Tour guide to Badulla Sri Lanka !
Badulla is the capital of the Uva province. Its economy is primarily agriculture based with tea and rice being the main cultivations.
Situated east of Nuwara Eliya, Badulla is also on the route to Haputale, Balangoda and Bandarawela. The temperatures are generally mild due the elevation with maximum temperatures not exceeding 25°C. Badulla lies in the shadow of the Namunukula mountain range and is encircled almost entirely by the Badulu Oya River. Due to this location, the town and its environs are quite often bathed in a haze called the Badulla Mist that gives a mysterious tinge to the area.
Most activities at Badulla allow the traveller to appreciate the luxuriant nature around here. Depending on the weather, you will be able to take long hikes to places like the Dunhinda Waterfalls or short trips to Ella and other nearby spots. If you are looking for a refreshing vacation, away from noisy crowds, this is one place you might want to consider.
According to Hinduism, Badulla was the capital of the Demon king, Ravana. The battle between Rama and Ravana, the climax of the epic tale Ramayana, is said to have occurred here. After Ravana’s defeat, the capital was shifted to Kelaniya and hence Badulla is said to have gradually lost its prominence.
Badulla was also a princely state before the Portuguese set foot on the island. It was later developed under the British and even today, the architecture reminds the traveller of the colonial past of this old town.
How to get to Badulla, Sri Lanka and how to move around
Getting there - By bus
Colombo is 230km away, meaning a five-hour journey on buses A1 and A5 that pass through Kandy. From Badulla, you can travel outwards to Nuwara Eliya (Rs.45), Ella (Rs.25), Bandarawela (Rs.20) and Kandy (Rs.200).
You can also take the train from Colombo. The second part of the journey, from Nuwara Eliya to Badulla, is one of the most scenic travel routes in Sri Lanka. The train leaves Colombo Fort and starts a picturesque climb to reach Peradeniya Station. From here, the train passes through Hill country towns like Gampola, Hatton, Thalawakale and Nanu Oya before reaching Nuwara Eliya. From there on, it continues its ascent up to Pattipola summit at 6,226 feet above sea level past places like Haputale, Ella and Demodara before reaching Badulla.
Top tourist attractions in Badulla
St Mark's Church
A little church with a long history, St. Mark’s church is on the checklist of every traveller to Badulla. The adjacent graveyard is also interesting to walk through.
Here, you will find a plaque in memory of Major Thomas William Rogers, a British settler who in a period of four years killed over 1400 elephants. Whether this attracted Nature’s wrath upon him or not is unknown but the fact remains that he was killed by lightning in a thunderstorm and, after his burial, his gravestone too was struck by lightning! Some locals believe that this is because God disapproved of his senseless hunting.
Located in the heart of Badulla city, the Muthiyangana Vihara is one of the oldest Buddhist prayer complexes in Sri Lanka. The main building is composed of a white dome surrounded by lush green gardens on all sides. The entrance to the temple is a unique wooden structure (thorana), with a six-level design depicting dragons, guards, avatars and lions. The architecture attests to the profound influence of South Indian culture and pictorial art.
During the festival season of Perahera, you can get close to the resident elephants. The youngest one, Madu, is lively and will surely charm you.
A temple dedicated to the gods Skanda and Vishnu, this structure is a great example of typically Sri Lankan Kandyan architecture. Constructed in the 17th century in honour of King Vimaladharma, who had won a battle against the Portuguese, it shows almost no South Indian influence even though the gods worshipped inside are Hindu gods.
The Kataragama Devale is one of the most important pilgrimage sites along the Menik Ganga River. At the entrance, you will see two huge boulders against which devotees smash coconuts as offerings to Lord Skanda.
Prayers can be offered thrice a day at particular times (4:30 am, 10:30 am and 6:30 pm).
Just a bus or train ride away, the Dunhinda Falls, 5km north of Badulla, offer a marvellous sight to the traveller. This 63m high waterfall can be accessed after a short hike of about 1.5 km. Although the path is not well demarcated, it is an interesting trail with a reward at the end. You can even stop for local snacks and herbal drinks on your way up. A smaller waterfall, the Kuda Dunhinda, can be seen as you proceed on your hike.
