Located 50 km away from Nuwara Eliya and 20km from Ella, Haputale is one of the most scenic towns in Sri Lanka. Surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges and numerous tea estates, Haputale is a small town that is rich in bio-diversity and packed with a variety of flora and fauna. Although Haputale has a similar climate to Nuwara Eliya, it is less commercialized, hence relatively quieter, making it an ideal destination for a vacation. Given its altitude, it has a number of vantage points that afford breathtaking views of the entire area, such as Lipton’s Seat, Pilkington Point, Millennium Point and the Haputale Gap. Haputale is closely located to another beautiful town known as Diyatalawa, where the Institute of Surveying and Mapping is situated. The car-racing tracks of the famous Fox Hill Super Cross are also located nearby.
Things to do in Haputale
Located 15 minutes from the Haputale town, the Adisham bungalow is a popular destination in this part of the hills. Built in 1931, the bungalow belonged to the English aristocrat planter Sir Thomas Villiers, who was the former Chairman of George Steuarts (the oldest company in Sri Lanka). Spread across 10 acres, the mansion was designed in Tudor and Jacobean style. After his retirement, the property was sold to Sedawatte Mills and later purchased by the Roman Catholic Church which converted it into a monastery. Adisham is one out of 18 monasteries in the world that falls under the Sylvestrine Congregation, a sub-order of the Benedictine fraternity founded in the 13th Century. Visitors are allowed into the monastery only during weekends, Poya days and school holidays.
The monks at the monastery also maintain the orchards within the premises. With the assistance of the villagers, they cultivate guavas, strawberries, Seville oranges and vegetables. The fruits from the orchards are used to produce jams, jellies and cordials which Adisham has made a name for.
Located 1970 metres above sea level, Lipton’s Seat is one of the most scenic points in Haputale and was also a favourite of the renowned British planter Sir Thomas Lipton. On a clear day, the point provides a spectacular view of five provinces. There is a small shop at the point that serves freshly fried ‘chinese rolls’ a favourite local snack, and tea. However, the drive to Lipton’s Seat is quite nerve wrecking as the roads are narrow and the bends are sharp, so be cautious when driving up. There are two routes to get to the point – one is from Haputale town and the other is from Bandarawela town.
You can get to the point by hiring a ‘tuk tuk’ (a three-wheeler), or you can take the local bus to the Dambetenne tea factory and walk the rest. As the route to Lipton’s Seat goes through the tea factory, you will be charged a fee to enter the point. The best time to visit Lipton’s Seat is early in the day so that you will get a good view of the area. Also remember to take plenty of drinking water and food if you want a snack. The best period to visit Lipton’s Seat is from April to August.
Built by British planter Sir Thomas Lipton in 1890, this is one of the more well-known tea estates in Haputale. The factory building is one of the most impressive structures in the area as it has been preserved over the decades and also houses some of the original pre-colonial equipment used to process tea.
Located in the upper division of the Nayabedda tea estate on the Poonagala road, St. Catherine’s Seat overlooks Bandarawela, Diyatalawa and the distant mountains of the Uva basin.
Pilkington Point offers a scenic view over Wellawaya, Monaragala, Embilipitiya and Udawalawe on a clear day. The point was named after Sir George Pilkington, the first Managing Director of the Poonagalla Valley Plantation.
Offering a most stunning view of the hill country, the Haputale Gap is flanked by the mountains of Ohiya, Idalgashinna, Poonagala, Horton Plains, and the peaks of Hakgala, Nuwara Eliya and Naumunukula. The other side offers a beautiful view of the lower Uva region, the southern part of the Sabaragamuwa Province and also the Southern Province. On a cloudless day you can even catch a glimpse of the Indian Ocean on the southern coast.
Established in 1924, this was originally known as the Survey General’s School, but was later converted into the Institute of Surveying and Mapping. However, the history of the land precedes the institute as it was initially used as a camp to house Boer prisoners (Afrikaan speaking Dutch settlers) taken in by the British after the Second Boer War. The war was fought between the British Empire and the Boers from two independent Boer Republics in South Africa from 1899 – 1902. An estimated 26,000 prisoners-of-war were sent overseas, including 5000 to Sri Lanka. While Diyatalawa was used as the main camp, there were two convalescent camps in Mt. Lavania and Ragama. While in camp, the British used the prisoners to construct the road leading from Diyatalawa to Bandarawela, hence the name Boer Road. Tragically, during the construction of the road many prisoners died and were buried in a cemetery located adjacent to the camp. The cemetery now comes under the purview of the Sri Lanka Military Academy, which is located next to the institute.
A museum is located within the premises of the institute which houses some of the oldest surveying instruments dating back to the 1800s. The library also has maps of every part of the country and some world maps too, and also copies of old Sri Lankan maps which go back to the Portuguese period. You can even find a copy of Robert Knox’s map of Ceylon!
Diyatalawa holds the famous Fox Hill Super Cross which is organized by the Sri Lanka Military Academy every year. This cross-country racing championship is anticipated by most sports enthusiasts in the country. It is held in the month of April in the super cross circuit at Fox Hill, which in fact has a symbol of a fox on it. The Fox Hill offers a splendid 3600 view of the Uva basin. However, as this comes under the purview of the armed forces, you can only visit it if you know personnel in the Army or the Air force.
Travel Tips and Planning Information
- Make sure to take a mix of warm and normal clothes as the temperature fluctuates.
- The ascent through winding roads can bring about motion sickness, especially for young children.
- Take a pair of binoculars as there are a number of amazing points for sightseeing in Diyatalawa and Haputale.
- Prior to booking your accommodation make sure warm water is available and preferably heaters.
- It is advisable to drive during the day rather than at night.
The climate in the Haputale town is much cooler than the rest of the area as it is located at a higher elevation. Although the temperature fluctuates, the cold climate prevails right throughout the year, and it gets colder during the months of December and January.