If you’ve read the first part of our 3 weeks in Sri Lanka travel Itinerary, you know by now I’ve been smitten by this charming island in the Indian Ocean.
The last time we’ve met we were getting off the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (I cannot help but add once again that this is the most beautiful train ride you’ll ever experience) and finding a vehicle to get to our new hotel.
Where to stay in Nuwara Eliya
The experience here with regards to the accommodation was not so good for us, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the hotel we stayed in. But you could try the Jetwing St. Andrew’s hotel which I find to be very charming and torn from an English movie.
Another option, also from the Jetwing hotel, is the small and cozy Cottage by Jetwing, a contemporary colonial house in the heart of Sri Lanka. Guests staying here loved the food and the old school vibe of this property.
Choosing to stay in one of the true colonial houses you will live your stay in Little England, as they call Nuwara Eliya, to the fullest.
The last option I would go for is Villa Tea Fields. A charming affordable option with the tea plantations outside your window. Just imagine taking a bath in that tub with tea as far as the eyes can see!
What and where to eat in Nuwara Eliya
This was really a soft spot as well since this village is really small and in the mountains (1868 m), there weren’t any (or at least we did not find any) restaurants per se, only the ones linked to hotels.
And as you might imagine, there wasn’t any other food than the traditional kind. This has been the only location in our Sri Lanka trip itinerary where we had this kind of issue, mainly because the city is so small.
And if you really love traditional Sri Lankan food (or Indian, because to me they were much the same), you won’t have any problems here.
Of course, there was also the restaurant at Araliya Green City Hotel where you can find some kind of international food, apart from Sri Lankan or Indian food, but I am talking here about kebabs and other oriental kinds of food.
The one thing we did not find (anywhere, not even in supermarkets) was alcohol, but maybe we did not look hard enough, and that wasn’t such a huge problem or deal-breaker.
What to do in Nuwara Eliya
In the village? Nothing much. It is because of its location and the things to do around Nuwara Eliya that we chose to stay here, offering us the possibility of easy access to the tea plantations, tea factories, waterfalls, mountains, Horton Plains, and others.
We allocated one day for visiting a Tea Factory (we’ve been to Blue Field and stopped only to buy some tea from Mlesna Tea Castle which also offered an incredible view of St Claire waterfall, making it the perfect spot to stop by for lunch).
Since the area is so well known for its tea, there are plenty of options and tea plantations one can choose from.
Our actual visit at the Tea Factory did not cost anything (we only had to leave a tip for the guide, and it is good to know t is expected of you) and we got to see the whole production process and machines.
At the end of the tour, we understood it was possible also to ask for a visit to the plantation, which we did and we were invited to the tea house and offered a free cup of delicious tea.
Here, we, of course, had the chance to buy different kinds of tea, directly from the main source. I can only say they were all nicely packed, perfect for gifts to bring back home, with an incredible aroma that you don’t get with the tea you buy back home.
You can book a day tour for Ramboda falls and the Tea Factory online and forget about the hassle!
The stop at the tea factory was followed by a trip to the Ramboda Waterfall. The view here is amazing and you truly feel part of nature, the only thing to have in mind is that:
1) you will have to pay for access to the falls (50 rupees/person) and
2) you will need to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top – we encountered many unprepared visitors along the way
But it will all be worth it and you will understand why as soon as you get to the top. Once we got to the top, saw the pool you could bath in, my boyfriend took off his clothes, and jumped right in.
Amazed by the beautiful setting we started to take pictures and forgot that we were in a wild setting and anything could happen (which of course did).
While we were contemplating nature and weren’t paying attention to our surroundings, a pack of monkeys attacked! And I’m not joking, haha. One of them actually took a bag we had left on the rocks and tried to stole it. Little did I know my boyfriend’s phone was in the bag!
Luckily, we weren’t the only tourists around and there was someone faster than us who managed to recuperate the bag (and the phone) from the monkey. But as soon as the panic passed, we observed that we were surrounded by monkeys! They were everywhere!
Moral of the story: don’t forget you are in the wild, after all, it’s their home, not yours and keep all your precious belongings with you all the time.
Rafting on the Kelani river
Another activity worth trying if you have some time to do it because it is a 2h and a half drive from Nuwara Eliya, is rafting on the Kelani river.
Even though a bit expensive, the whole experience is definitely worthwhile, especially if it is your first time rafting.
I have to admit I was pretty nervous and even wanted to give up the morning we left for the river. That topped by the fact that my friend did not know how to swim and you can find the perfect recipe for success, haha.
In the end, my boyfriend was stronger than us and convinced us to give it a try. And we are so happy to have done that! It is a very cool experience and you don’t even know when time flies by. Moreover, at the end of the adventure, you get the chance to swim in the tranquil river.
What to have in mind if you are thinking about adding rafting to your Sri Lanka Trip Itinerary:
- it is an experience suitable also for non-swimmers
- they will provide you the vests and helmets
- you will have to bring towels and clothing for changing afterward
- make sure to put on sunscreen
- HAVE FUN!
