Nanu Oya is a small, non-touristic town with lovely views at the tea plantations around. It’s a jumping point to the nearby Nuwara Eliya and two magnificent waterfalls: St. Clair’s Falls and Devong Falls. If you’re short on time, prefer smaller, quieter places and want to stay close to the railway station, choose Nanu Oya rather than Nuwara Eliya.
Nanu Oya on a budget
As soon as we got off the train, we started searching for budget rooms. Some might have been cheap, but they didn’t represent good value for money. Eventually, we stayed in a building formerly belonging to the Sri Lankan railway. It was spacious, clean and conveniently located, but the bathroom was shared and the price was higher than usual.
Nanu Oya is tiny but finding cheap shops with rolls and snacks is not going to be a problem.
Day- trip itinerary: Falls and Nuwara Eliya
We left as soon as we dropped the bags, having a rather ambitious itinerary for the day. We wanted to see two waterfalls set amid tea plantations, both accessible by road. From there we would go directly to Nuwara Eliya, hoping to see a viewpoint above the town as well as the town itself. It’s quite a lot to fit in one day, so if you could break it into two, it’d make a lot more sense.
We got on a bus to Talawakelle first. We reached Talawakelle around noon and decided to have lunch there. It was a great choice since the lunch at an eatery near the bus stand was delicious and very cheap. From there, we took a bus to Hatton. A direct bus from Nanu Oya to Hatton exists but is far less frequent. Our first stop was the observation platform of the Devon Falls (also named viewpoint #2).
The waterfall was quite far, so we turned our attention to a British bungalow behind us. It served as a tearoom and a shop selling tea from the St. Clair’s estate. The tea we tasted enjoying the view at the falls was pricey but within limits of reason.
We then walked up the road for around 500 meters hoping for a better view of the Devon Falls from the viewpoint #1. Indeed, that one was closer to the falls. There was another, extravagantly looking tearoom in the shape of a castle nearby.
St. Clair’s Falls
From the viewpoint #1, it was an easy walk down along the main road for around 1.5km to St. Clair’s viewpoint. St Clair’s is the widest waterfall in Sri Lanka, often nicknamed ‘Sri Lankan Niagara’. I liked this waterfall far more. Those tiered falls set at a lovely verdant- green background of St Clair Tea Estate offer great photo opportunities.
I started walking down the stairs to have a better look at the falls. You can get significantly closer to the falls using the paths through the tea gardens. Unfortunately, it started raining soon after we ventured down, so we quickly climbed up again and hid in a sheltered bus stop. Although the waterfalls were pretty, seeing them from afar doesn’t give the same feel as standing right in front of them.
We changed the buses in Talawakelle again. After a long, roundabout ride through tea plantations (a mysterious detour of 10 km), we finally reached Nuwara Eliya town centre at around 3 pm.
Quick tour of Nuwara Eliya
It was drizzling and quite dark so we abandoned the plan of getting on top of the Single Tree Hill and just hanged around the centre. The town had tangible British feel about it, not only because of lots of colonial-style buildings but also the weather. The absolute highlight was a pretty, mock-Tudor building of the post office from 1894.
We then went to the Mackwoods tea museum located inside a shopping centre nearby. Friendly staff explained the basics of tea production. They invited us to sit in an elegant room and taste a chosen tea for free. That tea was so great that I could not resist the temptation to splash out 1 200 LKR for a tiny package in a shop downstairs. I should add there was absolutely no pressure to buy anything as the shop is on a different floor than the museum.
It was still raining when we got out, but we decided to walk to the famous Lake Gregory nevertheless. We passed by the Victoria Park (just a small park which cost ridiculous 300 LKR to walk through) and walked along the horse racecourse to get to the lake. Quite a few horses were grazing at a grassy pasture in front of the lake. The lake itself was very disappointing: small, dirty and with a lacklustre backdrop. We were wet and cold, so after a glance at the lake, we got to the main road and caught a bus back to Nanu Oya.
It was a shame we missed the opportunity to climb the Single Tree Hill. The 2 100 meters high hill offers a splendid view of the surrounding tea gardens and Nuwara Eliya down below.
That was our goodbye to Sri Lankan Up Country. Next morning we were going to take the train to Kandy.
How to get to Nanu Oya?
Nanu Oya is a train station on the line between Ella and Kandy. It takes 4.5h to get to Kandy, 2.5h to get to Ella and 1.5h to Haputale.
Nanu Oya is just a 15 minutes bus ride from Nuwara Eliya town centre.
Prices [in Sri Lankan rupees as of February 2019]:
1776 spacious room just next to Nanu Oya station
1000 100g for the cheapest tea at Mackwoods Tea Shop
450 100g tea at the St. Claire’s Estate tea shop
150 lunch at a cheap eatery in Talawakelle
120 3rd class unreserved train Nanu Oya to Kandy
85 a cup of green tea at tearoom at Devon Falls
75 bus Talawakelle to Nuwara Eliya
55 3rd class unreserved train Haputale- Nanu Oya
40 large vada from a shop in Nanu Oya
20 bus Talawakelle to Devon Falls
17 bus St. Claire falls to Talawakelle
15 bus Nanu Oya to Nuwara Eliya