The Dunhinda is considered to be the most beautiful waterfall in the country because of its misty spray. The viewing area is quite safe.
You can reach Dunhinda by buses that depart every 30 minutes from Badulla (cost Rs.30). Alternatively, the round trip in a tuk-tuk should cost around Rs.600.
Since colonial times, the Namunukula Mountains have been used by sailors as a navigation point to reach the shores of Sri Lanka safely. This mountain range, made of a collection of nine peaks, today offer adventure sport lovers the time of their lives. A hike across this 2036m-high mountain range allows you to see all the way to Batticaloa in the east and the Great Reefs in the south.
The hike to the highest mountain of the Namunukula range can be done in two days. The roads are not in the best condition, so you will have to rely on a local tour guide for assistance. On your way you will come across several tea plantations and can observe the pickers as they go about their job. After the tea plantations, you will come across two forests, the Kulu Harak and the Wal Ura.
At this point, you can choose between taking a short but steep route to the summit or a longer but less difficult path. Regardless of your choice, when you reach the top, the view from the Passara Viewing Point will be well worth your effort. Here, you will find a small temple dedicated to the Buddha and Lord Murugan. There is also a well here but the water is not safe for drinking. From Passara Viewing Point, head to the Spring Viewing Point. From here you can see all the peaks of the Namunukula that you climbed on your way!
Hiking up the Namunukula can be tiring for some and should be well planned. Do speak to your hotel about getting a local tour guide.
A choice of appealing places to visit outside Badulla
Ella is a small mountain town located 23km away from Badulla. Ella enjoys balmy mountain weather. The views here are similar to the English countryside and the temperatures remind you of spring in England.
The best thing about Ella is that it is surrounded by almost a dozen waterfalls, with water during a major part of the year. The locals here are very friendly and are known to help you if you get lost.
Getting to Ella can be done either by train from Colombo, Kandy or Badulla. The scenery during the ride is sure to enchant you! By bus, you need to get off at the town centre. Ella can be worth a halt and there is a good choice of guesthouses and other types of accommodation to suit every pocket. It is advisable not only to compare the prices but also the splendid views each accommodation has to offer before making your choice.
There are several ayurvedic massage parlours too where you can relax, unwind and be treated like royalty.
You can also opt for short hikes organised locally that are great to discover the rich wilderness that surrounds the town.
Ravana Ella Falls
The Ravana Ella Falls are just 15 minutes away from Ella. This beautiful waterfall is tucked away and quite remote. Here, you can join the locals for a swim at the bottom of the fall or walk upstream and get drenched in one of the natural rock pools. Keep an eye out for the gorgeous green damselflies in this area!
These falls can be a stop on your way to Tissa from Ella. A tuk-tuk ride to here will cost you Rs.1000. You can even take a bus from Ella for Rs.25. Beware of some scamming locals around here who look to sell quartz as precious gems to unsuspecting tourists!
Dhowa Rock Temple
Dhowa is a small village settlement near Badulla, on the Badulla-Bandarawale Main Road. Built nearly 2000 years ago, this temple is located inside a secure circle of mountains where a river flows through.
In this beautiful setting stands a 38-feet tall sculpture of the Buddha that is said to have been made by King Walagamba himself when he was in hiding against invaders. There are many paintings in the shrine room that are in typical Kandyan style. These painting depict incidents from the Jataka Tales – a series of stories for children that feature animals as main characters.
Entrance to the temple is free and free parking is available outside. It is good to leave a donation for the temple. If you visit the temple on a Sunday, do note that children often attend Sunday school here.
Badulla offers some exciting hiking opportunities
Little Adam's Peak
A hike to the peak can be done in 1 to 2 hours. It starts at the 98 Acres Resort, at the white statue of the Buddha, and takes you past many tea plantations. You are sure to make new friends on your hike up to the peak. The views from the top are stunning and very peaceful.
