When you think of Sri Lanka, you probably think of golden beaches and temples. And this is true; you can find beautiful beaches and impressive temples in Sri Lanka. But the country has a side to it that is unknown to most people, the green and lush hills in an area known as the Hill Country. On our 2-week trip through the southern part of Sri Lanka we spent about a week in the beautiful Hill Country.
We landed in the capital, Colombo, around 1pm but decided to take a bus that same day to Kandy. Kandy is a city of about 100,000 inhabitants and is located to the east from Colombo. During the ride we experienced torrential rain and knowing that November is one of the wettest months, especially in the Hill Country, this was rain I had never seen before. That evening in Kandy, however, we were fortunate that the rain turned to light drizzling. Before taking a tuk tuk to our hostel we had our first Sri Lankan meal: Kothu. This is a chopped up roti (a pancake like flatbread) mixed with vegetables, cheese, spices, chicken, fish, anything you like. It was delicious and the restaurant we ate, the Muslim Hotel (it’s not a hotel, just a restaurant), is apparently famous for it and I highly recommend eating there.
The next morning we boarded a train that was heading for Ella; deep in the Hill Country and south east of Kandy. This train ride is world famous and I read somewhere that it is in a list of the world’s most scenic train rides! And while you can make reservations for the trains in Sri Lanka, this specific train is often fully booked as soon as the tickets get released. But you can still buy the tickets on the day of travel about 30 minutes before departure, which is what we did. And even though the train was jam-packed, mainly with tourists, we managed to get seats. For a chance the sky was blue and the next 4 hours we got treated to the most magnificent views of rolling hills with tea plantations, mountains and forests.
We got off in Haputale a small town about an hour south of Ella and at an elevation of 1431m above sea level. It was actually quite chilly, 17 degrees, and the blue skies from earlier that day were now grey and spitting rain at us. The town is on top of a hill surrounded by tea plantations, which makes that you have great views from pretty much anywhere in the town. In the afternoon we did a great hike along the train tracks (this is completely normal in Sri Lanka) and we met some very friendly tea picking ladies and my boyfriend played cricket with some kids in one of the villages we passed. The next morning we took a 30-minute bus to the Dambatenne Tea Factory, built in 1890 by Sir Thomas Lipton (yes, from Lipton tea). The factory does short bus thorough tours and it was great to learn more about the process of producing tea. From the factory you can follow the signs 7km up a narrow, almost traffic less, road through the tea plantations to Lipton’s Seat. This is a viewing point from which Sir Lipton Thomas used to look out over his plantations. We hiked up but unfortunately there was no view at all, just thick mist and monkeys. However the hike was very pleasant and we got some good views on our way up and down. And if you get tired halfway, there are a few tuk tuks who will offer to drive you up/down for a fee. Tired but with a very good feeling we chilled the rest of the day at our guesthouse and enjoyed the views from the balcony.
Even though Ella is only about an hour from Haputale, the next day we ended up on a very slow and old train that took about 2 hours. It was still great though and more time to take in the views. Ella is a very small town that is very popular especially with backpackers. We hiked up to ‘Little Adam’s Peak’ here and enjoyed the view of Ella Rock that we could see through the clouds and mist. Wanting to see more in Sri Lanka and perhaps two weeks is too little time, we left Ella the next morning, heading south to Udawalawe National Park for some safari! One day we will be back in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country for sure it’s an amazing place!
Chelsea Hartman, from Follow Your Hart…Man is a pediatric nurse that is passionate about life. When she is not working, she is exploring this beautiful world. When she can’t jump on a plane to the other side of the world, she stays close to home, taking a look back at all the great adventures she feels she has been fortunate enough to have. Be sure to check out this upcoming travel blogger!
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