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When working out what to do in Sri Lanka, make sure you spend at least a 2 or 3 days in Nuwara Eliya.
It is one of the most unique and spectacular areas of the country. Nestled high away in the mountains, it’s almost like an entirely different world.
Filled with an abundance of gorgeous green tea plantations and they have more than their fair share of rain as well ... It’s no wonder they call it Little England!
To help make your stay as enjoyable as possible, here is our go-to list of the 16 best things to do in Nuwara Eliya at any time of the year.
But first up ...
Getting to Nuwara Eliya is pretty straightforward, as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. You have a number of different options. One being to rent a tuk tuk and drive there yourself. Another being to catch a bus in, which you can do so from most other major towns nearby.
Alternatively, and probably your best choice, is to get the train! This part of Sri Lanka is famous for being incredibly beautiful. Trains between Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and Ella offer some of the most spectacular views you’ll get anywhere in the country. So don't worry, you certainly won't miss out by taking the train.
There are a number of tour operators who operate from different points around the country. So, if you're just interested in a short trip in and around Nuwara Eliya, then that’s also an option Here are two tours being offered by GetYourGuide that might work for you:
Don't worry, we don't expect you to spend ages trying to find and locate all of these paces on a map! To help you, I’ve gone ahead and created a complete Nuwara Eliya travel map. Here you go …
As for getting to and from each of these incredible places to visit, you have a few choices.
Right in the heart of Nuwara Eliya, you have Gregory Lake. It’s a large open body of water that is easily visible from points all across Nuwara Eliya.
Many people visiting the area will then choose to go jet skiing on Gregory lake. Or, if you want something a little more chilled out and romantic, then hire a swan out for an hour.
You can also park up and walk around whole sections of the lake, which is something we got to do whilst there. Or, if you’d simply like to gaze at it from your room, consider staying one of these hotels in Nuwara Eliya near Gregory Lake.
The heart of Nuwara Eliya can seem a little busy, and there’s certainly a decent amount of noise going on from all the traffic. Well, Victoria Park is sort of like a haven away from that surrounding noise and busyness.
The Victoria Park entrance fee is only 300 Rupees, and you can spend as long as you want strolling around the gardens or relaxing on a park bench. You also have the Victoria Park museum there as well.
It's only small, but showcases lots of old Nuwara Eliya photos from the last 100 years or so. They show you what life was like in the area, back when it was under British influence. It’s fascinating to see how the area has evolved and what construction was like when the railways were built.
Lover’s Leap waterfall in Nuwara Eliya is definitely something you can't afford to miss. It’s a very short drive from the centre of town and is one of the nicest waterfalls in the entire country.
It also has a rather fascinating history, at least if you believe the local folklore. As the story goes, a local prince once fell in love with a girl, but the two were forbidden to be together.
The whole saga ends with them jumping to their deaths from the waterfall, hand in hand. How true this is, or whether there have been any cases since, is yet unclear to me. But either way, it’s a nice spot to visit.
About a 20 to 30 minute drive from Nuwara Eliya, you have two breathtaking falls that it would be a shame to miss. They are both very close to one another, but Devon falls is slightly further away.
There are a few spots where it’s nice to stop and see them. However, I recommend doing what we did, which was to visit the Mlesna Tea Castle. Yes, you read that right, somebody built a tea room in the shape of an actual castle!
You can sit upstairs on the balcony and gaze out over the farm whilst enjoying a nice warm cup of tea. Or cold cup of iced tea, if that’s your thing. Don’t forget the cake ...
I recommend enjoying the beauty of St Clair’s Falls from The Waterfall Villas by Yoho. This resort has a wonderful restaurant situated in a prime spot on the mountainside. They have large glass windows running all the way along, allowing you to sit and eat your meal with a view.
The food is also incredibly cheap! The drive to both of these falls takes you through the winding mountain roads, and offers incredible views out over the local tea plantations. So it’s worth visiting Devon Falls and St Clair’s Falls for this reason alone.
If like me you’re a massive fan of golf, why not head out for a round while you’ve got the chance? The imaginatively-named Nuwara Eliya Golf Club is situated right in the heart of Nuwara Eliya and is surprisingly cheap for a round.
You can play and rent out everything you need for around 8400 rupees in total. That even includes a caddy to go around with you. Unfortunately, I don't get chance to play as the weather was incredibly rainy after our first day there.
However, it really would be a special place to play. The course dates all the way back to 1889 and is one of the oldest golf courses anywhere in Asia. It is also one of the very few golf courses you’ll find during your travels in Sri Lanka.
One of the more uncommon places to visit in Nuwara Eliya is the Seetha Amman temple. It’s quite a special place as it’s the only Sita temple in Sri Lanka.