On your way down, you can stop at the resort for some rest and have a lunch before heading back to Ella.
The hike to Ella Rock is often recommended by many as a must-see, but there are so many trails around Ella to choose from that it is often overlooked. This hike takes about 4 hours to and from. If you are not the adventurous type, you will have to hire a guide to accompany you. Ask your hotel for a guide. It will cost you in the range of Rs.2000.
The hike is reasonably difficult. It starts along the railway line till Kilhal Ella. After this, you cross a bridge and take a small road. On both sides you will be able to see crops and plantations. If you get lost, the locals will be happy to help, but some may expect you to tip them for their assistance!
It is advisable to start this hike early in the morning before it gets too hot.
Admire wildlife in Badulla
Victoria Randenigala Rantembe Sanctuary
Declared as a reserve in 1987, the Victoria Randenigala Rantembe (VRR) Sanctuary is one of the largest protected areas in Sri Lanka with an area of over 42,000 hectares. Its name comes from three reservoirs that form the sanctuary: Victoria (2.440 hectares), Randenigala (2400 hectares) and Rantembe (1330 hectares).
The credit of designating the reserve goes to the authorities in the aim of protecting the upper basin of the Mahaweli Ganga. The major feature of VVR is the aquatic fauna that vary depending on the time of year and rainfall.
What your children can do in Badulla
Visit a Spice Garden
Spice gardens in Ella offer one of the most unique tourist experiences in Sri Lanka. Here, you get a personalised tour of one of the most historically significant and economically important industries of the country. In some, you can participate in a cooking class that ends with a group dinner.
Tours can be taken at any time of the day and typically start with a glass of hot cardamom tea. Once you finish a walk around the place, it is time for cooking classes. The instructors are generally fluent in English and some in other European languages. Each of them has a set of jokes to break the ice. If you opt for the cooking class, you will have to know that this generally takes three hours during which you will be initiated to the delicate art of making Sri Lankan curry, lentil soups, fried delicacies and local specialities like coconut sambol. All ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. You are provided with a note pad and pen in case you would like to write down some recipes. The experience is unique and enjoyable!
Generally, a tour and cooking class costs around Rs.2000 with no extra charge for ingredients.
Great things to see in Badulla
Teatime in Tea factories
A visit to Sri Lanka’s hill country is incomplete if you do not visit a tea plantation and sample some of the world-famous Ceylon tea that is grown here. One of the best plantations to visit on your trip to Badulla is the Halpewatte Tea Factory. To go here, you can take a bus or a three-wheeler that will charge you Rs.250 for a round trip.
The factory tour at Halpewatte will cost Rs.150. Here, you can enjoy a guided tour and afterwards sample the tea from the estate. Tours are conducted all day but depend on the factory work going on at that time. To be on the safer side, it is best to go in the mornings. You can buy tea at the souvenir shop, which is open 7:30 am to 5:00 pm.
A half-hour walk from Ella will get you to the Newburgh Tea Factory. Here, the tours are short but the work ethic in this company managed by Finlay’s is interestingly different. Please note that only green tea, that requires a unique process, is manufactured here. Entry fee is priced at Rs.300.
Kinellan and the Dambatanne are the other interesting tea factories located nearby.
Bogoda wooden bridge
The Bogoda Wooden Bridge is situated a little away from Badulla. It is an engineering marvel of ancient Sri Lankan architects. The bridge, dating back to the 1600s, is said to be one of the oldest surviving wooden bridges in the world with a roof.
Across the bridge, there is a Vihara (Buddhist temple) that is said to have been built in the 1st century BC, during the Anandhapura era. The wall paintings in the Vihara, bearing resemblance to the Kandyan era, are very well preserved. The stone inscription by the temple states that the temple was donated to a priest called Brahmadatta, a provincial leader in Badulla.
Under the bridge, where the river flows, lies an entrance to a secret underground tunnel, presumably used by the king. If you are very keen on the history of the place, it is possible to hire one of the guides present on site.