We’ve been to Lipton’s Seat twice now on our jaunts to Sri Lanka, and we’ve visited from different places. It’s good to see that while some things have changed here, in the 8 years we’ve had between visits it’s also good to see that some things haven’t changed. More on that shortly. Lipton’s Seat is a delight and it’s easy to visit. The views here are spectacular if the weather is clear and the area around Lipton’s Seat is gloriously quiet, rural, and beautiful. Here’s our guide on how to visit Liptons Seat Sri Lanka.
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#1 THING TO DO
Travel by tuk-tuk on this day trip from Ella. Go on a guided hike through a tea plantation, stop for a picnic lunch, take in the view from Lipton’s seat, and visit the Dambatenne Tea Factory.
On our first trip to Lipton’s Seat, we’d arrived after hiking Adam’s Peak (read about that here), on a tortuous bus trip from Dalhousie to Hatton Train station where we picked up a train (two hours later than we planned, you can blame it on the bus) and headed to Haputale – home of the first tea plantation in Sri Lanka.
We’d come to Sir Thomas Lipton’s country and we are here in an attempt to see Lipton’s seat. We saw the seat, but not much else that first time, as the fog had rolled in. And so we headed back 8 years later, to see if there actually was a view here (spoiler there is and it’s glorious).
I’ll cover our experiences later in this post, about how we got to Lipton’s Seat from Haputale, and also how to get there from Ella, which is a little further away, but still a glorious trip and that’s how we visited most recently.
Where is Liptons Seat?
Lipton’s Seat is in Sri Lanka’s highlands. The closest town is Dambatenne, whose name you might recognize as the home of the tea factory (definitely visit it, it’s excellent). The bigger town that is close to Lipton’s Seat is Haputale and Sri Lankan trains run there. Lipton’s Seat is about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from Dambatenne and it is 16 kilometers by road from Haputale to Lipton’s Seat. It might only be 27 kilometers from Lipton’s Seat to Ella, on the back mountain road, but this isn’t passable by cars. Vehicles tend to use the road to Haputale and then go up the mountain from there. We’ve used both roads, and the mountain road is very, very rough, we didn’t see any cars or trucks on it at all, just tuk-tuks.
How to Get to Lipton’s Seat
You’ll either come to Lipton’s Seat from Haputale or Ella. Well, I suppose you might come from somewhere else, but those are the closest places that most people travel from to visit Lipton’s Seat. You can get here independently or you can take a tour. We’ve done both now, and visited Lipton’s Seat from Haputale and also from Ella.
Take a Tour to Liptons Seat
Taking a tour to Liptons Seat is the easiest way to visit. You don’t have to worry about getting cash out to pay a driver to get you here or play the negotiating game. And you’ll get the comfort of either a car or the sheer joy of a tuk-tuk to bring you here.
This is the best-reviewed tour of Lipton’s Seat from Ella.
If you’re in Haputale, then this is a fabulous tour option.
Ella to Liptons Seat
It takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours to go by tuk-tuk from Ella to Lipton’s Seat. It’s slightly less time in a car. If the weather is good, then using a tuk-tuk for this journey is fabulous. You can either negotiate in Ella for a driver or pre-book a tuk-tuk to take you to Lipton’s Seat, wait for you, and then bring you back.
Haputale to Liptons Seat
From Haputale to Lipton’s Seat, you can take a car or a 30-minute ride in a tuk-tuk. You can order your tuk-tuk on the PickMe App, but if you want your driver to wait while you look around and bring you back expect to pay for his time as well. When we visited Lipton’s Seat from Haputale we took a tuk-tuk up in the early morning and then hiked back to Haputale. It’s a popular thing to do.
Our tuk tuk from Haputale to Lipton’s Seat cost us 800 LKR in 2014. Prices haven’t changed that much considering how long ago that was, but the best way to figure out a price is to ask at your accommodation or use the Sri Lankan PickMe App.
Entering the Lipton’s Seat Estate
The gate to the Lipton’s Seat Estate is about 1.5 kilometers (one mile) from Lipton’s Seat itself. And this is where you need to pay for you and the three-wheeler or car to enter the estate. There’s no charge for your driver. Prices are detailed further down.
What to Do at Liptons Seat
There are several things that you’ll want to do at Liptons Seat. And I can’t emphasize enough that the weather is key. It was very foggy when we first came here, and while our experience was great, we didn’t see a single view.
Which is why we went back. So if it is foggy, or raining, think about rejigging your Sri Lanka Itinerary until the weather is clear.
Check out the views at Liptons Seat
This is the main thing that you’re coming to Lipton’s Seat for. The view, that Sir Thomas Lipton was so proud of. And it is glorious. The signs may have changed a little over the years, but the view remains constant.
The views at Lipton’s Seat are almost all round, a full 360 degrees, you can see Udawalawe National Park and beyond to Hambantota Port from here. And all around there are tea plantations and also vegetable growing. We saw (and smelled) leeks growing as the primary vegetable in fields near the tea.
The weather is why it’s best to come early in the day. Fog tends to roll in later.
Here at the top, there’s a statue of Sir Thomas and a small very basic café. It was here when we were here in 2014, and it’s still here in 2023. The tea and the food provided are excellent. And just as I remembered it from a little over 8 years ago!
Eat and Drink at Lipton’s Seat
The tea house is one of the prime reasons to come to Lipton’s Seat.
It’s a tiny little place. Not more than a hut. When we first visited, there was one other couple here, two German backpackers who amused me by sitting outside drinking water. Pah, I thought, you can’t come to Lipton’s Seat and drink water!
