A Complete Travel Guide to Ella, Sri Lanka; including Ten Activities You Shouldn’t Miss!

Introduction

Surrounded by endless greenery and many waterfalls, Ella is an ideal place for relaxation, so be sure to include a few days here when planning your Sri Lanka holiday itinerary. Compared to other parts of Sri Lanka, the temperature here is pleasant and fresh as the city is located about 1000 meters above sea level. It is warm from mid-day to midafternoon but gets cooler towards the late evening, allowing you to cozy up underneath thick blankets! Fog and rain can sometimes either make your picture or break it. But those misty mountains are a great destination for hiking. The small town of Ella also offers a great variety of food from restaurants that prepare cuisines from several parts of the world.

Blue Lanka Tours offers a complete travel guide to Ella, including how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, and ten of the best carefully selected activities that you should not miss!

How to get to Ella, Sri Lanka

While a private vehicle is the fastest way to get to Ella from Colombo or Kandy, there is also the option of taking a train ride, which is a beautiful journey through the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Tickets can be purchased online, via mobile service providers, or by visiting the railway station in person. It is highly advisable to purchase your train tickets in advance so you are rest assured of a seat on the day you wish to travel.

You can rent a car in Sri Lanka and drive there yourself so you have more flexibility on departure timings, where you’d like to stop to refresh and so on. Vehicles with drivers are also available so all you have to do is sit in your car, relax, and enjoy the views from outside your window! When hiring vehicles, the insurance is usually already included in the prices so you don’t have to worry about your protection in case of any mishaps.

Once you have reached Ella, you can get around by walking, or you could hire reasonably priced tuk-tuks to take you to the popular tourist attractions in Ella.

10 activities you shouldn’t miss in Ella

1. Explore Ella Town

Ella town is an extremely picturesque setting with the incredible nature views on one side and an entertaining atmosphere on the other side. A wide variety of cafes, bars and restaurants are lined up, which also makes for a lively nightlife. Café Chill for example serves delicious cocktails, smoothies and a range of cuisines while also playing music to entertain guests into the early hours of the morning. Every Wednesday morning, the town puts up a small market with a line of small stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and a variety of different clothing.

2. Nine Arches Bridge

Famous for its 25m tall arches, also known as the Bridge in the Sky, the Nine Arch Bridge is an iconic attraction in Ella. It is a small hike to get to the bridge but the breathtaking views of tea plantations and mountains overhead once you get to the bridge are definitely worth the visit! Wait for the blue train to cross the bridge for the perfect iconic shot on the nine-arch bridge. You can check the schedule of the train and sync your visit accordingly if you really want that shot!

Constructed during the British Era in 1921, the Nine Arch Bridge is evidence of brilliant architecture of the early 20th century. With an aim to connect the Ella and Demodara railway station, two bog mountains were connected, resulting in an amazing example of the colonial-era railway construction in Sri Lanka.  The bridge is 300 feet in length, 25 feet in width, and 80-100 feet high. Along the Badulla Bandarawela road, you have to take the route to Gotuwala and travel 2km from there. An impressive increase in tourism is visible in this area as more and more visitors are attracted to the profuse greenery and architectural excellence of the attraction.

3. Little Adam’s Peak

You may have heard of Adam’s Peak as a popular rock-climbing activity in Nuwara Eliya with gorgeous views of the sunrise. Well, Little Adam’s Peak is its younger sibling and is just as impressive! The summit is made up of three green peaks that tower high above the valley. Hike through a scenic nature trail, passing through tall grass, local villages, and tea plantations. Once you reach the top, take in the sensational, panoramic views and feel on top of the world!

From Ella town, the base of the mountain is about a 45-minute walk, and from there to the top is about 15-30 minutes.

4. Ella Rock

The magnificent presence of Ella Rock is always felt wherever you go in Ella. As one of the most popular hikes in Ella, the train is completely natural – giving you an adventurous adrenaline rush. From the town to the summit is about two hours – the route passing along train tracks, dense forests and long thick grass. Dangle your legs off the cliff once you get to the top and experience the incredible feeling as you look down at the valley below.

It is best to begin the hike early in the morning before the heat of the sun gets to you. Also, wear cool clothing and wrap on a jacket in the early morning hours which you can remove later when it gets warmer. Use a GPS tracker if you are hiking alone in order to avoid getting lost. Carry plenty of water and snacks to keep you hydrated throughout the climb up and back down. The climb to Ella Rock is more of a challenge as compared to Little Adam’s Peak hence it is not advisable for anyone with physical difficulties.

5. Ravana Falls

The beautiful Ravana Falls are made up of three tiers, with water cascading between into several rock pools, thereby creating an ideal place for a dip to cool off from the tropical heat of the afternoon. It is generally not recommended to climb any higher than the first-tier as there are only small muddy trails to take you up. Suitable footwear is also advisable if you are intending to dip in and out of the natural pools with ease. The falls are just a ten-minute tuk ride from the Ella town and can get quite crowded during the season.

The name Ravana Falls comes after the demon King Ravana who is believed to have ruled Sri Lanka once upon a time. As one of the widest waterfalls in the country, Ravana Falls is a popular sightseeing attraction that is best visited during the wet season when the water is said to resemble an Areca flower with withering petals. It is situated on the Ella-Wellawaya Road, just around the 12-13th mile post. The falls are visible from the road so if time is restricted, you can just have a quick stop along the way to any other destination in Ella.

6. Ellawala Waterfall

Located about 5km from the Wellawaya town, Ella Wala Falls is a small, yet beautiful waterfall hidden inside a jungle on the Ella-Wellawaya Road. From Ella town, the traveling time is about 45 minutes. If you are travelling from Wellawaya, drive for a distance of 3km on the Ella road to get to the Rathmal Vihara Ancient Temple. The road opposite this temple will lead to the waterfall but the last few kilometers are rough and not suitable for a low ground vehicle. In that case, a tuk tuk or walking would be the only option to get to this jungle waterfall.

