Nuwara Eliya is the highest town in Sri Lanka with a cool sparkling climate with the temperature changing around 13 degrees centigrade. This is and exquisite and healthy city famous for its wide range of flowers. With buildings of English architecture everywhere in the city, it is affectionately called little England. On the way to Nuwara Eliya, you could visit a tea plantation and a tea factory, where the best tea in the world is produced. Here you could observe all about the process of manufacturing tea. You can also see how tea is graded. Taste a cup of pure Ceylon tea in the factory.
Many assume that the history of Nuwara Eliya begins with the British colonial period, though some experts claim that the town may have a history that goes back more than 6,000 years. Part of an inscription found by the British and still preserved in the District Secretary's office is an attestation to this fact as it is said to consist of letterings prohibiting any from entering the area..
The rediscovery of Nuwara Eliya, popularly known as “Little England” from the beginning of its colonisation is attributed to a surgeon by the name of Dr John Davy, who stumbled across the grassland around 1818. Afterwards from time to time Nuwara Eliya was a hunting ground, a sanatorium and holiday resort for the British, who craved a bit of home away from home in the cool climate. And with the initiation of tea plantations more and more British colonials, including Sir Edward Barnes, Governor of Ceylon (1824-1831) and Sir Samuel Baker sought to settle in Nuwara Eliya. In order to provide for the basic necessities, traders from southern Ceylon also came to the hill country, thus establishing a colony
ATTRACTIONS WITHIN NUWARA ELIYA CITY
If you are to step into the middle of the town, the post office with its red brick exterior is bound to capture your eye. More than 100 years old and currently under renovation, it is said to have been built in the Tudor style, and has a clock-spire rising from one side. Also in the town of Nuwara Eliya is the St Xaviers Church, initiated in 1838 with its current Structure being built during 1848. Light brown in hue, the architecture of the church follows a pattern that seems to be a recurrent theme in Nuwara Eliya, be it a new build or one that dates back to the colonial era. With its pews that continue all the way to the altar and grand interior, the church was pervaded with the spiritual essence that seems to attract many to seek the blessings of the lord. Though not a time for mass, there still were many devotees knelt in front of statues placed around the church, deep in prayer, their lips moving silently, perhaps beseeching solace
THE QUEEN’S COTTAGE
The Queen’s Cottage nestled in the midst of an extensive green landscape stands out in its ivory grandeur and is currently the vacationing residence of the President. Originally built as an English country house, the architecture is predominately colonial with a fair dose of sophistication and has been the residence of countless Governors of Ceylon who came to Nuwara Eliya to escape the tropical heat of Colombo.
THE GRAND HOTEL
One of the most iconic buildings in the town is the Grand Hotel, declared a national heritage site in the 1990s. A grand old building set amidst manicured lawns, the structure was first built by the then Governor, Edward Barnes, in the late 1820s as a holiday residence and was named Barnes Hall. After Barnes’ departure, it was rented and purchased by successive governors and planters before finally coming to the ownership of Nuwara Eliya Hotels who changed the single storey building into an elegant structure with more additions throughout the ensuing years turning the governor’s residency to an architecturally celebrated hotel.
HIIL CLUB CEYLON
Next to the Grand Hotel is the Hill Club, built in 1876, which holds a striking contrast to the white clad Grand Hotel with its grey stoned façade. Established by coffee, cinchona and tea planters and rising two storeys, the building is surrounded by a charming garden and a walkway that leads to its grand entrance. Hill Club Nuwara Eliya was founded in 1876. The original building which served as a club house was centered around the present billiard room. Today Hill Club Nuwara Eliya is a private resort. The Hill Club, No: 29, Grand Hotel Road, Nuwara Eliya
QUEEN VICTORIA PARK
Queen Victoria Park is located at Nuwara Eliya town centre. Victoria Park consist of 27 acres of land. It was named to commemorate the 60th jubilee coronation of Queen Victoria in the year 1897. Queen Victoria Park was originally used as the research field of Hakgala Botanical garden. In the late 19th century a German Princess planted an Oak tree in this research field, and that’s the beginning of the park. Nanu Oya tributary flows across the Queen Victoria Park.
