Nuwara Eliya is a charming little town on the hills of central Sri Lanka. Located 175 km east of the capital Colombo, you can reach Nuwara Eliya in 3 ways: by train, by bus, and by taxi.
The train is the most scenic way to get to the so-called “city on the plain.” You will be welcomed by rolling tea estates and farmers working hard to pick the tea leaves while the train reaches Nuwara Eliya.
How to get to Nuwara Eliya
As many visitors often come from Colombo and Kandy, we already made a detailed step-by-step guide for those routes:
Arriving from a different destination in Sri Lanka? Check out our guide below to know which is your best transport option to reach Nuwara Eliya.
Getting to Nuwara Eliya by Train
The train ride to Nuwara Eliya is among the most scenic in the Tea Country.
Especially when taking the train between Nuwara Eliya and Ella, but also when coming from Colombo and Kandy, a beautiful ride will be awaiting you. Below is a short summary for these routes:
|Train Route||Duration||Cost||Train Class|
|Colombo to Nuwara Eliya||6hr 15min||420 Rs ($1.30)||2nd Class Unreserved|
|Kandy to Nuwara Eliya||3hr 30min||170 Rs ($0.50)||2nd Class Unreserved|
|Ella to Nuwara Eliya||2hr 30min||130 Rs ($0.40)||2nd Class Unreserved|
Note that these are very busy routes and you might want to book reserved train tickets, which you need to book at least one month before your trip. Check out our guide on how to book train tickets in Sri Lanka for more details.
The nearest train station from the city centre is Nanu Oya Railway Station, located 10 km away. From this station, you can take a 20-min tuk-tuk or bus ride to Nuwara Eliya city centre.
Tuk-tuks are easily available outside the railway station, with fares starting at 500 Rs ($2.75). If you prefer the bus, you have to walk some 50m to the nearest bus stop. Buses pass by every 20 to 30mins and a ticket costs 20 Rs ($0.10).
Getting to Nuwara Eliya by Bus
There are not many buses that go directly to Nuwara Eliya, but you should be able to hail one from top tourist destinations like Colombo, Kandy, and Ella.
|Bus Route & No.||Duration||Costs||Bus Type|
|Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (#79)||5hr 30min||545 Rs ($1.60)||AC|
|Ella to Nuwara Eliya (#31-1)||3hr||130 Rs ($0.40)||Semi-luxury (non-AC)|
|Kandy to Nuwara Eliya||3hr 30min||250 Rs ($0.70)||AC|
Most local buses will drop you off at the Nuwara Eliya Main Bus Station, located in the city centre.
The one downside though is that local Sri Lankan buses can be very uncomfortable, especially on long journeys. You might want to consider taking a tourist bus, although they are available only on some routes. From Colombo, a ticket costs 2,360 Rs ($7.00). When travelling with Brown Tours, a ticket costs 3,640 Rs ($11.00).
- Colombo to Nuwara Eliya via CBS Transport (5hr 40min) (daily)
- Kandy to Nuwara Eliya by Brown Tours (2hr 40min) (Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays only)
- Ella to Nuwara Eliya by Brown Tours (2hr 45min) (Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays only)
- Galle to Nuwara Eliya by Brown Tours (8hr 55min) (Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays only)
- Mirissa to Nuwara Eliya by Brown Tours (7hr 55min) (Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays only)
Getting to Nuwara Eliya by Taxi
Taking the taxi to Nuwara Eliya is a great alternative when there are no trains and you don’t feel like sitting on an uncomfortable bus for hours.
Especially, if you’re coming from southern towns like Mirissa or Dickwella, the taxi is your most comfortable option.
5 Awesome Things to Do in Nuwara Eliya
Also called “Little England,” Nuwara Eliya was the go-to place of British colonizers whenever they needed a break from their busy life in Ceylon.
Its cool climate was a relief in Sri Lanka’s generally scorching weather, and its highlands are home to wild animals like fox and deer, which the colonizers hunted during their retreat.
Today, Nuwara Eliya remains to be a must-visit destination when in Sri Lanka. We think it’s worth at least 2 full days in your itinerary. Here’s our top 5 reasons why:
- Visit a tea factory
- Hike to Ramboda Waterfalls
- Wander around Gregory Lake
- Have tea at The Grand Hotel
- Take a train to Ella
#1 Visit a tea factory
Nuwara Eliya is best known for its rolling tea plantations, and we recommend visiting at least one of them while you’re here. Not only will you be able to take tons of great photos, you can also get a closer look at how locals make their world-famous Ceylon tea.
We recommend visiting either Pedro Tea Factory or Damro. You can get a guided tour for only 550 Rs ($1.70) and the entire tour takes about 30mins. After that, you will get a complimentary tea of your choice, which you can enjoy with a good view of the tea estate.
Note that workers often ask for tips, especially when you take a photo of them. You might want to come prepared with small bills on your visit.
When visiting tea factories, you can rent a tuk-tuk that can take you around starting from 1,600 Rs ($4.90) for a whole day.
#2 Hike to Ramboda Falls
The Ramboda Falls are located about 20 km from the town centre and the drive will take about 1 hour.
However, the view and sounds of these majestic falls will make it worth the journey!
You can enjoy the view already from the main road, but we recommend getting close and following the water’s source. The hike to the top takes about 30mins. If you’re planning to do the hike, wear proper shoes as the rocks can be quite slippery. Entrance fee is 50 Rs ($0.10).
#3 Wander around Gregory Lake
Located at the heart of Nuwara Eliya, Gregory Lake was the watersports hub during the British colonial period.
Today, you can enjoy jet skiing or boat rides within the lake. Speedboats, swan boats, dinghy boats, they have it all. Its chilly waters can make you forget that you are still in Sri Lanka.
Not up for water activities? You can also just enjoy a serene walk or rent a bike to go around the lake. Watch the families enjoying a day out, enjoy the mist which sometimes envelops the park, or maybe have a bite in one of the surrounding restaurants.
Entrance to the park costs 200 Rs ($0.60).
#4 Have tea at The Grand Hotel
Since you’re already in the so-called “Little England,” you might as well enjoy it as the British did in the 19th century. The Grand Hotel is an iconic landmark built in 1891 as the home of former Ceylon governor Sir Edward Barnes.
Rooms are a bit expensive at 25,450 Rs ($78.00) per night, but you can enjoy its daily tea party for a much cheaper price.
You can choose from High Tea or Champagne Tea experience. The High Tea is held inside the Tea Lounge and includes 3 different kinds of tea of your choice plus 12 varieties of finger foods. All that for 1,500 Rs ($4.60). The Champagne Tea experience is offered in the garden and costs 3,000 Rs ($9.00).
Even if you’re not a tea person, we think that this is an experience everyone will enjoy when in Nuwara Eliya. The tea party is at 15:30 to 18:00 daily. Reservation is not required unless it’s a busy season.
#5 Take a train to Ella
When you’re already in Nuwara Eliya, it would be a shame not to take the country’s most beautiful train ride to Ella. The journey takes only about 2.5 hours across tea plantations, rolling hills, and the Nine Arch Bridge.
Unreserved tickets are available at Nanu Oya Railway Station on the day of your trip. But if you want to secure good seats for this journey, you can book your train ticket a month before via BookAway.
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Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.