Nuwara Eliya Nuwara Eliya is often referred to by the Sri Lankan tourist industry as ‘Little England’. And while the toy town ambience does have something of an English country village to it, it comes with a disorienting surrealist edge. History Originally an uninhabited system of forests and meadows in the shadow of Pidurutalagala (aka Mt Pedro, 2524m), Nuwara Eliya became a singularly British creation, having been ‘discovered’ by colonial offi cer John Davy in 1819 and chosen as the site for a sanatorium a decade later. Later the district became known as a spot where ‘English’ vegetables and fruits, such as lettuce and strawberries, could be successfully grown for consumption by the colonists. Coffee was one of the fi rst crops grown here, but after the island’s coffee plantations failed due to disease, the colonists switched to tea. The fi rst tea leaves harvested in Sri Lanka were planted at LoolCadura Estate, in the mountains between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy. As tea experiments proved successful, the town quickly found itself becoming the Hill Country’s ‘tea capital’, a title still proudly borne. Nuwara Eliya Sights Victoria Park The lovely Victoria Park at the centre of town is one of the nicest, and best maintained, town parks in South Asia and a stroll around its manicured lawns is a pleasure indeed. The park comes alive with flowers around March to May, and August and September. It’s also home to quite a number of hill country bird species, including the Kashmir flycatcher, Indian pitta and grey tit. At the far end of the park is a small children’s playground and miniature train. Gregory Lake The long neglected Gregory Lake, at the southern end of town, has recently had some love and investment poured into it by the town council, and the newly paved walkways (stroller and wheelchair friendly) that fringe the lake have helped make it much more of a focal point of the town. In addition to a morning walk, you can hire boats or you can trot about the lakeshore on horseback . There are also picnic tables and a small restaurant and snack bar. Lovers Leap From the Pedro Tea Estate a very enjoyable 5km (round-trip) walk can be made to the Lovers Leap, a spectacular viewpoint and waterfall. From the factory cross the main road and follow the signs to the tea manager’s bungalow. From here take the left branch at the fork and continue walking for another quarter of an hour. Hakgala Gardens The pleasantly dishevelled Hakgala Gardens, 10km southeast of Nuwara Eliya (and about 200m lower), are a peaceful retreat. Legend has it that Hanuman, the monkey god, was sent by Rama to the Himalayas to fi nd a particular medicinal herb. He forgot which herb he was looking for and decided to bring a chunk of the Himalayas back in his jaw, hoping the herb was growing on it. The gardens grow on a rock called Hakgala, which means ‘jaw-rock’. Seetha Amman Temple On the way to the Hakgala Gardens, near the 83km post, is the colorful Hindu Seetha Amman Temple at Sita Eliya. It’s said to mark the spot where Sita was held captive by the demon king Rawana, and where she prayed daily for Rama to come and rescue her. On the rock face across the stream are circular depressions said to be the footprints of Rawana’s elephant. Tamil wedding parties make it a point to stop here for puja .