There is an amazing natural pool here which is enjoyable by both adults and children alike for a natural bath. This waterfall can be visited at any time of the year except on days that are very rainy. If you are looking for a peaceful waterfall bath away from the crowds, Ellawala Waterfall is the place to be. But it is best to avoid going here alone as in case of any emergency, it can be difficult to find help since the waterfall is located inside a jungle-like area.

7. Ride the Train

Very rarely would you find the journey to a destination as one of the top things to do – but Ella is an exception! The train journey from Kandy to Ella is much spoken about and is believed to be one of the most scenic in all of Asia.

Purchase your ticket – 1st, 2nd or 3rd class reserved seating is available and purchasing these tickets beforehand means you are guaranteed a seat on the train regardless of how crowded it may be.

Kandy is a typical vibrant Asian city, but the further you get away from Kandy the more simple and authentic life becomes – which is visible through your train journey. It seems like you are travelling back in time – an abundance of nature, a few dirty roads here and there, cattle freely roaming the fields, small and simple houses made with basic material, warm and welcoming people that greet you with a smile. Nanu Oya to Ella is the most beautiful part of the journey where you come across tea plantations and dense forests of the Horton Plains National Park. Observing how the landscapes transition from one scene to another is a beauty in itself.

At every few stations, local vendors get on the train to sell a variety of Sri Lankan snacks such as vegetable roti, sambals, samosas, tea, chips, drinks and more – which you ought to try as an effort to support the local community. And when you cross beautiful sceneries, stand at the door of the train to capture a shot of you, the train, and the scenic beauty.

8. Lipton’s Seat

Have you come across the famous Lipton tea brand in any supermarket? Yes, this is the same Lipton’s Seat we are talking about – where it all started! Sir Thomas Lipton started producing tea himself, which turned into a revolutionary idea by the end of the 19th century.

The excursion to Lipton’s Seat from Ella will require about half a day – hop on to the train to Haputale (approximately one hour of a scenic ride) and then get onto a tuk tuk to the gorgeous viewpoint just passing the Dambetenne Tea Estate. Thomas Lipton would spend hours together at this point admiring his luscious tea fields and it is easy to see why he chose this spot when you go have a look yourself. Endless fields of tea, neat rows of bushes, hard-working tea pickers, and of course, views of the surrounding countryside.

You can also take a tour of the nearby Dambetenna tea factory – the largest producer in Sri Lanka, to learn about the history of tea and how the production process works. The highlight of this tea factory is that the equipment used is the same that Sir Thomas Lipton introduced here – seeming like time has literally stood still!

9. The Flying Ravana Zipline

For adrenaline seekers, the Flying Ravana Zipline is indeed a bucket list item that must be checked off! At a height of 82 meters, the exciting zipline runs for over half a kilometer, taking you at speeds of up to 80kms! It gives you an experience of flying over the valleys! The Flying Ravana is located in close proximity to the Nine Arches Bridge and the 98 Acres Resort & Spa as well as the Little Adam’s Peak – allowing guests to cross off all these activities from their list in just one day.

10. Ravana Cave

Just 2 km outside Ella town is the Ravana Cave, about 1370 meters above sea level. This attraction gives Ella a historical value as it is believed that King Ravana used to hide Princess Sita in this cave. It is best to go with a travel guide to explore this cave, and be prepared to climb a good load of steep stairs and a few rocks for this excursion.

The Ravana Cave is a part of a tunnel that connects to the Ravana Falls in Ella, and was used as a quick way of transportation as well as a secret passage. According to experts, these tunnels are man-made and were intended to connect to more cities and dairy farms in the past. Archaeologists have studied the details of these tunnels and state that they are a brilliant example of how King Ravana’s brain worked.

Once you climb up about 650 steps, you will get o the Ravana Cave, which is quite small actually and you can walk inside for about 200 meters. Going any further inside is dangerous and is prohibited by the Government. But the view from this point is impressive! Add this activity to your list if you like adventure and a touch of history.

Where to Stay in Ella

Ella is a very touristy place, which means that there are plenty of accommodation options for you to enjoy here. From budgeted guest houses to luxury resorts and boutique hotels with swimming pools and amazing views, Ella has it all. Staying at one of the hillside guesthouses in the outskirts of town is also a good idea as the views are good and you will have easy access to hiking trails from there. Tuk tuks are easily accessible in Ella so if you want to head to town for a meal or an excursion, your guesthouse can arrange one for you.

Best Time to Visit Ella

Anytime is a good time to visit Ella as the weather is more often than not holiday friendly all year round! The region does see plenty of rain, but the good thing is it never lasts for long. The wet season is mostly from September to December so you might want to avoid these months, but then again, waterfalls have more water in the rainy season! For hiking, the other months are advisable though as hiking is dangerous during the rain.

Best Cafes & Restaurants in Ella

As one of the top-rated destinations for travelers, Ella has a variety of restaurants offering a range of different cuisines. There are some cozy local cafes if you want to try some local delicacies. If you are missing your western favorites, Ella town has some options on that front as well.

  • Cafe Chill
  • Jade Green Tea Center & Restaurant
  • Matey Hut
  • AK Ristoro
  • Rose Cabin Mexican Restaurant
  • Adam’s Breeze

Conclusion

As you can see, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Ella – from waterfalls to rock climbing and a blast from the past! Hence it is worth to plan a trip and schedule a few days in Ella during your Sri Lanka holiday itinerary.

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Dinesh N Perera
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