| INTERESTING PLACES
Eliya is the perfect Place get-away for you
and your family. With so much to do here,
you can create your personal blend of relaxed
days, adventurous excursions, educational
activities and kid-crazy fun. Here are some
ideas that will help you tailor a family vacation,
like no other you have ever had.
Spread over 90 acres, over
a hundred years old, the 18 hole golf course is one
of Nuwara Eliya’s biggest attractions. It is reputed
to be the only Golf Course where all the holes are visible
from the Club House or accessible by car. In the old
British cemetery at the rear of the Club House is the
memorial to Major Rogers, the elephant hunter credited
with killing around 1500 elephants.
An artificial lake in the southern part of the town.
and a half km. before Haggala is another place connected
to the Ramayana. A temple now stands at the spot where
Sita, wife of the Hindu epic hero Rama is said to have
been imprisoned by the demon king Ravana.
Ella Wellawaya Road, south of Nuwara Eliya, Ravana bathed
and imprisoned Sita in the gigantic cave nearby which
is said to be one of his 23 homes.
tall and the island’s highest peak. North of the
town on the Gampola road it can be climbed in two hours
but the state owned television tower at its summit is
guarded by soldiers, who will not give permission, to
pass its boundaries.
An ornamental garden associated
with the Hindu epic Ramayana it is a scenic place with
paths, shrubbery, ferneries, shady groves, lush foliage
and flowers. The rose garden with over 100 varieties
of special note. Where plants and trees from around
the world, are seen in one place, Haggala Botanical
Gardens, just 10km away from Nuwara Eliya City. Haggala
is one of the places one visits as an essential part
of a pleasant journey in the famous hill resort of Nuwara
Eliya. The site is legendary. It was once the pleasure
garden of Ravana of the Ramayana epic and according
to many, it was one of the places where beautiful Sitha
was hidden by the demon king. The present botanical
gardens were founded in 1860 by the eminent British
botanist Dr. G.H.K. Thwaites who was the superintendent
of more famous gardens at Peradeniya, near Kandy.
It was the site initially for
experiments with cinchona whose bark yielded quinine,
esteemed as a tonic and febrifuge. Quinine at that
time was widely used as a specific medicine for Malaria.
This was perhaps the reason for the popularity of
tonic in these parts - quinine being the principle
ingredient of tonic water. The cool, equable climate
of Haggala area, whose mean temperature is around
60 degrees Fahrenheit, encouraged the introduction
of suitable temperate zone plants, both ornamental
and useful. These included conifers and cedars from
Australia, Bermuda and Japan, and cypresses from the
Himalayas, China and as far a field as Persia, Mexico
and California. New Caledonia gave Haggala a special
variety of pines and there are specimens of this genus
from the canary Island as well.
An English oak, introduced
around 1890, commemorates the "hearts of oak"
of Britain's vaunted sea power, and there is a good-looking
specimen of the camphor tree, whose habitat is usually
in regions above 12,000m. If you have left your heart
in an English garden, you will surely find it again
in Haggala's Rose garden. where the sights and scents
of these glorious blooms can be experienced in their
infinite variety. From there it is a quiet stroll
from the sublime to the exotic sophistication of the
orchid House. A special attraction here is the verity
of montane orchids, many of them endemic to Sri Lanka.
It would be in the worst possible
taste to describe the Fernery as a collection of "vascular
cryptograms" But that is how the dictionary describes
the plant whose delicate fronds conjure up visions
of misty grottoes, lichen-covered stones and meandering
streams. The Fernery at Haggala is a shady harbour
of many quiet walks, in the shade of the Haggala Rock,
shaped like the jawbone of an elephant, from which
the place gets its name. Sri Lanka's ferns are well
represented here, as are those of Australia and New
Haggala is a temperate hill-country garden where also
the languid low-country lotus and water lily floats
in their serene loveliness. Pinks and blues emerging
from a flat- floating background of lush leaves, recall
the calm of yellow-robed monks, white-clad, devotees
and flickering oil lamps. In time, the highlands bracing
breezes dispel the languor of lotus land and even
cause a shiver as a temperature lowers. The Haggala
Botanical Gardens is one of the lovely contrasts of
Sri Lanka, a home to plants and trees from around
the world, making them seem to be a part of the scenic
The yearly pilgrimage has
just begun. The season when tourist and devotee alike
trek many a weary miles to reach the dizzy heights of
Sri Lanka’s most sacred mountain Sri Pada that
is Sinhala means ‘Sacred Foot’. The pilgrimage
is to pay homage to the Buddha, to redeem vows and also
to witness the mystery and grandeur of the sunrise as
it pierces the horizon in all its splendour. This is
traditionally referred to by Buddhists as ‘Hirusevaya’.
