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We weren’t sure exactly what we would find when we made the journey to Nuwara Eliya, 1889 metres up in Sri Lanka’s Hill country. It seemed many tourists skipped Nuwara Eliya in exchange for the tourist town of Ella, but we were intrigued by this town described as “Little England” and as having a “toy town ambience”, surrounded by tea plantations. It sounded exactly like the type of place that would be perfect for us – and it was!
We had a great couple of days here literally chilling out (it is a lot cooler than the rest of Sri Lanka). It’s a very pretty spot, very different from everywhere else we have been in Sri Lanka. There are enough attractions to easily fill a couple of days and it is especially good for people travelling with kids.
Below you will find our quick guide to Nuwara Eliya places to visit, best places to stay, where to eat, how to get from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and how to get around.
One of the many beautiful places in Nuwara Eliya is Victoria Park. This big park is located in the centre of town (and opposite the New Tour Inn) and is gorgeous. It is a decent size with many different garden areas, a playground, birds and flowers. Lonely Planet describes it as “one of the nicest, and best maintained, town parks in South Asia” and it wouldn’t surprise me. It is a lovely place for a stroll and to just hang out.
When we visited, they actually had a big flower show in progress, and the park had a big party atmosphere. There was dancing, a carousel and a ferris wheel.
The only downside of this park is that there is an entry charge. 300 rupees for foreigners. Young kids are free. Locals are only 40 and they also get free internet (unlike foreigners)!
This part of Sri Lanka’s hill country is just covered in tea plantations, so we had to give a Nuwara Eliya tea factory a try! The Pedro Tea Estate is an interesting place to visit in Nuwara Eliya, just a few kilometres from the centre and easily accessed by rickshaw. You can also get a public bus here.
We went on a tour of the factory. I always love seeing factory machinery in use and this was no exception. The equipment and facilities were simple but still enjoyable. We had a quick tour and saw everything taking place. This worked particularly well with the kids who were fascinated.
We could walk around some of the plantation so we could see the tea growing as well. We also were given cups of tea on a gorgeous balcony to top off our visit. This is a very worthwhile Nuwara Eliya attraction.
Entry is 200 pesos per adult, our kids were free.
A couple of kilometres from the centre of town there is another beautiful place to visit in Nuwara Eliya, Gregory Lake. There are walkways, peddle boats, motorboats, a big house boat, some small kids’ rides and food stalls. It’s a lovely place to spend some time, although it did feel like a bit of a tourist trap – we paid to get in and then everything cost money. However, it is still worth the effort.
We took a ride on the big house boat and played around the edge of the lake.
Foreigners pay 200 rupees, our kids were free. It was 200 rupees for adults and 100 rupees for kids for the boat ride.
This is a very picturesque place and the mix of British architecture and Sri Lanka makes for an interesting cocktail. The town had a great atmosphere during our visit and we enjoyed just walking around.
If I wasn’t travelling with young kids, I would also want to visit the following places to see in Nuwara Eliya and surrounds:
There are many hotels and guest houses in Nuwara Eliya. We stayed at the New Tour Inn which was fantastic.
We booked a triple room which turned out to be three big beds in a nice, big room including a great bathroom and lovely hot water shower – very necessary here thanks to the cold. We had nice big windows out to Victoria Park and there was a living area and dining room next to our room.
We did spend a bit more than usual on this accommodation and it was great to see that it gave us a lot extra. We did still keep to our budget though overall when we combined this stay with Kandy. Nuwara Eliya accommodation is more expensive on average than other towns.
We paid AUD$76 a night including breakfast. Click here to see the latest prices.
Other options we were looking at:
We have not been enjoying Sri Lankan food. We find it tasteless except for an over abundance in spice. I love spicy food but only when it adds to the flavour of the food. This just seems to be in place of favour.
I also find the food quite oily. Everything has started tasting the same and my body was screaming for some good vegetables that actually tasted like vegetables.
We were happy to find some options that gave us a vegie fix and also tasted good.
Nuwara Eliya is well connected by bus and train (although you need to head to nearby Nanuoya for the train). Since we going to and from Nuwara Eliya from Kandy, we thought we would do one way by bus and one way by train.
The distance from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is only 94 kilometres, although the journey is not quick. These are our experiences.
You can also see a photo of third class on this train in our Sri Lanka travel guide.
We caught the Kandy to Nuwara Eliya train. We arrived at the station 40 minutes before the scheduled time which was plenty of time to buy our tickets (second class unreserved), buy and eat some food and be ready when the train arrived.
We travelled unreserved this time which was substantially cheaper and ridiculously cheap (540 rupees for the four of us, kids were half priced). There was a rush for seats but we had no problems getting 4 seats together. There was not as much space as our train to Polonnaruwa but there was plenty and it was comfortable.
The journey took about 4 hours. The scenery was great, especially in the last half. We went past hills, tea plantations and small villages. There are tunnels which were kind of spooky as other passengers made screaming noises (at least I assume it was other passengers!).
There are views at times on both sides of the train, but overall sitting on the right hand side will give you better views. There are plenty of people coming through with snacks and drinks. Most snacks were spicy though.
On arrival at Nanuoya, there were plenty of taxis and rickshaws for the approximately 15 minute drive to Naruwa Eliya. There are also meant to be local buses. We caught a van for 500 rupees to our hotel.
It was an easy and enjoyable ride although I am glad we didn’t go any further in the one journey. 4 hours was enough for me.
The train cost 540 rupees for 2 adults and 2 kids.
For some variety, and because it was quicker and easier, we caught the bus back to Kandy.
There are two types of buses. Regular and Luxury. Do not be fooled though. The luxury are far from luxurious. They are quicker though so that is why we caught one.
The “luxury” alternative on this route are air conditioned minibuses – not that there air conditioning part matters here. There was far less space than we had on the regular bus from Polonnaruwa to Kandy. However, this bus was a fast option and the journey was over 2.25 hours later.
The scenery from the bus was also spectacular and different to that on the train. It was also very obvious to me that we were descending down fast, compared to the train where I didn’t really even notice we were going up higher. There were lots of tea plantations, big hills, cliffs and spectacular waterfalls at one point.
The road is full of twists and turns, though, so not recommended if you get motion sickness. It was fine for us though and the kids slept through most of it.
The bus was 219 rupees per seat.
Read our guide to Kandy.
There are plenty of rickshaws and taxis and buses as well. We hired a rickshaw for a morning to visit Pedro Tea Estate and Gregory Lake which cost us 1000 rupees.
With the higher cost of accommodation here, we averaged $117 a day which was excellent value. The extra cost to our usual AUD$110 a day budget was easily offset by our cheaper time in Kandy.
Nuwara Eliya is a fabulous place to visit with kids. The tourist attractions in Nuwara Eliya are generally outdoors so very easy to navigate with young ones. As always, kids were welcome everywhere. They enjoyed all the attractions listed above.
The tea factory was especially a hit and had S really thinking about how food is made.
We were surprised by just how nice this little town is. It’s so picturesque, both in the lead up to the town and once you are actually here.
We also enjoyed the cooler weather. After four months in the tropics, it has been a nice change. I was worried it might be too cold after reading blogs talking about how freezing it is, but we did not find it that bad. During the day, its shorts and t shirt weather. In the evening, light jackets were fine.
It is definitely worth being a bit pickier with accommodation though to ensure you have somewhere with decent blankets and/or heating.
We could happily hang out here for quite awhile. We enjoyed the things to see in Nuwara Eliya. Our only disappointment was that we needed to leave so soon.
Read more in our Sri Lankan travel guide.
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