How to Explore Nuwara Eliya on Your Solo Trip to Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is known for famous cities like Colombo, Galle, and Kandy. However, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean has many lesser-known gems that are usually ignored by many. Due to this ignorance, they fail to explore what the country has to truly offer. In my opinion, travelling to these places improves the experience of the trip exponentially.
One such place that is relatively unknown in Sri Lanka is Nuwara Eliya. Nicknamed Little England, it translates to ‘city on the plain’ from Sinhalese and is situated at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet, holding true to its name. This hidden treasure of Sri Lanka should definitely be on your itinerary for various reasons.
While it is known for its tea plantations and is one of the most important places for tea production in Sri Lanka, there is a lot more to explore than just this. There are some tourist attractions that you can check out. You can also do non-touristy things too. The icing on the cake is the pleasant weather of the city. It is cool throughout the year, and most of us love that!
During my solo trip to Sri Lanka, I spent a great deal of time in Nuwara Eliya and didn’t regret it one bit. However, I didn’t find many tourists even in the famous spots of the city. And that’s lowkey a jackpot! So if you plan to travel to Sri Lanka and check out Nuwara Eliya, this blog is all that you will ever need! Read on.
How to reach Nuwara Eliya?
You will need to take a flight from your home city to reach the Colombo International Airport. Upon reaching the airport, you will have to cover the distance of 170kms to get to Nuwara Eliya. If you have an extra couple of hours on hand, you can take a bus as it is more comfortable. But make sure you take only authorised buses to ensure safety. Otherwise, taking a cab and spending around five hours is your best option.
When should you visit Nuwara Eliya?
Even though Sri Lanka is a year-round destination, I wouldn’t recommend that you pack your bags and plan your trip to Nuwara Eliya whenever you feel like it. While the weather is pleasant all year round, the temperature varies quite a lot. The absolute best time to visit is from February to April for the majority of people. But if you are okay with a bit of rainfall, the monsoon season from May to September should be your choice. Supposing that you had already planned your trip to Sri Lanka and are trying to fit Nuwara Eliya into your itinerary, you shouldn’t care much about the best time.
Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya?
Even though Nuwara Eliya is a tiny city, you can find some great places to stay. Be it hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs. No matter where you decide to stay, you can experience great hospitality, comfort, and modern amenities. While the hotels are usually on the more expensive side, I suggest that you check out some hostels and Airbnb if you do not wish to spend a lot on accommodation. Here are some of my hotel recommendations.
1. Mount View Hotel
Located on St. Andrews Drive, the views from the hotel are stunning. It is located right in the centre of the city and getting around the locality is a piece of cake. For about $34/night, you get modern and spacious rooms, in-house dining, helpful staff, and not to forget the fantastic views. Also, you can access the terrace for some fresh air. Further, Mount Pedro (Pidurutalagala) is located right around the corner, which is the highest mountain peak in the country.
2. Alpine Hotel
It is ideally located on Haddon Hill Road in a calm neighbourhood of the city. It offers a contemporary room, an in-house kitchen, and excellent service. This is one of the most popular hotels amongst solo travellers in Nuwara Eliya. Also, the staff is well-known for organizing adventure activities like trekking, camping, rafting, and cycling around the city. A room costs $34/night onwards, and you can get special discounts on adventure activity packages.
Located on Waterfield Bank, Zion is the best budget hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Everything is available here, from free Wi-Fi, toiletries, breakfast to a garden, terrace, room service, and a restaurant. If you think that all of this might cost a lot, you’re wrong! You only need to pay $27/night. They also have a currency exchange on the site, which is very convenient. So if you are looking for a budget hotel, you can close your eyes and book a room at Zion.
4. The Ramp
This is the epitome of a budget luxury hotel in the city. For $55/night, you get a massive room, free Wi-Fi, television, refrigerator, tea and coffee makers, fantastic service, and a lot more. Besides, the building looks straight out of a movie. So if you are looking for top-class amenities, luxury, and a great experience, The Ramp, located on Glenfall Road, should be your first choice!
What to see in Nuwara Eliya?
Nuwara Eliya is a city unlike any other in Sri Lanka. The pleasant weather, tea plantations, farms, greenery, and waterfalls are calming to the mind. There are also a lot of temples that you can explore. And if not, you can always take home some souvenirs. Here are some of the best places that you can visit in Nuwara Eliya.
1. Pedro Tea Estate
This is heaven for all tea lovers. While there are many tea estates in the city, Pedro Tea Estate is well known and great for tourists to explore. They allow visitors to walk around the plantation and experience the intricacies of tea making. You will notice what it takes to make a simple cup of tea upon exploring the spellbinding beauty of Pedro Tea Estate. It is open from 8 in the morning till 5 in the evening and costs less than $3 to explore.
