. Although many historians refute the existence of such a tale, remnants of Ramayana are believed to be found all over Sri Lanka. Of course, there are some deviations between the Indian and the Sri Lankan versions of the tale, but it is believed that the Thotupala mountain in Horton plain is where King Ravana landed his aircraft after kidnapping Sita, the wife of King Rama. King Ravana was a mighty Sinhalese king while Rama was an Indian prince. The kidnapping enraged Rama and with the help of the beloved monkey god, Hanumana, he took revenge upon Ravana. In the folk story, Hanumana during this battle sets fire to Ravana’s empire and Horton Plains of the Hill Country is believed to have been that site burnt site. In fact, its original Sinhalese name Maha Eliya Thenna loosely means “that huge lit up ground” which perhaps refers to that legendary fire.

Hill country has Tea gardens as far as your eyes as can see

Tea gardens as far as your eyes as can see

The best things to do in the Hill Country

  • The epic train ride – The train ride between Nuwara Eliya and Ella is touted as the most beautiful in the world. Even if you cannot take that long one, feast your eyes on natural beauty during any train ride in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. The rides are comfortable and cheap.
  • Amazing hikes – Choose between easy half-day or tough full-day hikes in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country. You can enjoy hiking up Adam’s Peak, through the Horton’s Plain and World’s End, or huff all the way up to Ella Rock on a guided hike from Ella or Baddegama.
  • Sit on the historical Lipton’s Seat – Nearly every tea-lover has heard of the brand Lipton and it began in the gently rolling hills of Haputale. Sir Thomas Lipton started his tea empire here and the Lipton’s Seat was his favourite spot to watch over his sprawling estate.
  • Visit a tea plantation and learn about Ceylon Tea production – No trip to Sri Lanka is complete without a tea plantation visit. Choose any of the plantations in any of the Hill Country towns. Some estates even double up as luxury guesthouses.
  • Relax and enjoy doing nothing – The Hill Country is like chicken soup for tired urban souls. Apart from hiking, trekking, wildlife spotting, etc., this region is the perfect place to sit back, relax, and simply enjoy doing nothing. The entire region is well-equipped with accommodations, restaurants, cafes, and lively bars for a comfortable and enjoyable stay.
hiking is popular in the hill country

Hike up craggy peaks and look over deep ravines

The best towns to stay in the Hill Country

  1. Nuwara Eliya
  2. Ella
  3. Hatton
  4. Haputale

A tentative Hill Country itinerary

Nearly all Hill Country itineraries follow the same route with slight variations. All Hill Country tours begin in Kandy which is easily reachable from Colombo. Find out more about Kandy with this quick Kandy travel guide.

  1. Day 1 – Kandy (visit the Tooth Relic Temple and a Kandyan dance show in the evening)
  2. Day 2 – Nuwara Eliya (en-route visit a tea plantation and tea factory and/or trek to the Ramboda waterfall at Ramboda plateau. Take a late afternoon or next day early morning guided trek through the Horton’s Plains and World’s End.)
  3. Day 3 – Ella (Hop on the Ella bound train from Nuwara Eliya and experience one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world. In the afternoon visit the famous 9 arch bridge and/or go hiking at mini Adam’s peak, Ella rock and visit Ravana waterfalls.)
  4. Day 4 – Return to Colombo with en-route activities of whitewater rafting and rain forest trek in Kitukagala.

Or you can simply do what most travelers do at Sri Lanka’s Hill Country; sit back, relax, and enjoy some slow traveling. This region seems to have been created for this.

The tea pickers of the Hill Country of Sri Lanka

The tea pickers of the Hill Country of Sri Lanka

Forests, meadows, and tea plantations

This is the land of epic train journeys

Nuwara Eliya looks like this

It is a place

That looks gorgeous

Even when it is cloudy.

Flowers of the Hill Country

Flowers, the play of sun and shade,

Gorgeous tumbling waterfalls,

Stunning road trips and,

The peaks and forests of the Hill Country

Misty peaks and forests:

Welcome to Sri Lanka’s Hill Country.

It is one of the loveliest places you have ever seen.

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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.