Sri Lanka days 11-15: Nuwara Eliya continued + waterfalls, hikes, and gardens galore + tea plantation tour + horse ride through the countryside

This past week, I grew even more in love in Nuwara Eliya, a small town in Sri Lanka’s tea country (see a recap of my first 3 days here). After 7 days, I can say this is my favorite spot in Sri Lanka so far from its picturesque sites and feeling at home in my cozy hostel.

Day 11: swimming in Ramboda waterfall + tea plantation tour

I was super excited for this day’s activities, as it was time to finally tour a tea plantation and visit the waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya. I again tagged along with the two Dutch women from my hostel – we had such a good time hiking Horton Plains yesterday that we decided to go on another tour together. πŸ™‚

The first stop was Ramboda waterfall. There were several waterfall options around town, but our hostel manager recommended Ramboda as it was the only option where we could swim (versus the others where you just snap a picture and go). We took his advice, and we got to the waterfall by 10am to beat the crowds.

To get to the waterfall, there was a pretty substantial hike. It was mostly stairs and definitely a booty-workout!

Finally we got to the waterfall, and it was GORGEOUS. The three of us agreed it looked better in person than we imagined! It was very tall and the pool below was inviting. Plus we had it all to ourselves!

We braved the cold water and went in for a swim. πŸ™‚ Luckily, the climate at this waterfall was much warmer than Nuwara as it was down the mountain. It was such a beautiful spot to relax, and I felt like we could have stayed all day! Such a special, untouched spot that I’ll always remember.

After the waterfall, we drove back up the mountain and headed to Blue Fields Tea Factory. There were many tea plantations to choose from, but this one was close by the waterfall. First, we took a factory tour. We learned about the entire production process: harvesting the tea leaves, drying, fermenting, and finally packaging and the wholesale process. It was a quality tour and very informative!

It was interesting seeing them use machinery over a hundred years old. If it ain’t broke. πŸ˜‰

After the tour, we ordered different teas and had a little tasting. One of many cups I drank in Nuwara. πŸ™‚ I usually don’t add milk to tea, but the black tea here is so strong that I preferred it with milk.

After touring Blue Fields, we went to a second plantation called Damro Tea Lounge. This seemed to be the main one that everyone visited. We decided to skip the tour and walk around the beautiful plantation. The tea fields were so picturesque – I’ve never seen anything like it.

After a full day of activities, I chilled in the afternoon. For dinner, I made my first “home-cooked” meal of this trip: instant noodles and fresh veggies from the market. It tasted terrible, but after weeks of eating out, it felt good to make my own food.

Day 12: Victoria gardens + rest day

The next day was mostly spent on practical things like filing my taxes (fun) and trip planning. It felt good to have a chiller day after the two previous days of driving & activities.

I did get out for a stroll in Victoria Gardens – a small, well-maintained park in the city center. This blog knows how much I love gardens, and I loved slowly strolling through the park while looking at the different garden designs. πŸ™‚

Day 13: horseback riding through tea country + hiking Lover’s Leap waterfall

The next day, I was ready for more adventure! I decided to go on a horse-ride through more of tea county. I passed the horse track almost every day and it peaked my interest, and after hearing good reviews from a girl at my hostel, I went for it.

My horse was on the smaller side but well-behaved. We started off in a shaded forest, and then we emerged into sunny tea country with amazing views of the tea plantations.

We also passed through local villages and saw the local women working on the plantations.

Stopped at some viewpoints with panoramic views of Nuwara Eliya below.

Overall, the horse-ride was a cool experience and unique way to tour Nuwara. Afterwards, I realized we were in a part of town that I was interested in exploring, so I asked my guide to just drop me off there and I continued onward by foot.

First, I headed to Lover’s Leap, another waterfall in town that’s more popular than Ramboda. I was hoping to casually walk up and snap a few photos, but I accidentally got on a trail that led to the top of the fall. By the time I realized what I had done, I just decided to go for it. Not gonna lie, it was SO hard – it was incredibly steep, plus I was hangry. Fortunately, I linked up with another group with a guide which was a huge blessing as I wasn’t sure if I could make it by myself.

So worth it!! The views from the top were incredible. I stayed for a good while basking in the reward of the tough hike.

On the way down, we stopped to enjoy the waterfall from below as well.

I was exhausted after a full day of touring/hiking – I bought some more groceries in town and headed back to my hostel for a relaxing evening.

Day 14: rest day + working at the hostel

My last full day in Nuwara was primarily a rest day to recharge before a long travel day tomorrow. I mostly hung out at the hostel – the social atmosphere as well as my friendship with the hostel manger (Husham) was a huge reason I loved Nuwara and stayed for so long. Most backpackers stay in Nuwara for 1-2 days, and since I stayed a whole week, I felt like a veteran by the end of it. πŸ™‚ It was definitely a revolving door at the hostel, but I met a lot of lovely travelers because of it.

By the end of the week, I was basically working at the hostel – greeting guests, showing them around the property, and helping plan their itineraries. At one point, Husham stepped out for a few hours and asked me to look over the place while he was gone. πŸ˜›

One of my faraway life goals is to own a hostel, so it was a treat to follow Husham around, observe, and ask him endless questions. He was so hospitable and made everyone in the hostel laugh. I whole-heartedly recommend Vibe Way Hostel for anyone coming to Nuwara!!

Day 15: travel day to Negombo

After an amazing week, it was time to leave Nuwara. It was bittersweet leaving as this was my favorite place in Sri Lanka yet! I am SO glad I stayed a full week here (the longest place I’ll stay in Sri Lanka and a substantial investment from a 30 day visa). I definitely got some surprised looks when I told people I was here for 7 days, but one thing I learned from backpacking is evaluating what I actually like and going for it, even if it deviates from the typical itinerary.

This whole experience also reaffirmed how I gain so much from traveling slow and staying in one place for a longer period (but if you love to see everything and be on the move, that’s amazing too!). By the end of the week, I befriended locals from the cafe I frequented for lunch each day, I found a fruits/veggies vendor who didn’t completely rip me off, and I became a pseudo-employee at my hostel. πŸ˜›

Next up, I’m taking the train from the highlands back to Negombo to meet with Joe!!! Joe is visiting Sri Lanka, and we have been counting the days ’til we see each other. I’m so excited to experience my last two weeks in Sri Lanka with Joe and spend quality time together in this beautiful country. ❀

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