5 things to do in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

In my short 5-day trip to Sri Lanka, Nuwara Eliya was the highlight! It was rainy and wet when I was there but that probably added to the charm and beauty of this beautifully green hill town, home to Sri Lanka’s largest tea plantations. For those who may not know, Ceylon Tea is famous all over the world and here in Nuwara Eliya, you can visit the tea gardens, learn how tea is made at the factories and even enjoy some tea tasting at one of the large estates. But there’s more to the town than that – from rivers and waterfalls to forests and lakes, if you’re looking for a peaceful experience amidst rugged nature and are not vary of insects, reptiles and creatures of nature, then a visit to Nuwara Eliya is recommended if you’re in Sri Lanka. Here are 5 things you can do in this town:

#1 Visit a tea factory and plantation

I’m not a tea drinker myself (it comes as surprise to many people as I’m from India and we grow a lot of tea in our country too) but I absolutely loved visiting the tea gardens. Acres of beautifully manicured and carefully laid out plantations are a treat for the eyes! The lush greenery and the aromatic plants, with the women picking the tea leaves (they love to pose for pictures), make for an amazing experience. There are several plantations you can visit but some might charge you for a factory & garden tour. I went to Blue Field Tea Factory, which was free of charge, and a tour guide showed us around the factory, explaining to us how different types and varieties of tea is cultivated and processed. They also had a little tea café where you could taste their home-grown tea and a shop where you could buy some if you wish.

Nuwara Eliya Tea Plantations
Nuwara Eliya Tea Plantations

Tea-pickers of Nuwara Eliya

Tea tasting at Blue Field Tea Factory
Tea tasting at Blue Field Tea Factory

Beware: During wet weather, be careful of the leeches in the gardens. It’s better to keep your legs and feet covered (shoes are preferable) so that you don’t get attacked and leeched on. They’re not harmful or poisonous but they do suck your blood and are a nuisance. It might be a good idea to carry some salt (or salt water) with you when venturing into the wild jungle or gardens so that you can ward off the leeches; or you can simply pull them off with your hands, although you might require to really tug at them, they stick to your body hard!

#2 Stay in a Tree House

This was undoubtedly one of the best experiences I had in Sri Lanka. The Tree House is located an hour away from the town of Nuwara Eliya, in a smaller town known as Ginigathena. The hotel has only 3 tree houses and thus, it needs to be booked in advance. Located in the middle of a lush green forest and not too far from Aberdeen Falls, it is one of the most authentic tree house experiences you’ll have. The wooden rooms are suspended on trees, connected by a shaky bridge which stands on stilts, above the forest. Only two people can walk on this bridge at a time and it shakes! The rooms themselves are extremely cosy and comfortable, with a small queen bed, an attached shower and toilet, and the best part – a balcony! The view from the balcony, directly below of the forest, is superb.

The Tree House, Ginigathena
The Tree House, Ginigathena

Surprisingly, there were not a lot of mosquitos or insects in the hotel’s surroundings. However, should you plan to venture outside for a walk towards Aberdeen Falls, which are about 2 km away from the resort, you will see a lot of lizards, birds, insects and forest animals (monkeys, chameleons) and even worse – leeches!

The Tree House, Ginigathena

The hotel doesn’t have a kitchen, but they bring you your meals from the neighbouring resort’s restaurant. You just need to let them know in advance what your meal preferences are. Breakfast is usually included in the room’s price and we paid about $80 for a night, for a room.

The Tree House, Ginigathena

#3 Adventure Sports

Not very far from the Tree House, in the town called Kithulgala, several tour agencies conduct water sports and adventure activities such as white-water rafting, hydro sledge, waterfall abseiling, kayaking and rainforest trekking. I’d recommend keeping some time for these amazing activities as these are very typical of a forest environment and aren’t easily available in many places. Particularly the Hydrospeed (water sledging) and waterfall abseiling, which do not require a high amount of fitness levels but are extremely exciting!

