Surrounded by undulating tea plantations, Ella has one of the most beautiful settings of any town in Sri Lanka. Rachel Nicoll describes her favourite place to stay near here
Sri Lanka is home to diverse landscapes, with everything from dry plains and wildlife-rich national parks to paradisiacal beaches and, of course, rolling tea plantations. We recently stayed at Nine Skies, a lovely boutique hotel in the emerald tea-clad hills of the south, and found it to be the perfect base to explore the region and spend a few days relaxing in some truly enchanting surroundings.
To get there, we travelled by train from Kandy to Demodara, buried in the tea plantations near Ella, a hill town famous for its beauty. This journey was undoubtedly a highlight of our entire trip. The scenery was made up of lush, forested mountains, jade-green expanses, sloping misty hills and incredible flowers at every turn, and as we snaked further south, the vistas became more and more magnificent. A particularly memorable moment was crossing the Demodara Nine Arch Bridge. The story goes that when the bridge was being built, Sri Lanka was still under British rule and the First World War broke out. It is said that the British took the steel that was set aside for its construction for the war, so it was built instead by talented local craftsmen using only stone bricks and cement. It is an impressive feat of engineering!
Sri Lanka’s tea estates are dotted with charming, little-changed planters’ bungalows. Many were built by the British during a housing boom in the 1920s and have a very colonial feel to them. One such example is Nine Skies. Harking back to the olden days, this five-bedroom bungalow, on a working tea plantation, is stylishly furnished with a refined British sensibility. The spacious rooms, open onto the tea-fringed garden and surrounding estate, and the views from the shimmering infinity pool are jaw-dropping. The delicious food served here was also a real treat, with amazing curries galore that were heartily enjoyed after our sunset G&Ts on the veranda.