Visiting Sri Lanka’s tea country

BY Lucie, Yonder escapologist

The swirling mists, rolling hills and emerald carpets of tea bushes of Sri Lanka’s Tea Country occupy a very special place in Yonder hearts. It’s a magical place. After our latest sojourn on this magical island, it is often not the glorious beaches that make us smile most with fond memories, but the highlands. If there was one place in the world to be played on loop, this would be it.

The introduction of tea to Sri Lanka by the British in the late 19th century transformed the island’s landscape and economy. Today, the rolling hills and lush plantations of Sri Lanka provide a window into the past that shaped contemporary Sri Lanka.

Visiting these tea estates is not just about sipping a perfectly brewed cuppa. It’s an opportunity to step back in time and witness a living history. You get to explore colonial-era estates, watch the skilled tea pluckers at work, and understand the meticulous process of tea making. The tea plantations, with their cool climate and serene ambiance, also offer a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Where to go in tea country

Nuwara Eliya

Sometimes referred to as ‘Little England’, the charming hill station of Nuwara Eliya is nestled in the heart of the Sri Lankan tea country. The Pedro Tea Estate here offers guided tours where you can witness the entire process of tea production. The estate is about 3.5 km from Nuwara Eliya town and is best visited in the morning when the factory is buzzing with activity.


This small town is known for its breathtaking views and the famous Nine Arches Bridge. Nearby is the Halpewatte Tea Factory, one of the largest in Sri Lanka. Located about 3 km from Ella town, the factory provides insights into modern tea processing and offers tastings of various grades of tea.


Lipton’s Seat in Haputale is where Sir Thomas Lipton used to survey his burgeoning empire. It offers one of the most spectacular views in Sri Lanka. The Dambatenne Tea Factory, established by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1890, is about 30 minutes from Haputale town and offers guided tours.

Uda Pussellawa

Uda Pussellawa, located in the eastern part of the central highlands of Sri Lanka, is known for its unique climate which contributes to the distinctive flavour of its teas. This region experiences two monsoons, resulting in a tea that is particularly intense and full-flavoured, often with a pinkish hue. The teas from Uda Pussellawa are especially sought after during the eastern quality season, which occurs from July to September.

Here you can explore the Harrods Tea Estate, a plantation known for producing high-quality Ceylon tea. The estate offers guided tours, providing insights into the tea growing and manufacturing process, and of course, opportunities to taste and purchase their distinct teas.


Dimbula is one of Sri Lanka’s most famous tea-growing districts, located in the western part of the central highlands. The teas from this region are known for their crispness and golden-orange hue, largely attributed to the monsoon rains and cold dry weather in the region. Dimbula teas are most prized during the first quarter of the year, from January to March, when the dry weather concentrates the flavour in the leaves.

One of the notable estates to visit in Dimbula is the Mackwoods Labookellie Tea Centre. It’s one of the oldest and most renowned tea estates in the region, offering guided tours that showcase the journey of tea from leaf to cup. The estate also has a charming tea room where visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding tea-covered hills while sampling various teas.


Ruhuna, located in the southern part of Sri Lanka, is a low-grown tea region, with estates at elevations from sea level up to about 600 metres. The teas from Ruhuna are known for their bold, robust flavours and deep, rich colours. The low elevation and warm climate of the region contribute to the leaves’ rapid growth, giving Ruhuna teas a strong and distinctive taste.

The Handunugoda Tea Estate, near Galle in the Ruhuna region, is particularly famous for its Virgin White Tea, which is said to be untouched by human hands during its production. The estate offers a comprehensive tour that includes an explanation of the unique methods used to produce their specialty teas, along with tastings. Handunugoda is also known for producing a wide range of other teas, providing visitors with a diverse tasting experience.

Our favourite tea country hotels

Ceylon Tea Trails

We adore Ceylon Tea Trails. There’s no getting away from it. In fact, on every visit to Sri Lanka, we have to go back to remind ourselves exactly how perfect Ceylon Tea Trails is. Five plantations houses spread across the Bogawantalawa valley in Tea Country, accessed by narrow single track roads, have been converted into a first-class hotel accommodation. In fact, it’s Sri Lanka’s only Relais & Chateaux property. The concept is simple in its perfection: elegant colonial charm combined with modern luxuries.

Nine Skies

Nine Skies, a stone’s throw from the upcountry hippy hangout of Ella, has burst on the already established Sri Lankan boutique hotel scene with vigour. It’s the latest sensational creation from Teardrop Hotels (think of Fort Bazaar and The Wallawwa for a sense of its pedigree). From the outside, it’s a meticulously restored plantation manager’s bungalow on a lofty tea estate. From the inside, it’s an envelope of contemporary perfection.

Living Heritage Koslanda

Living Heritage Koslanda is a perfectly formed bundle of joy. Sitting in its own vast estate, surrounded by forest, with awesome views over Sri Lanka’s rolling tea plantations. It’s beautifully created by local craftsmen, with the blueprint coming from the highly respected Sri Lankan architect Channa Daswatte; classic Sri Lankan architecture guided by astrological principles, combined with the ultimate requirements of contemporary lifestyle.

Jetwing St Andrews 

When you’re visiting “Little England”, what could be more apt than staying in a restored Georgian style country house? The Jetwing St Andrew’s will allow you to step back into the grandeur of a bygone era, while simultaneously ensuring a healthy dose of modern refinement.

Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge 

Without doubt, one of the best Sri Lanka eco lodges. Set high up in a commanding position in the Knuckles Mountain range at over a 1,000m, overlooking the plantations, Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is an exceptional Tea Country hotel that very consciously seeks to fit in with its natural surroundings.

How to visit Sri Lanka’s tea country

Most people visit Sri Lanka’s tea country as part of an organised tour of some description. It’s perfectly possible to rent a car and drive there yourself, although driving conditions in Sri Lanka may be very different to what you’re used to at home.

All Yonder trips are accompanied by a private chauffeur-guide who will whisk you to tea country and provide all the transport and expert guiding you require.

You can visit year-round, although the best weather is generally during the dry season, from January to April for the western and southern regions, and from April to September for the central regions.

Lucie, Yonder escapologist

By Lucie, Yonder escapologist


Yonder is a specialist Sri Lanka tour operator, including tailor-made, luxury holidays to Sri Lanka which can include any of the must see places discussed in this article.

All Yonder itineraries are crafted on a tailor-made, one-off basis, so you can be sure that your holiday will be as individual as you are.