You probably remember those old adventure movies with travelers in the unexplored Asian junglers. The complete picture includes early 20th Century train stations and colorful and exotic dressed people. Haputale is just a place to catch up with your childhood memories and explore for real and with your imagination once again.
Haputale isn’t the most popular place to visit in the country for a foreigner. It is never underlined as a must in the travel book guides. However, and because of that, it is a charmy visit and to understand part of the local vibe. Haputale is a popular holiday destination among locals though. It has some options of acommodation to enjoy a nice stay.
A bit of history of Haputale
The first tea plant was introduced to the country in 1824 in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya. In 1867 James Taylor produced the first commercial crop of tea at the Loolecondera Estate in Kandy. That fact is considered the beginning of the tea industry in Sri Lanka.
Nevertheless at the beginning of the British Colonial Period, in the 19th Century, coffee was the main crop in Sri Lanka. Coffee rust devastated the coffee growing in Sri Lanka and the British needed to look for alternatives. Tea was tested instead of coffee and the experiment worked out the country’s main crop.
The crops expanded and were quickly spread along the highlands where the climate allowed a more efficient production. Areas like Nuwara Eliya, Uda Pussellawa and obviously Haputale developed with new colonial villas, large tea plantations, speculative estate businesses and the railway.
Nowadays, these territories preserve the essence of a tea based territory. However, the importance of this activity had to be complemented with some tourism to keep the economic level of the region. There are no new impressive villas in construction but you can see very new and cool resorts which try to catch the attention of the wealthy tourists.
What to do in Haputale
The station opened on 19 June 1893, following the extension of the main line from Nanu Oya railway station to Haputale. In 1894 the rail line was extended from Haputale to Banderawela. The train station is a must in your visit to Haputale. It looks like an old adventure movie and it is free. You will be able to catch from there the famous train to Ella or just spot the hundreds of backàckers that catch it every day.
This is the highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. To reach the waterfall from Haputale with public transport you have to take a bus to Colombo. It is possible to get off just on the road at the waterfall’s detour. That is about 15 km far from Haputale to Colombo direction and the driver may know where you mean. From there you can walk the 5 km of paved road or take a tuk tuk if there is any available. The best way to arrive though is to have your own vehicle, either a tuk tuk or a motorbike you can rent easily in Sri Lanka. Bambarakanda Waterfall is free.
Like everywhere around the road to arrive is simply terrible. The building has its history and could be an interesting asset in the area but even being kind of expensive for local prices the visit is forgettable. It is 1000 rupies per person and the visit is 20 minutes.
We went with our rented tuk tuk but we acknowledged that mini buses leave from Haputale and drop off at the ‘Tea Factory’ for a cheap price, from where tuk tuks can be taken to the Lipton Seat. To arrive there is not easy because of the road conditions which is unbelievable how terrible they are to arrive at one of the very well known tourist places in Sri Lanka. Who knows… Maybe it is better they keep this way. The visit is really worth it. You will spot impressive tea fields with smily women working. Since you pay an entrance ticket and there is an agreement in the community you can take as many pictures as you want, including to the picturesque workers who gently will pose for you.
One of the major tea growing districts in the country since its first tea yields in the 1870s plantations. This small town is charming and we spend a nice day just wondering around admiring the tea plantation which seems to be the main activity of the territory. Nuwara Eliya’s nickname is Little England. It produces some of the most relished tea types in Sri Lanka, such as Orange Pekoe (OP) and Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP).
The climate of the Uda Pussallawa region is quite different from Nuwara Eliya despite being very close. The tea itself is slightly darker and appears more potent in flavor compared to the tea found in the Nuwara Eliya region. It is a good idea if you have time and a vehicle and you want to understand the local small differences.
Where to stay in Haputale
Olympus Plaza Hotel: We have been in this bih hotel in Haputale. We can recommend it since the rooms were spacious and clean. The service was ok and it has a very convenient parking. The bar and the restaurant worked very well and the barman prepared nice cocktails and provided one of the most interesting conversations we had in the country.
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