Nuwara Eliya and Tea Country : An Introduction
Much of Sri Lanka's southern-central region is known as ‘Tea Country’- everywhere you look, every turn you make in this highland area, you'll see tea. Ceylon tea isn't a popular British luxury for no reason; this region is famed for growing some of the finest tea in the world.
The area's ‘capital’ is Nuwara Eliya, three hours south of Kandy by car or a very picturesque train journey, rising from 600m to 1,893m and passing amongst mile after mile of tea terraces. Dotted with Tamil tea pickers, spread across the fields in their bright saris, the scenery is quite breathtaking, and the train's observation carriage ensures prime seating as you gaze down around the green valleys, waterfalls and pretty villages below.
Journey complete, both Nuwara Eliya and its surrounding valleys are home to a number of plantation houses and Colonial villas. During your stay you'll have ample opportunity to walk or cycle through the landscape, visit working tea plantations or simply relax amidst some of Sri Lanka’s most immediately compelling scenery.
At 1,893 metres above sea level, the climate is somewhat reminiscent of the UK; cool and often a little drizzle. After the British tried and failed to grow coffee in the region, a canny Scotsman by the name of James Taylor tried tea instead, bringing experienced Tamil workers from his plantations near Darjeeling, in India. The idea changed the landscape of this region - and some peoples' fortunes - forever. Today, the estates, with names like Edinburgh, Devon and Somerset, will appear familiar to many.
In Nuwara Eliya itself, whose ‘Little England’ title is perhaps a little of an exaggeration in our opinion, is a pleasant enough town to spend a day or two, especially if your stay happens to coincide with a race day. Much Colonial character is still evident - in addition to the race course there is a village post office, an English church and the St Andrew’s golf club. For the less traditional, the region offers some hair-raising black-water rafting and excellent bird-watching.
The train ride up to Nuwara Eliya is the perfect introduction to this little slice of 'old England'.