An Entire Hill Station On Any Weekend? Here’s How!
Although an unlikely tourist destination, Haputale makes for a surprisingly enticing upcountry staycation. With just the right amount of experiences on offer, there’s no need to wait for the next long weekend to cover this mountain town. You can conquer Haputale on any weekend, or even within 24 hours. Here’s how.
Your adventure begins on a Monday, when you book your overnight luxury bus from Colombo to Haputale with Superline. Two buses leave daily from the No. 99 (Colombo-Badulla Route) bay at the Private Bus Stand in Pettah. Catch yours on Friday night!
Depending on which bus you book, you should reach Haputale between 3 and 4 AM on Saturday. Be sure to inform your accommodation beforehand – you don’t want to miss the sunrise over the central hills!
Snap some photos. Power nap on spotless linen. Grab some breakfast. Now head out! Try and get an early start by 9 or 10 AM – before the upcountry sun begins to scorch. Your first stop is a quick transit through the Thangamale Sanctuary, otherwise known by its translation of the ‘Golden Mountain’.
Declared a sanctuary in 1938 and spread over 131 hectares, Thangamale is primarily a haven for birds, but also serves as a highland habitat for mammals such as the Barking Deer, Jackal, and Giant Squirrel to name a few. For the best experience, walk through the forest to admire the foliage and canopy above. But if you’re short on time, hop in a tuk-tuk, because this road leads you to your next destination!
Emerging out of Thangamale is a 10-acre vantage point at 5000 feet above sea level; home to what is quite possibly the most photographed place in Haputale – the Adisham Bungalow. Built in 1931 as a holiday home to the grandson of a twice-former British Prime Minister, this luxury colonial icon was named after its first owner Sir Thomas Villiers’ birthplace in Kent. 56 years later, Adisham lives on as a Benedictine Monastery with a portion of the old-world home open to the public with all its original furnishings. And one more thing – remember this rhyme: don’t leave Adisham without their jam!
If you have the luxury of time and the spirit of adventure, hike through Thangamale from Adisham, until you reach the railway line where you can trek along the tracks to the Idalgashinna Railway Station for a train back to Haputale. If not, grab another tuk-tuk and head straight to town for a quick rice-and-curry lunch at the New Sarawana Bawan Hotel beside the Haputale Bus Stand. Across the road, get ready to haggle with a tuk-tuk driver for a round-trip journey to your last two stops – Lipton’s Seat and the Dambatenne Tea Factory. Anywhere between Rs. 1,200 and Rs. 1,800 is a reasonable fare!
Snaking through narrow roads between lush tea plantations, the journey to Lipton’s Seat is highly picturesque. But it gets better. Named after Sir Thomas J. Lipton (the man behind the world-famous Lipton Tea), this seat is one of Sri Lanka’s most magnificent viewpoints – and is where the Scottish tea tycoon surveyed his empire of liquid gold, upon a vista covering seven out of our island’s nine tropical provinces on a clear day!
#YohoTip: Get to Lipton’s Seat as early as possible, or else you’d have to settle for a view of mist. Don’t forget to pay the entrance fee on your way up!
As late afternoon approaches, so does your last stop on the way down from Lipton’s Seat. The Dambatenne Tea Factory was built by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1890 and is nearly 400 feet long! For Rs. 250, you can also treat yourself to a tour of the factory where you are guided through the entire tea-making process. But no photographs are allowed!
Finally, head back to town before the evening mist rolls in and have an early dinner at the funky Lettuce & Cabbage – beanbags and Wi-Fi included! Afterwards, you can rest and recover at your accommodation until you catch the return Superline bus to Colombo just past midnight on Sunday morning. And that’s how you do Haputale in less than 24 hours!
Of course, if you’d like to stretch out your time in Haputale, the train ride is highly recommended – especially because you can enjoy a good night’s sleep after a day of adventure beforehand. Three Colombo-bound trains leave Haputale on Sunday mornings – just make sure you reserve your ticket before your trip to guarantee a seat for the long ride home!
Sajiv’s adventures were documented from Yoho Plaza Road.