If you are looking for more adrenaline and feel fit, you can also choose to take a detour in the Northern part of the island and take a hike at Pindurangala Rock.
Go at the World’s End for the breathtaking views! A total of 9 km walk that will take you around 3 hours to complete, but won’t leave you disappointed.
Just make sure to arrive before 10 AM because after this time the view gets covered by puffy clouds. Also, avoid going on a Sunday or on public holidays – that’s when it’s more likely to stumble into crowds.
You can choose to make the walk by yourself, or book a tour that will include a visit to one of the tea plantations.
Ella and Little Adam’s Peak
It is true that this tour will take some time, but you won’t regret it. Partly because it includes a visit to one of the most picturesque bridges in Sri Lanka: the 9 Arch Bridge.
We stopped in Ella for a quick bite and I really loved the laid back atmosphere and hippie vibes. Colorful bars, lively music, and a perfect place to have fun in between trips.
Book a tour from Nuwara Eliya to Ella and Little Adam’s Peak and hike all the way to the Ella Gap from the top of both Ella Rock and Little Adams Peak.
Transport option for Nuwara Eliya
Throughout the 4 days and 3 nights we spent in the tea country, we experienced various means of transportation, but we had nothing planned beforehand, thus I can easily say getting around Nuwara Eliya is quite easy.
When we got off of the train taking us from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya we were supposed to be picked up by a driver booked by the hotel. Of course, this never happened, thus we took one of the many taxies waiting at the train station.
It turned out that the guy was also a “guide” and managed more cars and drivers, so we arranged all our trips in the county with him, for a fair price.
Getting around in Nuwara Eliya was done in an expected way: by rickshaw. It is cheap, it gets you from one place to the other, and you can negotiate the price.
Our next stop, after Nuwara Eliya was Yala, mainly for the Yala National Park (we thought).
Getting from Nuwara Eliya to Yala National Park
After spending some beautiful days in the coldest part of Sri Lanka, the time had come for us to move forward and go down South, to Yala National Park.
We had the whole trip arranged by the travel agency, thus we traveled by car between Nuwara Eliya and Yala National Park, the whole trip taking us around 5 hours since we have also stopped for lunch in Ella.
Hiring a driver in Sri Lanka is easy and you can easily get there without having the whole trip planned ahead of time.
If you prefer to book your transfer between Nuwara Eliya and Yala ahead of time, you would have 2 options to choose from:
- doing it online here – the driver will pick you up from your hotel in Nuwara Eliya and drive you to your hotel in Yala
- use 12go.asia and configuration your own itinerary as you like. This is a great online platform that covers a large part of Asia and offers you the possibility of booking all sorts of transport. I suggest you look into it no matter if you look for a direct transfer, or are open to splitting the trip into 2:
- take the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella
- book a private transfer from Ella to Nuwara Eliya
Where to stay in Yala
I don’t even know what to start with (and no, we did not have any sponsored partnership with them, this is just my opinion): their amazing pool (the largest I’ve ever seen in a hotel), the delicious and very varied food served at their buffet breakfast and dinner, the beautiful and remote beach where only hotel guests have access, the SPA where I experienced the greatest ayurvedic massage there is.
The best time of the day was the sunset, laying on the sunbeds until the sun would go down behind the small hills on the beach, sipping a ginger ale and listening to the waves. What more could you wish for?
If you choose to include Jetwing Yala in your Sri Lanka trip itinerary, note that it is a remote hotel and you will not have the chance to wander around outside of the resort (because you are literally in the wild). Thus you will want to make sure to include also dinner when booking your stay at the hotel (or any other hotel in that area).
Of course, if you are looking for a more authentic experience, you should know you can also choose to stay in a treehouse in the mids of the Yala National Park wilderness.
Glamping is another option worth considering – one of my friends said he had the most amazing experience in a glamping resort in Sri Lanka. Check out this or this place – I’m sure you will consider it!
Things to do in Yala
Guided Safari game drive and leopard watching
The main reason for staying here for 3 nights was the Yala National Park.
Just bear in mind that if you want to visit, you will have to wake up really early in the morning (departure from the hotel is at 5:30 AM). The main attraction of the park is the leopard, but he is not always really friendly and it might be really hard to see him/her.
We were very lucky (as always) and we got to see a leopard, but I didn’t necessarily like the whole experience because the park can get really crowded and the traffic gets really heavy.
What I really loved was the stop for a snack on the seashore and the stop by the lake filled with lotuses.
Despite this fact, I would totally recommend the experience, especially if you haven’t been to any safari before. Seeing wild elephants wandering around, and various other animals, not trapped in a cage, it’s a great experience.
Book your safari online and save on the price you could pay on location!
Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple
Located in Kalutara, this temple is one of the most important tourist attractions in Yala, apart from the National Park. Only 3.5 km outside of the national park, here is where you’ll find an oasis of tranquility.
Another Buddhist religious site, this sacred shrine is set on the edge of a lake and is decorated with interesting paintings you’ll want to admire.
Go on a village cycling tour
Go local and paddle through the countryside and along the rice paddies. Discover rural life and see how the local fisherman live in these small neighboring fishing villages.