Sri Lanka has been troubled over recent years with instability and civil war. Since 2008 the situation with the Tamil rebels in the north has quietened and there have been no terrorist attacks. However, the situation is not resolved although the country is heading in the right direction with political stability in the country allowing and attracting more tourist development.
Sri Lanka is rich in history and is influenced by many different cultures and religions. With tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches and impressive mountain scenery Sri Lanka has plenty to offer. The income levels in Sri Lanka are still very low and poverty is rife. Apart from the tourist hotspots travelling in Sri Lanka is cheap and the locals are friendly and helpful who understand and speak English even in remote locations. A flight time of only 4.5hrs from Dubai to Colombo is reason enough to visit this country.
We took an early flight from Dubai to Colombo, so that we could use the first day to arrange our journey in Sri Lanka. The flight time was about 4.5hrs and we arrived around 2pm at Colombo Airport (GPS N07°10.509 E079°53.293) which is about 30km out of the city. We planned to use different means of transportation so we decided not to use one of taxis on offer to the city. You will be told that there are no buses or that it is very complicated to reach Colombo. Don’t believe everything you are told ;-). We left the airport without any fixed transportation and also no clue how to reach the city. We asked the driver of the first bus we saw in front of the airport terminal if he was going to Colombo. We understood that we would have to change buses somewhere in order to reach Colombo. In the bus we asked some travellers (don’t expect tourists) for more information and the very friendly passengers explained to us where to change buses, which was actually after a short drive which was free of charge. The bus ride was not luxurious but it only took about an hour. Compared to the airport taxi of $25 we paid only $3 for two bus tickets. We hopped out of the bus at the main bus station in Colombo (GPS N06°56.020 E079°51.282). With so much success travelling by intuition we decided to try and find our hotel walking. In fact, we had no clue where we really were or where the hotel was, but we new roughly which area from pictures on the hotels’ website. So by asking our way we reached the hotel (Cinamon Lakeside $100 / GPS N06°55.712 E079°50.961) after walking for only 15 minutes. It is best to ask more than one person and make your own judgement based on the information. You might fail but that’s the fun if you want to travel without a fixed schedule. We planned a route with the sights and place we wanted to see. We wanted to decide on how to reach our destination and where to stay whilst travelling. Our challenge was to see many places in only one week. Colombo was not on our list and served only as a starting point. We were not interested in huge cities but more in culture and the countryside (although Colombo does have some interesting sights). After checking into our hotel room we explored the city by foot and a three-wheeler. Our short trip convinced us that our decision not to spend too much time in the capital was the right one!.
After a relaxing night in the hotel and a great breakfast we took our backpacks and walked back to the main bus station (GPS N06°56.020 E079°51.282). There are plenty of guides and drivers offering their services. We turned down all their offers and decided after our first successful bus ride to do the same again. We asked our way to the bus heading to Dambulla from where we planned to continue to Sigiriya. If you want to get the spirit of a country and the people, take public transportation. There are different types of buses and classes, so we decided to travel like the local people in the lowest class, with no AC, no pee breaks for 5 hours and depending on the route (usually always) the bus is packed with people so you will feel a little bit like a sardine in a can. Still for us it was a great experience and a fun ride. Before the bus left, traders came on board trying to sell all kinds of goods, from food and drinks to toys and big posters. “Driving is quite different over here.” The bus maneuvered through the traffic with skill but too fast, shaking from right to left. Our rollercoaster ride was only disturbed by sudden stops. Anyhow the conditions of the roads and traffic – everything is on the road, bicycles, people, motorbikes, chicken, cows, goats, cars, trucks and busses – doesn’t allow high speeds. I guess we never drove faster than 70km/ hr but it felt like being shaken like a nut shell on a rough river – 50km/hr felt like high speed travelling. The many sudden stops for people entering or leaving the bus didn’t help to decrease our travelling time. Before getting on the bus, you should be prepared that the journey will not be quick and comfortable – it will be a journey of experience. After 5hrs we reached Dambulla (about 150km) at 4pm (GPS bus stop N07°40.194 E080°31.658). After 5hrs on the bus without a break, our needs were obvious. We went into the first restaurant we saw, with the common beautiful open kitchen, latest fashion plastic chairs and plastic table covers… no details about the toilet. But amazingly, even though that these places don’t promise much, the food is great. We knew about the risk of getting diarrhea but hungry for food and new experiences it was a risk we were willing to take. While entering the restaurant we were asked by some three-wheeler drivers