We very nearly gave Lipton’s seat in Sri Lanka a miss. We didn’t think the views could be more incredible than the ones we had already seen (The Knuckles Range mountains, Horton Plains, Lover’s Leap waterfall, Ella rock), and we weren’t really sure what else there was to do in Haputale.
Because of the route we took, Lipton’s seat in Haputale, Sri Lanka, became the only logical stop on our journey, and I’m so glad it did! Lipton’s seat became one of my absolute favourite spots in our time travelling Sri Lanka, so make sure to include it in your itinerary!
A little history
Back in 1890 Sir Lipton bought a little piece of land in Sri Lanka (the Ceylon) on which to grow tea. He made sure he kept costs down as much as possible, and bulk sold his tea bags, making them more affordable than the rest. As the industry grew he bought up miles and miles of tea plantations. Lipton tea became a huge hit in America and beyond, and we still drink Lipton tea today!
Fascinating Fact: Until we visited Sri Lanka we had no idea that they actually grew coffee before they grew tea. Sri Lanka’s main industry for many years was coffee production, and they only switched to making tea after the ‘coffee rust’ disease spread throughout the plantations.
Where is Lipton’s Seat in Sri Lanka?
Lipton’s Seat is located in the highlands of Sri Lanka, 7km from the small tea plantation town of Dambatenne.
To get to Dambetenne you will need to get transport from Haputale, the nearest town that has accommodation. From Dambatenne town, there is a small road that winds its way up through fields and fields of tea plantations. It takes you all the way to the top of the mountain, which is where the famous Lipton’s seat is situated.
What to expect from your visit
Getting to Lipton’s Seat
The easiest way by far is to stay in the bustling town of Haputale, but if you’re short on time then you have some other options.
From Haputale to Lipton’s Seat
It is a good idea to get to Lipton’s Seat early, as I’ll explain below, and the only real way of doing this is to stay in Haputale. It’s the closest town that has available accomodation and a few other basic amenities, and there are several ways to reach Lipton’s Seat from here.
By Tuk Tuk
From Haputale it is only a 30 minute tuk tuk ride up to Lipton’s Seat in Sri Lanka. It cost us just under 1000 Sri Lankan rupees to get a tuk tuk to the top of Lipton’s Seat.
We wanted to walk down after sunrise, so we didn’t need the tuk tuk to wait for us. If you would like a return journey, then your tuk tuk driver will take you up there, wait for you, take you to Lipton’s tea factory and wait again before taking you back to your accommodation. This should cost in the region of 1500 Sri Lankan rupees (depending on your bargaining skills of course!)
If you want to get there early then obviously you will have to leave early! If this is the case you will probably want to book your tuk tuk in advance to pick you up from your accommodation. Your guest house should be able to arrange this for you.
Tip: We were told that sometimes the entrance gate to Lipton’s Seat is closed. Then you will have to walk the remaining 1.5km to the actual seat. It is worth baring this in mind when choosing your footwear!
If tuk tuks aren’t your thing, you can catch a bus to Dambetenne that takes around an hour (you will need to change buses and then hike the 1.5km after the entrance gate).
The bus leaves from the centre of Haputale, near the train station. It will cost around 40 Sri Lankan rupees. It runs every half an hour, there and back, but I’m not sure of the earliest time it starts running so you should check with your guest house before you set off.
One option would be to take a tuk tuk up to Lipton’s Seat to make sure you arrive for sunrise, and then walk down to Dambutenne tea factory and catch the bus back from there. Asides from saving you a little money, the views on the walk down are breathtaking.
If you prefer an easy like then booking a tour of Lipton’s Seat is definitely the way to go. We found this tour that picks you up in a tuk tuk, so you can rest assured that you won’t be travelling on other peoples time frames. They will actually pick you up from your hotel, and the tour includes a visit to the tea factory and lunch and drinks too. Taking a local guide has always proven to be a plus for us, as they know the best spots in the area (and they often make great photographers too!!)
Hire a scooter
You can get there in your own time by hiring transport. Some guest houses will rent out their scooters or you can look for the bike rental shop in Haputale. The roads are VERY windy, so I probably wouldn’t risk riding a scooter up and down these roads without some previous experience.
From Ella to Lipton’s Seat
Ella is certainly a more popular place to stay compared to Haputale. For this reason you will have far more choices of accommodation, and there is also a much wider range of things to do here.
From Ella, Lipton’s Seat is around an hours drive, or two hours by train.
The train from Ella to Haputale takes about 1.5 hours and will cost under 5 euros. If you are coming from Ella and have time on your hands then this is by far the best way to travel. Train journeys in Sri Lanka are not to be missed, and will be a real highlight of your trip. The only snag is that you will have to catch a bus or tuk tuk up to Lipton’s Seat when you arrive here (see above for transport from Haputale)
You can also arrange a tour from Ella that will take you there and organise everything for you, including a tea factory tour and even your lunch and drinks. For those of you that like an easy ride, this is definitely the way to do it! We love the idea of this tour because you will travel by Tuk Tuk, meaning you know it will be private and you won’t be on other peoples time scale. Tour guides always know the best photography spots (and are usually pretty handy with a camera too!)