White Water Rafting, Kitulgala
White Water Rafting, Kitulgala

Read here: Is Sri Lanka safe for Solo Female Travellers

#4  Explore lovely waterfalls

There are several waterfalls in and around Nuwara Eliya (more than 30 that are documented). Some of these are inaccessible because they’re too dangerous to go close to, so you can enjoy them from a distance. However, many of them can be hiked to. Just make sure to wear good shoes, cover your legs (to stay clear of insect bites). The most popular waterfalls that you can explore on your own include Aberdeen Falls (about 2 km/ 30 min walk from the car park), Lovers Leap, Ramboda Falls, Devon Falls and St Claire’s Falls. Click here to read a detailed review, location and how to reach, for each of these falls.

Aberdeen Waterfall, Ginigathena
A small hidden waterfall, Ginigathena

St Claire's Waterfall, Nuwara Eliya
St Claire's Waterfall, Nuwara Eliya

 #5 Walk around Gregory Lake and Little England

Apparently, this lake was created in 1873 when Sri Lanka was under the British Rule, for providing electricity to the surrounding town. A walk around this peaceful lake or boating/ fishing in this lake is a good way of spending some time in tranquillity. There is an area at one corner where you’ll find a lot of families picnicking, swan-shaped boats, pony rides and other watersports such as jet skiing, windsurfing, etc. The area is quite scenic with little houses with architecture dating back to the British era. Also, a short walk away from the lake is Little England, an idyllic valley-town with houses built exactly like the ones you’d find in England. This is an adorable and charming place to enjoy a walk, looking at the beautiful houses and other colonial structures including the Post Office.

Gregory Lake, Nuwara Eliya
Gregory Lake, Nuwara Eliya

Little England Post Office
Little England Post Office

Little England Houses, Nuwara Eliya
Little England Houses

Planning a visit to Colombo? Click here to read about 10 things to do in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital city.

125 thoughts on “5 things to do in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka”

  1. Nuwara Eliya is better known as Little England of Sri Lanka. The climate, surroundings, and architecture of this area are different than other villages. Due to its cooler climate, it is the most important area for tea production in Sri Lanka.

    Good post Medha

  2. I did not realize there’s so much to do in Sri Lanka and I would love to spend a weekend near Gregory Lake. Boating and Fishing is a wonderful idea. I need a little quiet time to recharge again.

    1. Nuwara Eliya is the perfect place to recharge and rejuvenate in the middle of nature.

  3. Sri Lanka is very high on my bucket list and your post pushed it up a few more notches. Those beautiful tea farms and I do love Ceylon Tea. Thanks for the tip on carrying salt for the leaches, I’m making a note of that for sure. Leaches sure are creepy little things. And what an awesome way to stay, in a tree house. How fun!!!

  4. This place is special as it was my honeymoon destination. I did pretty much the same things that you suggested and found the place charming – in some ways very British and in some very Keralite. I enjoyed river rafting here as well and this will always be special as it was my first ever rafting experience. No other rafting so far has come close to it.

  5. I’m not a tea drinker either but I’d love to visit the plantations; they look so beautiful! And I can’t believe how inexpensive it is to stay in a tree house! Anything like that in the US would cost at least 3 times as much!

  6. This all looks so breathtakingly beautiful! I would LOVE to experience the tea gardens, stay in the tree house and visit those waterfalls! Beautiful photography, too! 🙂

  7. Those tree houses are gorgeous. We stayed in a couple of tree houses in Thailand and they really give you a special view of the area. I love the wood too. Great to hear about the leaches (or not really). We bought leach socks for Thailand that we never used and didn’t even take them with us to Sri Lanka. We didn’t go to Eliya but my wife would never let me hear the end of it if we got bit by leaches and didn’t pack our gear.

    1. I would’ve arranged for leech socks too if I had the least bit of idea that I’ll encounter some. LOL.

  8. I can’t get over how intensely green Nuwara Eliya is! I’d live to stay in a tree house with those amazing views as well as check out a tea plantation. I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for leeches,yuck!!

