South of Kandy, and stretching across the island’s mountainous central heartlands is Sri Lanka’s Tea Country. This verdant, mountainous region is home to thousands of acres of Ceylon Tea and was formerly a great wilderness area. British colonialists in the nineteenth century recognised its potential and cleared great expanses of jungle to first plant crops of coffee, and then tea. It was tea that proved to be the most resilient crop, and this green gold richly carpets the hilly countryside. Today, many remnants of the British era are evident throughout the Hill Country from quaint century-old bungalows to neat allotment farming. The rail network is another British relic and a nostalgic way to travel the region.
As you journey through the picturesque Tea Country, winding up curved roads and inclining rail tracks, the scenery constantly veers between steep forested ravines, plunging mist-shrouded waterfalls and neatly manicured hillsides of tea dotted with the colourful saris of female Tamil tea pluckers. In amongst the scenery sit quaint villages, bustling towns and numerous Catholic and Hindu shrines. Nuwara Eliya, the island’s highest town, sits in a bowl-shaped valley at an elevation of 1,868 metres, and is home to colonial buildings, a taxing golf course and racecourse. Other prominent Hill Country settlements include Hatton, Haputale, Bandarawela and Ella – famed for its views across the southern plains.
Although many visit the Tea Country to soak up the verdant scenery, experience the nostalgia of a stay in a historic bungalow or hotel and visit a tea factory, it is also a fabulous place for trekking. The climate in the hills is much cooler than the island’s coastal areas and light jumpers are often needed at night. The estate roads through tea plantations make excellent locations for strolls and treks to viewpoints such as Lipton’s Seat in Haputale and Little Adam’s Peak in Ella are particularly rewarding. Adam’s Peak, the island’s fourth highest mountain, is a famous pilgrimage place where devotees of four religions climb towards its misty summit from where there are stunning panoramic views. Another popular trekking location is Horton Plains, a 2,000 metre plateau whose walking trails offer a spectacular viewpoint of the sheer 1km precipice of World’s End.