where we were heading next and they offered us to drive us there. The average cost was about $6,50 for the 30km to Sigiriya, our final destination of this day. On the way into the restaurant we had already started to negotiate the price just to compare it to the bus ride (again only 4$ for the two of us for 170km drive). Of course we felt that the prices offered at first were too high. During our late lunch, rice, chicken and curry, we discussed what to do. With were keen to see the famous cave temples in Dambulla and the rock temple and palace in Sigiriya. We decided to go with the guy who wanted to accept our offer of $4. We made it a condition that he had to drop us first to the temple in Dambulla before making our way to Sigiriya. He accepted and dropped us about 3 minutes from the bus stop near the temple (GPS N07°51.370 N080°38.938). Even though we felt uncomfortable we left our backpacks with the driver in his three-wheeler and went to the temple. The temple is worth a visit and a stop-over on the way to Siringia for 1-2hrs is enough to climb the hill and visit the caves. The views during sunset are breathtaking. We were a little bit unsure if the guy would still be there with our backpacks. Anyhow we had kept all our valuables with us. We were relieved when we saw him waiting for us. It was dark by the time we left and the driver offered to go via a nearby lake and we accepted. He was actually a very friendly guy and spoke very good English – but still we kept our little suspicions. In general I believe and want to believe the good in people but I’m not naïve and always try to calculate the risk. After a short stop by the lake he asked us if he could show us some good accommodation close to Sigiriya. Without a place to stay we accepted but soon began to regret this. It was already dark and the road was getting narrower and narrower, and we felt that we were moving further and further away from civilization. The road was already so narrow that I guessed only a three-wheeler could driver there – ‘a track’ would have been better. Apart from being much smaller than a bus, the three-wheeler provides a similar kind of driving experience – shaky, shaky, shaky. But you feel very light and about to lift up in the air, compared to the bus. Answering our question how much longer it will take he replied for the tenth time “Only five minutes Sir!” Suddenly he made a hard turn to the right and we arrived in a small courtyard in the middle of the jungle. He proved our suspicions wrong again. The guest house was very nice and in a perfect remote location for a quiet get-away. The rooms were clean and the highlight was a tree house within the jungle where you could have your dinner. Anyhow we decided it was a little bit too ‘remote’ for us and we weren’t sure how far away from Sigiriya we were having spent 1.5hrs in the three-wheeler. So we told the driver that we’d rather go to Sigiriya. He seemed a little bit disappointed but still very friendly. It took us another 30 minutes to reach Sigiriya and as the tracks became roads we became more confident. The main road to Sigiriya was still bad – small and without any lighting. With nowhere to stay we asked the driver to stop at some place to check prices and facilities. Due to the affordability we told him we would prefer a hotel rather than a guest house. Unfortunately the only hotel I had looked up in advance was the Sigiriya Hotel which supposedly cost $60 per night. As usual demand and supply drives the price and the bookings in Sigiriya. This weekend with the season starting, the price had almost tripled. We got upset and decided not to stay there. It took about an hour to find a decent place to stay. Our driver was very friendly, helpful and patient during our search. The price range for rooms was between $15 and $140 depending on your needs. We opted for a hotel with 9rooms in small huts for $50 per night including breakfast. (Sigiriya View $50 per room / GPS N07°57.357 E080°44.601) The rooms are simple but clean with AC and hot water. After being so helpful and nice we decided to give the driver $10 instead of the agreed $4. “While travelling in countries with a low income level, you should check in advance or during the first days the price level for certain things. Even if some prices are cheap compared to what we are used to, you always should put prices in relation to the local incomes. (e.g. worker on a tea plant $5/day) Tourists will always pay more than locals, but if you are not careful they will ask for incredibly increased prices.” We had some more good local curry and planned our next day. While discussing our traveling options to our next destination Kandy and Nuwara Eliya in the Mountains with the hotel manager he told us that there is only one direct bus leaving to Kandy from Sigiriya early in the morning. It is a drive of about 4hrs so we decided to spend the next day in Sigiriya and continue early the following morning. The hotel manager who spoke good English – actually you will always find people who speak English which makes travelling very easy – asked us if we would be interested in going to the Kaudulla National Park (GPS N08°08.036 E080°52.673) to see wild elephants after our trip to the rock. This was not part of our plan but we thought “Why not?”. The trip was supposed to cost only $50 for both of us and we would be picked up and dropped back by jeep. We agreed to be picked up the next day at 2:30pm to see the elephants. We went to bed and I was looking forward to the next day – our first day hiking and everything that was awaiting us.
