Nuwara Eliya is a haven for stunning cascades. Waterfalls make me feel grounded and at peace with everything around me. If you love chasing waterfalls, then you need to make sure to stop in Nuwara Eliya.
How to get there
There are a few ways you can get to Nuwara Eliya, depending on where you are coming from. Your options are always going to be to take a bus, train, or private car/tuk tuk.
A lot of people take the infamous rail line from Kandy all to way to Ella passing through Nuwara Eliya. The breathtaking views of tea plantations is what attracts so many people. There are three trains daily; one at 3;30 am, 8:45 am, and 11:20 am. I think the train would be a stunning experience if you get a good spot, which is pretty difficult based on my experience with trains in Sri Lanka.
Catching a bus is pretty easy as it is right next to the train station. Our original intention was to take the train but we missed it, so the bus it was. People are pretty helpful around the bus station and in no time, we were on a bus. It took about 4 hours to drive to Nuwara Eliya and was quite affordable at 250 LKR a person. I was also so tired from the adventures in Sigiriya that I slept for most of the trip.
Your travel options from Colombo are to go through Kandy or not. You can find direct trains and buses straight to Nuwara Eliya which might be a better option if you are short on time.
Something I would love to do the next time that I am in Sri Lanka is rent a tuk-tuk. My hostel in Colombo offered tuk-tuk rentals and I saw many tourists enjoying their travels in their own rented tuk-tuk. This gives you so much more freedom to enjoy everything this amazing country has to offer.
Once again, you can take a bus or a train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya. It costs about 100 LKR and takes you through some of the most beautiful parts of the route. We tried to take this train to get to Ella (spoilers it was full, I really had no luck with trains during my trip) but ended up taking a tuk-tuk.
This was a really nice way to enjoy the trip. It costs 2000LKR (you need to negotiate with your driver) and took 3 hours. It was a great way to enjoy the scenery and often you can get your driver to stop whenever you would like to take photos.
The Waterfalls Around Nuwara Eliya
Okay, now onto the good stuff and probably why you clicked on this post. To view most of these sites, you will need to organize transportation. Our hosts were able to help us and we of course, chose to visit the waterfalls that were the furthest away.
- St. Clair’s falls
I’m going to start with these gorgeous falls outside the small town of Talawakelle because they are the ones I was determined to visit. It took us about an hour to drive out to them but they did not disappoint.
This waterfall was the reason why I wanted to head west to Talawakelle in the first place. It is known as the “Little Niagara of Sri Lanka” due to how wide it is. Ironically enough, even though I am a Canadian, I have never been to the real Niagara Falls. I saw a picture of these and I knew I had to visit because I was mesmerized by the multiple cascades coming down and the fact that it is surrounded by green tea fields. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
There is a small path that you can take to get fairly close to falls. It is going through someone’s property so you need to be very careful not to damage any of the shrubbery as you weave yourself through. These falls used to be a lot “fuller” but are now heavily affected by the Upper Kotmale Dam. Despite this, I loved wandering the fields and seeing the carefully places tea bushes that made their interesting concentric designs.
- Devon falls
I hadn’t even known about this fall, our guide decided to take us to it since it is so close to St. Clair’s Falls. Devon Falls is definitely best viewed from afar due to its height. At 97 meters tall, it is named after the owner of the tea plantation that it rests on. Our guide told us there was no safe way to get to the bottom and I was just peachy with the view that we did have.
This is the small village where the rail station is, for those choosing to take the train. There are two waterfalls here very close together. I only include these because of their unique location but unfortunately, they are also being affected by the dam and have a less powerful output of water.
- Nanu Oya Waterfall
Above this small 60 meter waterfall is this old iron bridge which creates an interesting juxtaposition between the organic fall and the rigid bridge. If you are lucky, you can catch a train passing by on it.
- Glassaugh Falls
This is the older sibling to Nanu Oya and (like many of the other falls in Sri Lanka) is named after the estate that it lies on. It is made up of three falls altogether (the last part being named Nanu Oya Waterfall) and has the iron bridge run through it three times. To get to the very top, you need to travel along the railway and then trek through the tea plantation.
If you are spending a day inside the town of Nuwara Eliya, you can spend a day enjoying these two main falls as they are situated close to each other.
- Lover’s Leap Waterfall
One of the most popular waterfalls in Nuwara Eliya due to its legend, Lover’s Leap is located next to the Pedro Tea Estate. It’s believed that a long time ago, a Prince met a beautiful village girl while hunting in the jungle. Due to their class difference, their love was forbidden which drove them to jump to their deaths in order to be together forever. Many locals will not go near the grounds at night. You can also climb to the top of these falls to get a stunning view of Nuwara Eliya.
- Glen Falls
This is a unique fall now due to the fact that you can only see it during Nuwara Eliyas rainy season. It has dried up do to the over cultivation on this mountain but its beauty is worth seeing if you can withstand the monsoon season of Nuwara Eliya.
Other Waterfalls in the Area
If you are willing to travel much further from the city to find the best waterfalls, you can check out these stunning falls.
- Bomburu Ella Waterfall (Perawella Falls)
Is touted as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Sri Lanka and I highly regret not making the trip out to see it for myself. It does take you a bit outside the town which also means that it does tend to be less visited. There is now a charge to enter the grounds here that is believed to go towards conservation efforts; 20 LKR for locals and 50 LKR for tourists. You will also need to trek for about 20 mins to enjoy Bomburu in its full glory.
- Ramboda Falls
You can stop at this waterfall on the way to Nuwara Eliya. To get there, stop at the hotel with the same name and follow the path to the viewpoint. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in Sri Lanka measuring 109 meters.
- Baker’s Falls
This waterfall is located within the boundaries of Horton Plains National Park, a protected area that is famous for being the home of a giant cliff known as World’s End.
Where to stay
When choosing a place to stay in Nuwara Eliya, I highly recommend choosing one of the many homestay-style accommodations that you can find on Booking.com.
It’s an amazing experience to take in the genuine hospitality of the Sri Lankan people and the best part is the amazing food! The home-cooked breakfast and dinner is the thing that I miss most of my stays in Tea Country as we only stayed in homestays.
What else is there to do in Nuwara Eliya
- Visit Victoria Park
This park was so busy when I was there, full of locals enjoying their holiday. Entrance fee is 300 LKR.
- Go to the post office
When it comes to an architectural wonder, you know I will probably opt to see it vs anything else. Okay, so maybe this giant red/pink bricked building isn’t a wonder perse, but it’s one of the oldest post offices in Sri Lanka. I love the tudor-style building and despite it being closed, it was still fun to marvel from the outside.
- Tea Tasting
You are in tea country with many plantations and estates surrounding you, go enjoy afternoon tea! High tea at the Grand Hotel is a highly popular thing to do in the area or explore the famous Mackwoods Museum. The perfect place to pick up some souvenirs for any tea connoisseur.
So there it is. On first glance, Nuwara Eliya is a small town with little to do. The next time I go back, I can easily spend a week or two just relaxing, hiking, and visiting these amazing waterfalls.