Fact, legend and folklore are woven around Sri Pada
(also referred to as Adam’s Peak) — 7,360
feet above sea level and situated in the Central Hills
of Sri Lanka and which is also universally known because
it is the only mountain in the world which has the distinction
of being sacred to the followers of three great faiths
— the Buddhists, the Muslims and the Hindus.
The Buddhists believe that it was on the summit of this
peak that the Gauthama Buddha set his Foot Print when
He visited Sri Lanka for the third time. This act was
a result of the humble request made to the Buddha by
God Saman, the-Guardian Deity of Sri Pada, and this
fact is recorded in the Mahawamsa- the ancient chronicle
of the Sinhalese.
When the Teacher compassionate to the whole world, had
preached the doctrine there, he rose, the Master and
left the trace of His Foot Print plain to the sight
on Samanalakuta the ancient name of Adam'a Peak which
means Samanala mountain.
The Muslims believe that when Adam was driven out of
Paradise, he alighted on this peak and stood on one
foot till his sins were forgiven. Hence the reference
to it as Adam’s Peak.
“The Blessed Foot Print – the Foot of our
Father Adam is on a lofty black rock in a wide plateau”.
The Hindus, on the other hand, claim it to be the Foot
Print of God Siva. Agnostics say that this foot print
is that of IEU ‘Pre-medieval Man’ and the
Chinese say that it is the foot of FOE.
But whatever the beliefs or claims – Sri Pada,
the cone shaped peak, the cone shaped peak which can
be seen from the sea many miles away from the sea coast
has come to be venerated by millions of people the world
over. During the pilgrim season which begins in January
and ends in April, the young and the old mostly clad
in spotless white, make their arduous climb shivering
in the icy cold breeze, with the fervent belief that
the greater the hardship experienced, the greater the
Sri Lanka’s only mountain
national park, the Horton Plains offers incomparable
access to tropical mountain cloud forest. Located 2,1002,300
m above sea level, the park is 3,162 ha in extent, with
good road access from the hill resort town of Nuwara
Eliya one hour away, which offers the closest quality
accommodation with a variety of 2 and 3-star hotels
and guest houses (Nuwara Eliya itself, 2,000 m a.s.l.,
is 4½ hrs from Colombo, by road). Horton Plains
is now one of Sri Lanka’s most visited national
parks, and the only one in which visitors are permitted
to tour on foot.
The southern end of the park has a spectacular 1,000m
escarpment known as Worlds End, which is the primary
focus of tourist traffic. However, several less frequently
traversed paths exist, offering hikers interesting solitary
hiking opportunities. The large aggregations of the
elk-like sambur deer (Cervus unicolor) make interesting
dawn and dusk viewing. This is one of the few places
in which you stand a good chance of (safely!) seeing
a leopard while moving around on foot.
Best months to visit are April and August. The winter
months, though dry, can be very cold. If you wish to
walk, it is best to get to Ohiya station, the nearest
on public transport.
The Horton Plains National Park is the only National
Park situated in the Hill Country and falls within the
Nuwara Eliya district and is 200 km away from Colombo.
Panoramic scenic beauty of the Hill Country could be
witnessed within the Park. The famous `Worlds End' is
a major attraction within the Park. Endemic slender
Loris and endemic purple monkey are among the important
animal species that could be seen in addition to sandbur,
a member of the cat family etc. There is some endemic
avifauna also found within this Park.
Almost all life forms in Horton Plains are adapted to
the high altitude conditions. There are a lot of endemic
flora and fauna found in the plains itself. The endemicity
among fauna is comparatively high. Bear Monkey (race
of the Purple Face leaf Monkey), Sambhur and Leopard
are some interesting mammals. One would also find several
endemic hill country birds in the Horton plains national
park. The panoramic scenic beauty of the hill country
could be witnessed within the park. The famous "World's
End" and "Bakers Falls" are major attractions.
