Tour guide to Haputale Sri Lanka !
Haputale, located on top of a steep ridge, is best known for its beautiful views of the southern plains and as a transit stop on your travels further down south of the island.
Haputale is part of the Badulla District in the Uva Province of Sri Lanka. This area is particularly notable for its lush vegetation and diverse fauna. It is famous for its tea plantations as well. Thanks to its elevation, the weather is cool and very enjoyable. Beyond Haputale, we enter the southern part of Sri Lanka.
Haputale is a sleepy but charming hill town and though not very famous with tourists, a sojourn here is sure to be relaxed and uninterrupted by crowds and urban sprawl. If you are on a tight budget, it is good to know that hotels and food are much cheaper here than at Ella.
Only in the 1800s did Haputale become important, as it was an area where both tea and coffee were grown. The business here was built up by two men, Abraham and Cebu. The British influence reached here around 1875, the same time when St. Andrews church was built. Haputale has a population of 55000 today, predominantly Sinhalese and Tamilian.
If you wish to plunge into wilderness in Haputale, the Horton Plains National Park would be an ideal place. From the heights of Haputale, you can see the ocean on a clear day and spot the Hambantota lighthouse at night.
How to get to Haputale, Sri Lanka and how to move around
Getting there - Bus
Haputale can be accessed from several main junctions in the area. There are bus connections to Nuwara Eliya (twice daily). The journey is 3 ½ hours and costs Rs.50. From Bandarawela, Haputale is just a one-hour bus ride away (Rs.18). You can even reach Haputale directly from Colombo in around 6 hours by express bus ride for less than Rs.300. From the south, you can reach Haputale from Wellawaya (around 1½ hours journey for under Rs.50).
From Kandy or Nuwara Eliya, you can take a train to Haputale on the Colombo-Badulla route. This line also passes through Ohiya, Bandarawela and Badulla. These trains pass four times a day. Detailed timings can be found on the Sri Lankan railways website.
Top tourist attractions in Haputale
The Adisham Monastery, some 4 km west of the Haputale Railway Station, built in 1931 by Sir Thomas Lester Villiers, has been the home for novice monks of the Sylvestro Benedictine Order since 1961. It is one of the 18 such monasteries in the world.
The building is very well preserved and retains all the architectural and indoor furnishings of the Victorian era. The monks have made some additions of walls, terraces and steps. There is a small rose garden and a shop selling locally made jam and fruit juices. On request, some rooms are available for accommodation. Due to disruptions by tourists in the past, this facility is now almost non-existent.
The monastery can be a stop on your way to other attractions. A round trip by tuk-tuk will cost around Rs.300 including waiting charges.
Lipton’s Seat is a viewpoint situated 1200m above sea level. It is said that the owner of the Lipton tea brand bought his factory after admiring the view from this point. It is recommended that you be there before sunrise to get the best view. You can either hike the whole way up or take a tuk-tuk to the gate. From the gate, it is just a 30-minute walk to the top.
When you reach the peak early in the morning, the mist is sure to dampen your spirit. However, as the sun rises, the clouds tend to lift, offering you an incredible view of Sri Lanka. Any regret for having woken up early is sure to evaporate at this sight! Try and smell the air here that scented with fresh tea from the nearby Dambatenne plantation.
On your downward walk, stop by the shacks selling breakfast and fresh tea. They serve a typical Sri Lankan breakfast with spicy short eats and even butter biscuits for the fainthearted.
Dambatenne Tea Factory
The Dambatenne Tea Factory was set up by the famous Sir Thomas Lipton. Tea from here is generally considered to be the best in the world. The factory, 10 km to the east of Haputale, is open for visitors all year round (Sundays, though, are best avoided).
For a fee of Rs.250, you can tour the factory and even take a picture of all the processes that go into making a cup of perfect tea. After the tour, you can sample some brews and of course, buy some more for your friends and family back home. The tour is conducted by a plant employee who generally speaks good English.
Reaching this factory is fairly easy: you can take a bus towards Bandarawela and hop off. Buses are quite regular (every 30 minutes) and cost almost nothing (Rs.25). A round trip in a tuk-tuk will cost you between Rs.500 to Rs.600 LKR.
St. Andrew's Church
St. Andrew’s Church was built by the Protestant sub-population of the British tea planters. It is one of the many such churches found around hill country. The Tamil Christians of Sri Lanka continue the beliefs and traditions of Protestantism today.
The buildings are in perfect condition. The church walls are particularly interesting as they house memorial tablets for many British citizens of Sri Lanka. One of the most famous gravestones is that of Reverend Walter Stanley Sr., that is marked with a self-written poem called ‘He Loved Ceylon’.
Top tourist spots around Haputale
Buduruwagala is an underrated tourist destination in the hill country but for art enthusiasts, it is paradise. The temple is about 50 km away from Haputale on the Colombo-Batticaloa highway, and is best reached by car or by tuk-tuk.
At Buduruwagala, there is an ancient Mahayana Buddhist temple that dates back to the 10th century. Most notably, the Buddha statue here is 16m tall and is the tallest such sculpture in the country. Interestingly, there is a lamp carved into the rocks near the statues that smells like mustard oil even though there are no sources for any such oil in the area.
If you are heading eastwards from Haputale, Maligawila could be a good stopover. Maligawila is a shady and untouched forest and village area. Among the things to admire here are two statues from the 7th century amidst the trees. One of the statutes, about 11 metres high and representing the Buddha in a pose similar to the one in Avukana, is considered to be the tallest freestanding statue in the world.
The 10-metre high Maitreya Bodhisattva or Avalokiteswara was reconstructed from over a hundred pieces patiently discovered half a century ago. The statue is protected from rain and shine by a tin shed that tends to foil almost any attempt to take a beautiful photo.
