Nuwara Eliya is a mountain town in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country where you’ll need mittens at night and where cows 🐮 cause traffic on side streets. Its nickname is “Little England” because of its history as a holiday retreat for the British in the 1800s. This nickname is now not so accurate, but what still holds true is that Nuwara Eliya is worlds away from the coconuts and waves of the country’s southern beaches.
Arriving in Nuwara Eliya
We arrived by bus from Kandy and took a taxi to the Blue Wing Inn, where we had reserved two nights. All the guest houses are located on some rural roads a 20-minute walk from the town, which gave the neighborhood, if you could call it that, a local feel, and there were vistas all around. The roads to this area were near Gregory Lake, which serves as a center of town aside from the small commercial district.
The Blue Wing Inn has helpful English-speaking staff, and the guest house serves breakfast for free and dinner at a fee. If you choose to stay here, we highly recommend the home-cooked dinner. It was incredibly delicious and maybe one of the best meals we had in Sri Lanka.
Cold & windy weather
💡 As the climate of Nuwara is cold and windy, and it is typical for homes and guesthouses to have no heat, we were so glad that we requested another down blanket for our bed. Otherwise, our feet would have gone numb! It’s hard to pack for climates ranging from hot and humid to below-freezing, and we were a bit underdressed for how crisp the weather was in Nuwara. We wished we had gloves, scarves and hats, as some of the locals wear, as it seems to be eternally fall. Tea was a huge help.
Mackwoods Tea Plantation
The main reason to visit this region is for attractions like the Mackwoods Tea Plantation, the alternate name of which is “Labookellie”. Our guesthouse called a tuk-tuk for us, and we were driven all the way to the plantation’s welcome center and tea shop, about 25-35 minutes from the town. A tuk-tuk ride should cost you 1200 LKR round trip and your driver should wait for you during your tour and time spent at Mackwoods.
Tea factory tour
The Mackwoods factory tour was short (and free! 💸) and the tea tasting was prolonged (and free! 💸). Cake is LKR 100, and we of course had to get a slice to celebrate Dan’s birthday! As for the scenic surroundings of tea trees as far as the eye can see, these were priceless.
Another tea plantation that is actually in the town proper is the Pedro Estate. We hiked by it on the Single Tree Hill hike. A tip from our guesthouse was that it is considerably smaller than Mackwoods, and we should avoid visiting during the weekend because it could be crowded. Be careful about trying to visit tea plantations on Sundays, as it’s possible that some are closed.
After a day and a half of sipping on hot Ceylon tea, both for caffeinating and for keeping warm in breezy Nuwara Eliya, we headed to the train station to get going to Ella.