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”. Nuwara Eliya, also known as ‘Little’ England’, was the favourite hill station of the British who tried to create the resort into a typical English Village. The old brick Post office, country house like hill club, with its hunting pictures, mounted hunting trophies and fish, and its strict formal dinner attire; the 18-hole golf course, racecourse etc., evoke nostalgia of Colonial British Ceylon.
The Climate, Terrain and Vegetation of Nuwara Eliya
Nuwara Eliya which is at an elevation of 1890 meters above the sea level is the highest city in Sri Lanka and it lies beneath the tallest peak of the island, Pidurutalagala or Mount Pedro (2555 meters).
Spring in Nuwara Eliya
The salubrious climate has branded Nuwara Eliya into a sanatorium that attracts Sri Lankan tourists as well as foreign travelers to the seasonal event during February to April. Golf tournaments, horse racing, motor cross, clay pigeon shooting and carnival features are some of the main festivities. The downside of the season is the accommodation rates that shoot up above all. With thousands of local tourists flocking to Nuwara Eliya filling up hotels and guest houses that provide budget accommodation in the season and narrowing the accommodation options, foreign tourists would find it necessary to have the hotel bookings sorted out well in advance.
The Establishment of The City of Nuwara Eliya
Though Nuwara Eliya had been inhabited during the early period of the kingdom of Kandy, the existence of the spectacular “Eliya” (Sinhala: opening or clearing) valley set amidst the wooded green mountains wasn’t known to the Colonial British until the accidental discovery by the colonial civil servant John Davy in the year 1819. However, it took another decade for the British to realize the potential of the city as a whole.
Gregory Lake was built under the period of British Governor Sir William Gregory in 1873. This is the most prominent attraction in Nuwara Eliya and all the visitors used to come here and spent some time by the lake and relax. This was used as a place for water sports and for re-recreational activities during the British time. Gregory Lake gets crowded during the April tourist season.
Horton Plains is a beautiful, silent, strange world with some excellent hikes in the shadows of Sri Lanka’s second- and third-highest mountains, Kirigalpotta (2395m) and Totapola (2357m). The ‘plains’ form an undulating plateau over 2000m high, covered by wild grasslands and interspersed with patches of thick forest, rocky outcrops, filigree waterfalls and misty lakes. The surprising diversity of the landscape is matched by the wide variety of wildlife (although many of the larger animals are very elusive). Get there for a 7am start and you may be lucky enough to have the paths to yourself. The plateau comes to a sudden end at World’s End, a stunning escarpment that plunges 880m.
Hakgala Botanical Garden
Hakgala Botanical Gardens lie just 10km from Nuwara Eliya town. Hakgala is an essential part of any holiday in the hill resort of Nuwara Eliya. According to legend, it was once the pleasure garden of Ravana of the Ramayana epic, and was one of the places where the beautiful Sita was hidden by the demon king. In the period of British rulers, Hakgala was a site for experiments with cinchona plants, which bark yielded quinine which used as a cure for malaria. The cool, temperate climate of the Hakgala area with the temperature of 16ºC, was conducive to the introduction of temperate zone plants, both ornamental and useful. These included conifers and cedars from Australia, Bermuda and Japan, and cypresses from the Himalayas, China and as far as Persia, Mexico and California. Victoria Park.
Nuwara Eliya, the picturesque Sri Lankan hill station known for its fine quality tea, has seen a growing traffic of visitors to what tourist brochures term “the only Sita temple in the world”. The recently constructed complex, which is patterned on the modern south Indian temple, is set in idyllic countryside beside a clear stream. Adjacent to it is another new temple dedicated to Hanuman, the monkey-god, who according to mythology was instrumental in rescuing Sita from Lanka. The location and historicity of the temples situated in the country’s plantation heartland has in recent years given rise to a controversy, which is taking on some divisive overtones in this island nation already torn by ethnic strife.