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Sri Lanka tea fields

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Called Serendib by Arab traders  (the origin of the word “serendipity”), Sri Lanka has an amazing diversity for a small island and offers the possibility of experiencing vastly different climates, history, and cultures during a short vacation. In this Four Part Series I will share a glimpse of four different areas of Sri Lanka that can, and should, be a part of any itinerary to the island of providence.

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Part 1 explores the East Coast city of Trincomalee and the Hindu  Koneswaram Temple and Part 2 brought us to the Ancient Buddha Rock Statues of Polonnaruwa.

Sri Lanka’s hill country is a world unto itself. Dramatic mountains are smoothed out by waves of evenly spaced tea bushes that calm the senses and clear the mind. Amongst the tea plantations, like no where else in Sri Lanka, you can feel the blend of civilizations between England’s colonial past, the Tamil Hindu community that was forcefully moved from India to Sri Lanka to work in the fields, and the ancient kingdom of Kandy. The bled of cultures provides an amazing cultural backdrop to rival the already amazing natural beauty of the area.

Stone Church in Sri Lankan Hill Country

A British built stone church

Hindu Statue in the Sri Lanka Tea Fields

A Hindu statue in the tea fields

Heading up to the higher altitudes is a great way to beat the heat of the lowlands and a sweater or fleece is a must for the chilly evenings. The cooler weather is also perfect for hiking and experiencing the beauty of the tea trails and mountain views up close and personal. My favorite way to travel in the tea country is to stay in an old tea bungalow and make it your base for exploring the area. Haputale is the perfect town for this, with expansive views out onto the plains below and a number of great hikes close by (including Horton Plains, which you can read about in any old guide book).

Buddhist Prayer Flags in Sri Lanka

Buddhist Prayer Flags

Ella Gap, Sri Lanka

A view of Ella Gap

Either a car or a driver is essential, but the freedom to explore trails off the beaten track is the reward for this extra bit of effort. Trust me, things are much cheaper in Sri Lanka than you are used to so this will not be too much of a burden. If you need another option climb Sri Lanka’s most famous pilgrimage at Adam’s Peak, where you’ll be sure to find public transportation, and a sore body afterward!

From Haputale drive one  hour to the picturesque town of Ella. The guide books sing the praises of Ella as a tiny, authentic rural hill country town. It’s true that it’s small but it is not really authentic anymore with the multitude of guest houses cramming into the hillside for a picturesque view of Ella Gap. And it is beautiful, which is why I recommend a day trip and a hike up Little Adams Peak, named for its cone like resemblance to its famous older brother. The trail head is just about 1.5 km outside of town and brings you through beautiful tea plantations, provides views of Ella Gap, and rewards you after am easy 30 minute hike with spectacular views of the surrounding hill country.

Further off the beaten path, but with a storied history is Lipton’s Seat. Named after Sir Thomas Lipton, of Lipton Tea fame, it is said this magnificent viewing point was the tea baron’s favorite place to hike to. Located 10-12 km from Haputale it is a bit out of the way. However, it on the same road as my favorite tea bungalow, in the town of Dambethenna with a tea plantation of the same name. As with most towns in the tea country the town and the tea plantation are synonymous and neither would exist without the other. The narrow road cuts back on itself creating a seemingly endless ladder high into the clouds above the town where the trail starts. The road is not for the feint of heart as mere inches separate you from a wild crash down the steep sides.

View of Lipton's Seat Sri Lanka

Lipton Seat and the view beyond (photo: Audi Liew)

The path itself is a dirt track that winds it way through the high tea plantation. It ends at a cheesy viewing station that will easily be blocked from memory by the 360 degree views. On a clear day 5 different provinces can be seen and an amazing view right down into the Uvin Basin and the Indian Ocean. While the hike is easy, the timing can be tricky and the area is often shrouded in deep mists that obscure everything from the ocean to the tips of your fingers. Start your hike here early in the morning as this is your best chance to enjoy the views before the predictable afternoon mists roll up from the valley below.

Have you been to Sri Lanka’s Hill Country? We would love to hear your experiences or just a comment on the article.

If you Go


If you want to stay in Haputale and at the Kelburne Cottages visit the company’s website at:

Reservations can be made in Colombo as well as payment in advance. The small, hidden, unmarked office is just off of Galle Road before Liberty Place. Call them if you get lost…which you will.

Getting there:

Here are directions to Kelburne. The staff can show you the way to Ella as well as Lipton’s Seat.

A car is essential, either a hired car (which is easily sorted in Colombo), or your own. You can also take a bus to Haputale town and then a trishaw the rest of the way.

From Colombo : Take the Badulla/Bandarawela Road through Ratnapura (A4). At Haputale Town cross-road take the right turn on the Dambettene Road (approx. 1 mile). Turn at the Kelburne Mountain View board.

From Kandy :
Take the Peradeniya/Badulla Road (A5) to Welimada. Turn right on the Welimada/Bandarawela Road to reach Haputale.

From down South: Take the A2 road to Wellawaya through Hambantota and turn left onto the Koslanda/Beragala Road , join the A5. Or, go straight to Ella on the A23 and drive to Bandarawela/Haputale.

When to go:

The guide books suggest December to April are the driest months in the hill country and the South West. They are right, but if you want to the excellent views the staff at Kelbourne recommended the rainy season of May-September as the clouds below are regularly blown aside.

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5 Responses to “Experiencing Sri Lanka’s Providence- Part 3: Hiking the Tea Trails”

  1. SuzyNo Gravatar says:

    Gorgeous! I had no idea about the rich tea history in that area. Yet another reason I need to make it to Sri Lanka at some point.
    .-= Suzy´s recent blog ..Girne, North Cyprus Wishes You Were Here =-.

  2. Dave and DebNo Gravatar says:

    I absolutely love your posts on Sri Lanka. We spent a month there in February and adored the people and the island. It is one of our favorite places to visit and the tea plantations are stunning. We joined the pilgrimage and climbed Adams Peak and it was one of the most magical moments of our lives. It must have been amazing to live there for 3 years!
    Thanks for showcasing this often overlooked country, More people need to experience its beauty.

    • Todd WasselNo Gravatar says:

      Thanks, yeah it was amazing living there. A bit hard at times with the war but things seem to really be picking up tourist wise and I’m told it is hard to find hotel rooms now!

  3. CamNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks for the tips! We’re thinking about hitting Sri Lanka next year, this helps… looks fantastic!
    .-= Cam´s recent blog ..Drinking Beer Around the World =-.

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