Nuwara Eliya, a Sri Lankan treat of tea, lakes and high peaks

If thinking of Sri Lanka conjures up a natural paradise, green landscapes, tea estates, intoxicating food flavors, and beautiful wildlife in your mind, you are not too far from the truth. One of the best places to experience the country’s natural landscape, Nuwara Eliya is a must-see in Sri Lanka for every first-time traveler.

After our stay in Galle and a quick jaunt to Yala National Park, my friends and I headed back to Colombo for the second episode of our mutual friend Raashid’s wedding (where I regret not having had the time to get myself a bright colorful saari), right after which we were off again. This time, destination Nuwara Eliya.

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The giant brigades coming back home from the river.

If thinking of Sri Lanka holidays makes you yearn for nature and Ceylon tea, then Nuwara Eliya is the real deal.

Plus, if you go with locals, your experience will be priceless. My friends and I were lucky enough to go with Raashid, his wife and his family, which allowed us not only to save time looking for the must-see attractions but also to actually find the absolute not to miss places to visit in Nuwara Eliya.

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Baby elephants playing in Nuwara Eliya

On our way from Colombo, we stopped at the famous Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala, where we arrived just in time to see the giant, sweet herd making its way back home after refreshing and drinking at the nearby river. Just in time to see the towering creatures feeding on scrubby hay, sharing their treat with their own or adopted calves and breaking tree trunks with the grace of, well, an elephant.

Before leaving, just when we thought we had seen it all, everybody stopped at the sight of two baby elephants playing, bumping against each other, bouncing around and swinging their cute trunk back and forth. The most adorable thing ever, if you ask me.

Things to do in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Still dazed by cuteness, we resumed our journey towards Nuwara Eliya, where nature, Sri Lanka’s highest peak, and freshly brewed Ceylon tea were on the menu.

Gregory Lake

The first stop was the beautiful Gregory Lake. Apparently, enjoying the view wasn’t enough, so I joined kids’ activities such as boarding a swan-shaped paddleboat, which brought us almost to the other bank, and with which we started a competition with the other kids in the group.

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A view of Nuwara Eliya’s Gregory Lake

After the excursion at the lake, blessing Sri Lanka weather that that day was not too warm or cold but just about chili enough to be a booster for our energies, we headed (by car) to the country’s highest peak, Pidurutalagala, which is also a military station. The path to arrive on top is beautifully green, a tree-lined boulevard that just inspires you with clean air and peace.

Sadly, it’s not allowed to walk through on foot but only by car. Once on top you can get off and enjoy the view, but again going down, only by car. Fortunately enough, on our way down, we had a flat tire, so we all had to hop off the car and while the experts were doing the fixing I, for one, was taking pictures.

After all the excitement, the day wasn’t over yet. As a matter of fact, it was going to end where it all started, over a cup of tea.

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Tree-lined boulevard leading to Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka’s highest peak.

You probably know I’m a big tea fan (if you don’t, go here), and learning how the tea leaves are actually harvested, plucked, gathered, dried, fermented (or not, in case of green tea), brewed and finally served was precious. Needless to say, the quality of the tea produced at Pedro Tea Factory, located in the aptly named area Lover’s Leap, is excellent, containing the very precious property of keeping you alert and concentrated (read: awake) but still calm and not over-caffeinated. Raashid’s mom gave us as a gift a huge bag of black tea from Pedro Estate each, and since I got back this has been my main source of the Asian beloved warm drink.

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Lover’s Leap, the fields of Pedro Tea Estate.

After Nuwara Eliya, the original plan was to head straight north to enjoy the attractions of popular destinations such as Dambulla, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa, which will be the topics of my next posts.

However, since travel plans exist purely to be changed along the way, we organized a small, sudden detour.

You might have heard of Adam’s Peak, one of Sri Lanka’s holiest sites, Adam’s first place on earth after being cast out of heaven, and the last place where the Buddha was before reaching Nirvana and paradise. Adam’s Peak is a must in Sri Lanka, the only advice being to go when it’s the right season, the only period when your fatigue will be rewarded, as my friend from Colombo Halik explains in his detailed story.

You guessed it, so strongly we wanted to go all of a sudden, that we didn’t even take into serious consideration our friends’ advice not to as, being out of season, the weather wasn’t right and we wouldn’t have seen the sunrise, which, being none of us Buddhist, was probably the only reason why we were embarking on a 7-hour night climb.

Only remembering and writing about the adventure is making my legs sore. I think the main problem was that the trail was not properly lit, and the tour guide didn’t mention to us that we were to bring our own light, on the contrary, they told us the trail was easy, lit and that at the beginning we would have found a place where to get some rest and refreshments before starting the climb.

Obviously, none of this happened, and the inaccurate information added to the unease of not seeing any sunrise since the main consequence of being out of season was a very, pitch thick, foggy dawn. Coming back down in the morning was definitely easier, certainly because it was downhill, but also because we could actually see where we were stepping on. The natural landscape was breathtaking, and should I go back (on the right season), I’ll do my best to better enjoy the unspoiled greenery and wildlife of the area.

Exhausted and sore all over, we resumed our journey towards Dambulla, but first, a quick stop in Kandy, the city that I’d probably choose to stay in if I were to return to an expat lifestyle in Asia, and about which you will read on my next post.

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