I have to admit, I love Nuwara Eliya. I have been there twice (few years apart) and every time I found interesting things to do in Nuwara Eliya that would keep me floating through the clouds with a sip of freshly brewed Sri Lankan tea. This list of Places to visit in Nuwara Eliya is a collection from two of my trips.
Incredible Places to Visit in Nuwara Eliya
This list includes some activities that require short distance travels out of the city to reach. Nuwara Eliya sits in the middle of a great treasure of waterfalls, plains and mountains.
Best Temples in Nuwara Eliya
Sita Mata Temple
Sita Mata Temple is located 4.5 kilometers (from the bus station) outside of the town. Just ask around for the buses that go to the temple. But, a warning, don’t be frustrated with the fact that you may have to ask a few different people before you get the right information, unless you can speak Tamil. Not many can speak English. That’s not to say its hard to travel in Sri Lanka. There are tons of backpackers making their way through.
Sita Mata Temple has a great significance in Hindu mythology. This temple is believed to be the site where Sita was held captive by Ravana. Refer to Ramayana for the story of Rama and Sita.
Single Tree Temple
Single Tree Temple, a Hindu temple, is approximately 2.5km from the bus station. If you are up for walking around through the neighborhoods of Nuwara Eliya, it’s a good idea to attempt to walk to Single Tree Temple. If you are at the temple, walk another 1.5 KMs to reach the top of Single Tree Hill to get a spectacular view of Lake Gregory and the mountain town of Nuwara Eliya. I recommend visiting the temple and the hike up to hill at sunset time for the best view.
Sri Muththumari Amman Kovil
The Hindu temple was built in late 1800s and it is one of the oldest temples in the town of Nuwara Eliya only ~3KMs from the city center. Go on an auspicious day to the temple, you are highly likely to witness a Sri Lankan Tamil wedding and the elaborate ceremonies. Goddess in this temple is believed to bless families for fertility. Perhaps the reason for wedding here.
Swarnagiri Maha Viharaya
Just a couple of meters away from Single Tree Temple, this Burmese Buddhist monastery is where you are highly likely to find solitude even on a busy day in the town. Take your time to walk around and enjoy the view from the hill overlooking the city for an unforgettable sight.
Another simple and unassuming Hindu temple with Ramayana significance in Nuwara Eliya. It is believed that Indrajeeth, son of Ravan, performed his Shiva Tapa here. The temple is known for the 108 lingas in a small space.
Best Churches in Nuwara Eliya
Holy Trinity Church
Built in mid 1800s, this church is a must visit if you are in Nuwara Eliya. If you only have time to visit one Church, this would be it. In 1954 Queen Victoria attended a mass at this church and gifted some of the stain glasses that adorn the church.
This church is also home to the largest mechanically operated Piano in Asia. It is played by pumping air by paddle, using legs. 15 feet in height and 6 feet in width. At least see this huge instrument, the church is well worth a visit.
St. Xavier’s Church
Situated in the middle of the town, St. Xavier’s Church is a small quaint church atop a slope of Nuwara Eliya city. A simple church that was built during colonial times, and still a place of worship for locals.
AOG Church Nuwara Eliya
Almost hard to recognize as the building looks like a colonial style house than a church. If you are looking for a service in English, this is the church to go to.
St. Paul the Hermit Church
Situated in Pedro Tea Estate area surrounded by the tea plantations, this blue painted church is indeed surreal for it’s location, colors and view of the valley. Absolutely worth visiting. When I went there in 2009 first, there was barely anyone around, however the second time around, I noticed that the church is getting popular among tourists.
St. Anthony’s Church
Bit outside the town. However, if you are visiting the Windy Corner Falls, this church is only another 1.5 km from the waterfall. Just a simple, stone walled church setup where you can get an opportunity to quiet your mind.
Waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya
If you google Waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya, you might see 10s of waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya. I just want to warn you that most of them require one hour or more travel to reach them. I have visited a couple of those as well. However, since we are talking about best waterfalls to see in Niwara Eliya, I will limit to waterfalls that are within in closer proximity to the city center.
