The Hakgala Botanical Gardens is the second largest botanic garden in Sri Lanka and is located in a scenic part of Nuwara Eliya along the Badulla Road. Steeped in legend, often cloaked in a soft mist and always filled with colour and fragrance is the Hakgala Botanical Gardens, located around 10kms southeast of Nuwara Eliya. Tours to the gardens are a popular activity if holidaying in Nuwara Eliya, and while the Gardens are open year-round, the best time to visit and enjoy the beautiful blooms are from April to August, during the relatively dry and warmer period of year.
The Botanic Garden lies under the Hakgala Peak, between 5000 – 6000 feet in elevation – the highest set Botanic Gardens in the world. Hakgala boasts 100-year-old Monetary Cypress trees from California, Japanese Cedars, Himalayan Pines and English Oak.
The Hakgala Botanical Garden span around 27 hectares and are built in a series of terraces, with natural streams flowing through it in several places. The Garden was originally created in 1861 by the British Colonial government under the curatorship of three British of the same name – William Nock, JK Nock and JJ Nock. to grow Cinchona – from which the anti-malaria medicine Quinine was extracted. Thereafter, as tea came to be a commercial crop in the mountainous region, the Gardens became an experimental tea growing area. In 1884 it began life as a Botanical Garden with a wide-ranging and systematic gathering of sub tropical and alpine plants from across the Commonwealth as well as experiments in acclimatising temperate-zone plants to a tropical climate.
Take a tour of the Gardens and be amazed at the variety of plants, estimated at over 10,000 different species. Here you will find a range of conifers and cedar trees from Australia, Bermuda and Japan; Cypress varieties from the Himalayas, China, Mexico and some pine trees from New Caledonia and the Canary Islands. Among the other famous trees in the Garden, there are a group of English Oak trees, introduced to the Garden in 1890 to commemorate the “Heart of Oak” official marching music of the Royal Navy. Among the successful adaptations of temperate trees to this sub tropical climate is a Camphor tree, which usually only grows at elevations of 12,000m.
Ancient mythology has a unique story as to its creation, from the epic tale the Ramayana. Hanuman, the monkey god, was sent to the Himalayas by Rama to bring back a specific medicinal herb. But he forgot what he was looking for, and decided to bring back a big chunk of the Himalayas, caught up in his jaw. The Gardens today rest at the foot of this huge rock called Hakgala (jaw-rock) which towers over the gardens and the surrounding Hakgala Nature Reserve.