Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, is one of the nicest places to visit in the country. It is known as “Little England,” as this is the place where the British colonizers built their holiday homes in typical Victorian style.
This small town in the heart of the Hill Country is a nice place to spend a few days to enjoy the landscape which is quite unique, and if anything because the cooler climate will give you a break from the otherwise incessant heat of Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is also the best place to go to admire the gorgeous tea plantations and to find some excellent tea.
In this post, I will highlight all the best places to visit and things to do in Nuwara Eliya, and share some tips to organize your trip there.
These are some good tours of Nuwara Eliya for a nice introduction to the city:
For a full guide about Sri Lanka, make sure to read my post “13 Fabulous Places To Visit In Sri Lanka.”
Make sure to also read my post “Everything You Should Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka.”
13 Places To Visit And Things To Do In Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka
Victoria Park is one of the best places to visit in Nuwara Eliya. This is the main city park and takes its name from that of Queen Victoria. It’s a vast park where you’ll find lots of foreign flowers and trees and where you’ll be able to enjoy a walk away from the chaos of town. What I love about it is that it’s the kind of place where you’ll see local families hang out – sitting down for a picnic, children running around playing ball games and the like.
It costs 300 Rupees to get in, and it’s totally worth the price. With your ticket you also get access to Victoria Park Museum, which has a nice small exhibit of photos from the last 100 years, showing what life used to be like in the region.
Gregory Lake is an artificial lake in the heart of Nuwara Eliya, built between 1872 and 1877 by Governor William Gregory. It was used to play water sports. This is one of the unmissable places to visit in Nuwara Eliya. It’s an urban park with lots of trails, where you’ll be able to hire a boat to go around the lake. It’s the kind of place where you’ll spot plenty of local families at weekend, though to be fair I wouldn’t argue that the views are impressive.
Right outside Nuwara Eliya there are lots of factories for clothes and outdoor gear of large, famous brands. The faulty items as well as the perfect ones usually end up at Bale Bazaar, also called Winter Market since most of the stuff on sale is winter clothing. You’ll be able to get some bargain prices for the best known brand – though make sure to triple check what your are buying and to bargain the prices. If you forgot to pack winter clothes for your trip to Sri Lanka and need something to wear in the cold weather of this region, shopping there is one of the things to do in Nuwara Eliya.
One of the nicest buildings in Nuwara Eliya is the main post office. It is housed in a Tudor Manor that was built in 1894 and it’s one of the oldest post offices in Sri Lanka. Make sure to pass by, if only just for a photo.
Adma Agro Farm
Visiting Adma Agro Farm is one of the coolest things to do in Nuwara Eliya if you like strawberries. Much like in England, strawberries find the chilly weather of this part of Sri Lanka ideal to grow. At Agro Farm you’ll be able to taste them right off the plant!
The Hill Country of Sri Lanka is famous for its tea production, and it is only fair that you try tea there. One of the nicest places to visit in Nuwara Eliya is Pedro Estate, a tea plantation and tea factory where you’ll be able to see the tea making process from the tea being grown in thick bushes and then being picked, to the tea served to customers.
It’s a nice short trip from the center of town. You can take in the views from the estate, then walk its beautiful grounds where you’ll encounter several women busy picking the leaves, and eventually visit the cafeteria where you can enjoy a fabulous cup of tea and also buy some tea to bring home with you.
These are some good guided tours that go to Pedro Estate:
- Private tea factory and tea plucking tour from Nuwara Eliya
- Horton Plains and Pedro Tea Factory from Nuwara Eliya
Hakgala Botanical Gardens
Thought to be the highest botanical gardens in the world, on the way to Badulla, the Hakgala Botanical Gardens are one of the nicest places to visit in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka. It’s somewhat surprising to see the amount of plants that grow here despite the low temperatures, and even more so it’s surprising to find some very rare, precious plants like orchids flourishing.
Horton Plains National Park and World’s End
Horton Plains National Park is a fantastic place you can visit from Nuwara Eliya (it’s at about 30 km from town), where you’ll find an abundance of hiking trails, including the one to the famous World’s End, a massive cliff at the end of a plateau.
If you’d rather join a guided tour to Horton Plains, these are a few good options:
- Horton Plains and Pedro Tea Factory from Nuwara Eliya
- Horton Plains National Park tour
- Horton Plains and Cheese factory tour
- Horton Plains World’s End tour from Nuwara Eliya
- Private guided tour to Horton Plains with a short train ride
One of the least famous places to visit in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, but that is getting increasingly more attention is Moon Plains, This is an area of fields, mountains, forests and lots of walking trails where you can spend a day in the open.
What’s shocking about Moon Plains is that it once was a massive garbage dump where the waste of the city used to be dropped. The area was finally cleared off garbage in 2010 and since then it’s been attracting more and more visitors that go there to hike, bike or even simply drive around the park. Lots of animals live in the park now.
TIP: Try to go to Moon Plains in the morning, before it starts raining, or else the fog will overtake the area and you won’t be able to see much.
Not far from Nuwara Eliya you’ll find some of the most beautiful waterfalls of Sri Lanka, all of them worth visiting. The closest one is Lover’s Leap, which is at a short drive from the center of town and is thought to be one of the nicest ones in the country (though I am a huge fan of Ellewala, near Wellawaya in a more off the beaten path location).