After a good sleep in the jungle, we had our breakfast and headed towards Sigiriya rock. Luckily the entrance of the temple was so close that we could walk (about 2km). It was finally the first day we carried small backpacks and travelled by foot. The scenery was quite impressive; fresh and juicy green, bananas, mangos and other fruits all along the way and lots of butterflies, big monitor lizards, monkeys and unfortunately many wild dogs. The warning signboards and stories about wild elephants were to us more interesting than frightening. I guess if we had met one of these giants along the way I would have changed my opinion. The palace was visible directly from the hotel and it was easy to find. We entered the area at the main gate where there is also a museum. Entrance per person is $26. The fortress was surrounded by a defensive moat. After passing the bridge, we entered the ruins and a feeling of Indiana Jones overcame us. There is nothing more to say – the whole area is simply amazing and there is so much to discover. Even though it was tough we made our way more or less straight to the top. The path leads directly into the steep walls of the rock and you can see from afar the manmade steps and ways to the top. The last passage before reaching the top is the most interesting one. The metal steps are very rusty and do not look trustworthy, especially if you look down on one side. During the rainy season the steps get very slippery, which makes the last descent even more interesting and challenging if you are not confident with heights. All along the way you see the old steps used in ancient times and you can imagine what an acrobatic act it was to reach the palace on top of the rock in this time. Building this whole city with the techniques and abilities available in those times is incredible. From the top of the rock you have an amazing view over the whole surrounding area and the green carpet of jungle behind the rock. There are only a few low walls remaining from the palace but the size of the whole structure and the location is the highlight. It took us about 2 hours from the hotel to reach the top (about 3.5km) (GPS N07°57.410 E080°45.596) including breaks. The hike is actually not physically challenging but you should take enough water and some rain protection with you. Temperatures and humidity are quite high so you will sweat a lot. After reaching the peak we went straight back to the hotel, because this place captured our imaginations and we spend more time here than expected. When we arrived back at the hotel, the jeep for our next trip was already waiting. We just dropped some stuff we no longer needed in the room and left at 2:30pm for the national park. The jeep was one of the older models and the drive was as usual very shaky and bumpy. The seats were simple benches at the back of the jeep so that you could feel the wooden board on each bump – and there are plenty of those! The drive to the park took us about an hour through a very pleasant landscape. Arriving at the national park we were surprised that the price we had paid was only for the car and did not include the entrance fee which was very high. Locals pay only a small amount of the tourist prices. So we ended up spending actually double the price we had expected. Apart from elephants the national park does not offer much more than the jungle behind the hotel. We felt a little bit strange and uncomfortable when we joined a convoy of jeeps on the hunt for some pictures of elephants. It is still a great experience to see wild elephants in their natural habitat,and not behind bars. I also had the feeling that they hadn’t been disturbed by us and the entrance fees we paid are for their own good to protect and preserve this park and the living space of these animals. Despite a successful hunt, seeing the elephants and getting our pictures taken, we still had the bitter taste of paying a bit too much and compared with the breathtaking morning we returned a little disappointed. We arrived back at the hotel at about 7:30pm and starving after being on the road the whole day and missing lunch. To avoid an unpleasant surprise like ours, always ask before starting a trip if the prices quoted includes all expenses. We decided to eat out and to save money on a three-wheeler, walked in the dark to the village. “Not a good idea!” First we underestimated the distance, second as mentioned before it was pitch black and there is not much along the road apart from jungle. The torch we had was very helpful but most scary were the wild dogs barking continually from