After two days in Dambulla, we set out on a bit of a mammoth journey to Nuwara Eliya, a town that’s 2,000 metres above sea level and known as Little England because of the left over remains of colonialism and English looking homes. I also wanted to visit the tea factories and waterfalls in the area.We saw this sign whilst walking around Nuwara Eliya!
How to get to Nuwara Eliya from Dambulla or Kandy
The train ride looks a lot better on the outside than it actually was!
If you’re going by public transport and not paying for a driver, the only way to get there is by taking the bus back from Dambulla to Kandy (this takes 2 hours and costs 110R), then catch the train to Nuwara Eliya which takes about 4 hours. The bus leaves like every 10 minutes and we were told to just stand outside the front of our hotel at Sundaras Resort in Dambulla and get on any of the buses going past. We only had to wait a couple of minutes before a bus came by.
We were lucky as we managed to time the bus and train well so we actually only waited 10 minutes for the train. We got the bus from Dambulla around 6:15am and managed to get back in time to get the 9am train. You can buy food from the locals on the train to Nuwara Eliya which is delicious!
When we got to Kandy station, we were worried if we would get tickets because the train from Colombo – Kandy sold out, but the ticket guy just said there weren’t any designated tickets so it was going to be a race to get them because there were a lot of tourists there waiting for the train.Steve perched on the edge of the train door for the whole journey as it was so busy!
When we got on the train, it was a total mission. We managed to squeeze on, right by the doors and knew we would be squashed in for the entire four hours. We weren’t wrong. Because Steve was right on the edge, he managed to get a few shots of the train but that was it. I have no idea how anyone gets decent shots of the train journeys in Sri Lanka because it wasn’t fun at all.Tourists pack the entire train out from Kandy – Nuwara Eliya
We saw a few glimpses of the view because it’s supposed to be the world’s best train journey and although it looked stunning, we could only wonder what it must have been like visiting this country 5 years ago, without the crowds. I know many friends commented on my live updates on Instagram saying how shocked they were about the crowds on the trains as it wasn’t like that just a few years ago. We managed to get just a couple of shots of the views out of the train
Where did we stay in Nuwara Eliya?
We stayed at Charlie’s Place, a homestay we found on airbnb!
When we arrived in Nuwara Eliya, and after another cat and mouse chase finding a tuk tuk driver who wasn’t just making up some random sum to take us to our accommodation, we were finally on our way. I instantly noticed the temperature drop and for the first time in ages, I felt cold but then again we were 2000 metres above sea level so it made sense! It was a nice change from the heat we’d be experiencing so far let alone the stifling hot Aussie summer we had come from.
So we found a cheap guesthouse on Airbnb (AU$56 for two nights) called Charlie’s Place (get $55 from my airbnb here). It was a nice big British looking home and somewhere that looked perfect for us. We were greeted by Chanelle, a 10 year old who lived next door to the property lived in by Charlie’s mother, Eunice. Chanelle was Eunice’s granddaughter and what a duo these two made.Our hosts, 10 year old Chanelle and her grandmother Eunice at our airbnb.
Switched on Chanelle, went to an international school and had accustomed a slight American accent. She was detailed with everything she showed us from the shower which had a radio, lights and what seemed like a disco setting, to even putting our washing on for us (a god send!!). Eunice on the other hand was the sweetest grandmother. She had this warmth that you can only hope to be around one day. We spent two days chatting and drinking tea with them both and absolutely loved it. To be honest, meeting Eunice and Chanelle was a big Sri Lankan highlight for us. We loved being around them and staying in a Sri Lankan home.
What is there to do in Nuwara Eliya?
The Grand Hotel for Afternoon Tea
When we ventured out into Nuwara Eliya, a five minute tuk tuk ride from Charlie’s Place, we headed straight to The Grand Hotel for afternoon tea. We paid 1100R each for afternoon tea which was actually very cheap at around AU$10. The hotel itself looked lovely and we really enjoyed it. If you’ve found this place in Lonely Planet, it might say to dress up to go to this hotel. You don’t need to, everyone was wearing normal clothes here.Afternoon Tea at The Grand Hotel
Afterwards, we walked around town and because Steve wanted a beer, we went to the golf club. It was bizarre seeing how everything was still in tact from the colonial days at this golf club. The Golf Club in Nuwara Eliya
There was still a British post box outside, the changing rooms were the same, it was actually quite weird, but definitely somewhere to visit.The English post boxes were evident in Nuwara Eliya
The next day I wanted to get a driver to take us to some waterfalls. In Sydney, we used to love exploring all of the wild swimming spots and after loads of research, there were loads to visit near Nuwara Eliya.
Unfortunately, the driver was being stubborn and would only take us to one waterfall of his choice. He claimed there were five to visit but they were more like trickles down the side of a hill. I was upset as it was something I was really looking forward to visiting let alone we had to pay him 4000R to take us. At least we got to see one impressive waterfall near Nuwara Eliya
So, after our driver took us to that one waterfall called Ramboda, he then took us to a tea factory. Now, I love my tea but this place wasn’t actually a tea factory itself, more like a museum, although they pretended it was a working tea factory. Bizarre right?The pretend tea factory near Nuwara Eliya
We were taken around to only notice people pretending to work in there. Quite weird and disappointing but I suppose it worked as many tourists were buying tea in the gift shop 😉 It looked as though people were pretending to work in a bizarre tea factory
After our day we got an early night in and watched some Sri Lankan TV with our grandma we were staying with! It made me a bit nostalgic for England in Nuwara Eliya. Not only did the town have a lot of colonial places but the coldness and air really took me back to my childhood and it was lovely.
We spent a total of two nights in Nuwara Eliya. Ideally we would have gone to Horton Plains national park to see some more waterfalls as well as hiked to World’s End but we just didn’t get time. If you’re not into tea, hiking or waterfalls then it might be best to go straight to Ella.
The next morning it was time to battle that train again as we set off for Ella. More on that one soon!
Have you read my other stories on Sri Lanka yet?