    1. Ahh leeches are yuck definitely. But I guess exploring the lush, green, rugged nature comes with its own drawbacks.

  9. Nuwara Eliya looks so lush and green. A perfect place for the leeches I suppose, but such beautiful scenery despite this! I love the look of those tree houses, such a fun concept… being able to sit on that balcony and look out over the tree-tops would be wonderful. I love the tea-picking ladies, so friendly!

  10. How beautiful! Nuwara Eliya looks just my kind of place and I’m adding to my wishlist, thank you! I loooove good tea, so of course visiting tea plantations and tasting freshly harvested tea is a huge draw, but so too is that lush landscape, it looks stunning! I am totally in love with the look of the tree house hotel too, just adorable!!! I think Little England looks a bit too twee for me, but fascinating that it’s there!

    1. Nuwara Eliya is one the top recommended cities to visit in Sri Lanka, it’s beautiful!

  11. What a fabulous post this is Medha! 🙂 loved the green spell all over. It is indeed magical. The tea gardens reminded me of Munnar and the best part is that you got to see the process and taste the tea! I am terrified of Leeches! My gosh. I still remember my encounter with them on a trek in Annamalai! The treehouse looks absolutely fabulous and I d so love to stay in one of those .

    1. Yes, the tea plantations are a lot like in Munnar 🙂 This was my first experience with leeches, and I didn’t expect it at all! Nobody warned me to expect them. I was terrified lol.

  12. Tree houses and white water rafting? Yes please! I’m still bummed that I didn’t make it to Sri Lanka the last time I was in SE Asia, and I definitely have it on my itinerary for later this year. I had no idea there were places like this there, and now I’m even more excited to go. Thanks for the recommendations.

  13. I have nor heard of Nuwara Eliya and have never been to Sri Lanka. But that tree house is intriguing! I would love to sleep there and wake up to the view!

  14. The views and experiences look well worth a few mosquitoes. Heck, maybe even a few leeches. Good to know you can pry them off with salt, I couldn’t imagine trying to rip one off! The view from the tree house balcony looks amazing!

    1. Haha, its advisable to carry salt water along if you’re going to a leech infested area. They even have some local ointments there which you can apply to ward them off 😀 There are always solutions!

  15. St. Claire Waterfall is so beautiful and your photos look so relaxing. I love how green the place is.

  16. I was WOW over the possibility of staying in a tree house. Thanks for the caution on leeches, I have experienced them in Wayanad Kerala and detest them completely. Those waterfalls are so welcoming. Great pictures.

    1. There are a lot of similarities between Kerala and Sri Lanka, apparently including leeches 😉

  17. Wow! Sri Lanka looks AMAZING!! My grandma and I have talked about going, but I always had doubts as I didn’t think there would be enough there for her to do, but having read this, I may ask her again if she fancies going 🙂 x

  18. We passed through Nuwara Eliya during our 10 day trip to SL. I wish we had the time to squeeze in a night to stay and soak in the lovely atmosphere. But we did stop at a tea factory, saw the processing and tasted many varieties of tea. The tea factory manager, seeing fellow Indians, was happy to take us through all the varieties sold and helped us choose some for home.

    1. Oh its totally worth spending a night in Nuwara Eliya, especially in the Tree House 🙂

  19. I’d totally be down to visit the tea plantation! Although I’m terrified of leeches haha. And the tree houses look insane! $80 is not so bad for such a cool experience!

    1. I loved my stay at the Tree House, it was the first time I tried it and it was totally worth it 🙂

  20. These all sounds like wonderful experiences! Personally I’d love to stay in the treehouse and visit the tea plantation. Thanks for the warning about the leeches there though, even the thought of them is irritating but it’s good to know before you go so you can be prepared!

  21. First of all, happy new year Medha 😀 – You know Sri Lanka is somewhere I would love to travel to in the future, I actually had a stop over there and just from flying in and out I could see how beautiful it is – And everything in this post I would love to experience. The tree house just looks amazing and glad to hear there isn’t a lot of Mosquitoes (they love my blood, I have an on going war with them) but I bet visiting the tea plantation was quite an education.

