The tea country is Sri Lanka at its most dramatic: a land of gurgling mountain streams and steep hillsides cloaked in luminous green tea, sweet-scented Cyprus and Eucalyptus trees. Nuwara Eliya, nestled at the foot of a mountain, was made into a summer retreat by the British in the early 1800s and much of its colonial character still remains. Dickoya, Bandarawela, Haputale and Ella are all quaint Tea Country towns and villages where life is peaceful and unhurried. If you have travelled this uphill journey by train I am sure you will agree its one of the most amazing train journeys.
The town of Nuwara Eliya sprawls over the fertile valley flanked by Mount Pidurutalagala and Single Tree Mountain and is scattered with Victorian-style 19th century homes, bungalows, guesthouses and hotels complete with gabled roofs, large open fireplaces and hardwood floors. Nuwara Eliya takes pride in its beautiful gardens with neatly-clipped lawns and colourful flower beds and it’s a great base for visiting the old colonial hotels and building.
The Grand Hotel was once the residence of Sir Edward Barns, a British Governor of Sri Lanka, this mansion was built a century ago and is typical of the Victorian architecture found in some of the heritage properties of Nuwara Eliya. It’s a big hotel with 156 standard and deluxe rooms and there are 4 restaurants to choose from. Its what you would expect from an old colonial hotel, quite formal with antique furniture and air of bygone days. But its fun to experience for a day or two and a good place to explore and enjoy the Tea Country.
Warwick Gardens is a beautifully restored planter’s house in a lovely setting over looking a green tea-bushed valley and conveniently close to Nuwara Eliya. It’s a two story granite brick house surrounded by beautiful gardens where you can sit and take in the view. There are only 5 bedrooms and all the rooms in the house have fireplaces, for chilly nights and are decorated with antiques and paintings. It’s a great place for walking and exploring the area.
The Tea Factory is exactly what is says on the tin and one of the most unique hotels on the island. It was a 1930’s tea factory which has been painstakingly converted into an amazing hotel. The reception was once the drier room, the sifting and packing rooms are now a restaurant and bar and the fine-dining restaurant is a restored railway carriage. The 57 deluxe and standard rooms are all on the upper drying floors and are very comfortable with lovely views over the tea estate and village below. So if you are in the tea country why not stay in a tea factory.
On its own estate surrounded by the aptly named 'God's Forest' and tea plantations Koslanda is a fantastic hotel where you can relax whilst you enjoy exploring the surrounding tea plantations and forest-if you are lucky during dry season you will catch a glimpse of the elephants as they migrate but there is plenty of wildlife year round to see. There are only 4 rooms decorated in a distinctive Sri Lankan style, there are 3 suites above the restaurant with their own balcony and one deluxe room in the garden, each with their own outdoor Jacuzzi and hot water garden shower, private terrace and veranda. Relax In the infinity pool or take a dip in the crystal clear waterfall on the estate before sitting down to delicious traditional Sri Lankan curries. The hotel is very remote, however don’t let that put you off as there is plenty to do and see on its doorstep.
Hatton is set in the Southern highlands with a number of large tea estates which offer small colonial bungalows as a base to explore the area. The area is dotted with hindu temples and statues of Ghandi reminding you of the hindu culture here when the early tea planters brought over southern Indians in the 1850s to pick the tea. Here you can climb the famous Adams Peak, visit tea factories, go white water rafting and mountain biking. It’s a bit of a drive but you visit Worlds End and Horton Plains National park from here as well
Set amongst lush tea plantations set high above the Castlereigh reservoir in the |Dickoya region of the southern highlands are the four classic colonial bungalows called the Tea Trails. Each bungalow is different combining both classical and contempory design but the common elements include panoramic views lovely gardens with croquet lawns, open bar, immaculate staff and an extensive activities list. They are all beautiful bungalows in the higher end market and a great base to explore the area around Hatton.
The three Mandira Bungalows are set on private tea estates and are much simpler and less grand than the tea trails bungalows though they have a simple charm of their own. With lovely views over the tea estates and extremely friendly staff. The food is excellent here, you are given the choice of local or western meals and the curries are outstanding. They are a comfortable and affordable stay in this beautiful area.