somewhere. Sometimes one of the dogs came close and followed us a bit. During the day hike we had our trekking poles which are quite useful for keeping dogs at a distance. After an unexpected 30-40 minute walk we reached the main road which was busier with some motorbikes and three-wheelers passing from time to time. We decided to take the first possible three-wheeler which didn’t take too long. Of course the first thing we were told “Very dangerous at night, wild elephant!” Again I was not worried about elephants but much more by the passenger who was already sitting in the back of the three-wheeler. Usually I wouldn’t have taken this chance but we weren’t sure when the next three-wheeler would come along. So we squeezed into the back and I notice straight away that our fellow passenger was drunk. Again uncertain about our driver and his companion we reached our destination without trouble or incident. As usual the driver tried to tell us that he was the only one who could pick us up later that night, but we didn’t book him. We had a buffet dinner in a big hotel which filled our empty stomachs. For our return trip we asked the receptionist to order us a three-wheeler. (Don’t be silly like us – the three-wheeler is $2, only walk at night if you want a bit of a thrill). Also the next creative driver who picked us up (of course it was not a problem getting a ride back) told us a story that the bus we wanted to take for the next morning was broken and would not leave the village. However, he could drive us the 3-4hrs in his three-wheeler. Already wise to the experience, we said no and went to bed.
The next morning we got up early to catch the only bus going directly to Kandy at 6:30am. Luckily it was light when we left the hotel and fog climbed up the trees and the grass. Having learnt from the night before, we were armed with our trekking poles for protection against the dogs. With some daylight the way was not so scary but we were quite surprised by the distance (about 2-3km). On reaching the junction with the main road, we saw the small bus stop where some people were already waiting. This was a good sign that our intuition was right and the bus would go. With Sigiriya as first stop we were hoping for seats, but weren’t lucky. So our journey on the bus started with us squeezed like sardines again but this time standing. We had no breakfast and couldn’t see the road like during our first bus journey. Also it was the morning bus which was full of school kids and people going to work, so the bus stopped every couple of minutes. I guess a boat trip during a storm would have been more comfortable. It didn’t take long before my girlfriend got travel sick. After 30 min drive she had to make her way to the door which is always open to be sick out of the moving bus. The other passengers found this incident very entertaining. Of course the only two tourists on the bus, can’t handle local driving skills :-D. The conductor was quite nice and also a little bit afraid that she might fall out of the door. He pulled her back in and made space for her to get some rest. The next 2.5hrs drive must have been a nightmare for her but she stayed on board. On reaching the mountains the drive got wortse, but we both survived and reached Kandy (bus tickets $2 per person). We had no real plan in place as to how to continue from here, but we knew this was our last bus ride – at least for this day. Based on how sick my girlfriend was feeling, we skipped a visit to one of the most famous temples in Sri Lanka. After some coffee we decided to continue by train and went to the train station (GPS N07°17.400 E080°37.900). Luckily we were early because there are not many trains leaving, but we were able to catch one of the two trains going to Nanu Oya. We had to change trains once at Peradeniya Junction (GPS N07°15.438 E080°35.408). Train tickets are very cheap ($1,5 person) and there are three classes. The first class is usually booked out if you try to buy a ticket directly in Kandy. So we took the usual 2nd class ticket. While waiting for our connecting train we were told that it’s possible to bribe the train conductor and get seats in first class. After our morning nightmare we wanted to try that sneaky tactic and went to the first class. We found some seats and when the conductor came we started to negotiate but he simply asked too much ($7 person) for what the first class was offering. Actually the seat are very simple, old and used, covered with fabric, so nothing worth paying for. So we had to leave the first class and return to the second class. The