Central Highlands: Our favourite things to do in Ella and Nuwara Eliya

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Central Highlands in Sri Lanka is a laid-back region surrounded by the beautiful greens of tea leaves. Out of all the amazing destinations we have visited in Sri Lanka, nowhere can compare with Central Highlands. The train ride alone is one of the most stunning train journeys we have undertaken, with comfortable cool climate all year round. Fall in love with the surroundings and you will probably end up staying longer than you actually planned to.

Ella

A small tourist town nestled in the hill country, Ella is popular among the backpackers due to its relaxing chill vibe. Though this town is famous for day hikes, we didn’t do any of it as we just want to take it easy after Adam’s Peak.

The Nine Arch bridge

This is the most instagrammable bridge and located slightly outside of Ella Town. With a small 30 minute walk through the woods, you will reach a piece of beautiful architecture hidden between lush green tea fields. We reached after sunrise just after the crowd disperse, and we were lucky to have a train passed by after an hour!

Having the whole bridge all by ourselves
Changed another spot after knowing a train will be coming

Wandering Along The Train Tracks

We came from a city where it is illegal to walk on train tracks, so for us it’s a pretty unique thing to do. And the tracks are so old school, pretty much anywhere you walk will be a picturesque background.

Chasing Waterfalls

About an hour drive out of Ella is the foot of the 2nd highest waterfall in Sri Lanka: Diyaluma falls. Halfway up the slope, we were being stopped and asked to park our scooter for a fee. We asked if we were allowed to ride up as there’s still a distance to the top but was rejected. In the end, we didn’t make it to the top.

Admire the waterfall from the bottom

A quick 15-minutes drive from town is the Ravana Fall. It is located next to the main road so you can easily take a dip. The falls are in a small and enclosed area and become very popular with locals and tourists. Locals use the falls as a place to bathe so expect to see many families here lathering up.

A good place for people watching

Lipton’s Seat

Back in 1890, Sir Thomas Lipton, planted the first seeds of what current is Sri Lanka’s biggest export product, Lipton Tea. Today, tourists are able to visit this whopping 5,500 acres tea plantation and even take a selfie with him seating at the viewpoint. Entrance Fee: Rs100 (scooter additional Rs50)

You can’t possibly visit his plantation without a picture with him
The mist came in so quickly
Riding through the tea plantation

Getting to Ella:

The most popular way of getting there is to hop on one of the most scenic train ride in the world!

Where we Stay:

City Ella Reach Hostel: Located right in the centre of town, it makes for a great base to explore the beautiful Ella from. They have private cabins built up high with a beautiful view of the mountains.

Private room: USD21/night

Nuwara Eliya

A taste of Colonial Britain in the hills of Sri Lanka is what you can expect when you arrive in Nuwara Eliya (a.k.a Little England). It is cooler than the rest of the country, surrounded by green leafy tea fields and dotted with colonial mansions.

Policemen on horses!

Free Tour at Tea Plantations

Since 1884 tea production plays an important role in Nuwara Eliya. Some of the biggest tea factories are located here. We visited two plantations: Mackwoods and Bluefields.

Mackwoods is one of the most famous plantation in Nuwara Eliya. They have a great viewpoint of the tea plantation to take some nice postcard pictures. We didn’t get a guided tour on the day we visited as there were some workers’ riot going on.

This plantation is so huge you just keep seeing it

Further along is Bluefields, much further than we had expected but the vistas and views you meet on the way are incredible. We got lucky here and had an informative tour around the tea factory, which later came with 2 cups of free tea! Even though the factory tour is said to be free, tipping is expected from your guide.

Sipping Afternoon Tea Grand Hotel

Is there anything more sophisticated than having high tea in the foothills of Nuwara Eliya? For Rs1500 (USD8) per person, you get a three-tier of snacks and wide range of teas to choose from. High tea runs from 3:30 – 6pm everyday at The Grand Hotel and was definitely one of our favourite things to do in Nuwara Eliya, so much so we went twice in three days!

YUMS!!
We can spend 2-3 hours over here

Eating Cheap at Hela Bojun Hala

There are many fancy restaurants in this small town. After splurging on high tea at Grand Hotel (which basically cover our lunch and dinner), we would head to this local eatery which serves cheap and authentic local food. What makes this place special is that, this eatery is a project to help Sri Lankan’s women to have jobs and support themselves.

Getting to Nuwara Eliya

Another scenic train ride in Sri Lanka, train from Ella to Nanu Oya takes about 4-hours (Rs150/USD1). Nanu Oya is about 8 km away from Nuwara Eliya. With a tuk tuk (20 minutes) it costs about 400-500 LKR. If you are a budget backpacker like us, walk out of the train station, head to a bus stop located next to a police stand. The bus will take about 45-minutes and costs Rs45 per person.

Where we Stay:

Uyou Ceylon Guesthouse: Located at a 5-minute walk from Nuwara Eliya bus station and 10-minute walk from city center. The house is super cute, really nice guesthouse owner who looks after you really well.

Nuwara Eliya or Ella or both?

Definitely BOTH!!!!

Ella is more popular among younger travellers, maybe because it has more facilities such as bars, hipster cafes, restaurants with more western menus… Moreover, here you can enjoy the most beautiful nature hiking in Ella’s Rock and Little Adam’s Peak. But the downside of it all, that it is not really authentic.

Nuwara Eliya doesn’t have all that what Ella has. But, therefore it remained more or less untouched and authentic. And, where else can you enjoy an English lifestyle in Asia countries?

A day dreamer who has a passion in roaming around the world getting lost, experiencing new cultures and meeting the locals. I enjoy staying with a local home (i.e couchsurfing) and work with them (i.e workaway)!

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