Nuwara Eliya is otherwise known as ‘city of light'. It's a good name for Sri Lanka's highest and coolest town, a hill station in a picturesque landscape, where the air is sharp and the light is golden. Overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka, the city was established as a cool retreat for British colonialists looking to escape from the hot lowlands. Now it's a magnet for local and international travellers. Situated just 180 kilometres from Colombo, it's a quaint place, cool, lined with market stalls and colonial curiosities, including the nostalgic Hill Club. There are a few homely hotels in Nuwara Eliya too, as well as charming cottages to choose from.
The surrounding tea plantations spread out in every direction, right to the edge of the mountain peaks, interrupted only by trees here and there, or by a glittering waterfall. Walking trails wind themselves through the jewel bright tea bushes, and there are plenty of outlets and a tea factory or two where they are delighted to offer thirsty hikers a refreshing cup of Ceylon tea.
Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka's highest, most remote plateau, is a short drive from Nuwara Eliya. It's worth exploring for its distinctive savannah-like landscape and stunning views, and the chance of spotting sambar deer, leaf monkeys with purple faces and maybe even leopard, as well as numerous bird species. Galway's Bird Sanctuary, closer to Nuwaru Eliya, is worth a visit for birdwatchers too.