Nuwara Eliya: 10 fun things to do & ultimate guide

Nuwara Eliya Sunrise

Located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea country, Nuwara Eliya is like a slice of British countryside dropped right into the tropics.

Rolling green hills, misty mornings, and acres upon acres of tea plantations make this a unique but compelling region of Sri Lanka.

It’s a place that feels wonderfully laid-back, yet the landscapes are absolutely jaw-dropping. And, of course, the tea is as fresh as it gets!

Being in Nuwara Eliya feels a bit like you’ve been teleported to the English countryside, but with a distinctly Sri Lankan twist.

It’s all about embracing a slower lifestyle, getting back to nature, and soaking in unforgettable views.

So, grab a cup of tea (to set the mood, of course) and let me convince you to add Nuwara Eliya to your Sri Lanka itinerary.

If you prefer a video over an article, then I’d recommend watching my Nuwara Eliya vlog:

In my ultimate guide, I share the best things to do in Nuwara Eliya, as well as how to get there, where to stay, and top tips for visiting.

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Author Bio: Jessie Moore

Jessie Moore is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

How to get to Nuwara Eliya

Trust me when I say that getting to Nuwara Eliya is part of the adventure. It took us a lot longer than it should because we kept stopping to take photos and soak in the epic views!

Depending on where you’re coming from, there are a few ways to reach Sri Lanka’s tea country.

By train: I’d recommend this option if you’re after those Instagram-worthy views. The train ride to Nuwara Eliya is famously scenic, offering breathtaking vistas of Sri Lanka’s countryside, waterfalls, and tea plantations.

Waterfall near Nuwara Eliiya

You’ll need to catch a train to Nanu Oya, which is the nearest station to Nuwara Eliya, about 8 kilometres away. From there, a short taxi or tuk-tuk ride will get you into town.

By bus: I’d recommend the bus if you’re looking for a budget-friendly option. Buses head to Nuwara Eliya from major cities like Colombo and Kandy.

It’s a longer journey, but it’s a good way to travel like a local and see the countryside from a different perspective. Plus, it’s incredibly cost-effective.

By car: Renting a car or hiring a driver might be a bit pricier, but it offers the most flexibility. This is the option we took, as we had a private driver for our entire trip.

I loved it because you can take breaks whenever you like, explore off-the-beaten-path spots, and enjoy the journey at your own pace.

Bridge in Sri Lanka

Our driver was brilliant at pointing out hidden gems that we never would have discovered without him. If you want his details, feel free to DM me on Instagram!

I personally would not recommend driving in Sri Lanka. It’s utterly chaotic and none of the driving rules we have in the UK seem to be followed (apart from the fact that they drive on the left side of the road).

Weather in Nuwara Eliya

The climate in Nuwara Eliya is a delightful departure from the tropical heat of the rest of Sri Lanka.

Here you’ll find cool, crisp air, misty mornings, and the kind of weather that invites you to cosy up with a warm cup of tea.

It’s a refreshing change, especially if you’re coming from the humid coastal areas.

Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya, fondly known as “Little England” for its temperate, cool climate, sits at an elevation of over 1,800 metres above sea level.

This elevation is the magic behind its cooler temperatures. Here, the weather is mild year-round, with temperatures hovering between 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F).

It’s a stark contrast to the tropical climate elsewhere on the island, making it the perfect escape from the heat.

But don’t be fooled by the daytime’s mild weather. Nights can get quite chilly, especially during the December to February winter season, when temperatures can dip close to freezing.

Where we stayed at Goatfell Hotel, they even popped a small hot water bottle into our beds as part of the turn-down service. Such a nice and much-needed touch!

Rainfall is another characteristic of Nuwara Eliya’s climate, with the monsoon seasons bringing in the most rain.

The main monsoon season runs from October to December, when the town gets a good soaking, transforming the landscape into a lush, verdant paradise.

Croquet at Goatfell

The intermittent showers during the rest of the year keep the area beautifully green and the waterfalls flowing. Fellow Brits, I’m sure you’ll feel right at home!

So, when you’re packing for Nuwara Eliya, think layers. I’d recommend bringing along some warm clothes for the evenings and a waterproof jacket for those unexpected showers.

Plus, I’d suggest packing a good pair of walking shoes for exploring all the natural beauty this mountain town has to offer.

Best things to do in Nuwara Eliya

There are a number of fun things to do in Nuwara Eliya and I’ve shared my top picks below. 

1. Tea plantations

No visit to Nuwara Eliya is complete without a visit to one of the many tea plantations in the region.

The emerald-green tea plantations that carpet the rolling hills are not only beautiful but also a key part of the region’s heritage.

Pedro Tea Plantations

While there are a few options to choose from, personally I’d recommend a visit to the Pedro Tea Estate or the Labookellie Tea Centre.

