A Scottish tycoon named James Taylor introduced tea to Sri Lanka in 1867, and since then the country’s never looked back as one of the finest producers of tea in the world. The tranquil tea-country lies in the beautiful central highlands, and comprises beautiful scenery and clear echoes of the country’s colonial history.
The colourful city of Kandy, known as ‘The Lost Hill Kingdom,’ was Sri Lanka’s last royal capital and retains both a vibrancy and serene charm, with an emerald lake at its heart, and tea carpeted hills all around it. First port of call for most will be the Temple of the Tooth, which reportedly contains Buddha’s tooth – the focal point of the fiery Esala Perahera festival in July and August – followed by an unforgettable visit to Pinnawala elephant orphanage.
Kandy is a charming town, with brightly-robed monks wandering around bearing lotus blossoms and frangipani, traditional Sinhalese music filtering through the busy markets and antiques shops, and humid orchid houses enticing you in with their beautiful fragrances.
To get to the tea country from Kandy you’ll take a steam train through the lush mist-draped landscapes, and have the opportunity to stay at the Ceylon Tea Trails which lies at 1,250 metres above the tranquil Castlereagh Lake. This exquisite collection of colonial bungalows gives you a taste of how the plantation owners would have lived, and to walk past brightly sari-d tea pickers on the trails that run between each of the bungalows.
You’ll also want to visit the old British hill station of Nuwara Eliya which is dotted with chocolate-box mock Tudor houses, bright red post-boxes, and botanical gardens; take fascinating tours of the tea factories, and then reward yourself with a traditional afternoon tea.
After something a little more adventurous? You can hike the famous Adam’s Peak at dawn and also head to the lower hills for white water rafting. The nearby Knuckles Mountain Range, named for the hills’ resemblance to a clenched fist when viewed from certain spots around Kandy, makes for some pretty spectacular hikes. The whole area is often covered in thick fog, creating cloud forests home to some wildlife which exists nowhere else in the world.