Our host here at the tea house is a guy who can say hello and offer you tea in FOURTEEN different languages, he can also cook, and he makes great tea. You don’t really order anything, he just brings you hot tea and a smorgasbord of Sri Lankan delights, all cooked in the tiny little kitchen.
We munched on the amazing samosas watching as the next batch is made. There’s Indian bread, curried potatoes, and vadai. I was in food heaven in 2014 and I returned there again recently.
It was here that I learned to suck on the pieces of jaggery —cane sugar that’s been boiled down and set into blocks. I imagine my teeth dissolving as I’m sucking the sweet caramel-like solid sugar – and then drink down the tea. And it was here that I also learned that dropping jaggery in the hot tea makes no difference, it doesn’t dissolve at all!
The breakfast was just as good on our second visit, and our driver joined us. This really is one of the more glorious places to have breakfast.
Explore the Tea Plantations at Liptons Seat
The tea plantations here are glorious. And while you’ll see them on the drive up to Lipton’s Seat it’s lovely to walk back down through them.
Visit the Tea Factory at Dambatenne at Liptons Seat
This is a fascinating place to visit. And you can take a tour of the Dambatenne Tea Factory between 09:00 and 17:00 and get to see the whole tea production process from the picking, drying, fermenting, sieving, and grading of the tea.
This was our second tea factory visit, and just as interesting as the first. Dambatenne was bigger than the Pedro Estate that we visited from Nuwara Eliya (read about it here), it was also noisier. Our guide’s accent and the noise made it hard to understand some of the commentary, but we ended up in the store room, where we found bagged produce ready to go.
It’s here that we learned that the bags in the storeroom go to auction in Colombo, where they will raise around 34 US cents a kilo. (December 2014 prices)
Each cup of tea accounts for around 3 grams of tea. Each bag here holds 48 kilos. I considered buying a bag that would last me the rest of my days, or at least another 16,000 cups. At an average of 3 cups a day, that’s more than 14 years.
The full-day tea plantation and Lipton’s Seat tour from Ella also includes a visit to the Dambatenne Tea factory and you can check availability here.
Take a Hike from Lipton’s Seat
There are several elements to hiking Lipton’s Seat. You can, if you so desire hike up here. Take shortcuts through the tea plantations (on the designated paths), but to be honest, you’re better off taking a tuk-tuk from Haputale or Ella and then hiking back down.
A hike back down towards either Dambatenne or Haputale is a great way to see this part of the world. It’s very scenic, the roads are extremely quiet and while you may want to walk in part through the tea plantations, it’s also easy to walk on the roads. When a vehicle comes you’ll hear it from miles away.
Even if you’re taking a tour to Lipton’s Seat, you can arrange for your transport to meet you at the Dambatenne Tea Factory and hike from Lipton’s Seat to the tea factory (it’s a lovely walk and not difficult at all).
What’s the Best Time to Visit Lipton’s Seat
The best time to visit Lipton’s Seat is in the morning and on a good weather day. You’re coming for the views, so check the weather forecast and if you can come on a good day do. It is well worth it.
Opening Hours of Lipton’s Seat
The Lipton’s Seat area is open to visitors from 05:30 until 17:30.
Cost to Enter Lipton’s Seat
There’s a charge to enter the Lipton’s Seat area at the barrier about 1.5 kilometers (1 mile) before you get to Lipton’s Seat. If you come on a prepaid tour, then these costs are included in your tour.
- Foreign Visitor: 500 LKR
- Local Vistor: 100 LKR
- Three Wheeler / Tuk tuk: 100 LKR per vehicle
- Car: 250 LKR per vehicle.
The History of Liptons Seat Sri Lanka
To understand the history of Lipton’s Seat you first need to know a little about Sir Thomas Lipton, for it was his seat.
A Brief History of Sir Thomas Lipton
Sir Thomas Lipton was the youngest of five children born to Scottish parents who emigrated to Northern Ireland. His first few jobs were what he described as a dead end, so it was perhaps little surprise that at the age of fourteen with the permission of his parents, he emigrated to New York. After a stint in Virginia and Charleston, he returned to New York where his love of the “grocery business” began. In 1869 he returned to Scotland. He took over his parent’s shop and after two years opened his own.
He followed his mother’s example of dealing directly with farmers and not middlemen at the market and within a couple more years had moved to bigger premises. By 1882 he had shops in four other towns. His use of advertising was key – his promotional events were quite magical and ahead of his time.
After this success in the grocery trade, he turned his attention to tea. Tea had become popular in the late 1880s but was still too expensive for working-class families. He again cut out the middleman, then took steps to go further and control the whole production process.
Lipton and Sri Lanka
The summer of 1878 brought coffee crop failures to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), increasing tea production there. Lipton bought a plantation for less than half of what he’d been prepared to pay. Previously tea had come from China, and Ceylon meant less distance to travel to bring it to Europe. Soon he owned five plantations.
By now he had 300 shops, but it was tea that made him a household name. In 1898 Lipton’s became a public company, with Sir Thomas as life president. He retained control of his tea estates until his death on October 2, 1931
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Final Words on Visiting Lipton’s Seat in Sri Lanka
We liked this place so much that we came twice. Well, we loved the first visit, but it was foggy and we couldn’t see the incredible view, and that’s why we came back. On our first visit, we stayed two nights in Haputale and then took a tuk-tuk up in the morning. Our second visit was on a tour from Ella and the weather was truly glorious and it was very much worth it.
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