Gregory Lake is located at Nuwara Eliya and is 4 kilometers from Nuwara Eliya town along the Badulla road. Gregory’s Lake was constructed between 1872 – 1877 by Governor William Gregory. This was constructed by building a dam across the Thalagala stream, which is the main tributary of Nanu Oya. At that time, the main purpose of such lake is to generate hydropower electricity for Nuwara Eliya town. The sight of the lake in the midst of green lawns and hills imparted a breathtaking picture. Clear blue skies, horses grazing peacefully, and small houses dotting the landscape made us feel as if we had stepped into another world or even a country that is not quite part of Sri Lanka. People were leisurely walking about the paved pathways that ran alongside the lake while countless others were paddling in swan boats or passenger boats in the waters.
RACE COURSE NUWARA ELIYA
Nuwara Eliya Race Course is a one of the highest in the World, located at 6128 feet above sea level. In the British era John Baker, who bred and trained racing horses, built a race course around a small hill on his land. Gradually the practice of horse racing developed along with the race course.
The Sri Lanka Turf Club holds its annual race meet between 9th and 23rd April at the Nuwara Eliya Race Course. The Governor’s Cup is held on 16th April each year.
ROYAL NUWARA ELIYA GOLF CLUB
If you prefer some putting on the green, visit the Royal Nuwara Eliya Golf Club opposite the Victoria Park. Not long ago, it was the exclusive preserve of its members but no longer. These days it welcomes paying guests who are allowed to make use of the fairways to play an 18-hole game of golf. Set in 100 acres of beautifully-tended green fairways with bunkers and with streams coming into play on six holes, the 1881-established club is affiliated to the famous Royal Golf Club of St Andrews in Scotland and also to the Royal Colombo Golf Club.
Behind the golf club lie the remains of Captain William Rogers of the Ceylon Rifles Regiment who is said to have shot over a thousand elephants. In 1845 at the age of 41, he was struck down by lighting. Death does not appear to have absolved him from his wrongs. His grave, it is said, is still struck by lightning every year.
ATTRACTIONS OUTSIDE NUWARA ELIYA CITY
Mountain – Piduruthalagala – is the highest point in Sri Lanka, overlooking the town to the north. You cannot walk to the top anymore but there is a small path off Water field Drive that leads to a waterfall. From there, the hikers can follow the river up via seven more waterfalls – a neat hike for adventurous folk! This journey goes as far as the 7000 foot marker.
Horton Plains National Park – The town is a base for visits to Horton Plains National Park. This is a key wildlife area of open grassy woodland. Species found here include the Leopard, Sambar, and the endemic Purple-faced Langur. Endemic highland birds include the Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, and Yellow-eared Bulbul. The plains also has a well-visited tourist attraction at World’s End, a sheer precipice with a 1050 m drop. The return walk passes the scenic Baker Falls. Early morning visits are best, both to see the wildlife, and to view World’s End before mists close in during the later part of the morning.
Hakgala Botanical Garden – is one of the three Botanical Gardens in Sri Lanka and is the second largest Garden in Sri Lanka. it lies under the Hakgala Peak, between 5000-6000 feet in elevation – the highest set Botanical Gardens in the world. It boasts 100 year old Monetary Cypress trees from California, Japanese Cedars, Himalayan Pines and English Oak.
The Botanical Garden is first as a cinchona plantation and then adapted to an experimental garden for the acclimatization of plants from temperate zones in the tropics. Here can be found all the flowers of an English cottage garden in spring and summer, and much else besides – such as the oldest tea-bush in the island, an ornamental pond and quaint summerhouse. Hakgala (Jaw Rock) rises a sheet 1500 ft/460 meters and offers one of the most stunning views ever. Legend says it was part of the Himalayas carried here by the Monkey God – Hanuman in his quest to help God-Rama rescue Goddess – Sita from the demon king – Ravana. Sita-Eliya, site of Sita’s imprisonment, stands a mere mile away, with the Hindu Temple called “Seetha Kovil” (Hanuman Kovil). The temple is located in the village called “Seetha Eliya”. The area is related to the Ramayana story in Hinduism. Folklore says that the mighty king Ravana kidnapped princess Seeta who was the queen of Rama and hid her in the place where the temple now is.