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.
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.
Bandarawela is a busy market town with an agreeable climate that makes a possible base for exploring the surrounding area. However, it's somewhat cursed by heavy traffic as buses, trucks and three-wheelers joust for space. Each Sunday morning the town has a lively market, but, otherwise, Bandarawela has little to attract tourists.
West of the road from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, Kitulgala is a popular adventure-sports centre located amid thickly forested hills. Most visitors are the young and energetic of Colombo, but foreign visitors are also starting to discover the region's white-water rafting, jungle trekking, birdwatching and cave exploration.
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the largest lowland rainforest in Sri Lanka. This Unesco-listed, richly biodiverse habitat, bordered by rivers, is rich in wildlife, including rare mammals and many endemic birds. Unlike most Sri Lankan national parks, access to the forest is only on foot, accompanied by a ranger or guide.
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, dusty agricultural town.
Horton Plains National Park & World's End
Horton Plains is an eerie, starkly beautiful highland plateau popular with walkers that includes the fabled viewpoint of World's End. If you're travelling from the Central Highlands down to the coast, the road through the national park is an utterly spectacular route to follow.