Exploring Sri Lanka’s ‘City of Lights’: Nuwara Eliya

Lake Gregory (Photo by Hash Milhan via Flickr)

If you’re heading to Nuwara Eliya after visiting Colombo or Negombo, you’d think that this city is a country by itself. Unlike other city centres, this city is located in Sri Lanka’s central region, surrounded by lush tea plantations and majestic views of the mountains. Also dubbed ‘Little England’, the highland has a British feel to it, especially as you pass colonial buildings, large mansions, or see signs like ‘Edinburgh Tea Garden’. Here are some of the highlights in Nuwara Eliya:

1. Tour the Hakgala Botanic Gardens

This huge garden is home to all kinds of plants and flowers — different species of roses, fernery, orchids, and all kinds of plants you never knew existed from across many parts of the world. Established in 1861, the garden is located on the hill amidst Sri Lanka’s tea plantations along Badulla Road. The climate in the garden can be chilly at times, as it ranges from somewhere between 3°C to 15°C to cater to its subtropical plants.

As a tourist myself, I was amazed at the garden, especially at the rose gardens with their varied shades of blue, purple, pink, and many more. These rose species — Joseph’s Coat, May Queen, and Crimson Glory — are among those imported from England and America in the 1960s. They’ve been blossoming in the garden ever since.

Photo by Z Thomas via Wikimedia

The indoor glasshouse is also worth visiting as there are numerous species of begonia, cacti, African violets, and orchids that adorn the walls. And don’t miss the lower flower garden. It’s arranged in a circle made up of a burning bush in different hues of red located in the middle of the garden.

2. Walk around Lake Gregory

In the heart of the city, Lake Gregory is a famous spot among tourist and the local community. It’s the perfect place for writers to think of ideas or for anyone who wants to surround themselves in calm vibes. Also, if you’re staying near the lake, you’ll wake up to the sound of birds chirping, a view of the tranquil blue waters, and thick mist welcoming you to greet the day.

Take a stroll or jog around the lake in the morning, as the weather will be cool. Foreigners can also ride on speed boats, swan boats, or take a pony ride along the lake. Besides that, there’s also a bicycle path around the lake so you can take a relaxed ride while immersing yourself in the beauty and sounds of nature.

3. Visit the ancient Seetha Amman Temple

Imagine visiting a temple believed to be the spot where the epic Ramayana took place 7,000 years ago. The Seetha Amman Temple is famous among Hindus all over the world. For devotees and tourists alike, it’s a must-visit place when in Nuwara Eliya.

Photo by Z Thomas via Wikimedia

Beautifully painted in a tinge of brownish-red and gold, the temple is believed to mark the spot where Seetha was held captive by the demon king Rawana, where she prayed daily for Rama to come and rescue her. People also believe that the stream that flowed from the hills served Seetha’s needs, and she is said to have bathed there. Since temple trustees believe this place is sacred, many devotees come here from afar to worship Hanuman, the Monkey God.

4. Grab a cuppa at the Bluefield Tea Factory

Driving along the winding road to the highlands, I was surprised to see that the tea-pickers were primarily elderly women. These Sri Lankan women were diligently plucking tea-leaves and placing them in bags strapped to their back before heading to the tea factories located within the plantations itself. Visiting Sri Lanka shows you a whole new side to the country not usually seen on social media.

Located in Ramboda, this tea factory is a worthy attraction for tea-lovers as it’s not just an ordinary factory. The Bluefield Tea Factory allows visitors to see the complex stages that go behind an ordinary cup of tea. Offering personalised tours, the excursion details every step of the tea-making process.

Photo by Kwan Kwan via Flickr

Situated right next to the factory is a blue building that has a restaurant and shop that sells Bluefield’s home-grown tea in various packages and flavours. So if you’re looking for gifts for friends or family members, consider making your purchases here. Just keep in mind that the prices might be higher than the teas you get from supermarkets. That’s only because the quality of the black tea is better. There are no added flavours or fragrance. So, if you’re craving for the taste of real black tea or green tea, you know where to get them.

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