Haputale – the authentic feel of the Up Country

Haputale is a small, sleepy town in the Up Country, located at 1431 meters a.s.l. Inexplicably, it doesn’t draw many tourists, despite stunning, panoramic views and vicinity of the Lipton’s Seat.

Slightly foggy view from Haputale at the plains, lake and mountains below
Panoramic views down at the plains from Haputale

Why Haputale?

I liked Haputale right from the first moment. The difference with Ella was striking. We saw just a few foreign tourists which totally changed the vibe. A tuk-tuk driver could ask if you need a ride to Lipton’s Seat, but if you declined, he would tell you how to get there by bus instead.

Views from Haputale beat those from Ella hundred-fold. Tea gardens were covering the nearest slopes. Anywhere along the road towards Welimada, you could admire expansive views at the plains and three lakes to one side and a formidable mountain range on the other side. The only downside to Haputale’s high altitude is a harsher climate. The temperature here is noticeably lower than in Ella, while clouds and mist frequently obscure the views.

Views from the road near Haputale at the green hills and a long mountain range on the background
Views from Haputale at surrounding mountains on a clear day

Haputale on a budget

The rooms in town which had the view at the lake were a bit pricey (no comparison to Ella, though) so we started walking up towards Welimada. There, we got intercepted by an owner of a Booking.com listed property we were thinking of before. He put us in a tuk-tuk and dropped at his very basic but also a cheap guesthouse.

Sayak talks to the guesthouse owner in Haputale, who shows us a 360 degree panorama at the mountains and plains.
Our host shows us the breathtaking views from his roof

The real asset of this place was the owner, incredibly informative and helpful. Delicious, traditional breakfast and unlimited tea was included in the price. Although we stayed away from the town, it was easy to catch a local bus. The Adisham Monastery was just 1 km away.

Elegantly presented traditional Sri Lankan breakfast consisiting of coconut flatbreads, chickpea with chilli, smabar, dried firsh and local black tea.
Royal free breakfasts at our accommodation in Haputale

There were lots of cheap eateries in Haputale town. The place where we usually dined was always full of local men. It was one of the cheapest and best value for money diner we found in Sri Lanka. Shopping was more of a problem since there was no market, just small shops. The fruit is expensive in the Up Country as it doesn’t grow here.

Steel bowls lined with polyethene sheets filled with rice, dal and curries at the simple eatery in Sri Lankan Up Country
Typical buffet lunch at a cheap eatery in Haputale. Unfortunately it’s common to serve food on polyethene sheets in Sri Lanka

What to do in Haputale?

Haputale itself doesn’t have attractions apart from Adisham Monastery and a couple of spectacular viewpoints outside of the town, such as Eagle Rock Viewpoint. However, the entire road to Beragala opens to a breathtaking panorama. Haputale’s nearest five-star attraction is the Lipton’s Seat. This peak of almost 2 000 m a.s.l. is surrounded by Dambetanne Tea Estate– the oldest tea plantation in Sri Lanka.

Two female teapickers walk a narrow road cutting through Dambetanne Tea Estate below Lipton's Seat
Tea pickers on the way to Lipton’s Sea

The two tallest waterfalls in Sri Lanka are both easily accessible from Haputale. The tallest one, Bambarakanda, is on the border of Horton’s National Park. Getting off at  Kalupahana junction (on the main road to Colombo) would still require a 7.5km walk to the bottom of the falls. The entrance fee to the falls is 150 rupees. Once at the feet of Bambarakanda, it’s worth to carry on through the 14km long Devil’s Staircase to Ohiya. From there you can take the train back.

A view from the top of Diyaluma waterfall at the 200 meters drop and a road down below
Diyaluma Falls from top to bottom

Diyaluma falls, 2nd highest in Sri Lanka, are located at the road between Beragala and Wellawaya. You can easily access the bottom of the falls from the road. A small hike to the top of the falls would lead you to a stunning, 3 tier infinity pools.

The author stands at the edge of a rock at the viewpoint beyond Ella's rock, a deep green valley below her.
Ella Rock

Last but not least, Haputale is a short train ride away from Ella. It’s also possible to get to Kitel Ella by bus (changing in Bandarawela). Kitel Ella is a convenient starting point of a hiking route to Ella Rock.

Adisham Bungalow

Adisham Bungalow is a granite-stone country house built by Sir Thomas Lister Villiers in the early 20th century. Currently, it serves as a Benedictine monastery. It stands within the Thangamale Sanctuary – a slice of the original forest which covered the Up Country before tea plantations appeared. 

A grey, stone formidable European building housing Adisham Monastery in Haputale
Adisham Bungalow

We reached the monastery by a local bus from Haputale centre. We got off, passed by a tea estate and entered the sanctuary. A short walk through the forest led us to the gate of the monastery. Unfortunately, it closed at 4.30 pm – we came too late to enter. The visitors can see the interior only on the weekends and public holidays. We walked up the forest path to have a look at the Adisham monastery from above.

PRACTICALITIES

How to get to Haputale?
Haputale is on the train line from Kandy or Colombo to Badulla and train is the best way of getting there. It takes around 8h from Colombo, 6h from Kandy and 45min-1h from Ella. You could get to Haputale from Ella also by bus, changing in Bandarawela.

Prices in Haputale [as of February 2019]

1400 very simple double room with breakfast
1100 1kg local black tea
150 lunch at cheap eatery
78 bus from Haputale to Diyaluma Falls
75 bus Haputale – Bandarawela Bandarawela- Kittal Ella
55 3rd class unsreserved train Haputale – Nanu Oya
35 3rd class unreserved train from Ella to Haputale
28 bus from Haputale centre to Adisham Bungalow

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