2. Victoria Park
Victoria Park is one of the most visited places in the city and is considered the best-maintained park in South Asia. Spread over 27 acres, you can find several rare bird species here. There are also many flowers, and the Nanu Oya River runs through the park. You can take a stroll or just loosen up after a tiring day of exploring the city. You can also visit Galway’s Land National Park, located around a mile away if you are really into bird watching.
3. Gregory Lake
If you are confused and cannot find a place to go to, Gregory Lake is the answer. It is by far one of the most beautiful places in Nuwara Eliya. It is located slightly away from the centre of the city. There are many fun things to do here, including fishing, rowing, boat riding, among others. If you aren’t interested in that, you can simply unwind and enjoy the scenic views of the lake. You can also find some families enjoying themselves on Sunday afternoons. All in all, it is a happy place that you should check out at least once.
4. St. Clair’s Falls
Did you know that there are around 400 waterfalls in Sri Lanka? Well, this is just one out of those 400. Located around 25kms from the centre of the city, I would highly recommend that you take out the time to visit St. Clair’s Falls. It is one of the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka at 50m and is commonly called “Little Niagara of Sri Lanka.” In my opinion, it is the most beautiful waterfall in the country! You can also click some stunning pictures here, but make sure that you return to your hotel before sunset.
5. Aberdeen Falls
It is named after Aberdeen, the third-largest city in Scotland, and is one of the many places with a Scottish name. Aberdeen Falls is one of the major tourist attractions in Nuwara Eliya, and you should definitely check it out. You can reach here by cab, or even better, hire a private taxi for your entire trip and save a lot of money too. It is densely surrounded by greenery, and honestly, the waterfall is drop-dead gorgeous! So do not forget to click pictures at one of the most picturesque spots in the city.
Where to eat in Nuwara Eliya?
Everyone feels a little hungry after exploring a few places. But what if the food isn’t good? That can ruin the whole experience. Don’t worry because Nuwara Eliya has some excellent restaurants that serve a wide variety of cuisines at varying prices. So, no matter what dish you like, no matter what you’re willing to spend, you can fill your tummy to your heart’s content almost every time. While there are a lot of restaurants to choose from, here are some of my top recommendations.
1. Sri Ambaal’s
If you are a vegetarian, finding a restaurant can become a task on trips. But not in Nuwara Eliya as Sri Ambaal’s has got you covered. Located on New Bazaar Road, it offers delicious food at a pocket-friendly price. It is a vegetarian restaurant that primarily sells South Indian food. Even if you are not a vegetarian but love South Indian food like me, you should check it out. It is great for breakfasts or when you are hungry and don’t want to think much about where to eat.
Located near Victoria Park, it provides some fantastic views along with great food and service. It has a chill vibe, and people usually visit after a walk in the park. You can choose to have a light snack or a full-blown meal here. No matter what you decide to have, you won’t be disappointed. It offers tasty traditional Sri Lankan food which doesn’t burn a hole in the pocket. So do not forget to check out Themparadu after visiting Victoria Park.
3. Grand Thai
Grand Thai offers a wide variety of cuisines. Even though it is primarily a Thai restaurant, it offers South Asian, Sri Lankan, seafood, Western, Indian, and many other cuisines. The ambience, service, variety, and taste are the USPs of this restaurant. Some may argue that $20 for a meal at this restaurant is a bit too much. But in my opinion, the overall experience is well worth that price.
Nuwara Eliya has the soul of Italy and Britain, and that is quite evident. Salmiya is one such example of the Italian essence. If you are someone who loves Italian food or are craving it, you should rush to Salmiya. The dishes are delectable, and there’s no doubt about it. There’s a whole host of dishes to choose from, and the menu is enough to guide you. The cherry on top is the quick and courteous service, and combine that with delicious food, is enough to make your day.
5. Grand Indian
Located on the famous Grand Hotel Road, this is a great restaurant that serves typical Indian dishes. Grand Indian is the most famous Indian restaurant in the city and for good reasons! It is a fairly luxurious restaurant but not overly priced. You won’t be paying a penny extra after visiting here. The hygiene and service are unmatched and something that I really loved! $20-25 is slightly costly for an average meal, but you should definitely have a night’s dinner here.
What to expect from Nuwara Eliya?
Those were some of the tips on how you can explore the beautiful city of Nuwara Eliya. If you also want to know more recommendations on how to explore Sri Lanka, you should check out my blog. Spending a couple of days in Nuwara Eliya should be more than enough because it is a relatively small city and should easily fit into your itinerary. It will calm you down with its pleasant weather, and I feel that most of us yearn for the same on a solo trip.
I swear you will only take good memories from your Nuwara Eliya trip that you can look back on and cherish for the rest of your life. Also, if you have any doubts regarding anything, you can feel free to ask those using the comments section. And don’t forget to tell me about your wonderful experience in Nuwara Eliya. Happy travelling!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.