Beyond the tropical beaches and warm waters of Sri Lanka there is a cooler climate to be found in its central hills. As the bus journeys form the coast, across the flat plains, the ascent towards Ella brings lush forests and a refreshing breeze.

Around hairpin bends and past waterfalls this is an area ripe for adventure. It came as no surprise that when we were dropped off in the middle of town almost everyone we saw wore hiking boots and anoraks. A look of exhausted exhilaration was spread across each face. We hotfoot it to our homestay to find out what the hidden attraction was. It turned out to be quite a few.

Wings of Dowa

Our first point of interest came in the form of a 39ft statue of Buddha. While that in itself might be worth a visit, what made this statue was that it was carved into a wall of rock. By a king who had to flee his kingdom. 2000 years ago. The more we heard about Dowa Cave, the more intrigued we were.

Our homestay host was keen to take the role of a guide and took us straight to the cave. He shared its history and lead us into the cavernous temple. Similar to sights at Dikwella, this buddhist place of worship was brightly decorated and depicted scenes of holy tales.

We saw the now familiar depiction of a devil, standing tall and naked next to humans, with bulbous eyes shaggy hair. Sharp lower teeth protruded over his lip towards the top of his head. Claws grew from his toes and fingers. But he did not seem menacing. Perhaps it was the constant flow of a mountain stream that ran nearby that helped mute anything sinister.

As we stooped under the low ceiling and through the ornate door, or host advised us on the best way to spend the following day. Read how we climbed hills, turned invisible in a tea factory and found ourselves walking on a train track here.