Last year, I launched The Elephant Stamp, a travel inspired online homeware store, sourcing and selling contemporary and unique home textiles made by global makers including the tropical cushions by Delhi-based, Safomasi, which are in this month’s giveaway.
The idea behind the store was built on my love of travel and finding beautiful, one of a kind pieces on my trips. I recently came back from a trip to Sri Lanka to find new makers and also combine it with some travel on the pearl-shaped island.
One of the amazing things about Sri Lanka is the island’s diverse scenery. Even within a two hour drive, the landscape can dramatically change and case in point is the route from the steamy jungle of the central highlands, home to the Cultural Triangle to Tea Country, an incredible landscape of verdant hills with mile upon mile of tea plantations.
Many jump abroad the train from Kandy or Peradeniya to Tea Country, a panoramic journey offering spectacular views as you meander through hills and lush plantations before arriving at the hill stations of Hatton or Nuwara Eliya.
We stayed at Tea Trails (closest town is Hatton), made up of five colonial bungalows set in tropical gardens, dotted around Castlereagh lake in the Bogawantalawa hills, the most famous region for Ceylon Tea. The bungalows were originally built for British tea managers during the Raj and today, they still have the character and charm of the colonial era with their traditional Anglo-Sri Lankan interiors.
Tea Trails is an incredibly special place; it feels like you’ve escaped to a country home with its English touches including afternoon tea, Pimms No 1 on the drinks trolley and the croquet lawn. With there being only four rooms in each bungalow along with the welcoming and warm staff, you’re spoilt from day break to dusk; waking up to morning tea in bed, relaxing in their beautiful gardens, sundowners on the terrace and feasting on delicious meals, with the Sri Lankan curries being a firm favourite.
Since the bungalows are on working tea estates, you’re also able to see how Ceylon tea is made, watching the ladies picking the tea leaves by hand before being processed in the nearby factories, ready to be sent to the weekly tea market in Colombo.
At each bungalow, there are a variety of short and long trails into the surrounding tea country and I was surprised to learn that there has been the odd leopard sighting. The sunset walk at Norwood bungalow was a highlight, hiking up the tea terraces with each ascent outdoing the other and offering impressive tea country views breaking through the clouds. Our day time walk at Castlereagh, waving to the friendly and warm tea pickers was also a highlight – having spent time watching these ladies hard at work, it certainly makes you appreciate your next cup of tea.
Other highlights of Tea Country are:
Horton Plains and World’s End
A scenic National Park, trekking across cloud-covered grasslands, stopping off at Baker Falls, a hidden waterfall before reaching World’s End, an 880m plunge to the valley below and on a clear day, offering incredible views of imposing peaks rising into the clouds. There’s also wildlife to spot including the purple faced langur, sambar deer and although the chances are slim, the elusive leopard. The best time to visit is between January to March, arrive early morning to catch the view before the clouds roll in.
Although the town itself is not the prettiest, it’s home to the famous Ella’s Gap with breathtaking valley views and easy-going walks accompanied by waterfalls and colorful temples along the way.
Also known as ‘little England’ with its English village feel featuring Tudor-styled homes, manicured hedges, red telephone boxes and rose gardens, it’s another popular base from which to explore tea country and also play a round of golf or two at their picturesque courses.
Next on my list is Adam’s Peak, an iconic Sri Lankan landmark, sitting majestically above tea country. A sacred mountain to all of Sri Lanka’s faiths but notably Buddhists, it’s been an object of pilgrimage for over a 1,000 years. The strenuous 7km ascent of Adam’s Peak is traditionally made by night, allowing you to reach the summit at dawn with the best changes of cloud free views.
For more on Sri Lanka, check out The Elephant Stamp’s Galle Fort Guide.
Guest blogger: Hannah Slater of The Elephant Stamp