weather was nice and the doors of the train are always open so we chose in my opinionthe best place in the train and took a seat in one of the doorways. The train went very slowly especially while descending the mountains giving you the perfect opportunity to watch the scenery passing by or take pictures. Everything seems not so far removed from colonial times and travelling by train feels like being in a different world or time. The drive from Kandy to Nanu Oya took a long time 4,5hrs but there is plenty to see. The vegetation changes on the way from jungle to woods and tea plantations in the mountains. If you have the time to travel slowly take the train! We arrived at 5pm in Nanu Oya which is actually a 20 min drive from our destination Nuwara Eliya, known as little England. Nuwara Eliya was the only place where we were sure about our hotel which had been recommended to us. On arrival at the train station a guide offered us a ride to the village for a very good price ($3 for the taxi) so I accepted right away. The guide was a very nice and friendly guy, who told us all about the region, himself, the history… We had the feeling that Gihan was a good and honest guy which proved right later on. He offered us his guesthouse but didn’t try to talk us out of going to our chosen accommodation. Actually the info he gave us was honest and true. We told him about our travel plans and he gave us some good advice, so we decided to take his number and use his service again. Our hotel was the Hill Club ($95 per room / GPS N06°58.239 E080°45.837) which is an historical building previously used as club house by the English Colonial forces. The building and its interior seemed to survive decades without change, giving a very nice splendour of colonial living to this place. The atmosphere is strange giving a taste of English Royalty in the middle of Sri Lanka. The evening dinner is quite famous and the reason why we chose this place. The rules of a strict dress code and the history of the building led to our expectations for the dinner. Honestly the rules are not so strict and you can borrow jackets and ties there for free. So I ended up in a nice combination of hiking shoes, khaki military trousers, white polo shirt and a brown suite with an ugly tie! Somehow women always find something suitable for any event even if you travel with light backpacks. The dinner is different than might be expected but it’s an experience of its own. It is so weird but very cute, how the staff is trying to keep something alive for times long gone. Don’t take it too seriously and enjoy the charade. We ended the evening with tea served with white gloves in front of the carmine, with an open fire on a couch the age of a great grand mother.
The breakfast was no surprise after the evening but the ambience in the old building was great. Nuwara Eliya is quite cold compared to the rest of the country so be prepared. After arriving when it was almost dark we went to explore the village this morning. Apart from a few buildings like the clubhouse, there is not much left of so called little England. But definitely worth a visit is the Victoria Park which is a beautiful place for a morning walk. (Entrance $1) We returned back to the hotel to vacate our rooms at noon. We called Gihan for a ride to our next place Dalhousie the starting point for the longest hike on our route. He told us on the way there we could stop at a tea plantation, a tea factory and would see some huge waterfalls. This and the fact that we were unable to travel by bus anymore meant we paide $60 for a taxi ride over there. When we left the hotel it started to rain heavily so we couldn’t see much of the scenery. We stopped at a place called tea castle which is not actually a factory, but more of a sales centre. However, it was very interesting and we learned a lot about tea and of course also purchased as much as we could squeeze in our backpacks. Unfortunately the waterfalls were covered in cloud and rain so we couldn’t see them properly. It took us about 4 hours to reach Dalhousie Gihan and his driver left after dropping us at his recommended guesthouse. The ride was far from ideal if you suffer from travel sickness, but is unavoidable if you want to reach this place. It was still raining and already dark so all we did was eat and sleep. I checked with the manager of the guesthouse for the way, weather and rented 2 rain jackets ($1 each) just in case. The online info we got via SMS from a friend in Dubai was forecasting rain, the locals told us there would be no rain, full of optimism and smiles.
