With only 3 days at hand for the Highlands & the Tea Plantations, we had once again to make choices, somehow followed the recommendations of our driver and actually ended-up doing several mistakes…
What Should We Have Done Differently?
- Plan Sufficient Time
There is a lot to undertake and to discover in this area, and 3 days is simply not enough, at least if you want to avoid rushing between places. We had to simply ignore some of the potential highlights, like going to Haputale or climbing Adam’s Peak…
- Book Your Train Way Ahead
You can book a train ticket up to 10 days before departure. Especially the leg Nuwera Eliya to Ella is extremely popular amongst Tour Groups, so this leg should be booked as soon as you reach Sri Lanka at any train station. Note that 3rd class is perfectly fine… And anyway, you will most likely end-up in a car reserved for tourists!
- Go To The Temple Of The Tooth (Kandy) In The Afternoon
There are several “Opening Ceremonies” during the “Puja”, the daily prayer, when the Shrine is opened and the reliquary with the tooth of Buddha is displayed to the pilgrims. The morning ceremony is the one all tour groups are heading to… So if you do not feel like being in a temple with hundreds of other tourists, then choose one of the afternoon ceremonies!
- Do Not Stop In Nuwera Eliya If You Have Limited Time
At 2.000 meters above sea level, it is easy to understand why first English settlers liked this area, away from the heat and humidity of the coast, and so endlessly green that it might have reminded them of rural England. This place, with its English village feel, and its colored cottages, is unfortunately boom-town currently and being disfigured by large hotels under construction. We actually found little to do in and around this busy tourist hub.
- Take The Train From Haputale to Ella
Yes, the leg from Kandy to Nuwera Eliya is scenic. But we have been repeatedly told that the really breathtaking part is from Haputale to Ella. Actually, the best option is to take the train from Kandy to Ella early morning, and enjoy the 7 hour drive through ever changing landscapes. The best place on the train? Seat at the opened door and enjoy the landscape, your legs hanging leisurely outside.
- Be Ready If You Decide To Visit One Of These “Spice Gardens”
Somehow we let curiosity take over and accepted to stop at one of those “Spice Gardens”, saying openly our driver we would not buy anything. We hoped for at least some explanation about the various spices and their culture, but were taken in for a ride through all those wonderful creams & lotions that let you wonder why anyone on this planet still suffers from any kind of disease… When we refused to purchase anything at the shop (prices approx. 10 times the un-negotiated prices at the market), we were met with very unsatisfied looks…
The Highlights Of The Highlands & The Tea Plantations
There is a lot to do in Kandy, and this city should be on anyone’s itinerary in Sri Lanka.
The market, though not very big, is a pleasant and lesser touristy place, definitely worth a visit. This is also a good place to buy some tea or one of those miraculous cream or lotion that will cure all disease… At a relatively reasonable price!
The Botanical Garden offers a very pleasant, relaxing stroll in the afternoon, and the Orchid Garden is absolutely fabulous. If you like huge bats, do not forget you tele-lens, you will find hundreds of them hanging from tall trees and flying… During the day!
And yes, the Temple of the Tooth is definitely worth the visit, especially during a “Puja” or daily prayer. Also plan sufficient time to simply walk around and observe the pilgrims in the gardens surrounding the Temple….
- Riding Those Slow Trains
This is, as mentioned above, a MUST-DO in Sri Lanka.
At first, Ella looks like one of these horribly tourist towns, where every house is a guesthouse, a restaurant or a souvenir shop. But the very relaxed atmosphere got us hooked and we truly enjoyed staying there for one night, appreciated the relaxed vibes of the “Chill Café”, and also the easy walks around town.