Pinnawela is a must for nearly all tourists. Pinnawela village is very nice when it's not crawling with tourists but that's not the reason that everyone comes here. In 1975 an elephant orphanage was set up here - originally to look after seven baby elephants, whereas now there are over 70. This makes it the largest captive group of elephants in the world. Having seen and ridden on elephants loads of times before - and in the wild rather than a park - I probably wasn't the most willing visitor they've ever had. The elephants being constantly walked to and from the river for bathing and posing for photos with tourists didn't replicate the thrill of seeing them in the wild, but the ones with missing legs and scars from mines and explosions are guaranteed to tug the heartstrings. And I defy anyone to see the very youngest baby elephant and not go 'aaah!' It was only a few months old (it'll be a lot older now I suppose) and hardly waist-high! It's also fascinating to watch how the orphaned babies are protected by the adults.
Pinnawela is easy elephant watching and to me not as rewarding as seeing them in the wild. But there are gift shops and you can watch them bathe from the comfort of the open-air restaurant, so I can definitely see it's appeal. Kids in particular will love it. You can touch and have your photo taken with them (at a small price) but you're not allowed to ride them. For riding, go to the Millennium Elephant Foundation literally just a couple of minutes down the road.
The scenery around the small town of Hatton is some of the most breathtaking in the whole of the hill country. The Hatton-Dikoya region is one of endless tea plantations, thousands of shades of brilliant green, and the Mahaweli river winding its way through the beautiful valleys.
The town itself is a major centre of the Sri Lankan tea industry, and an ideal stop on that long slow journey through the hills for a quick sample of the local speciality. It also makes a good starting point for trekkers of Adam's Peak. Unfortunately there are only a few places to stay or eat - none of them much good. It's enough to stop for a few hours to try the tea and appreciate the stunning views.
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