On top of the world
From its silent green mountain peaks to its cool restaurants serving
the country’s signature drink – tea (with or without milk) - the
charming city of Nuwara Eliya continues to combine the best of the old
and the new.
Lake Gregory attracts visitors to Nuwara Eliya.
Once upon a time, Nuwara Eliya, I thought, was nothing special. Only
after I left my home on a mist-covered mountain top in Nanu Oya for a
suburb in Colombo, did I learn that not every countryside in Sri Lanka
is criss-crossed by so many lines of history and elegance, by stunning
stone bungalows standing like castles in fairy tales, amidst tea fields
and row upon row of red and yellow cannas by the roadside, flanked by a
line of deep green hills fading into cloudless blue skies.
I am not the only one, of course, who has been in love with Nuwara
Eliya. Shortly after Dr. John Davy ‘discovered’ Nuwara Eliya, Sir J. E.
Tennent wrote in ‘Ceylon’ in 1859 that ‘In the eyes of the European and
the invalid, Nuwara Eliya is the Elysium of Ceylon.’
A sense of that surreal atmosphere is probably one reason that most
of us will be returning to our favourite spots in Nuwara Eliya this
month. Given below is a quick reminder of how to spend that ideal day in
this magical city relishing its ‘multiple personalities’.
When Sir William Gregory became the Governor in 1872 (1872-1877) he
planned to make Nuwara Eliya the capital city of the country. He had
many proposals to develop Nuwara Eliya and among them, to drain a swamp
bordering the town to create a lake.
Called Lake Gregory, more than a century later, the area continues to
be a prime attraction for all visitors. From boat and bike rides to a
leisurely walk on the paved paths with an ice cream, no matter how cold
the weather is, Lake Gregory offers a chance to stretch your legs and
beat travel fatigue before you head for more adventurous endeavours in
the green hills.
The Victoria Park with colourful flowers. Pix: Thilak Perera
With lush lawns and flowers of every colour of the rainbow waltzing
in the soft breeze, Victoria Park, right in the centre of the town is
said to be one of the best maintained parks in South Asia. The
children’s playground in one corner of this vast area of foliage has a
mini-train and a giant-wheel that provides rides to the young and the
*The Post Office
Right in front of Victoria Park is the red and white post office. A
reminder of the late 19th century opulence and one of the oldest post
offices in Sri Lanka, the Nuwara Eliya post office is worth a visit to
bask in the architectural splendour of a Tudor house in England.
A short bus-ride away from the Nuwara Eliya town, the Hakgala
Botanical Garden offers you a magical day-out communing with mother
nature at her best. From roses, as large as your palm to quiet retreats
among giant-ferns, the Garden provides an ideal retreat for
For those who become intoxicated by the fresh, crispy air in the
Hakgala Botanical Garden, the next stop should be the Horton Plains
where you get to see a colder, more untamed version of nature – the kind
you read about in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The walk-up to
World’s End might be strenuous, but the view from the top, of the valley
below, is worth the effort.
The Nuwara Eliya post-office, one of the oldest in Sri
For a view of a vast area of grassland and a cup of fresh milk the
best place to be is the Ambewela farm. The farm can easily be visited on
your way to Horton Plains.
*Seetha Amman Temple
Five kilometres away, in the village of Seetha Eliya is the Seetha
Amman Temple. Legend has it that the temple was built on the site where
Sita was held captive by the demon king Ravana in the Hindu epic,
*Holy Trinity Church
The Holly Trinity Church built in 1845 is another monument of
colonial architecture. It is said that on April 18, 1954 Queen Elizabeth
II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attended services at the Holy
Trinity church, with the Queen gifting a blue carpet and a stained glass
window in remembrance of their visit.
*Single Tree Hill
Another exhilarating 90-minute walk would be climbing the Single Tree
Hill. Your rewards would be losing the few extra pounds gained in this
festive season and a spectacular view of Nuwara Eliya from the summit.
*The Winter Market
Also called the Bale Bazaar, this unique market houses winter-related
products at considerably low prices and is a favourite haunt of visitors
who have to face cold winters back in their homelands.The shops sell
coats, scarfs, hats and gloves if you landed in Nuwara Eliya without the
paraphernalia to keep you warm. While you are in the mood for shopping,
don’t forget to step into the central market right in front of the Bale
Bazaar for an exciting glimpse of all the English fruits and vegetables
that are grown in Nuwara Eliya and are on sale in small match-box size
Enjoy your stay, and (hatchoooooooooose, cough cough) don’t forget to
keep your coats on.