After dinner we went early to bed, to be ready to get up at 2am and climb Adams Peak. Luckily it had stopped raining and we kept our optimism even though the online weather forecast was saying it would rain during our descent the next day. Ready to sleep at 9pm we heard some dogs barking outside. Still optimistic we thought it will only be for a few minutes. Unluckily the only thing that lasted for a few minutes was silence. Anyhow we managed to sleep until around midnight when a dog started barking continuously. I hoped that the dog would stop eventually, but sadly he barked non-stop until 2am – no wake up call required! Actually I was relieved to stop trying to sleep. We had packed our kit the day before and were equipped for all eventualities. As soon as we left the room the dog stopped barking. It was still dark with only a few clouds – god bless. We met with some other people who had the same destination like us – Adams Peak. During the season the small village Dalhousie is busy and the whole way up to the peak is lit. You will find small huts selling water, tea, snacks and souvenirs along the route. Off season you will find none of that, but you would have the path and steps to yourself and wouldn’t need to squeeze and push. Making the early ascent like us to catch the sunrise at the peak, means walking up in pitch black on rough terrain and slippery steps. Torches and enough water are essential. The usual rain protection should also be with you. Long trousers are also a good idea to be protected from the leaches which are all along the way in the grass (guess who got the only leach – not me!). The route goes more or less straight up, on thousands of steps on a stretch of about 6km from the village to the top and a 950m elevation. This hike is not an easy one – don’t underestimate the steps which vary a lot in height and step-length. The steps actually start after the first quarter and then seem to never end and get steeper and steeper. 2,5-3hours is a realistic and normal time to reach the summit if you are relatively fit. If you are not a pilgrim, you should definitely reach the top for sunrise. It’s an amazing experience to see the colorful rise of the sun from the peak (GPS N06°48.555 E080°29.965) with a 360° view over the jungle and the cities in the distance. Most of the jungle is covered in clouds which start rising after the sun is up. All the pain walking up there is worth it for the experience. Maybe I should not mention going down is not much more fun than climbing up. But now walking in daylight you could see the amazing jungle scenery with breathtaking waterfalls. Usually you should make your way down a bit faster than the way up. After a good and well portioned breakfast in our guesthouse (GPS N06°49.561 E080°31.361) we organized a taxi to get to the beach faster. The taxi (7seater bus) is about 10-12.000rupi $110 to Bentota and takes about 5 hrs. If you have time you can reach Bentota for about $5 via bus and train but it will take you a full day or even more.
Friday – Sunday
The coast is much more popular with tourists and finding a place to stay is easy. The beaches are amazingly beautiful, and that was all that we need after the last days filled with lots of action and travelling. We planned our last two days as relaxing beach days before returning back home as we felt we had earned the right to be lazy. On Friday we went to the city to buy some souvenirs and to explore the markets. In the afternoon we went for well deserved massage after our successful ascent of Adams Peak. On Sunday I went fishing in the early morning which is quite cheap compared to the UAE – $150 for a big boat (5people) for 5hrs and 100$ for a small one including gear and a captain. I caught two nice barracudas but was hoping for a more exotic catch. Early in the morning I could also see in the distance Adams Peak on the skyline. In the meantime my girlfriend spend the morning in the spa with the famous Aveda treatments which she deserved after all her suffering. After our two relaxing days we left early in the morning to return to the U.A.E.
Sri Lanka is definitely worth a visit and for us also a second one. If you follow our route, it might be advisable to take a diver for the whole trip ($30-40/day). This will save time and provides you more flexibility. For one part of the trip I would take the train and then meet the driver at your destination again. We recommend not taking the offers and using three-wheelers for long trips – the traffic is dangerous especially in these small cans. The people are very friendly and usually helpful even if they do try to sell their services whenever possible. Travelling as women only or as couple you should be careful at night. We never had any trouble and didn’t hear directly of any but it is mentioned in travel guides that some incidents have been reported. Price are often given in USD/$ why we mentioned everything in this currency. We paid 1.600AED for the flight, plus about 3.000AED for all other expenses per person.
