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Things to do in the Sri Lanka Hill Country

Activities in Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Haputale

Sri Lanka's hill country is a must for anybody enchanted by stirring mountain landscapes and a fresh climate which will inspire you with a sense of adventure. This is a land of glorious tea-clad hillsides, rushing waterfalls and panoramic views – a very different experience of Sri Lanka.

First of all, decide how to get there. The journey from Kandy to Sri Lanka's highlands is one of the great railway journeys of the world. We can advise on the best sections and book your tickets as part of your itinerary. A Sri Lanka train journey that is an experience in itself.

Nuwara Eliya was made into a summer retreat by the British in the early 1800s and much of its colonial character still remains, including a characterful golf course. Ella attracts a younger, more price-conscious clientele, Haputale has breathtaking panoramic views to the southern plains and Dickoya offers upmarket tea bungalows in enchanting surroundings.

Walking is at the centre of the best activities in the hill country, with many of Sri Lanka's best hikes still entirely untroubled by mass tourism. They can be sampled over a few hours or as part of an extensive holiday in the hills. One of Red Dot's favourite activities in the hill country is a walk to Lipton's Seat from the Dambetenna Tea Factory – the favourite view of Sir Thomas Lipton, the great tea entrepreneur.

The most challenging of all the experiences in the Sri Lanka hill country is probably a night-time climb up Adam’s Peak. The giant footprint at the top is variously interpreted as belonging to Lord Buddha, God Shiva, Adam, or St. Thomas. A challenging climb up a stepped mountainside is best taken at night and, if you are lucky, you will be rewarded with one of the finest sunrises in Asia and captivating views.

Horton Plains' grassy plains are a leading tourist attraction. The most dramatic feature of the park is World’s End, where the plateau comes to an abrupt halt with a sheer drop of nearly 1000m. Explore the park on foot or by jeep, before the midday mist falls. There is a Little World's End, too.

Keen gardeners will happily pass a few hours at Hakgala Botanical Gardens which lay claim to being the highest botanical gardens in the world. "Pleasantly dishevelled" is how Lonely Planet describes them but in our experience they have often been smarter than that.

All in all, if you like mountain landscapes, you will be captivated by your experience of the Sri Lanka hill country.

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  • Hill Country
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