It is also quite a sacred spot. And if you're interested in discovering more about the history of the area in which the temple is built, I recommend checking out this article here.
You will likely pass the Seetha Amman temple on your way out of Nuwara Eliya towards Ella. So there really is no excuses not to stop off!
Just 1km away from the Seetha Amman temple, you have the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. This is the second biggest botanical garden anywhere in Sri Lanka and is one of only 4 others.
Due to the comparatively low annual temperature of this region of the country, those who manage the garden have been able to grow some incredibly rare species of plants. Many of which you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the country.
It is by far one of the most popular things to see in Nuwara Eliya as the park draws in up to 100,000 guests a year. All to see more than 10,000 species of flora.
It is hard to recommend any particular tea factory, as it would take weeks for me to explore all of them! In fact, the entire route up from Kandy to Ella is littered with spectacular tea plantations.
Most of which have an accompanying factory and tea rooms for visitors. My advice would be to simply head out for the day exploring the other wonderful things to see and do in and around Nuwara Eliya.
At some point, you’ll feel a bit tired and decide it’s time for a rest. This is exactly what we did and were not disappointed with any of the places we decided to stop off at.
When you visit and experience the astonishing beauty of Moon Plains, you’ll be horrified to discover this area was once the site of a vast garbage heap. Waste from Nuwara Eliya was deposited here for years, before being finally cleared in 2010.
Now, the area attracts thousands of visitors every single year. Many choosing to either hike, cycle or drive through the park. The top thing to do in Moon Plains would be to climb Mini World's End.
It offers panoramic views of the area, as long as it’s not a foggy day of course! You also have the chance to spot a wild array of wildlife. The area is home to everything through from wild elk to leopards. The latter of which are a lot rarer.
If Mini World’s End doesn't get your blood pumping, maybe it’s time to head on out to Adam’s Peak. Full disclaimer here … we didn't actually get to climb this ourselves!
We were pretty gutted to discover that it’s not very safe to climb it in October due to the heavy rainfall, large amounts of mist and lack of lighting. In fact, you’ll find very few people climbing it during the off season.
Instead, thousands flock there to climb up in time for sunrise during the busy months. As we haven't been, I recommend checking out this guide on climbing Adam’s Peak and what you need to do to prepare.
Most of the tea plantations in the area seem to be pretty much open access. Because there are so many hundreds of thousands of trees, you don't have to worry about finding areas fenced off with barbed wire.
Instead, you could simply stop off and head out for a nice peaceful walk amongst the plantations. On your way, you’ll come across lots of women out working the fields.
Many of whom will likely offer to pose for you in exchange for a hundred or so rupees. Which is a big deal for them as they are paid a surprisingly low wage for such arduous work (at least by Western standards of pay).
One of the most famous Nuwara Eliya points of interest is Horton’s Plains. This vast open park is actually around 30 km from Nuwara Eliya, but is still one of the most visited spots as this is the closest major city.
There isn't one simple route you can take upon entering the park. Instead, the area includes 3 major rivers and numerous peaks you can choose to hike up. The most famous being World’s End.
It’s also very popular for nature enthusiasts as you have the chance to spot and photograph a whole array of local wildlife. If you need some inspiration for a route, then this is a good place to start.
What makes Bomburu Ella waterfall so significant is that it’s the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka. And is in fact made up of multiple smaller waterfalls.
As an added bonus, getting to Bomburu Ella waterfall is pretty easy as it’s so close to Nuwara Eliya. Many choose to visit either before or after Moon Plains, as they are each in the same direction.
This is the 4th and final waterfall that I will recommend on this list. But don't worry, there are plenty more to enjoy! All unique and spectacular in their own rite! To find even more, check out this post on the best Nuwara Eliya waterfalls.
With so many interesting places to visit in Nuwara Eliya, why not just hire a bicycle for the day and get lost? You could spend a whole day alone exploring the old British architecture seen in buildings in town. Such as the Old Post Office.
Yep, not only did us Brits leave behind a golf course in Nuwara Eliya, we also helped them to build a race track! And the Royal Turf Club is still in use today during the summer months.
As such, we didn't get to see any races whilst we were there, but would certainly have gone if we had the chance. However, what we did get to see were plenty of horses.
As opposed to stabling them, many owners seem to tie their horses to a tree at the side of a busy road and let them get on with it all day! So steer clear of any rogue stallions if you’re out and about on the roads.
If you’ve been to Nuwara Eliya before and have anything else to add, then I’d love to hear from you below! Just add in a comment with any more beautiful things to do in Nuwara Eliya that you think I’ve missed out.