Here you can embark on a guided tour to learn about the intricate process of tea making, from plucking the leaves to the final stages of production.

The experience is often rounded off with a tea tasting (the best part if you ask me!), where you can sip on various grades of tea.

It’s a great way to gain some insight into the subtle differences in flavour and aroma that make Ceylon tea a global favourite.

2. Horton Plains National Park and World’s End

This national park is perfect for nature enthusiasts and hikers, comprising a mixture of vast grasslands and beautiful cloud forests.

The park’s most famous feature, World’s End, is an breathtaking cliff with a sheer drop of about 880 metres. 

World's End

I’d suggest starting the trek to World’s End early in the morning to avoid the mist that rolls in later, which can obscure the panoramic views that span as far as the southern coastline on clear days.

Along the way, keep an eye out for sambar deer, the occasional leopard, and a variety of endemic bird species.

3. Gregory Lake

Constructed during the British era as a reservoir, Gregory Lake is now a popular recreational spot.

You can rent a swan-shaped pedal boat for a leisurely ride on the water, where you can enjoy the cool climate and picturesque surroundings.

Gregory Lake Nuwara Eliya

The lakeside park is perfect for picnics, leisurely walks, or simply relaxing with a book.

During certain times of the year, the lake area becomes a hub for local festivities and markets, offering a glimpse into the vibrant local culture.

4. Victoria Park

Named in honour of Queen Victoria, this beautifully manicured park is a tranquil escape in the heart of Nuwara Eliya.

It’s an ideal spot for bird watchers, with the chance to spot several species of birds.

The park’s well-kept flower beds, mini train rides, and playgrounds make it a hit with families and anyone looking to simply unwind.

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5. Hakgala Botanical Garden

Just a short drive from Nuwara Eliya, Hakgala Botanical Garden is located at the foot of the Hakgala Rock.

Hakgala Botanical Garden

The garden is known for its collection of orchids and roses, with something in bloom year-round amidst its cool misty climate.

I’d definitely recommend this as one of the best things to do in Nuwara Eliya for avid gardeners.

6. Strawberry Farms

It’s not just about tea in Nuwara Eliya – its cool climate is also perfect for strawberry cultivation.

Several farms around town offer the delightful experience of picking your own strawberries, which is a wonderfully fun activity for all ages.

Don’t forget to try some of the delicious strawberry-based treats like fresh strawberry ice cream or jam, which are often available to buy too.

7. Lover’s Leap Waterfall

This picturesque waterfall is not only known for its natural beauty but also for the romantic legend associated with it.

According to local folklore, a young couple, unable to be together due to societal pressures, leapt from the top of the waterfall. Hence the waterfall’s unique name.

Lover's Leap Waterfall

The hike to Lover’s Leap is relatively easy and rewards you with beautiful views of the waterfall cascading down the rocks.

8. Seetha Amman Temple

Another of the best things to do in Nuwara Eliya is to stop by Seetha Amman Temple.

Steeped in legend, this colourful Hindu temple is said to mark the spot where Sita was held captive by Ravana.

Seetha Amman Temple

The temple is a place of worship and a fascinating cultural site, and is a testament to the deep-rooted spiritual heritage of the area.

9. Moon Plains

This vast expanse of land offers some of the most breathtaking panoramic views in Nuwara Eliya, with sights of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Known locally as ‘Sandatenna,’ Moon Plains is a relatively new attraction that features a mini World’s End of its own.

The drive or walk to the viewing platform is all part of the fun, offering encounters with wildlife such as elk, wild buffalo, and a variety of birds.

10. Post Office

A visit to Nuwara Eliya’s post office offers a glimpse into colonial-era architecture.

This iconic red-brick building, functioning since the 19th century, stands as a testament to the town’s historical charm.

It’s not only a place to send a postcard home but also a photogenic spot. I think it perfectly captures the essence of Nuwara Eliya’s blend of British influence and Sri Lankan culture.

Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya

We stayed in the gorgeous Goatfell, a boutique hotel with only four rooms. It’s part of the excellent Teardrop Hotels group.

Drone Shot of Goatfell

Sunrise at Goatfell Nuwara Eliya

Perched high on a hill and surrounded by tea plantations, it offers the most epic views and an incredible setting. I mean just look at that sunrise in the photo above!

I’d whole-heartedly recommend a stay at Goatfell – you can read my full review here.

Looking for more Sri Lanka travel inspiration? You may also like:

For a similar destination in South East Asia, you may want to read my guide to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

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Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

Find me on: Web | Instagram


Want up to 25% off hotels?

Subscribe to my newsletter and get immediate access to my guide on how to save money on flights and hotels. Our weekly emails are filled with adventure inspiration, insider travel tips and exclusive discounts.