The Kirigalpotta, second highest peak and the Thotapola,
third highest peak of the country are also situated
in the Horton plains.
Any visit to Nuwara Eliya is incomplete without an excursion
to any one of the numerous tea factories that dot its
pretty landscape. Here a guide will show you the various
processes which tea leaves go through before finding their
way into a steaming pot of fragrant high grown tea.
6 km from Banadarawela. Surrounded by hills and grasslands
it has a climate akin to the English spring. A military
cantonment since the second World War.
An hour’s drive south it is a smaller hill station
with a warmer and milder climate than Nuwara Eliya, said
to be the most bracing in Sri Lanka.
Travelling a distance of
193 kilo- metres from Colombo on the Colombo-Badulla
road, one arrives at the sleepy little town of Haputale.
Clinging precipitously to both sides of a razor sharp
ridge, the town sits at an elevation of approximately
4736 feet (1579 metres). It is a nondescript town with
the main road descending into it from such a height
that the arrival into the Main Street is startling,
especially from the front seat of a bus Ñ the
street is there, but at the far end Éa steep
drop into nothingness. It appears to the ignorant visitor,
that the bus will become airborne, at the end of the
The town is dotted with little Hindu temples, reminding
us of the large population of Indian Tamils who are
employed in the tea estates that cover the surrounding
The town is considered a place that must be seen by
any hill country traveller because of the Haputale Gap.
This is without doubt, one of the most spectacular sights
in the country. The great amphitheatre of the upper
Uva spreads out to the north and east. It is bounded
by the mountains of Idalgashinna, Ohiya and the Horton
Plains, the peaks of Haggala, the purple cone of Namunukula,
and Poonagala and Bandara Eliya. On the other side is
an equally breathtaking view Ñ the foothills
of the lower Uva, the southern Sabaragamuwa and the
Southern Province right down to the sea. On a bright
and cloudless day, one could see the ocean as a bright
blue line in the distance, but usually the horizon is
obscured by clouds and mist. A cloudless night discloses
the stabbing rays of the little lighthouse of Hambantota,
Though one can experience this spectacular view from
anywhere in the town the ideal place where one could
see five provinces at the same time, is near the one
kilometre marker on the Dambatenne Road.
If one has the time it is certainly worthwhile to take
a drive along Dambatenne Road, as it is one of the most
scenic stretches of road in this country. This six-mile
stretch of road ends in a cul-de-sac on the other side
of the Poonagala-Ampettikanda range. Far down in the
valley below, is a gigantic gap between two mountains,
and everywhere there are streams and waterfalls and
hills that rise up majestically to over 6000 feet. Beyond
and below the gap is the road to Koslanda and Wellawaya
and around it the basin of one of the mainstreams of
the Walawe river. Above the road and to its left is
the Haputale Forest Reserve, which is well served by
streams and is ideal for camping, except during the
rainy season or in January or February, when mist reduces
visibility almost to nil.
Stretching for five miles between Haputale and Idalgashinna
is a little known nature reserve Ñ the Tangamalai
Wildlife Sanctuary. Not many large animals are to be
seen, but birds of bright hues can be seen in profusion.
About three miles below Idalgashinna station, the southern
slope of the range and surrounded by the Needwood Tea
Plantation is an old abandoned fortress, the Kotugodella
Fort, at an elevation of about 3800 feet. The Portuguese
once attempted to use the Idalgashinna Pass to force
a way into the Uva. Hardly anything of the Fort remains
today; a few scattered stones and the semicircular outlines
of ancient bastions are the only reminders that such
a majestic structure once stood there.
The Ohiya Gap may not be as spectacular a sight as the
Haputale and Idalgashinna passes, but is distinct in
its utter loneliness, where one may not meet more than
half a dozen people in a whole day.
A visitor to Haputale can stay at either the Haputale
New Rest-house, which is one kilometre from the railway
station, or the Old Rest-house which is opposite the
station. There are also numerous houses which offer
accommodation and meals for reasonable rates but one
needs to search for them. An alternative would be to
stay in a nearby town, such as Diyatalawa or Bandarawela,
and drive, take a bus or walk the 10 kilometres to Haputale.