    1. Happy New Year to you as well Amit, hope you had a great time in Morocco 🙂 Next time you have a stopover in Colombo, try to spend 4-5 days. At least you will get to visit beautiful places like Nuwara Eliya and even the beaches in Bentota or Galle are pretty awesome 🙂

  22. Wow, those hills with the tea plants and the fog in the trees, this place is so beautiful! It is so lush and green, I don’t know much about Sri Lanka and I was not expecting it to look so vibrant. Did you get any leeches on you?? It sounds like they are everywhere! Haha

  23. So beautiful! Yes to all those lovely waterfalls, the treehouse, and white-water rafting, but definitely no to the leeches! I would love to learn more about growing and making tea as well. Sounds like a fun place to visit, and not to touristy either.

  24. I’ve never heard of Nuwara Eliya, but I’ve basically fallen in love with it from your post. It has all the things I love: quirky accommodation, adventures + outdoors and tea! Those treehouses look absolutely amazing! And you’d better believe that I’d go chasing waterfalls there too!

  25. Oh my! I would love to stay in that tree house. The scenery is gorgeous and I’m glad to hear that there really weren’t a lot of mosquitoes. I also would like to visit the tea plantation. I’ve seen quite a bit of photos on Instagram and it looks like such a great place to learn more about tea.

    1. Even if you’re interested to learn much about tea, it’s still a beautiful place to visit 🙂

  26. Wow, what a lovely tree house. The landscape looks incredible lush. I would love to stay in a treehouse like this. It looks a bit scary, but I would take the risk hehe. It is so cool they bring you the meal. $80 a night is not that bad for such a cool place 😀

  27. Wow, I want to go here and stay in those tree houses! Although, I wouldn’t mind skipping the leeches. There’s always something about rain that adds magic to a place – especially in the photos! It may be uncomfortable to experience but it always makes for the best pictures!

    1. I am not a fan of rain when I am on a beach but in the hills, I agree, it adds magic to the place 🙂

  28. Ooh thanks for the heads up on the leeches, I’ll be sure to be prepared if I visit! Sri Lanka looks so beautiful and lush, and I’d love to visit one day. The treehouse looks so rustic, and a comfy place to stay with great views too! Nice to know there aren’t many mosquitos either!

    1. I guess the leech problem gets worse if it rains, but they’re still around even when it doesn’t 🙂 Always good to be prepared!

  29. Oh, I am so bummed I never got to make it here. I stayed in Galle for 5 days and it was magical but really wanted to explore Nuwara Eliya. The landscape is incredibly beautiful. I also loved the food, what was your favourite Sri Lankan dish? Love the look of the treehouse!

    1. To be honest Anita, I am not a big fan of Sri Lankan cuisine. I did like the egg hoppers but that’s pretty much it. Strange because it is quite similar to South Indian food and I usually like that 🙂

  30. luv all ur pictures and thanks for recommending tree house… my family just loved it.it was so cozy…look forward for more recommendations from ur future travel.

  31. Staying in a treehouse is my ultimate goal and the one you stayed at looks beautiful! I tried to book a treehouse when I was visiting Vamncouver, but it didn’t pan out unfortunately. I’ve never heard of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka, but I love how lush and green it is, plus the mountains everywhere. Sri Lanka has been on my travel list since time, especially to visit that famous elephant sanctuary!

  32. Nuwara Eliya looks so lush and inviting, even in the rainy season. It reminds me of my hometown in a india, known for tea. I have always wanted to stay in a Tree house and this is probably a great place to try it. What a view! I would love to go white water rafting in there, the rapids look awesome. Thanks for this post. Saving it for when I visit.

    1. Where’s your hometown? Are you from Assam? Yes the Tree House experience and river activities are quite interesting to try 🙂

  33. Nuwara Eliya is indeed a sparkling gem of the Emerald island. The place with its tea gardens reminds me of Munnar in Kerala, India. Living in a tree house also sounds like a unique experience. I was enthralled by looking at the English styled structures, they look so charming. Hope to travel to this place, the last time we were transiting through SL and just managed Colombo.

