Situated mainly in the Central part of the island, the Sri Lanka Hill Country presents steep hills filled with scenic beauty that takes your breath away. The hillsides are dotted with tumbling waterfalls and the seemingly endless green carpet of lush tea plantations. As you climb towards Nuwara Eliya, the city at the centre of the Hill Country, crisp cool air brings a marvellous contrast from the warmer climate of the coast and Cultural Triangle. Each time you turn a corner on he twisting road, you are presented with reminders of a bygone era and colonial Britain. For those looking to get a true taste of Sri Lankan heritage and the development of the tea industry a visit to the Hill Country is a must.
As you leave Kandy and climb further into the Sri Lankan Hill Country, the winding mountain roads offer incredible views of the tea plantations. The expanses of green plantation are dotted with the colourfully dressed ladies who hand-pick the tea. Picking just two leaves and a bud, which each pluck, the century old technique which has remained unchanged, is one of the characteristics which maintains the quality of Sri Lankan tea.
Arriving in Nuwara Eliya, this little city in the hills retains its colonial ambience, with its tudor-style mansions and two-story shops & houses; it is easy to believe that you are in the middle of an English country town. However, situated at over 6,000 feet, this is the heart of the Sri Lankan Hill Country. The cool climate encourages the growth of vegetables and flowering plants and plays a significant role in the cultivation of the Ceylon tea that the island is renowned for producing.
Built by the Scottish tea planters in 1889, for golfers this will be an experience not to be missed. Winding its way through the centre of town the golf club retains its colonial charm and it really does feel like you are playing in the Scottish Highlands. Help is always on hand with your own personal caddy, many of whom have spent a life time escorting members and guests around the course. Whilst perhaps not the best maintained course in the world, this is certainly a round of golf that you wont forget.
The Hakgala Botanical Gardens in the outskirts of town mark the site where Queen Sita, was supposedly hidden by the demon king in ancient history. Today, the modern gardens planted in 1860 are hosts to an international selection of plants, including a British oak that was planted in 1890.
Continuing the green theme for those who wish to explore further, the Horton Plains National Park is easily accessible from Nuwara Eliya. Wondering through the park reveals marvellous mist covered abyss with steep drops and heavy foliage. The National Park is also home to the Sambur, purple faced monkey and the slender Loris.
For those wishing to really experience the feeling of a bygone era, a trip to Hatton, close by to Nuwara Eliya is an opportunity to stay in the middle of the tea plantations. Boutique hotels have been developed offering the opportunity to stay on a working tea plantation, to wonder through the tea fields and learn about tea growing and production or for the more energetic to mountain bike further a field on mountain biking trials.
Hatton also provides a perfect base for visiting Adam's Peak. Located in a beautiful and fascinating area of the southern Hill Country, this lofty peak has sparked the imagination for centuries. It is variously known as Adam's Peak, the place where Adam first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven, Sri Pada, Sacred Footprint, left by the Buddha as he headed towards paradise or Samanalakande, Butterfly Mountain, where butterflies go to die. Some believe the huge 'footprint' on the top of the 2243m peak to be that of St Thomas, the early apostle of India, or even of Lord Shiva.
Whichever legend you care to believe, this place has been a pilgrimage centre for over 1000 years. King Parakramabahu and King Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa provided resting places to shelter weary pilgrims up the mountain. Today the pilgrimage season begins on poya day in December and runs until Vesak festival in May. The busiest period is January and February. At other times the temple on the summit is unused, and between May and October the peak is obscured by clouds for much of the time. During the pilgrimage season a steady stream of pilgrims makes the climb up the countless steps to the top. The summit best experienced at dawn, requires you start the climb around one o'clock in the morning, benefitting from the relative cool of the night air and witnessing a spectacular sunrise.