Things to do in Nuwara Eliya
By Shafiya Nawzer
Nuwara Eliya is a city in the tea country hills of Central Sri Lanka. Known for the lush green mountains, it is blessed with a temperate winter, rolling green hills and a dramatic waterfall. Also well known as Little England, because the British settlers built their holiday bungalows here in the Victorian style, 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 must visit the tea estates. Last weekend I visited Nuwara Eliya; this is my first time travelling to the hills since the pandemic.
The global outbreak of the COVID-19 virus is having a major impact on travel. The tourism economy has been heavily hit by the pandemic, and measures introduced to contain its spread. During my stay, I only stayed and ate at locally owned restaurants. You could also support them by purchasing local artisans, crafts and souvenirs made locally. Here are a few things you can opt for during your next visit to Nuwara Eliya.
Visit Lake Gregory and enjoy a boat ride
Situated in the city’s heart, Gregory Lake is counted amongst the best places to visit in Nuwara Eliya. The artificial lake exudes scenic beauty and is counted amongst the most popular Nuwara Eliya tourist attractions. A boat ride across the lake surrounded by charming hill views will add an element of fun to your Nuwara Eliya holiday. You can try water scooter or a swan paddle boat to thoroughly explore the lake; I would personally recommend you try Jet Ski or the jet boat which is quite a unique boat ride.
Go on a Waterfall hike
Nuwara Eliya is home to numerous breath-taking waterfalls like the Lovers Leap Waterfall, St. Clair’s Falls, Bomburu Ella Waterfall, and Laxapana Falls. A waterfall hike is one of the most remarkable things to do in Nuwara Eliya. Hiking up to a cascading waterfall with your partner and basking in the unparalleled beauty of nature can turn out to be an unforgettable experience. Devon Falls is located closer to Thalawakelle Town, and you can get here by taxi or tuk tuk. Although you can get a clear view of Devon Falls from Hatton - Nuwara Eliya main road - you also have the option to walk about 1 km through the woods to get a closer look. Located close to Devon Falls in Thalawakelle is a three-tiered cascade waterfall with extensive tea plantations on either side of it. St. Clair’s is one of the widest waterfalls in the country, and is popularly known as the ‘Little Niagara of Sri Lanka.’
Victoria Park is a well-maintained park situated in the heart of Nuwara Eliya. It is the perfect place for family outings where you can enjoy watching exotic birds, and some rare flowering plants. The park also has a children’s play area, and some rides, that make the place enjoyable for all ages alike.
The pretty flowers, serene ponds, and many other scenic spots in the park would also make it an excellent location for clicking beautiful instagramable photographs.
Pedro Tea Estate
Sri Lanka has a huge number of tea estates in Nuwara Eliya. The lush greenery and aromatic air make these plantations one of the best places to see in Nuwara Eliya. It is enjoyable to see the process that goes on to create this simple drink every day. This will also very educational for the kids. They also let visitors go around the plantation sites and enjoy the aroma and beauty. It can be reached by local buses or tuk tuk. It is one of the most uncommon places to visit in Nuwara Eliya. You can take a 20-minute guided tour of the plantation factories, originally built in 1885 and still packed with 19th-century engineering marvels.
Visit Ambewela Farm
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.
No visit to Nuwara Eliya is complete without a visit to the Adma Agro Farm or Jagro. Strawberries love colder weather and Nuwara Eliya is perfect for them. The enchanting fields of the strawberry are a great backdrop for the photographers who are trying to capture the scenic beauty of Nuwara Eliya. It becomes one of the best places in Nuwara Eliya during the strawberry season. The visitors can go around the plantation and pick up their own strawberries.
St Francis Xavier’s Church
St. Francis Xavier’s Church is one of the most revered churches in Sri Lanka and the first to be built in Nuwara Eliya. It was built in 1838, and it took nearly ten years to complete the structure you see today.
You can pay a visit to admire the church's colonial architecture, learn about its long-standing history, and spend some time in its serene ambience. There are several interesting paintings inside the church worth observing as well. Anyone can pay a visit to the church during its opening hours.
Hakgala Botanic Gardens
If you want to explore rare plant and flower varieties, Hakgala Botanic Gardens is the place to go. There’s quite a lot to see here, so allocate a few hours to enjoy the site fully.
Hakgala Botanic Gardens was established in 1861 and was initially a place of cultivation to experiment with crops like tea. The Gardens are famous for their eye-catchy collections of orchids and roses that are best enjoyed during the spring season (March - April) in Nuwara Eliya.
Some other noteworthy places here are the Rock Garden, the Upper Flower Garden, the Arboretum, and the Bulb Garden. If you don’t feel like walking but still want to enjoy every special place in the garden, you can hire a golf cart service to take you around.