Nuwara Eliya is a city, in the hill country of the Central Province, Sri Lanka. The city name meaning is “city on the plain (table land)” or “city of light”. The city is the administrative capital of Nuwara Eliya District, with a picturesque landscape and temperate climate. It is located at an altitude of 1,868 m (6,128 ft) and is considered to be the most important location for Tea production in Sri Lanka. The city is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka.
The city was founded by Samuel Baker, the discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846. Nuwara Eliya’s climate lent itself to becoming the prime sanctuary of the British civil servants and planters in Ceylon. Nuwara Eliya, called Little England then, was also a hill country retreat where the British colonialists could immerse in their pastimes such as fox hunting, deer hunting,elephant hunting, polo, golf and cricket.
Although the town was founded in the 19th century by the British, the whole district is today visited by native travelers, specially during the month of April, the season of flowers, pony races, go cart races and auto rally.
Many of the buildings retain features from the colonial period such as the Queen’s Cottage, General’s House, Grand Hotel, Hill Club, Town Post Office and even new hotels are often built and furnished in the colonial style. Anyone who visits the city can wallow in its nostalgia of bygone days by visiting these landmark buildings. Many private homes still maintain their old English-style lawns and gardens.
Due to the high altitude, Nuwara Eliya has a much cooler climate than the lowlands of Sri Lanka, with a mean annual temperature of 16 °C. But the temperature changes and sometimes it can be as low as 3°C. In the winter months it is quite cold at night, and there can even be frost. Though it rapidly warms up as the tropical sun climbs higher during the day
The town’s attractions include the golf course, trout streams, Victoria Park, and boating or fishing on Lake Gregory. Victoria Park is an attractive and well-used oasis. It is popular with birdwatchers at quieter times because of the good opportunities it gives to see various species, particularly the Indian Blue Robin, Pied Thrush or Scaly Thrush lurking in the denser undergrowth. The Kashmir Flycatcher is another attractive bird species found in the park. Galway’s Land Bird Sanctuary, close to Lake Gregory, is another wildlife site of 0.6 km².
The city is a base for visits to Horton Plains National Park. This is a key wildlife area of open grassy woodland. Species found here include the Leopard, Sambar, and the endemic Purple-faced Langur. Endemic highland birds include the Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, and Yellow-eared Bulbul. The plains also has a well-visited tourist attraction at World’s End, a sheer precipice with a 1050 m drop. The return walk passes the scenic Baker Falls. Early morning visits are best, both to see the wildlife, and to view World’s End before mists close in during the later part of the morning.
One of the distinctive features of Nuwara Eliya’s countryside is the widespread growing of vegetables, fruit and flowers usually associated with temperate Europe. This “Little England” is covered with terraces growing potatoes, carrots, leeks, and roses, interspersed with tea bushes on the steeper slopes.
The slow-growing tea bushes of this highland region produce some of the world’s finest Orange Pekoe tea, and several tea factories around Nuwara Eliya offer guided tours and the opportunity to sample or purchase their products.
Other interesting places
A temple to Hanuman near Nuwara Eliya
One is a grave stone of one British governor located in the very corner of the golf grounds. He was famous for elephant hunting and it says that he killed thousands of elephants. Folklore in Nuwara Eliya says that every year his gravestone is struck by lightning for the great sin that he did. At present this place is not open for the visitors.
Another place related to folklore is the Hindu Temple called “Seetha Kovil” (Hanuman Kovil). It is found on the way to Badulla from Nuwara Eliya before reaching the Hakgala Botanical Garden. The temple is located in the village called “Seetha Eliya”. The area is related to the Ramayana story in Hinduism. Folklore says that the mighty king Ravana kidnapped princess Seeta who was the queen of Rama and hid her in the place where the temple now is.
There is also a Church called the Holy Trinity Church on church road, which accommodate an old graveyard and mof the grave stones have British names engraved on them.