Lover’s Leap Waterfall
On route to Pedro Tea Plantation, a cute little waterfall in the hills surrounding the tea estates. We took a tuk-tuk to the point where they drop you off at the bottom of the hill. It’s a short 30 minute through the village as the locals go about living their lives such as picking tea leaves.
As I was walking through, I had the pleasure of talking to the locals as I speak Tamil. It was really amazing to connect with them and learn how they got there.
One woman I spoke to said she is originally from Trichy, Tamil Nadu. Her family moved here to work as tea pickers. It’s hard work she said. But, they got used to it. She hopes to save money to visit her home town in future. It’s a Rs 20,000 (~$150 USD) round trip ticket to Trichy and back.
I almost felt like buying her the flight ticket on the spot. I even offered her. She laughed…..
Back to Lover’s Leap Waterfall – It’s a small waterfall but well worth the effort to get there. Not for the waterfall, but for the scenery around it and to get a glimpse of real life of Sri Lanka.
Galwala Ella Falls
Pretty close to Lover’s Leap Waterfall, Galwala Ella Falls is another one among the tea estates enriching the local lives. Not as tall as it’s neighbor, this one is used by the locals as a source of drinking water. I met a few women fetching water from here for their everyday chores.
You can actually climb up to the top of the hill to see the source of the waterfall.
If you happen to be there during the rainy season or right after the recent rains, you might be lucky to get a view of this seasonal waterfall that can be seen from the Udupussellawa road near Nuwara Eliya Race Course.
Thanks to excessive deforestation, once a perennial waterfall dried up becoming a seasonal waterfall at the mercy of rain.
Windy Corner Falls
If you are up for some off the beaten path hike to see the top of a waterfall, this is the one for you.
Find Hotel Silver Falls at Blackpool junction towards Nanu Oya. The waterfall is located right opposite to the hotel and you would have to hike up the hill to see the top of the waterfall. There is no access to see it from the bottom. This is not generally listed as a touristy things to do for the same reason that you can’t view it without walking up the hill to go to the top.
Royal Turf Club Nuwara Eliya
Race course Royal Turf Club is located smack in the middle of Nuwara Eliya at the end of Victoria Park.
During Sri Lankan New Year in April, locals get together at popular places in Nuwara Eliya. Royal Turf Club, the horse race course is one of them. This is the only functional race course in entire Sri Lanka. And popular for the fact that it is located at 1868 m above sea level and is a 1800 m long course.
Right outside the race course, there will be tons of vendors with ponies trying to sell you or the kids the horse ride. Kids might enjoy, but it’s just a touristy thing to do in Nuwara Eliya.
Nuwara Eliya Golf Club
If you are into golf, treat yourself to a 9 holes or 18 holes here at the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club. It’s a cool welcome after a spending hot days out in the direct sun to hang out among the tall trees in the Golf course Nuwara Eliya.
Even if you are not into the game, you can still enjoy the view of Nuwara Eliya Golf club from the patio bar that serves three course lunch and dinner.
Want to soak in the golf course environment ? You can even stay here at the rooms they have available.
Tea Estates in Nuwara Eliya
Well, you are in the paradise of Sri Lankan tea estates. But, it can be overwhelming to know where to go and which ones to visit.
Nevertheless, there are some popular ones and almost every hotel / hostel will have a tie up with tea estates to bring tourists.
I personally chose to take a bus down towards Kandy and stopped at a Tea factory on my own without going with a tour group.
I personally loved that experience. Mind it, I blend in with locals as I am originally from South India. But, usually my backpacks and camera give it away. But, you get the point.
There are really a great variety of tea estates to pick from. I will list out only those that are at a closer proximity to Nuwara Eliya.
Pedro Tea Factory
Pedro Tea Factory is probably the most popular in the area. They do charge 300 Sri Lankan Rupees to visit the factory tour that ends with tea tasting.
