Almost 6000 feet above sea level this crown of Sri Lanka with lush green Tea Plantations is the cynosure of the central region. The British would love to mention as most in fact all of the Tea Kingdom is their brain child which now serves as the most profitable revenue generator for the Island. The city Nuwara Eliya bears its name etymologically meaning City of Light but paradoxically enshrouded by mist in the morning and fog by night.
Although the mountains nearby rise above the city in elevation, yet it is the town that is referred to both for tourism and Tea Trade. Seasonal activities and recreation are the annual attraction for tourists as well as for locals as the flowers blossom and bloom during the Sri Lankan Summer in March/ April/ May. Hotels of all grades and restaurants come alive. Hence, bookings have to be made early to avoid disappointment. Along with these are the, many lodges which in fact homes converted to guest houses with permission for the season, in order to cater to the large influx of visitors. Residents gear up to the warmest part of the year.
World’s best flavour and variety of Tea are produced, processed and packed in all the Estates around this region, termed as the high grown kind. The British introduced this crop and it has been since then yielding premium quality leaves that are exported around the world. Tea Companies owned by English Planters and Companies still are reminisced by the names of the Estates. It is therefore known also as the ‘Little England’ in Sri Lanka. Besides, buildings and Churches, Golf Courses etc. bear and enduring testimony of the culture of the Whites.
The usual access to this fresh and salubrious ambient surrounding is from the Hill Capital Kandy via winding roads through the slopes of Tea bushes. Tea could grow to a height of 12-15 feet. However for the purpose of harvesting and quality tender leaves they are pruned to about 2.5 – 3 feet. One could see the workers or pickers, generally women, on these ever green slopes, carrying baskets on their shoulders. The journey its self is therapeutic for, any as green refreshes the eyes and mind.
Apart from Tea, many a waterfall will bemuse the traveller as they appear here and there between hills and rocks. Some of them have legendary tales mostly with religious connotation and some are popular bathing spots although not to be compared with the Niagara. Despite being a very cold region, Nuwara Eliya cannot boast of any snow-capped mountain like the Alps. Nevertheless, there are peaks from which breath-taking views and sights enthral a visitor. Hotels and restaurants and now many private tourist homes nestle among these picturesque locations.
Labookele is a spot that’s worth mentioning. It is a few km prior to entering the City. A factory with all the functional stages of producing Tea is in operation for the tourists to have a first-hand experience of the process. A guide will accompany them as they study the mechanism thereof. They are also treated with a cup of the finest variety. Tea packs in many forms of takeaway plus many souvenirs are available for the travellers who transit en route to the City. And one other is the Worlds End, off the city known off its steep almost vertical drop, and the wild terrain adjoining with rare species of flora and fauna. Nuwara Eliya thus is an unavoidable destination in the itinerary towards the central hills.