We departed Dambulla for higher lands in Kandy where we warmly embraced the slightly cooler air. Temperature aside, Kandy must be the least favourite of our stops in Sri Lanka. For people who are travelling to the hill country, many will make Kandy their stopover.
I’m very reluctant to say that we did not enjoy the one night that we spent there.
While I do try to embrace all new cities/towns that I visit, Kandy was overcrowded with tourists, more so than the other areas that we visited in Sri Lanka and we has some less than pleasant experiences with touts and a con artist.
Like all tourists in Kandy, we visited the Temple of the Tooth Relic. In my opinion, I found that the entrance fee is a little too hefty for what the temple offered. The temple’s exterior is quite plain and unimpressive. The temple was first built in 1600 but most of what you see of it is not its original form.
The most interesting part of the Temple of the Tooth Relic is the evening punja (ceremony). We timed our visit so that we can witness the ceremony which includes drumming and prayers and also to take a sneak peek of the gold casket that holds the relic.
We also caught the Kandyan cultural dance which is Sri Lanka’s iconic performing art. I would suggest giving that a miss because I found it very touristy.
We attempted to make the best out of our day there. That’s the only thing to do when you are on a trip.
The best time we had was our moments at the rather large and well-maintained colonial style Peradeniya botanical gardens. It is a pretty enjoyable way to spend a morning with neatly manicured rows of colourful flowers, palm trees and tropical plants.
There is a little spice and herb garden that we found particularly interesting – we saw the pepper, coffee, cinnamon, pandan being grown amongst others.
Hill country: Hatton, Nuwara Eliya, and Haputale
It was another long drive from Kandy to Hatton. After drifting in and out of sleep on the 4 plus hour ride, I woke up to green slopes of tea terraces that seem to roll on for miles. It was simply magnificent!
The drastic scenery change was one that we welcome, most gladly. I was most excited when I saw the signpost hidden in the midst of tea fields that said “Mandira Bungalows”. That was to be our home for a night.
The colonial bungalow used to be the residence of tea planters during the British colonial period. I felt myself stepping into a time warp; to a bygone era of old world charm of a tea planter’s life.
We had the luxury of an afternoon of sipping tea (made in their tea estate) with some ginger biscuits at the bungalow’s terrace with unobstructed views of the manicured gardens and the distant tea fields. The cool breeze on our skins made the experience complete. I can get used to this!
Trekking around the tea fields is one of the highlights of our trip in Hatton and Sri Lanka. Walking through the neat rows of tea terraces amidst the orange-red glow of the sun setting was picture perfect. I felt calm and at peace.
The next morning, we got up early enough for a morning stroll by the tea fields once more before our breakfast.
We bid goodbye to the lovely Mandira property and headed to visit some of the tea factories in Nuwara Eliya. I’ll be dedicating a post to my visit to the tea factory and share with you about what I learnt about how Ceylon tea is made.
After the visit to the tea factories, we went through the meandering narrow roads in the hill country to Haputale that sits on the ridge that affords you the best views of the mountain ridges and southern plains.
The walk up to Lipton’s seat was liberating! The 7km uphill walk may sound strenuous but the views you get along the way is worth your effort! As you ascend, you will begin see never-ending tea terraces in the estate that was set up by Sir Thomas Lipton, the the plains beyond the tea terraces and the far-reaching mountain ridges. If you go early, you would be able to spot Tamil tea pickers at work.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to Lipton’s seat (which is 4695 ft above sea level), it was shrouded in mist. This is the favourite spot where the Scottish tea planter enjoys his tea and picnics.
We both had a cup of Lipton tea and a local jaggery sweet that is made with palm sugar and sugarcane. With the mountain breeze sweeping off the hair off my face and a cup of hot tea in hand, I understood why Sir Thomas Lipton he picked this as his favourite spot.
Following our day of trekking to lipton’s seat, we scheduled to take the scenic train from Haputale to Badulla. If you are in Sri Lanka, you HAVE to take a train at least once and preferably in the Hill country where most of the time, the view is breathtaking.
The quote by T.S Eliot “The journey not the arrival matters.” seems to be specifically written for this particular train journey.
I think this journey has made me fallen in love with train travel.
We took a walk to Raja Maha Vihara temple, a Buddhist temple, and followed the locals to offer some fresh flowers at the altar. The locals are not quite used to tourists so they gave us amused looks the whole time we were there. I found them amusing as well.
The town has many old shops and we had fun just peeking into them and taking photos. We stopped for rotis, curry and egg hoppers (US$3.50 for breakfast for two) and it was delicious and probably the cheapest food we ate on the entire trip.
The local vegetable and fruit market stood in an open area with makeshift looking zinc roof with individual stall owners laying out their wares on the floor. As we were in Badulla early, we manage to see the market in action with plenty of locals doing their grocery shopping and we also spotted some unfamiliar, exotic looking vegetable that I now wish I had found out what it was.
It was a slow travel day but we vastly enjoyed it.
Next post features our journey in the South of Sri Lanka, Weligama Bay and Galle…
Mandira Craig Appin Bungalows, Hatton
Dickoya Estate, Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 51222 2492
Melheim Resort, Haputale
Lower blackwood, Beragala, BD 90126 Sri Lanka
Tel: +94 5756 75969
Temple of the tooth Relic
Best to go in the morning (9am) or evening (630pm) Puja ceremony
Entrance fee: 1000 Rs
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
6km away from Kandy city. Can take a tuk tuk or car there. Go early in the morning when it is cooler.
Entrance fee: US$10
Dambatenne Tea Factory
Factory tour: 250 Rs
A good 2 hr hike up. You can take a tuk tuk up alternatively. Best to arrive before 10am before the mist clouds the view at Lipton’s seat.
Entrance fee: 100 Rs
Adisham Monastry (St Benedictine Monastry)
Note opening hours as they close for lunch breaks.
Train ride to Badulla
Single trip journey duration: 2 hr
train ticket: very cheap. I think it is 250 Rs for a 2nd class, one way ticket if I’m not wrong.
I would recommend just getting the 2nd class ticket. You pay a lot more for the 1st class ticket. We took the 2nd class seat to Badulla and the 1st class seat in the observation car back. I don’t find it much of a difference actually especially if you are doing this journey which isn’t a very crowded stretch where you can’t get seats.