    1. I also ended up comparing a lot of places in Sri Lanka with Kerala 🙂 Kerala also has tea plantations, coastal cities and tree houses!

  34. Beautiful sights everywhere. While I am aware of the delights of Sri Lanka, I don’t think I’d heard of Nuwara Eliya before. Tea gardens are always delightful and everything here transports you to a different era.

  35. We are in love with Sri Lanka. and Nuwara Eliya is on the list too. Staying in tree house looks so fascinating and those activities are for sure going to give adrenaline rush. Little England too looks quite interesting. Medha your pictures and post is beautiful as always.

  36. Nuwara Eliya is one of the best hills of central Sri Lanka. I have been there in 2014 & my expereince with Nuwara Eliya was unforgettable !

    These shared things to do in Nuwara Eliya are really appreciable & there are also some more thing to do !

  37. Awesome post and incredible photos! I’ve wanted to go to Sri Lanka for awhile, but never really thought about putting together some concrete plans – perhaps this post is another to encourage me to do so!

  38. Okay, Sri Lanka was never on my bucket list but I just added it! As a huge tea drinker, I would love to visit the plantation and gardens. And how fun would it be to stay in a treehouse?! Your photos are beautiful and gave me a new place to want to go!

  39. Very Nice. Never heard of Nuwara Eliya… Just shows that there are so many things to do and one life time is hardly enough. I love the tree house and with all the adventure activities and tea gardens this is probably an all out experience.

  40. Nuwara seems absolutely perfect! I loved your tree house the most – simple and yet majestic 🙂 Plus the opportunity to do water water rafting…damn! Love it 🙂

  41. Oh man, Sri Lanka is #1 on my list for our next trip and now I really want to go! Those treehouses look amazing. I wonder if they allow kids? And the tea plantation is beautiful! I love tea but I think they are great for photo ops too! We visited one in Taiwan and it was just beautiful. Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to get there!

  42. It is the first time I hear of this place, thanks for improving my knowledge about Sri Lanka! I remember visiting tea plantations in China and I found it rpetty interesting. I totally love these tree houses!! All the activities you show here are things I would definitely enjoy, I will for sure put Nuwara Eliya in my itinerary when I visit Sri Lanka!

  43. Everything on this list looks like a great experience but I was SOLD as soon as I saw ‘tree house’. I would LOVE to stay in one of these tree houses, what an amazing experience! Pinning this to my Sri Lanka board as I hope to make it there within the next two years. Thanks for sharing!

  44. The tea plantations at Nuwara Eliya looks INCREDIBLE! How lush and green is this place. I am an absolute tea lover so this would totally hit the spot for me. Good to know about the leeches – I am a bit of a scaredy cat so will bring along the salt! Little England sounds so interesting, especially the post office! It looks like such an interesting spot to visit that takes you into a different world. But my favorite is definitely the Tree House – HOW EPIC! I admit I would be a bit scared of the shakey bridge, but I would overcome my fear of heights just to stay here!

    1. It was worth it, staying at the Tree Houses suspended over the forest. As were the tea plantations and the lake, town and waterfalls. Such a beautiful place!

  45. I just pinned the post to my wish list! To be honest, Sri Lanka never has been on my list but your post about Nuwara Eliya just convinced me with the gorgeous tea plantations, the tree top house although VERY expensive, the hike to the waterfalls and the river rafting! My kind of vacation!

  46. I don’t know much about Sri Lanka but if I were to go, this would be one of the places I’d visit. Those tree houses look amazing. It would be nice to stay there and enjoy the canopy views. The waterfalls look great too!

  47. Here’s new to me, but it looks like a must visit. I think the highlight for me is the lush and greenery of the Nuwara Eliya, it speaks coziness, comfort and even perfect for an escape. What’s with you and leeches? You were screaming all hard about them in the post, LOL. I also think staying in that Tree House will be a memerobale experience. A vsiist to Nuwara Eliya isn’t complete without the White Waterfall, I think. Nice pictures you have here considering you were still careful with the leeches?