Park Green Tea Factory
Park Green Tea Estate and Factory is located 12 km from Nuwara Eliya town. At the elevation of approximately 6,500 ft above sea level, is one the green tea producing plants in Sri Lanka. Another great tea estate to visit and hike among the tea plants.
Blue Field Tea Factory
Almost 40 KM away from Nuwara Eliya city center. But, well worth the visit.
Nuwara-Eliya Estate Tea Factory
Another world class tea estate worth navigating through.
It has become a ritual to stop by to take pictures with the tea-pickers. I have done that too. It does look picture perfect as they pick tea leaves, the subject among the lush green mountain background. They do accept tips if you give them. Who knows you might put a real smile in someone’s face by giving them a Rs 100.
Nuwara Eliya Hikes
Tea Estate Walks
As discussed in the preview section about Tea Estates, almost any tour guide will take you around for walking among the lush tea plantations for a short or a long hike. You just have to ask around. These are usually not a marked trail heads that you can follow. It’s better to go with local guides or as a part of an organized tour.
Single Tree Hill
This hike can be done on your own. Description is in given in the Single Tree Temple section.
Horton Plains National Park
An hour drive away from Nuwara Eliya city is Horton Plains National Park. It’s totally worth it to take a half day trip to Horton Plains to hike if you have that extra time.
Lover’s Leap Fall and other waterfall are some of the short hikes you will find in the town.
However, if you want to get a workout from visiting Nuwara Eliya, I highly recommend just walk everywhere. Since you are already in the mountains, a walk itself is a hike as there are no flat roads.
Neighborhoods to Visit in Nuwara Eliya
Take a walk through the villages to go to Shantipura for sunset. Shantipura is the village located at the highest altitude in Sri Lanka. It is certainly a beautiful hike, but it goes through some random unmarked roads. So, its better to get someone who works at the hostel/hotel to go with you. We paid 300RS to the guide for the walk.
The walk and views were well worth it.
Last time we were there, you couldn’t attempt going to Moon Plains on your own. It has to be attempted as a part of an organized Jeep safari tours that take 6-8 people at time. But, absolutely worth the trip. Stunning view of the valley from the top of the hill. It gets really windy up at the top. If you get cold easily, do carry a jacket of a wrap with you.
Gardens & Lakes in Nuwara Eliya
Right in the middle of the town, this simple yet well maintained park gives the much needed shade and trees for a nap in the middle of the afternoon. Don’t expect much from the park. There are benches to hang out and you will meet lot of locals hanging out there.
Galway’s Land National Park
Piduruthalagala Mountain Entrance
Hakgala Botanical Garden
You can never miss the gorgeous mountain lake gregory if you are in Nuwara Eliya. You can walk around the lake for a good workout.
There are play structures around the lake for kids. Also, you can rent a boat at the lake for a ride across.
Absolutely worth hanging out in the evening as the area is nicely lit up where the locals also hang out.
Local Markets in Nuwara Eliya
If you are anything like me, I enjoy visit the local farmers market where locals shop for their everyday life. This is a great way to get a feel for real deal local fruits and veggies.
Central Market Nuwara Eliya
Located at New Bazaar Street in the middle of the town, this market is open everyday. You can visit pretty much anytime and visual feast is guaranteed.
As the name suggests, this weekend fair that opens at 6AM on a Saturday morning is a great place to buy inexpensive fruits that you might not have ever tried before.
Festivals in Nuwara Eliya
If you want to get a feel for how Sri Lankans celebrate their festivals abundantly, you got to be there in the month of April. Nuwara Eliya comes alive as the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year in April is welcomed with local school bands performing their best.
This is the month filled with great deal of activities in the town with horse races, golf tournaments and temple festivals. If you plan to visit this beautiful mountain town in April, be sure to book your hotel rooms ahead of time.
By now, hope I convinced to visit Nuwara Eliya for at least 2.5 days, and take in everything this hilly town has to offer. I am already nostalgic as I am wrapping up this article. Miss you Sri Lanka and Nuwara Eliya. Until next time…
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