Badulla district in the Uva province is a very interesting district for the traveller. The district is full of natural beauty that it is worth spending some days exploring this region. For the traveller wanting a relaxing holiday, the district offers cosy hideaways amongst tea plantations.
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The district has 15 divisional secretariat divisions. While the entire district offers stunning vistas, some of the more famous destinations are Ella, Haputale, Badulla and Bandarawela.
Haputale - it is a beautiful area on the edge of the southern mountainous range of the hill country and has essentially a tea plantation culture. That is, most of the Tamil speaking people who live there base their identity from the tea estate they were born at. They are registered at that estate and live in the line houses that are provided by the estate management.
Many reforms have been going on in the tea estate in the past several years due to lobbying by development workers and estate unions and groups due to which the conditions have improved from the exploitative conditions of the tea plantation workers that were put in place by the British and continued for a long time thereafter. While basic reforms have taken place such as citizenship rights for the tea plantation workers and better working conditions such as holidays on weekends, child care services, minimum wage limit, better access to education etc., there is a lot more to improve for the people working on tea estates.
While there is a lot of room for human development, the place is stunning for its natural beauty as there are numerous green mountain ranges and waterfalls.
In Haputale, the central town is very tiny and essentially is a commercial center with a cluster of shops but five minutes out of the town, the tea estates begin.
The famous tea estates in this region are the Dambadeniya Tea Estate, which has the oldest working tea factory in Sri Lanka started by Sir John Lipton. A tour of the tea factory is possible for a small fee and it involves the entire tea production mechanism with equipment from the 19th century. A trail beyond the tea factory leads up a narrow path to a viewpoint, famously known as Lipton's Seat because of the long hours that the namesake spent admiring the vista from there.
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The Adisham monastery is another interesting place to visit. It is a stone building built by Sir Thomas Lester Villiers and was later sold to the Benedictine monks who run the place now. A few rooms of the building are open to visitors and a sales outlet sells fresh jam and cordials made by the monks from the garden premises.
To reach Adisham, one needs to pass through a narrow road through the Tangamalai bird sanctuary which is another place that naturalists might find interesting.
An hour or so away from Haputale towards Bandarawela, is Diyatalawa - another scenic spot and close by there is the Diyaluma falls.
Also, located an hour or two away from Haputale town is Ella, the Ella gap supposedly offering the best view in entire Sri Lanka.
In Badulla town, which has a predominantly Sinhalese speaking population with the remaining speaking Tamil, the places of interest are the Muthiyangana temple and the Dhowa temple. Ravana Ella is situated closeby.
Mahiyangana is home to the Veddha tribes or the people of the forest.
The weather is lovely but can be quite cold in the months of October - March. One would need at least a sweater for the early morning and evenings.
There is a direct train from Colombo and Kandy to Haputale or Badulla, which is about 2 hours away from Nuwara Eliya town. The train from Colombo takes about 9 - 10 hours to reach Haputale.
Hiring a private car or van is the best way to explore this region as public transport takes a long time to get there. If one goes by the renovated road through Balangoda, it takes about 5 hours from Colombo.
Inter-city buses are available from all the cities of Sri Lanka
A hired or private transport is the best means of exploring the region which will allow you to stop anywhere you choose for a scenic picture. Also, as places are located so far from each other, one needs some form of transport to get to places.
It is a mountainous region and it will be difficult to find public transport that matches your timings. However, for the main locations, it is possible to go by public buses or local trains
Walking is mandatory here if you really want to experience the region as many of the villages are situated on steep mountain edges where buses don't go and one needs to really have strong legs to walk around.
In Haputale town, there is a small cafe called the Saravanabhavan cafe which has a South Indian menu on offer. A small bakery is also available for buying bread.
Other than that, the accommodation locations often offer meals which will be the easiest to access.
There are a couple of family-run guesthouses in town which offers room with or without meals which is the cheapest way to explore the district.
Just at the edge of the tiny town of Haputale, there is the Olympic Plaza hotel which is a newly built hotel and the only hotel in town, which offers basic facilities such as hot water and ensuite bathrooms.
The best option is the tea estate bungalows which allows one to live in a working tea estate bungalow. These bungalows also have a lot of colonial history and can be a place of interest in themselves. However, they are quite pricey.
* Kelburne Mountain View cottages: This is a lovely place at the Kelburne tea estate which is about a 10 minute drive from Haputale town. There are three cottages: Wildflower (3 bedrooms), Rose (3 bedrooms) and Aerie (2 bedrooms) cottages. The service is great and the cook, the butler and the support staff are very attentive and keen to please. Around 160 dollars a night, excluding meals which are about 10 dollars a person, this venue is great for the writer and the poet or the one who wants to simply relax by taking in the stunning views from the cottages.
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