Nuwara Eliya, known at times as the « city of lights», is a small city with an agreeable climate nestled in the central mountains of Sri Lanka at an altitude of 1868 metres. Founded by the explorer Samuel Baker in 1846, far from the heat of the coastal cities, Nuwara Eliya soon became a leisure destination for the British settlers. Nuwara Eliya is also known by the name Little England, as the efforts to create a model English village were successful. Nuwara Eliya has still kept this « old empire » atmosphere with its red brick post office, telephone booths, the prestigious Hill Club, Anglican Church, 18-hole golf course, and also its race course. You can even go trout fishing (introduced in 1882) on the streams that criss-cross the city.
Allowing yourself to be carried away by the lazy atmosphere married with the old-fashioned charm of Nuwara Eliya’s colonial style, while having tea at the Grand Hôtel, is a bit like going back in time two centuries, when Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon. In the month of April, the city emerges from its slumber to welcome a large number of Sri Lankan vacationers, coming for the horse races and to celebrate the Sri Lankan New Year.
One of the advantages of the location of Nuwara Eliya is its climate, which was favorable for the cultivation of vegetables and fruits consumed in Britain, such as lettuce and strawberries. Today, the city and its surroundings have become one of the most productive agricultural zones in Sri Lanka, from where products are distributed all over the island.
The road that leads to the Moon Plains Park and which winds through the fields, offers a glimpse of the farming dimension of the region. But the region of Nuwara Eliya is above all famous for its tea plantations, for which the high altitude is the optimal condition for growing tea. Many tea factories offer instructive visits, which are also an opportunity for pleasant walks along the luxuriant plantations.
One of the keys to Nuwara Eliya’s prosperity is its railway connection with Colombo, through a line opened in 1910. The train journey up to Nuwara Eliya takes 4 hours from Kandy and is considered to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.
Before the mountains were covered with a sea of tea plantations, the valley was a forest area frequented by elephants. At the entrance of the Nuwara Eliya Golf Club, situated in the center, is the tombstone of British governor Thomas William Rogers, sadly celebrated for having killed hundreds of elephants (we are speaking of 1400 trophies here). He was killed after being struck by lightning, while he was indulging in his deathly pleasure, and a few years later, his tomb was hit by lightning as well.