Hill Country – The Magical Mountains of Lanka
The hill country is a world away from the rest of Sri Lanka, with rolling tea plantations, misty mountains, hiking havens, cascading waterfalls, striking sceneries, and the most sacred city in the country. It doesn’t stop there; the hill country’s old-world charm, cool climate, and the wildest of wildlife can captivate anyone’s heart.
Here’s a lowdown on the best of the hill country Sri Lanka from our point of view!
Explore the Hill Capital
Kandy is the second biggest city in Sri Lanka. It’s a peaceful city built around a tranquil lake and surrounded by lush green mountains. The city of Kandy is a bastion of Buddhism and Sinhala culture and is home to the country’s most revered Buddhist temple Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), which houses the sacred tooth relic of Buddha. Held between July and August the Esala Perahera (procession) is a major Buddhist festival that takes place in the city. It is a spectacular event to be part of irrespective of your religious beliefs.
Kandy is a vibrant centerpiece in local art and craft. You can expect to see numerous temples and palaces that are designed with unique Kandyan architecture. This picture-perfect city is also famous for the Peradeniya Botanical Garden, which is a 147-acre garden sprawling with a baffling collection of local and international flora. The Kandyan dancing performances with pirouettes, acrobats, drumming, and firewalking is not to be missed!
Climb the Adam’s Peak
Rising above in all its glory and splendor, Adam’s Peak is a mountain revered to all four religious groups in Sri Lanka. The peak has been a monument of worship for pilgrims for centuries due to the footprint embossed on the summit. It is popularly claimed that it is the footprint of Buddha, which was made during one of his visits. However, the Muslims, Hindus, and the Christians have their interpretation of the footprint and this has one great outcome – devotees of all four religions come here to climb the peak in harmony!
Climbing Adam’s Peak is a famous pilgrimage but that doesn’t prevent a steady trickle of nomads joining the ascent. December to April is the pilgrim season and the best time to start the climb is 3 am. It generally takes up to 3 hours to reach the summit; the goal is to get to the top in time to witness the sunrise. Keep your expectations high since you may never see a sunrise on earth like that of Adam’s Peak!
Blissful Nuwara Eliya
Considered the heart of the hill country, Nuwara Eliya is nestled at the foot of the mountain. Referred fondly as ‘Mini England’ its cool climate, lush green valleys and mountainous terrain gives Nuwara Eliya the perfect set-up to produce the world’s best Ceylon tea.
Nuwara Eliya offers an interesting blend of activities. Visitors can walk through tea plantations, learn the process of making tea at a tea factory, be mesmerised by cascading waterfalls, take nature walks and explore the Victorian style architecture in and around Nuwara Eliya town. When travelling with children, spending time around the Gregory Lake, pony back rides, strawberry picking (and relishing it with whipped cream) are some of the best things to do.
If you love chasing waterfalls as we do, then here are the top picks in Nuwara Eliya,
- Lover’s Leap
- St. Claire’s Waterfall
- Glenn Waterfall
- Devon Waterfall
- Baker’s Waterfall
- Ramboda Waterfall
To learn the art of tea-making visit the Labookelle or Pedro Tea estates that have firsthand knowledge of making the finest Ceylon tea.
Ella is indeed a mystery. At a glance, Ella is a quaint, laid back village nestled in the hill country. A few years ago Ella was a simple little hamlet that we passed by. Today, it has become the adventure lover’s Mecca, a backpacker’s paradise and a list topper in every Sri Lankan travel itinerary.
Travelling to Ella
Ella is the perfect rural counterpart to the beach towns of Sri Lanka. The most epic way to travel to Ella is the train ride from Kandy to Ella. Considered one of the most scenic rail rides in the world, it one heck of a journey!
The train ride takes up to 7 – 8 hours. If you book first-class sleepers the ride is pretty comfortable with onboard meals and other facilities. This is a very popular tour so make sure to book your tickets early.
You can also use the train or bus when travelling from Colombo to Ella
If you prefer not to use public transportation then a private car with a driver is the best option. This will help you to get around in Ella too.
Things not to miss in Ella
If you are an Instagrammer, #NineArchBridge may seem familiar. The Nine Arch Bridge in Ella is a hit on the famous photo-sharing network. This rail bridge built in 1921 has single-handedly been responsible to attract visitors to Sri Lanka’s hill country! Hidden within the dense forest and tea plantations, The Nine Arch Bridge is a massive rail bridge that is built using only cement and stone without the use of steel for support.
Ella is known for its awesome hiking trails. The hike to Little Adam’s Peak to watch the sunset from the Ella Gap is one of them. The hike up to the peak is rewarding with lush tea fields and greenery in the surrounding.
The Ravana Falls and Ravana Cave are inspired by the story of Ramayana. The multi-tiered Ravana Falls is a 10 minutes ride from the Ella town. The 82 feet high waterfall is positioned on the main road. The waterfall is simply gorgeous and the atmosphere around is entertaining. You get food stalls, vendors selling knickknacks, and wild monkeys doing their thing.
The Ravana Cave is located 2km outside of Ella and lies at an altitude of 1370 meters above the sea level. There is a steep climb to reach the cave, passing more than 600 uneven steps. The cave is quite small but you can go inside and see. According to Ramayana, King Ravana of Sri Lanka had kidnapped Queen Sita from India and kept her hidden in this cave when her husband King Rama came to rescue her.