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Hatton is, in one word, green. Almost every available hillside is bright with tea bushes trimmed so neatly that, from a distance, the hills look as if they’re covered with a thick-pile rug. Providing cool relief from the heat of the plains, the mornings are usually veiled in a mist that slowly dissipates to reveal the curious pyramidal bulk of Adam’s Peak to the southwest.

Ceylon Tea Trails, Castlereagh BungalowDue to the undulant typography, Hatton is best reached by rail. Trains chug slowly from Colombo via Kandy, on a route built for late 19th-century tea pioneers. The journey itself makes the trip worthwhile.

As the route leaves Kandy, it begins to climb into the hills, past a patchwork of smallholdings and banana plantations. Rural life soon gives way to steep gorges, clumps of forest and waterfalls, spanned by arched bridges that wouldn’t look out of place in the Scottish Highlands.

We suggest experiencing Hatton by staying in a converted tea bungalow. Ceylon Tea Trails owns five small properties scattered across the landscape, each retaining the rose gardens, country-cottage feel and sweeping lawns of their previous owners. Castlereagh Bungalow is on the shores of Castlereigh Reservoir, an emerald body of water so picturesque that many guests spend their time here simply admiring the views.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn more about the surrounding tea industry, with most factories offering tastings and tours to see the machinery in action. Many of the bungalows also run guided walks through the tea fields, where you can study the delicate art of picking the buds. You might see the tea pickers at work or weighing their day’s haul at one of the many roadside weigh-stations.

The landscape lends itself to longer walks and bicycle rides, with routes winding past British-built stone churches and Hindu temples painted in primary shades. Occasionally, you’ll happen upon small hamlets where tea pickers live, the descendants of south Indian Tamil workers shipped over by British tea and coffee companies (the coffee wasn’t quite as successful).

Climbing Adam’s Peak

Summit of Adams PeakAdam’s Peak isn’t Sri Lanka’s highest, but with its distinctive prismic shape, it’s the most dramatic. At its pinnacle is a boulder with a foot-shaped depression. This footprint is revered as the appearance of Buddha, Shiva or Adam, by Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims respectively. Whatever you believe, the mountain has been a pilgrimage site for more than a thousand years.

Due to the site’s importance, it’s not a wilderness climb to the peak. Instead, you ascend a staircase of around 5,000 steps that has been built into the mountainside, with benches and refreshment stalls along the way. At the top (2,250 m, 7,326 ft), a temple surrounds the boulder, and worshipers leave fruit, flowers and religious figurines.

There are two ways to climb the peak. During pilgrimage season (January to April), the stairs are lit and you can go up at night, aiming to see sunrise at the summit. It can be incredibly busy during this period (especially around a full moon or the Sri Lankan New Year in April), although there’s a real camaraderie to climbing with hundreds of pilgrims. For a much quieter experience, you could scale the peak in the daytime — although you’ll need to be prepared for hot and humid weather.

The best time to visit Hatton

Colonial tea planters nicknamed the region ‘little England’ for its cool weather and higher than average rainfall. You’ll need to be prepared for the odd shower year-round, but the best time to go to Hatton is from January to April, when it’s relatively dry and daytime temperatures hover around 82°F (28°C). It’s possible to visit at other times of year but, as weather patterns across Sri Lanka can be complex, we recommend discussing your plans with one of our Sri Lanka specialists, who can suggest the ideal time based on your interests.

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