Sigiriya (Lion’s rock) is an ancient rock fortress and palace ruin surrounded by the remains of an extensive network of gardens, reservoirs, and other structures. A popular tourist destination, Sigiriya is also renowned for its ancient paintings which are reminiscent of the Ajanta Caves of India. The Sigiriya was built during the reign of King Kassapa I (AD 477 – 495), and is one of the seven World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. Sigiriya may have been inhabited through prehistoric times. It was used as a rock-shelter mountain monastery from about the 5th century BC, with caves prepared and donated by devotees to the Buddhist Sangha. The garden and palace were built by King Kasyapa. Following King Kasyapa’s death, it was again a monastery complex up to about the 14th century, after which it was abandoned. Alternative stories have the primary builder of Sigiriya as King Dhatusena, with Kasyapa finishing the work in honour of his father. Still other stories have Kasyapa as a playboy king, with Sigiriya a pleasure palace. Even Kasyapa’s eventual fate is mutable. In some versions he is assassinated by poison administered by a concubine. In others he cuts his own throat when isolated in his final battle. Still further interpretations have the site as the work of a Buddhist community, with no military function at all. This site may have been important in the competition between the Mahayana and Theravada Buddhist traditions in ancient Sri Lanka.
Kandy and the Temple of the Tooth
The monumental ensemble of Kandy is an example of construction that associates the Royal Palace and The Temple of the Tooth is the place that houses the Relic of the tooth of the Buddha. Originally part of the Royal Palace complex of the Kandyan Kingdom, it is one of the holiest places of worship and pilgrimage for Buddhists around the world. The Palace of the Tooth relic, the palace complex and the holy city of Kandy are associated with the history of the dissemination of Buddhism.
Nuwara Eliya meaning “city on the plain (table land)” or “city of light”, is a town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka with a picturesque landscape and temperate climate. It is located at an altitude of 1,868m and is considered to be the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. The city was founded by non other than illustrious Samuel Baker, the legendary discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846. Such was the salubrious climate that in no time Nuwara Eliya became the prime sanctuary of the British civil servants and planters in Ceylon. Nuwara Eliya, called Little England then, was also the ideal hill country retreat where the British colonialists could immerse themselves in their pastimes of fox hunting, deer hunting, elephant hunting, polo, golf and cricket. Many of the buildings retain features from the colonial period such as the Queen’s Cottage, General’s House, Grand Hotel, Hill Club, Town Post Office and even new hotels are often built and furnished in the colonial style.
Adam’s Peak is a 2,243 metre tall conical mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is well-known for the Sri Pada “sacred footprint”, a 1.8m rock formation near the summit, in Buddhist tradition held to be the footprint of the Buddha, that of Shiva and that of Adam. It is revered as a holy site by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. It has specific qualities that cause it to stand out and be noticed; including its dominant and outstanding profile, and the boulder at the peak that contains an indentation resembling a footprint. This elevation is chiefly remarkable as the resort of pilgrims from all parts of the East. It is an important pilgrimage site, especially for Hindus and Buddhists. Pilgrims walk up the mountain, following a variety of routes up thousands of steps. The journey takes several hours at least. The peak pilgrimage season is in April, and the goal is to be on top of the mountain at sunrise, when the distinctive shape of the mountain casts a triangular shadow on the surrounding plain and can be seen to move quickly downward as the sun rises. Climbing at night can be a remarkable experience, with the lights of the path leading up and into the stars overhead. There are rest stops along the way. The mountain is most often scaled from December to May. During other months it is hard to climb the mountain due to very heavy rain, extreme wind, and thick mist. Buddhists say that the footprint mark is the left foot of the Buddha, left behind as he strode away, the right footprint being (depending on legend) in Amphoe Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi Province, located about 150 kilometres northeast of Bangkok, Thailand. This place is called in Thai Phra Bat or Phra Phutthabat.Tamil Hindus think it is the footprint of Shiva.Muslims and Christians in Sri Lanka ascribe it to where Adam, the first Ancestor, set foot as he was exiled from the Garden of Eden. The legends of Adam are connected to the idea that Sri Lanka was the original Eden.
Special thanks to Dr. Paulus who actually put together this route for us. He worked for 6 months in Sri Lanka during the civil war as a doctor for the UN. Other sources and helpful publications: Lonely Planet Sri Lanka and www.wikipedia.org