Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 10 April 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

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’.

*Lake Gregory

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.

*Victoria Park

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 young-at-heart.

*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.

*Hakgala Gardens

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 nature-loving city-dwellers.

*Horton Plains

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.

*Ambewela farm

The Nuwara Eliya post-office, one of the oldest in Sri Lanka.

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, Ramayana.

*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 indoor huts.

Enjoy your stay, and (hatchoooooooooose, cough cough) don’t forget to keep your coats on.

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Seylan Sure
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