The Hill Country is a MUST-see while in Sri Lanka, in my opinion. I had seen so many photos of the beautiful tea plantations and knew we had to stay here for a few days. We toyed with the idea of staying in Kandy 1 night, then training down to Ella, but nixed it. In hind sight, I would have shortened the beach stay to 2 nights, then 1 night in Kandy, train to Ella (6.5 hours!), and then Ella for 3 nights. There definitely was more we would have enjoyed seeing and doing in the Hill Country vs. the beach, but that is just us. You might be up for more beach time!
ACCOMMODATION: 98 ACRES
- LITTLE ADAMS PEAK — Easy climb. Amazing views. Just do it.
- NINE ARCH BRIDGE — The family was like, “seriously… we are waking up early to go see a bridge?” Yet who was crowned “The Almighty Planner” afterwards? We timed it to see the train cross around 9:15ish am, arriving early beforehand to take photos of an emptier bridge AND watch a farmer herd his 2 cows across it. How did he know we would be there?! Our tuk tuk drivers were awesome at showing us around as well as cleaning and bandaging my leg after a “photography” accident. Tip: always look when backing up.
- ELLA TOWN — Not much of a town but still good for a quick stroll and lunch. We found it charming. We lunched at Chill which was decent plus had well-chilled beer and great people-watching tables. OH, and I bought several cool vintage Sri Lanka travel and map posters at I Love Ceylon on the main street.
- TRAIN TO NUWARA ELIYA — Seriously a MUST DO!! One of the most scenic train rides in the world! I booked tickets a couple months ahead of time here after reading that they sell out BUT there were people buying them that morning. NOTE: purchase 2nd Class, NOT First Class despite the low fare because the windows DO NOT OPEN in 1st Class. You want to lean out, take photos, be part of it all, AND it’s cool up in the hills so AC unnecessary. The one thing I wish we had done had we known is to get on the train ONE station earlier than Ella so that we could have crossed the Nine Arch Bridge. One can buy tickets from 1 2 Go Asia ahead of time and have them mailed to your hotel beforehand for only $10. Peace of mind. It is a 2 hour train ride to Nanu Oya which is the closest train station to Nuwara Eliya. You could also opt to go all the way to Kandy but that is another 4 hours, fyi. We had our driver meet us at Nanu Oya Station to drive us to Nuwara Eliya and then back to Ella. That was also an amazingly scenic drive through hills and small towns (though pretty much switch-backs the entire way, fyi.)
- NUWARA ELIYA: There are many things to do/see there but we just had lunch — PERHAPS the BEST meal of the trip (thus far…) — at Grand Indian at the Grand Hotel. It was… GRAND! It was indeed delicious. Highly recommend. Oh, and you might see horses trotting by on the street — some with riders, some alone. Apparently it’s a thing here… which we saw no where else in the country. Ok, I just googled it… the only race course in the country is located here. AND, horse racing was introduced to Sri Lanka back in the 1840’s by Mr. John Baker… perhaps one of our relatives? There can’t be that many Bakers in the world. Oh, and looks like you can ride horses here, too, if that is your thing. Last time I tried it, I fell off and broke my back… so no.
- SECRET WATERFALL: Yes, that is the name we were told. I cannot tell you where it is… it is a secret. Actually I don’t know since our tuk tuk drivers — the ones who took us to the Nine Arch Bridge — drove us here. Bee-U-tiful drive to get there AND we convinced them to race each other. No one said we were the best parents… but we can be fun! When we arrived, we walked towards a waterfall crowded with locals… bathing… not sun-bathing, but bathing-bathing… um, ok… we are cool with that. “Just go with it!” we signaled to each other with our eyes. Afterall, these kind of experiences are what traveling is all about, right?! However, our drivers urged us onwards. It was a bit of a hike and we all wore flip flops (which may in fact have been the wrong choice of footwear), but we finally made it and it was secret, lovely, and very refreshing. If you want to see it, here is our very pleasant driver’s name and WhatsApp number — Ashok +94 77 592 1670. He and his friend had very reasonable rates. Just tell him Amy Baker from NY sent you.