One of the most spectacularly situated of all Sri Lankan towns, HAPUTALE (pronounced “ha-poo-tah-lay”) is perched dramatically on the crest of a ridge at the southern edge of the hill country with bird’s-eye views in both directions – south to the plains and coast, and inland across the jagged lines of peaks receding away to the north. The town itself is a busy but fairly humdrum little commercial centre with a mainly Tamil population, though the mist that frequently blankets the place adds a pleasingly mysterious touch to the workaday shops that fill the centre.
As with Ella, the principal pleasure of a stay in Haputale is the chance to get out and walk in the surrounding hills – most notably up to (or down from) the magnificent viewpoint at Lipton’s Seat. Specific sights around town include the tea factory at Dambatenne, the evocative old country mansion of Adisham and the impressive Diyaluma Falls. The major drawback to Haputale is the weather, exacerbated by its exposed position. The marvellous views usually disappear into mist by midday, while the town receives regular afternoon showers of varying severity for much of the year – September to December is the wettest period.
Views excepted, Haputale has little to detain you. The town comprises a small but lively mishmash of functional concrete shops and cafés, while a small fruit and vegetable market straggles along the approach to the train station, offering the slightly surreal sight of crowds of loquacious Tamil locals in saris and woolly hats haggling over piles of very English-looking vegetables.
Sadly little remains of Haputale’s Victorian past. The principal memento is St Andrew’s, a simple neo-Gothic barn of a building with a homely wooden interior which lies just north of the town centre along the main road to Bandarawela. The churchyard is full of memorials to nineteenth-century tea planters, along with the grave of Reverend Walter Stanley Senior (1876–1938), author of the once-famous Ode to Lanka, Victorian Ceylon’s great contribution to world literature.
The walk to Idalgashina
The walk to Idalgashina
A fine walk leads west from Adisham along the ridgetop towards the village of Idalgashina through the Tangamalai (or Tangmale) nature reserve (open access; free), home to plentiful birdlife and wildlife including lots of monkeys. The path starts just to the left of the Adisham gates and runs for 3km through patches of dense subtropical jungle full of grey-barked, moss-covered weera trees alternating with airy stands of eucalyptus. The track is reasonably easy to follow at first, though it becomes indistinct in places further on (the directions below should suffice, though). After about 1km, the path comes out to the edge of the ridge with panoramic hill views stretching from Pidurutalagala and Hakgala near Nuwara Eliya to the left, Bandarawela below, and right towards the distinctive triangular-shaped peak of Namunakula, south of Badulla. Below you can see Glenanore Tea Factory and (a little later) the rail tracks far below (they will gradually rise to meet you).
From here on, the path sometimes sticks to the edge of the ridge, sometimes turns away from it, undulating slightly but always keeping roughly to the same height. After a further 1.5km you’ll see the rail tracks again, now much closer. Over the next 500m the path winds down the edge of the ridge to meet the ascending rail line, at which point there’s a wonderful view south, with impressive sheer cliffs to the left framing views of the lines of hills descending to the south, and the flat, hot plains beyond. From here you can either continue along the tracks to Idalgashina (about 6km) and catch a train back, or return to Haputale along the tracks (about 4km).