Bomburu Ella Waterfall
This is the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka, and at a close distance from Nuwara Eliya so it’s obvious that you should visit. It’s in the same direction of Moon Plains, so it is a nice addition to a day trip there.
St. Clair’s Falls
St. Clair’s is one of the widest falls in the country and often referred to as the Little Niagara of Sri Lanka. St. Clair’s comprises two smaller falls. The greater fall is Mala Ella; while the smaller one is Kuda Ella. A nice place to admire the falls is the restaurant of The Waterfall Villas.
Devon Falls are located at around 30 minutes drive from town, a bit further from St. Clair’s. Visiting is one of the nicest things to do in Nuwara Eliya – in fact, you can see them both on the same day. The best view of the waterfalls is from Mlesna Tea Castle, where you will be able to enjoy a nice cup of tea.
Practical Tips To Organize Your Trip To Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka
Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya has a very good selection of accommodation options, as it is a popular destination for both locals and foreigners. There are some excellent boutique and luxury hotels and some very good budget options.
This is a selection of good places to stay in Nuwara Eliya:
- Oatlands by Jetwing is an excellent hotel in what looks like a Victorian cottage. Rooms are decorated in traditional Victorian style; they are large and comfortable. Breakfast is served at the nearby St. Andrew’s. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Perera Homestay is an excellent middle range option, with comfortable clean rooms. You can ask the owners to cook meals for an extra price. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Hike and Sleep is a very good option for travelers on a budget. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Nuwara Eliya
It’s actually very easy to travel around Sri Lanka independently, but if you aren’t a fan or organizing your trips or prefer leaving the tedious bits to the experts, you can count on some fantastic guided tours. These are the best tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Nuwara Eliya:
- Sri Lanka encompassed – a 14 day G Adventures tour goes to the most popular tourist attractions of Sri Lanka, including Nuwara Eliya.
- Discover Sri Lanka – a 12 day G Adventures and National Geographic tour that will go to fewer places, which you’ll explore in more depth.
- Sri Lanka on a shoestring – a 12 day G Adventures tour ideal for travelers on a budget.
- Sri Lanka heritage sites – a 6 day tour that goes to all the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
How to get to Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, for both local tourists and for foreigners, so it is fairly well connected to the rest of the country via a web of buses and trains.
Traveling by train is one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka. Trains are slow, but the rides are very enjoyable as they go through the countryside and tea plantations and you’ll be afforded magnificent views. Though there is no train station in Nuwara Eliya, there is one in Nanu Oya, which is at just 9 km from the center of town. Nanu Oya is connected by train to Ella and to Kandy.
One thing to keep in mind is that though train tickets are very cheap, good seats in first class sell out quickly. Second class doesn’t have assigned seats so for chances of getting a first class seat make sure to head to the station very early or to buy tickets in advance. You can get train tickets to travel from Kandy to Nanu Oya here.
Are you visiting Kandy? Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Kandy.”
Make sure to check out my post “A Complete Guide To Galle.”
Nuwara Eliya is well connected to the rest of Sri Lanka by bus. I arrived there from Kandy (unfortunately I couldn’t get train tickets as I made it to the train station way too late) and it was a pleasant ride, if only a but too long and on a windy road.
Public transportation in Sri Lanka works well. Buses can get very crowded, and it won’t be comfortable to jump on when you have your big backpacks with you. People however are very friendly, especially women who will always keep an eye on solo female travelers and help them get a seat on the bus, and then chat with them throughout the journey.
The good news is that depending on where you are traveling from, you can actually book a bus and a seat. If you are traveling from Colombo, you can book your bus here.
By private transfer
I know some people rent tuk tuks and drive around Sri Lanka. I’m not sure I’d do it – traffic can be a bit crazy there at times. If you aren’t a fan of public transportation, you can hire a private driver to take you around for your trip, but you’ll have to haggle prices.
If you are only looking for a ride from Colombo, you can book your transfer here.
How to move around Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya is easy to explore on foot, but if you plan to visit the surroundings you will have to either use the convenient and cheap – if only a bit uncomfortable – buses, or hire a tuk tuk. Remember to bargain the prices of tuk tuks.
When to visit Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
According to one theory, Nuwara Eliya is called “Little England” because of the Victorian style buildings. Frankly, I believe it’s called so because it rains every single day. If this is bad news, however, don’t worry so much: the rain normally starts at around 1:00 PM, so this leaves you plenty of time to explore outside in the morning. Besides, knowing that it rains throughout the year, you won’t have to worry about planning in order to avoid rain.
Though the temperatures in Sri Lanka tend to be hot, Nuwara Eliya is actually mostly chilly and in fact you will feel cold in the evenings, so I recommend packing a jacket and a sweater for your visit.
Having said that, remember that Sri Lanka has two monsoon seasons, so try to plan the rest of your trip to avoid rain as much as possible.
Other useful information
Beware that you will need a visa to enter Sri Lanka. You can easily apply for your visa online here.
I also recommend getting a good travel insurance. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
For more readings about Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, you can read one of these books: