Sri Lanka’s highest town, NUWARA ELIYA lies at the heart of the southern hill country, set amid a bowl of green mountains beneath the protective gaze of Pidurutalagala, Sri Lanka’s tallest peak. Nuwara Eliya (pronounced, as one word, something like “Nyur-rel-iya”) was established by the British in the nineteenth century, and the town is often touted as Sri Lanka’s “Little England”, a quaint Victorian relic complete with municipal park, golf course, boating lake, a trio of fine old colonial hotels and frequent, very British, showers of rain.
Parts of Nuwara Eliya still live up to the hype, with a medley of doughty British-era landmarks whose misplaced architecture – from jaunty seaside kitsch to solemn faux-Tudor – lend some corners of the town an oddly English (or perhaps Scottish) air, like a crazily transplanted fragment of Brighton or Balmoral. Much of modern Nuwara Eliya, however, is far less of a period piece than the publicity would have you believe, while the unpredictable weather can add a further dampener. That said, if you take it with a pinch of salt, Nuwara Eliya still has a certain charm, especially if you can afford to stay in one of the town’s nicer hotels, and it also makes an excellent base for excursions into the spectacular surrounding countryside and tea estates.
For a true taste of the colonial lifestyle of old Ceylon, you can’t beat a stay in one of the sumptuous tea estate bungalows that dot the southern highlands. Originally built for British estate managers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many offer beautiful and atmospheric lodgings, often in spectacular locations.
A popular resort among Sri Lankans, Nuwara Eliya is at its busiest during the Sinhalese–Tamil new year in April, when spring comes to the hill country, the flowers bloom and the Colombo smart set descends. For ten days the town gets overrun and accommodation prices go through the roof, while visitors are entertained by a succession of events, including horse racing, golf tournaments, motor-cross (motorcycles), clay-pigeon shooting and a mini-carnival.