A tuk-tuk from Ella will cost around 2,000 rupees for a return trip. This price varies a lot depending on how hard you can haggle! The easiest way would be to get your guesthouse to organise this for you as they will know what you should pay and get you a fair rate.
Lipton’s Seat at sunrise: When to visit
You can visit Lipton’s Seat, Sri Lanka, at any time of day (you might be disappointed if you go in the dark!), but by far the best time to visit if for sunrise.
There are several reasons for this. The main reason is that, like so many viewpoints in Sri Lanka, the midday fog and clouds that set in are out to ruin your view! From April to October (and other months, because weather is notoriously unpredictable!) the fog will set in almost like clockwork. It does rarely arrive earlier in the morning, though you stand a far better chance of you set off for sunrise.
The other reason is that sunrise is stunning from here. You won’t regret waking up an hour early to see the sun warming up the plantations. It makes the walk down all the more atmospheric too, as the haze starts to lift and the tea fields start waking up.
Top Tip: If you want to see the tea pickers in the Lipton tea fields then avoid a visit on a Sunday if you can. Most will not be out tea picking on this day. If you want to visit the Lipton tea factory then there is no production on a Monday.
Entrance Fees and Facilities at Lipton’s Seat
It will cost you 100 rupees per person to visit Lipton’s Seat. If you are driving your own motorbike or car, or you have hired a tuk tuk, then it costs another 50 rupees to take the vehicle all the way up to Lipton’s Seat.
At the viewpoint, there is a small restaurant where you can purchase tea/coffee and other local Sri Lankan foods. The restaurant was closed when we visited, so be prepared for this! Our guest house offered to pack us a picnic breakfast, which we enjoyed while watching the sun rise over the tea fields.
There is a toilet at the restaurant, which I am sure they would let you use if it’s open. You should bring some spare change just in case, so that you have some money available to offer.
Visiting Dambatenne Tea Factory after Lipton’s Seat
You’ve seen where it all began, so why not see how it all works now? A tour of the Dambatenne tea factory will teach you all about how the tea is processed, from when it is first picked to when it lands in your cup.
Remember that there is no tea processing on Sundays, so it isn’t really worth a visit then. You are not allowed to take photos inside the factory.
The tour of the factory costs 250 rupees per person and lasts about half an hour, with an English speaking guide.
Getting to Dambutenne Tea Factory
The Lipton tea factory is at the bottom of the Lipton’s Seat hill. It is a 7km walk down the hill to reach it, and although this sounds like quite a long way, it is all downhill and the views are stunning (which takes the mind off any aches!)
In my opinion, this is the best way to get to Dambutenne Tea Factory. You can take your time, and take in the beautiful surroundings. It is one of the things I remember most from my three weeks in Sri Lanka.
You can walk through the tea fields but try to keep the main path in site. It would be easy to get lost in the maze of small paths between the fields!
Top tip: In the rainy season, from May to September, there could be leeches hidden in the tea fields! Keep your eyes peeled, and wear protective footwear and long trousers and socks if you plan to go off track!
If you paid for a return journey to Lipton’s Seat then not worry, you can still enjoy those views on the way down. Just ask your driver to stop where you like so that you can pull over and take it all in. They are very used to tourists and their cameras, and will be happy to accommodate!
There is a bus from the entrance gate that runs quite regularly. You will need to walk 1.5km to the gate and wait there. Only take this option if you are in a hurry as the bus won’t stop and you will miss out on the amazing views on the way down!
Where to stay
Haputale was small and a little run down, but it had a very ‘real’ feel to it and we liked the contrast to the very touristy towns of Ella and Nuwara Eliya. We wouldn’t have wanted to stay here for too long (a one night stop off would be perfect), as it was quite hard to explore the area without transport and there weren’t many eating out options, so most people eat at their guest house. If you can find accommodation with a kitchen then that may be worth considering. There is a reasonably well stocked supermarket in town.
We would not recommend the place we stayed in. It was quite far from town and the walk along a busy main road was not a pleasant one.
You can search here for options, but I would suggest trying to find something close to town so that you don’t have to get tuk tuks everywhere and are close to the train station and the road to Lipton’s Seat (the only reason most people visit here).
Choosing to stay in Ella before you visit Lipton’s Seat in Sri Lanka will give you much more chose, but will cost you that clear sunrise view. If you are short on time then staying in Ella is probably your best option.
There are so many options to choose from in Ella that you will have no problems finding the right place for you. Central locations will make transport and eating out easier, though can be quite noisy. If you stay further out you will likely be closer to some of the other walks and sights in the area, but you may have to get transport to town (or take a torch if you plan on walking-it felt perfectly safe but was badly lit!)
Where to go after Lipton’s Seat in Sri Lanka?
If you are planning a longer stay in Sri Lanka then check out our 2 week Sri Lanka guide here. It gives details of the highlights of our trip, tips for how to get around and accommodation ideas.
The Horton Plains trek is the next obvious stop if you are heading toward Nuwara Eliya, and you won’t be disappointed with the views from here either!
If you fancy a bit of beach time after all that mountain walking then don’t miss out on seeing blue whales in Mirissa.
Thanks for reading, we hope this guide to Lipton’s Seat was useful. Let us know if you enjoyed it as much as we did in the comments below!