Nuwara Eliya is often referred to by the Sri Lankan tourist industry as ‘Little England’. While most British visitors struggle to recognise modern England in Nuwara Eliya, the toy-town ambience does have a rose-tinted English country village feel to it, though it comes with a disorienting surrealist edge. Three-wheelers whiz past red telephone boxes.
Perched at the southern edge of the Hill Country, the largely Tamil town of Haputale clings to a long, narrow mountain ridge with the land falling away steeply on both sides. On a clear day you can view the south coast from this ridge, and at night the Hambantota lighthouse pulses in the distance. On a not-so-clear day, great swaths of mist cling magnetically to the hillsides.
Welcome to everyone’s favourite hill-country village and the place to ease off the travel accelerator with a few leisurely days resting in your choice of some of the country’s best guesthouses. The views through Ella Gap are stunning, and on a clear night you can even spy the subtle glow of the Great Basses lighthouse on Sri Lanka’s south coast.
Sitting in well-irrigated valleys between Adam’s Peak and Sinharaja Forest Reserve, busy Ratnapura (‘City of Gems’ in Sanskrit) is a famous trading centre for the area’s ancient wealth of gem stones. The region’s wet and humid climate encourages the formation of riverbeds, which are the perfect environment for gem stones to develop.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
The last major undisturbed area of rainforest in Sri Lanka, this forest reserve occupies a broad ridge at the heart of the island’s wet zone. On most days the forest is shrouded by copious rainclouds that replenish its deep soils and balance water resources for much of southwestern Sri Lanka.
Bandarawela, 10km north of Haputale but noticeably warmer, is a busy market town that makes a good base for exploring the surrounding area. Due to its agreeable climate, it’s a popular area to retire to. Each Sunday morning the town has a lively market. Otherwise Bandarawela has little to attract tourists.
Embilipitiya is sometimes used as a base for tours to Uda Walawe National Park, as it’s only 23km south of the park’s ticket office. However, with the increasing range of accommodation around the park itself, there's much less reason to stay in this otherwise busy agricultural town.
Colombo To Kandy
The Henerathgoda Botanic Gardens near Gampaha, off the Colombo–Kandy road about 30km northwest of Colombo, are where the first rubber trees planted in Asia were grown. Some original plantings dot the 37-acre gardens, together with 400 other plant varieties. About 50km from Kandy is Cadjugama, famous for its cashew nuts.
Uda Walawe National Park
With herds of elephants, wild buffalo, sambar deer and leopards, Uda Walawe National Park is the Sri Lankan national park that best rivals the savannah reserves of Africa. In fact, for elephant-watching, Uda Walawe often surpasses many of the most famous East African national parks. The park, which centres on the 308.