Not many travellers visit Haputale, choosing to stay on the train to Ella, Nuwara Eliya or Kandy, but this hillside town offers some really great things to do with the benefit of peace and quiet (something that is hard to come by in the increasingly popular Ella). It quickly became one of our favourite places in Sri Lanka.
The small village is completely surrounded by glorious tea plantations and there are plenty of opportunities to get out into the countryside. We also had the best food of our whole trip here, but more on that later. If you've been to Ella and decided it is way too busy for you then definitely head over to Haputale.
So here are a few more reasons why you should hop off the train at Haputale.
Best things to do in Haputale
Sunrise at Lipton's Seat
The tea plantations around Lipton's Seat are some of the most spectacular we’ve ever seen and seeing the sunrise from Lipton’s seat was a truly memorable experience.
What made it even better was a man selling tea and delicious home made rotis from a make shift cafe complete with spectacular view. It was a highlight of our time in the Hill Country.
The walk back down through the tea plantations to the Dambatenne tea factory is one of the best things you can do in Sri Lanka, especially if you love walking. You don't need a guide and you will pass many friendly tea pickers heading up to work in the plantations. It was exactly the experience we were hoping for when visiting the Hill Country.
The easiest way to do sunrise at Lipton's Seat is to arrange a tuk-tuk to drive you as close to the top as possible (sometimes the gate is closed to vehicles around 1.5km before Lipton's Seat itself) and then pick you up from the bottom of the hill. After sunrise, walk all the way down (7km) to the tea factory. There are a few shortcuts (ask your driver to point them out to you on the way up, some are more obvious than others), so you won’t need to hike along the road for the whole time.
You can also do this from Ella, but it is a much longer tuk tuk journey, making an even earlier start and that sunrise a little more painful.
The Idalgashinna - Haputale Railway walk
If you didn’t get enough of the views on the train from Kandy, then this walk is for you. You’ll do a really nice loop starting from the Adisham Monastery, taking you through the Thangamale bird sanctuary (we didn't see birds but the views were good!) and then follow the train tracks all the way back to Haputale.
It's a slightly different way of doing it from the standard take the train to Idalgashinna and walk back to Haputale route, and we think it offers a bit more variety. You only actually lose around one kilometre of that walk (the route down from the bird sanctuary cuts onto the tracks just a little before Idalgashinna station) anyway so you get the best of both worlds.
You can check out the full route we took for the Idalgashinna to Haputale walk here.
It's hard work walking to the top of the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, but the rewards are worth it.
From the top there are several infinity pools that offer phenomenal views and are the perfect place to cool down from the heat.
Allow at least half a day to do this as the journey. The walk to the top is around 30-45 minutes but you'll want heaps of time to explore all the pools, there are three sets altogether.
It's also worth seeing the falls from the bottom too, which is an easy drive up photo stop. We also walked for around 10 minutes from the bottom of the falls to a view point and pool part way up the falls. You'll see an obvious path to the left of the falls, follow that up through the rocky terrain until you reach the pool.
You will be pestered to take a guide, but you don't need one. We've outlined the route step by step so you can hike to Diyaluma Falls without a guide.
This trip can also be done from Ella.
Take in the views from your guesthouse
The town of Haputale is situated on the top of a ridge, making it the perfect place for guesthouses offering views.
The hills are covered in tea plantations and you feel like you can see for miles. We booked a place with a balcony and loved relaxing there and taking in the gorgeous sunsets.
We only intended to stay two days in Haputale but loved it so much we stayed three.
If you've been moving at a bit of a pace then Haputale is the perfect place to come and slow it down.
Enjoy some amazing home cooked Sri Lankan food
We had a lot of good Sri Lankan food during our trip, but the best was in Haputale. At Mount Leisure View Holiday Inn (covering all bases with that name) you can get a smorgasbord of outstanding homemade curry for dinner.
