A picturesque town in the district of Badulla, Haputale is a masterpiece of the Creator’s hand, a verdant region of streams, fauna and flora. At an elevation of 1,431 metres above sea level, this quaint town set amidst the colonial legacy of tea estates and bungalows, retains the old world charm in a chilly yet fresh environment dominated by ceaseless films of mist sprinkling the landscape with strokes of abundance. A bio-diversity zone with mountain ranges that spread as far as the Horton Plains, the town has a choice of beautiful locations that can be trekked by foot or traversed by train.
Idalgashinna to Haputale
There are many places in Haputale that merit a visit. A stay in this hilly town amidst the luxuriant greenery, wildlife reserves and cascading waterfalls will be an unforgettable sojourn. Trekking along the rail line from Idalgashinna to Haputale would be an experience amidst a magnificent view of the mountains snuggled in the bosom of mist. Idalgashinna is a small hamlet situated along the rail track. At a height of around 5,300 feet, the view on both sides is overwhelmingly stunning, accompanied by the sound of the wind among the Pine trees in the valley below.
Thangamalai Bird Sanctuary
Traipsing through old tunnels along the five mile stretch will take the explorer through the Thangamalai Bird Sanctuary. Two kilometres from the Haputale town, the Thangamalai Bird Sanctuary is another nature expedition worth experiencing when in Haputale. The hike can be perilous at times with a mixture of rock cliffs ascending and descending, yet the trail is quite exciting and exhilarating as it takes the adventurer past ample foliage and at an elevation, affords an arresting view of the tanks, grasslands and fertile fields. While one way to reach the bird sanctuary is past the Idalgashinna rail station, another footpath is situated to the left of Adisham, a monastery administered by the Benedictine Monks.
Adisham is a Tudor styled mansion built by Sir Thomas Lister Villiers and its stone granite walls and long and narrow turret windows have witnessed the rich and the famous wander through its imposing interior. It is reminiscent of the English countryside, with beautiful lawns, flower beds and an orchard, with rooms looking out pleasantly to the mesmeric mountains.
St Andrew's Church
The gable roofed St Andrew’s church is another colonial inheritance. The little church on a hill, silhouetted by the mist was built for British and local planters in the 19th century. The structure has a demeanour that is timeless and peaceful in appearance. The interior of the church has beautiful wood carvings on the pews, pulpit and confessional, supposedly belonging to the Victorian school of architecture. In the background of the altar are three stained glass windows from Scotland.
The Lipton’s Seat, named after the connoisseur of Ceylon’s tea trade, Sir Thomas Lipton, is an observatory point located on top of the Poongala hill near the Dambatenna tea factory, allowing a spectacular view of the surroundings. The location could be reached by ascending about seven kilometres through rich tea plantation to reach the summit, which has a view of the Uva, Sabaragamuwa, Central and Eastern provinces of the country. It is best trekked in the morning. A visit to the Lipton’s Seat will take the visitor through the 2500 acre Dambatenna tea estate and factory on the way, which was also set up by Sir Thomas Lipton in 1890. Visitors are taken through the processes of tea production from fermenting, rolling, drying, cutting, sieving to the grading of tea. What better way to end a pleasant journey in time than with a hot cuppa of the country’s signature Ceylon tea.
A dash of history and mystery is an essential ingredient for an intriguing holiday in the hills. And, so, a visit to the Surungamuni shrine and cave could be a pilgrimage to a precinct revered by Hindu worshippers. Dedicated to a local deity, the ascent to the shrine and the cave can be treacherous because of the incessant clouds that threaten to shroud all visibility in a matter of seconds. A gradual trek upward will be prudent, but the experience is gripping. And, from the mist emerges a cave, where rituals had supposedly taken place for centuries. Reaching the summit amidst rocks and water holes, the Haputale town in its miniature form comes into view along with the valleys and hills. The sound of trickling water in the midst of shads of sunlight illuminating the mossy stone wall entrance deepens the mystifying charm of the site.
The upward scramble to Haputale could be crowned with a visit to Pattipola, another alluring sight with its train station situated at an altitude of 1891 metres above sea level. Hiking along the rail track from Haputale to Pattipola, although a 14 kilometre day-long walk will be a refreshing experience of nature’s profusion along paths that are less travelled.