This area is surrounded by paddy fields and jungles and will give you a great opportunity to observe rural Sri Lanka as well. Admission to the temple is free. If you are not travelling by private transport, there are quite a few buses to take you there from Moneragala.
Best known for its eco-tourism opportunities, Belihuloya is a quaint little settlement 30 km from Haputale. It is located in a unique geographical position as it marks the boundary from the high elevation dry lands to the low elevation wet areas of Sri Lanka.
Although Belihuloya does not have any notable attractions, it is beautiful and worth a stop on your trip around the hill country. There is a small children’s park where kids can play while you stretch your legs and admire the view.
If you are a serious hiker, you can do the 7-hour trek to Horton Plains (this is not recommended unless you are in top physical condition). The trek starts at the Bambarakanda Falls and requires the assistance of a local guide.
10 km from Haputale is Bandarawela, situated at a lower altitude and hence enjoying a much warmer climate. Bandarawela being a little more developed than most sleepy hilly towns, it can be a good base for exploring the surrounding hill country or just to shop some stuff you might not find in the smaller towns.
People here are mostly farmers or associated with the tea and vegetable crops in the region. The Sunday market is also worth a look.
You can take a bus from Haputale (Rs.18) to reach here. These buses are quite frequent. Otherwise, you can take a train. Four times a day, the “Udarate Menike” and the “Podi Menike” on the Colombo-Badulla line stop at Bandarawela.
In Haputale you can visit some scenic places
14 km on the way to Wellawaya from Haputale, you will find the Diyaluma Falls. It is barely 5 km from the town of Koslanda. If you do not have private transport, a bus from Haputale going to Wellawaya can drop you at Diyaluma (the ride lasts under an hour and a half).
Although the stream is not very big, the water at Diyaluma gushes down from a height of 171 metres, making it Sri Lanka’s third-highest waterfall. From the bottom of the falls, you can even take a short 20-minute walk to the pools and smaller falls upstream. The upstream pools are particularly good for a quick swim.
Locals here will be glad to help you with directions.
There are not too many shops on the way, so if you are planning to visit the falls, consider packing some food. You can buy some drinks at the bottom of the falls. Plan your trip well, as the last bus back to Haputale is at 2:00 pm.
Where to go to admire wildlife in Haputale
Thangamale Bird Sanctuary
The Thangamale Bird Sanctuary was created by Lord Caldecot, governor of Ceylon, and friend of Sir Villiers, who established the Adisham Monastery. The sanctuary is uphill from Adisham, about 3 km to the west. Following the train tracks from Haputale to Idalgashinna will lead you to the sanctuary. The road is a little steep but the scenery is amazing. Entry is free and the walk is beautiful. The landscape here looks thoroughly European. The fact that the area is free from litter and almost deserted makes this a peaceful and perfect adventure. You can spot birds such as the Flycatcher, Babbler and Black eagle. You can even see giant squirrels and civets. Shop owners can help you spot some of the shy animals lurking around. If they do help you, do not hesitate to tip them. Even if you do not see many birds, the trip will be memorable.
On your way back you can take a tuk-tuk at any time to reach Haputale for about Rs.600.
Places where you can take your children in Haputale
The Bambarakanda falls, the tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka, are truly a majestic sight to see. From Haputale, you have to drive towards Beragala to see the falls. On reaching it, you will need to be quite careful as the route to the bottom of the falls is narrow and slippery. However, once you reach the other side, it is wonderful due to the cool water sprays. The area is generally not too crowded making this a recommended spot.
The best time to admire the fall is at its peak from October to March. Entry is free.
Do carry some salt or soap in case you find leeches. If you would like a challenge, you can hike upstream and enjoy a swim in the shallow rock pools. Alternatively, you can go further down the road (1km) to the Rest House and enjoy a delicous lunch of rice and Sri Lankan curry with a great view of the falls.
Great things to see in Haputale
Hike to World's End in Horton Plains
Located in the Horton Plains National Park, this 4000ft cliff edge offers you an uninterrupted view of all the mountains of hill country, the tea plantations and even the coastal edge of the island. On a clear morning, you can see as far as the Indian Ocean, some 81 kilometres away. It is a popular tourist attraction for adventurers as there are no designated trails and you can choose your own path. The straight hike uphill is 4 km, but on your way down you can also stop by Bakers Falls. As it gets cloudy after 10 am, you should start early, if possible before sunrise.
Tickets are sold as early as 6:30 am but you can go earlier and pay when you leave.
The park entry fee is around Rs.2000. Guides are available at the front desk, and even though they officially do not accept payment, it is expected that you tip them around Rs.600. They do a great job and know a lot about the area. Female travellers on their own are advised to take a guide along. When packing, do not forget to take food and warm clothes as the weather changes suddenly and without warning. Also note that there are no toilets once you start the hike.
The hiking trail here is a 9 km loop that takes between four to five hours if done at a leisurely pace. Although you can do the loop in either direction, it is better to start at Bakers Fall and the finish at World's End to avoid a steep uphill climb.
If you are travelling with toddlers, the mini trail to “Little World's End” will be sufficient.
Horton Plains can be a great pleasure to nature enthusiasts. Those wishing to spot animals need however to look elsewhere. Be sure to carry water (guards at entrance will forbid you from carrying water bottles with labels and plastic bags to avoid chances of polluting the park). If you have opted for a trip organised by your hotel, it is wise to order a packed lunch. Lunch can also be had at the canteen at the entrance of the park.
Fancy staying inside the park? There are two bungalows run by the authorities: Maha-Eliya, situated on World's End Road and Ginihiriya (or Anderson Lodge) on Ohiya Road. Camping is also possible near the Park Office. For more information, contact the Department of Wildlife Conservation at +94 11 288 85 85.