Tea estates in the hill country are well known for their killer views and tranquility, but if there is only one plantation you will see this year, make sure it’s Lipton’s Seat in Haputale. The view is to die for, and the sheer peace and quiet enough to rejuvenate your senses.
Fun fact: Named after the renowned tea planter Thomas Lipton, it is believed that the first ever tea leaves that made its way out of Sri Lanka grew here. For that matter, Thomas Lipton is said to have used the place as a sort of vantage point to survey the acres of tea plantation spread out in all directions. Lipton’s Seat is located on the top of the Poonagala Hill near the Dambetenna tea factory in Haputale.
Haputale is a seven hour drive from Colombo. And that’s just one part of the trip. Getting to Lipton’s Seat itself is an adventure of its own. The roads are narrow, with barely enough room for two vehicles to pass. But like we said, the view is amazing, so it doesn’t really matter.
It’s an uphill climb to the top. About 7km to be exact. But you’ll be climbing through a lush growth of tea, so it’s not so bad. It’s a bit like going back in time because the worn out roads and pathways haven’t seen a repairman since the days of the British and some of the original stone pavings are still intact, which only adds to the eye candy value.
Speaking of eye candy…
Once you get to the top of Lipton’s Seat, you will have a bird’s eye view of the Uva, Sabaragamuwa, Central and Eastern provinces in the perspective of Thomas Lipton himself. To say the view is spectacular would be an understatement. The climb is worth it just for this.
We recommend going in the morning. The earlier the better. The mist adds to the overall ambiance.
On a clear day, you should be able to spot the Handapanagala Lake, the Chandrika Lake and the Udawalawe Lake as well as the Wedihiti Kanda mountain range and, if you’re lucky, the Hambonta port. Yes. The same one located all the way down south. It’s pretty surreal.
A bit of history
Thomas Lipton set up shop here in late 19th century. Thanks to concessions made available by the British government at the time, he was able to buy several tea estates in Ceylon, one of which was Lipton’s Seat, where Tamil Indian plantation workers were employed by the thousands.
This marked the beginning of Lipton Ceylonta, manufactured and packaged right here on Ceylonese soil and marketed and distributed all over the world, even to this day.
We were fortunate enough to take part in an excursion at Lipton’s Seat which included a tour of Thomas Lipton’s bungalow, where he would invite his affluent friends for a cuppa.
An overwhelming majority of the community here are Tamils of Indian descent. Any given morning, you’ll see see tea pluckers and other plantation workers watch in glee as their children head out to school, dressed in uniform. There is a kovil nearby for the predominantly Hindu resident workers.
Sitting on the top of Lipton’s Seat is a literal seat, on which is a seated statue of Thomas Lipton himself, looking over the vast expanse of tea plantation all around him.
If you’re into photography, this is where you want to go nuts.
You can walk around the place exploring the estate and the tea factory. You might even get a chance to try a cup of Lipton Ceylonta tea.
If you can stay till the evening, we highly recommend you check out the sunset. From the top of the Seat, it is nothing short of epic.
March to August is the best time to go to Lipton’s Seat, but it’s pretty great this time of year too. It’s the perfect getaway if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of urban chaos. So whether you’re a tea connoisseur or not, this is one place you just have to visit at least once in your life.