We would gorge on so much that it left us with a food coma afterwards. It's a great place to try an array of different dishes, including the usual dhal, beans, okra and kotthu, but also with lots of dishes we didn't find elsewhere in Sri Lanka, including pumpkin curry, aubergine curry and several chicken dishes.
We’d also recommend trying the string hoppers with sambal and coconut rotis for brekkie.
The dinner (served at 7pm, book a little ahead of time) costs 950 rupees or $6 USD per person (as much as you can eat), a little expensive for Sri Lanka but it was so good we didn't begrudge the extra cost. The mother of the family who owns the guest house is the chef and she didn't put a foot wrong!
NB - the photo here is not the buffet at the guesthouse which we forgot to photograph. The guesthouse spread was waaaay more impressive but we wanted to include a shot of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine.
The Hill Country of Sri Lanka isn’t exactly the place you’d expect a Franciscan Monastery to be, but tucked away in the jungle 4km outside of Haputale you’ll find one!
Adisham is a beautiful place and when you get there you’ll see why they chose this area as it offers plenty of seclusion and peace.
Sadly we weren’t able to go inside as Adisham is only open to the public on weekends and public holidays (9am - 4.30pm).
If you are visiting on a weekend, two rooms are open to the public, one of which is the library which is said to have a incredible collection of books dating back several centuries.
They also sell home made jams which we were disappointed to miss out on, they would make a great spread for the daily coconut rotis.
It is called Adisham Bungalow on google maps and the best way to get there is to hire a tuk-tuk from the centre of Haputale. It should cost about 100-200 rupees ($75c - $1.50 USD)
Getting to and from Haputale
We recommend getting the train to and from Haputale either to Ella or Nuwara Eliya depending on which direction you are travelling in. The train rides are incredible and one of the highlights of a trip to Sri Lanka. It's very hard to get a seat though, here's our guide to getting the most out of the Kandy to Ella train.
However, if you need to go further afield or prefer not to take the train, contact Vazim on Watsapp. We booked his taxi service a couple of times and he was incredible value and continuously went beyond our expectations to help. He's also willing to make long journeys if you want to go from Ella to places like Arugam Bay or Sigiriya, offering prices that were a lot cheaper than those in Ella. A transfer to Sigiriya was 11,000 rupees, the cheapest we were offered in Ella with much haggling was 13,000. The standard starting rate was a staggering 17,500 rupees!
His numbers are either: +94 (0) (72) 121 3633 , +94 (0) (77) 650 1225 or +94 (0) (57) 205 1371.
Weather in Haputale
Haputale is just like Ella, sharing the East Coast climate. This means it has a rainy season between October and January and a dry season from April to August. However, Haputale can sometimes get some of the residual rain that Nuwara Elliya receives (which is one of the wettest places we visited during June and July).
However, the rain in Haputale shouldn't affect your trip. Rain storms are short and the area dries quickly.
Being in the Hill Country, the temperatures in Haputale are lower than Colombo and the beaches, meaning you won't need to use air conditioning. It's also a great temperature for hiking.
Places to stay in Haputale
Our Pick - Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn
A hotel name that covers every possible angle, the Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn isn't perfect but offers a really authentic and comfortable stay in Haputale. The first thing that you'll notice are the incredible views from each room. We were lucky enough to have a balcony on the top floor! It was hard to leave that balcony!
The homemade meals here were amazing and the family that run the place are so friendly. They knew we were English and invited us to watch the World Cup Semi-Final in their house in the middle of the night so that we didn't miss it. This was just one of many examples of hospitality that goes beyond your expectations.
However, the rooms are not the Ritz Carlton. Whilst they are comfortable, they are a little basic and there is the ever present Sri Lankan wet room which always left the bathroom soaked. But if you're looking for unparalleled views and hospitality, this is the place for you. If we returned to Haputale we would definitely stay again.
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Would you go off the beaten track and explore Haputale? Have you been and think we missed something? Let us know in the comments below!
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