    1. Haha, while walking to the waterfall, I had more than 10 leeches stick to me and it got a bit too much to handle!

  48. I have never heard of Nuwara Eliya, and I still have Sri Lanka on my bucket list, but this post is absolutely adorable! I’d love to visit a tea plantation one day and hopefully I will, I really like your green pictures. Thanks for sharing your ideas

  49. Everyone that I know who has been to Sri Lanka raves about it. I had a chance to go last year, but it didn’t work out. I’d love to stay in one of those tree houses and definitely do some adventure sports.

  50. Such beautiful, lush, green scenery! A vivid contrast between that you get at the tea plantation and that you get when in the (wonderful looking) treehouse too. I’m a sucker for waterfalls so would be sure to check them out as well. I can see why Sri Lanka has a burgeoning reputation as a beautiful travel destination from this post 🙂

    1. If you’re not too afraid of reptiles and forest wildlife, I’d say, Sri Lanka is amazing!

  51. I just bookmarked this post! It is amazing! I really want to go there and stay in one of those three houses. I am not the biggest fan of heights, but that view is worth everything. It is incredible what tourist friendly ideas the locals have. Also liked the tea plantation trip and I was glad to see that the ladies working there are so happy and satisfied. Many say that they are not treated right, which would have been a pity! I am sure you enjoyed your trip a lot. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    1. The ladies were excited to get their pictures clicked and expected a tip in return (which is fine!). I told them they’ll be famous on the internet 😉

  52. Visiting a tea plantation is high on the list of things I want to do in Sri Lanka eventually. I’m not a tea drinker either, but am drawn in by how beautiful the gardens are. Thanks for the tip on Blue Field Tea Factory (an on watching out for leeches in wet season!). Staying in a tree house in Ginigathena sounds like a dream! And that mixed with adventure like white water rafting and the chance to visit waterfalls – the perfect itinerary. Thanks for the ideas 🙂

  53. I haven’t been to Sri Lanka yet, but when I do get there, I am staying in a tree house. It looks so cool. And I would love to visit a tea farm, although I am not a fan of leeches in the garden What do you do with the salt water?

    1. You pour the salt water over the leech, if it has attached itself to you, and it slowly wears off! It’s better than trying to pull it off with your fingers.

  54. Me and my husband love tea, and we’d definitely love to visit the tea gardens as well! I’ve noted down the Blue Field Tea Factory, it’s great that not only it’s free but they also give you the chance to taste their tea!

  55. ha ha love that is called little England Post Office as boy does the weather look similiar to England at the moment. Those treehouses are awesome. I am glad there is a bathroom though as I would not fancy running into the forest to go to the loo. The views are sublime

  56. I would love to check out this area just for the colour ‘green’. Oh, did I also say that the water rafting looks appealing also. I would go there just for that. Great write up and loving the photos.

  57. Oh, I have been to Nuwara Eliya but I missed the white water rafting there. Did not even hear about it. Did you go to Ashok Vatika at Nuwara Eliya where it is believed Sita was kept by Ravana?

  58. Living in Myanmar, Sri Lanka has been on my radar as a close enough getaway, and I have heard nothing but good things about it. This post only enhances my desire to go.

    The treehouse looks amazing! The only thing that deters me ever so slightly is that you mentioned leeches…. Twice 🙁

    1. The Tree House was pretty good and I was bitten by leeches in two places – I dared to venture into the tea plantations and went for a waterfall hike inside the lush forest. If you stay a little less adventurous and restrict yourself to the more commercial space and also cover up properly (legs, feet, arms etc), then you’re safe!

  59. I’d never heard of Nuwara Eliya, but it is absolutely adorable! I’d love to visit a tea plantation one day actually, but I was most interested in the Little England houses – so so cute! It looks like a British seaside town that I was so used to visiting as a little girl.

    1. It’s one of the highly recommended towns to visit in Sri Lanka 🙂 It was the highlight of my trip.

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