Exploring Ella and The High Country

The Sri Lanka high country was a sharp contrast to our time on the coast – the area is cooler and the history is rich in colonial history – tea plantations, past-era elegance and waterfalls – welcome to Ella and The High Country.

Our first stop on our High Country experience would be Nuwara Eliya, a 3 hour journey from the south coast. Most travellers taking the same route usually stop in Ella first and take the train to Nuwara Eliya. However, as our accomodation in Ella was set for certain dates, we would be doing the opposite of the usual route.

The climate here is a much welcome relief from the hotter coast, with temperatures sitting around 20 degrees. On our arrival into Nuwara Eliya, we stopped in and had lunch by Lake Gregory. The food was sadly average but the view made up for this.

We then checked in to our amazing accommodation for the next 3 nights – The Grand Hotel. We were originally meant to be staying in the Heritance Tea Factory but as it was closed due to renovations, The Grand Hotel was a great second choice. The Grand Hotel was a pleasant surprise – an old, almost Tudor style building with beautifully manicured gardens all around the 150 room hotel make it a unique sight. The hotel boasts 5 restaurants, a spa and a newly constructed indoor pool – our honeymoon had began.

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We hired bikes for the afternoon from the hotel for 1,000 rupees for 3 hours. We headed for the track around the lake – unfortunately you are only allowed to bike along one side of the lake so our ride was short and sweet. We then headed back to the hotel to check out the pool before enjoying an afternoon margarita in the wine and pool bar. We enjoyed dinner at the Grand Thai restaurant, which was a nice break from all the Sri Lankan food we had been eating.

Our second day at Nuwara Eliya would take us to a visit to a local Tea Factory – Pedro Estate, established in 1885. It was a Sunday when we visited so we didn’t get to see production happening, however, we were still given a tour of the factory and walked through the process from picking to grading. We then enjoyed a sample of the tea in the cafe overlooking the valley. The majority of the tea they grown is sent to auction at Colombo and only a small amount is packaged and sold directly at the plantation themselves. Its a good opportunity to buy directly or to pick up a gift or souvenir.

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We then headed back into town to see the colourful local fruit and vegetable market.

In the afternoon we relaxed in the gardens of the Grand Hotel before trying a massage at the Spa of the hotel. The massage is fairly average for the price – $70USD for 60 mins, $90 USD for 90 mins. I would recommend holding off on massages until you reach Kandy.

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That afternoon we visited the nearby Victoria Park. Entrance costs 300 rupees for foreigners and 20 for locals. Its a pleasant escape from the busy Kandy Road.

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For dinner we tried the local ‘Cafe Trempodoro’. The food was average and they put ALOT of sugar in the smoothies. If you are after a cheap and cheerful meal, I would recommend.

If you are looking for a bit more luxury then the ‘Grand Indian’ restaurant, part of The Grand Hotel chain of restaurants, is a must. The food was delicious!

It was then time to take our leave of Nuwara Eliya and head to Ella, via the famous and scenic train ride.

Trains are notoriously late in Sri Lanka – we were waiting on the platform with a crowd of other tourists for the 12.15pm train but the train did not arrive until around 1pm. Once the train did arrive, there was then a lot of confusion as to who had what seats (you can pay more to have them pre-selected, which I would recommend).

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It was then a scenic trip through the lush valleys and towns towards Ella. There was plenty of time to take in the tea plantations, waterfalls and country side.

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We were met at Ella by our driver and taken to our accommodation – the stunning ‘98 Acres‘. We had purposely planned our iteniary around this accomodation in the High Country. We had dinner at the restaurant on the hill that boasts 360 degree views of the valleys below and we chilled for the afternoon.

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The next morning after breakfast we visited the 9 Arches Bridge, a short walk down from our accomodation at 98 Acres. We missed the turn off as there was no sign posts and ended up at the bridge in an around-about-way through some locals backyards. Ask for directions if possible so you don’t end up in a similar position. The walk was very pretty easy and shouldn’t take more than 15 mins from the main road.

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It was then back to 98 Acres to relax by the pool and chill for the day.

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The following morning we were up at 5.45 am for the hike to Little Adam’s Peak. Fortunately for us, the start of the track starts just behind our accomodation on 98 Acres. The climb is a moderate walk that should not take more than 20 mins to reach the top. I would really recommend going for sunrise, as it’s the clearest views you will get all day.

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It was then time to leave for our next destination, Kandy. We went back through Nuwara Eliya and past some huge tea plantations. Stopped at the Ramboda Hotel and Resturant located next to the Ramboda Falls for some lunch and some touristy photos right next to the Waterfall.

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Nuwara Eliya, Ella and The High Country was a beautiful visit and a must-see on a visit to Sri Lanka.

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