Ella is a small town in the Hill Country of Sri Lanka. It is located in the Badulla district of Uva province. The town’s elevation is 1,041 meters above sea level and due to this elevation, the weather here is cooler than the weather at the coast. Although Ella is a small town, there are plenty of things to do and you would need at least three days to explore the city and everything around it.
Until recently Ella was not a desirable place for tourists to visit and not many people made a stop here. One day people started posting photos of the incredible Kandy-Ella train ride and the place became crowded with backpackers and tourists in general. And because the town has majestic sights like the Nine Arch Bridge, Little Adam’s Peak and beautiful waterfalls, Ella made the list of a top places to visit in Sri Lanka.
If you are in Colombo and want to come to Ella, you can take a straight train to Ella which will take more than 10 hours and will include the Kandy-Ella train track (the most famous train ride in Sri Lanka). Although I would recommend you to plan your trip with a stop in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya before going to Ella. The train ride from Colombo to Kandy takes 4 hours, from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (train stop called – Nanu ya) – 4 hours and Nuwara Eliya (Nanuo Oya) to Ella – 3,5 hours.
There are a few reasons to make these stops. First, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya are worthy of visiting and spending there some time. Kandy is the old capital of the kingdom of Kandy and has lots of historical sites to visit (click here to read more about Kandy) and Nuwara Eliya is a beautiful city with lots of colonial buildings, also called “Little England” (to read more about Nuwara Eliya click here). And second, it will give you time to rest between the train rides.
To get to Ella from the south coast of Sri Lanka can be problematic, since there is no straight trains to Ella. Therefore, you will need to go through Colombo anyway if you want to take trains. But the journey will take more than 15 hours, or you can take a taxi. From Mirissa, for example, it costs no more than Rs 9.000 – Rs 10.000 ($50-$55) and from Unawatuna around Rs 11.000 – Rs 12.000 ($60 -$65). Of course, be prepared to haggle and negotiate the price.
Otherwise if you want to drive yourself you can rent a car or a scooter and use google maps to get to Ella from where are you. To rent a car in Colombo for a month costs around $500 and you don’t really need an international driver licence, but it is always good to have it anyway.
As always you can take buses, but like I’ve mentioned in other articles, this doesn’t work if you have luggage as the driver won’t let you on if it is crowded.
Another iconic Instagram picture from Sri Lanka is a picture of Nine Arch Bridge. It is located 15 minutes by a tuktuk from the center of the city and around 40 minutes walking. There are a few ways to get to the bridge from the east and from the west. But all of them will require you to hike down, so don’t forget to bring water and wear comfortable shoes.
There are a few restaurants from both sides of the bridge and a few vendors who sell coconuts right by the bridge. It is quite nice to have them there; they don’t charge a lot (Rs 100 per coconut) and it gives you the energy for hiking up back to the main road.
The best time to visit if you want to avoid the crowed is morning. The other times the crowd is always there and I can tell you that for sure since we were staying at a cute guest house just up the hill with the view on the bridge. At all times it was filled with people. It reminded me more of a Disneyland than of a train road. People walking in the middle of the train road and on the edge of the bridge, taking pictures and enjoying the view.
There are a few times that the train is passing by and that is the time when you want to take a picture. Everyone is getting on the sides of the track and looking for the best spot to catch the train on the Nine Arch Bridge. The view is truly majestic especially when it is a bit cloudy, the whole picture looks mysterious.
If you are not up for an early morning when the train is going through around 6 AM then you can get there around 3:15 PM when another train is supposed to go through the bridge. Why am I saying, “supposed to”? Because we got down to the bridge at 3 PM and waited until 3:45 PM when it showed up. So be prepare to wait, because sometimes the trains can be late. There are more times when the train should pass, just ask your homestay host and they should know the full schedule.
Price: free of charge;
Little Adam’s Peak is one of the two places I recommend hiking up. The other one is Ella Rock. Either of them will be worth your time and effort. Although I don’t see a point of hiking both. Both hills offer a fantastic view of each other and of the tea plantations. Of course, it is not exactly the same picture and if you like to hike, go ahead and enjoy your time. Little Adam’s Peak takes around 30 minutes to get to the top and to hike Ella rock takes around an hour.
Why then I am saying hike Little Adam’s peak and not Ella Rock? Well first of all it is faster and especially if you are brining kids with you it is better to choose Little Adam’s Peak. Second, no matter what hill you are hiking it will be a really pretty view on the top. And third, the path that leads to the top of the Little Adam’s peak is easier. So for those who doesn’t have enough time for Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak and can do just one hike, and for those who don’t like difficult hiking paths I recommend Little Adam’s Peak.
Since I was staying not far from Little Adam’s Peak, I’ve decided to walk there myself. I set the location on Google maps as “Little Adam’s peak” and went on. It took me 30 minutes to get to the point on the map where I though the stairs will be, but there was nothing. Some woman came out of the house nearby and I asked her how to get to the hill and she said that it is the completely wrong location and that I need to go all the way to the main road. That was disappointing, it was the first time I was going to hike by myself without Cody and I was so annoyed with me being bad at figuring out locations, although I followed the map exactly. So for you not to make my mistake: put in your google map not “Little Adam’s Peak” but “Stairway to Little Adam’s Peak”. It is the place where the stairs will take you all the way to the top.
You are probably thinking that if there are stairs all the way to the top you can wear anything, even flip-flops. Don’t! At the top there is a beautiful path along the mountain range that you can take and oh boy, it gets slippery and rocky and difficult to climb and there you definitely will need sneakers.
At the bottom of the hill there are vendors with coconuts and at the top with cold water, which was really helpful, since by the time I got on Peak I had already walked quite a lot and finished all my already boiling-hot water. I spent around an hour at the peak and another 20 minutes getting down the hill.
On Little Adam’s Peak there is a small praying place with a sitting Buddha statue and fantastic view of the Ella Rock and the hill country.
Price: free of charge;
Hours: everyday: until sunset;
Ravana Falls is one of the most visited waterfalls in Sri Lanka due to its great location. Okay, I don’t know if it is that great, but it is very easy to get to. The Ravana waterfall is located on the side of the Wellawaya-Ella-Kumbalwela high way.
The best way to get there is by a tuktuk which will take around 15 minutes and not more than Rs 400 ($2,2). There is a cute terrace at the bottom, where everyone takes pictures. In the dry weather you can try to use the path on the side and get to the top of the Ravana waterfall, but it is quite dangerous when it is the rainy season, so for your own sake stay at the bottom of it.
Lot’s of vendors will offer you coconuts, baked corn, snacks and souvenirs with a fair price. But the place is very crowded and you don’t need more than ten minutes to see the Ravana falls and take your photos.
Price: free of charge;
Cody and I rented this cute place called Ella Sisila View overlooking the Nine Arch Bridge and we were extremely happy with it for many reasons (click here to read the review of the guest house in Ella), but the place was kind of far from the center of the city. So I spent my last day in Ella exploring the city center.
It is really small, and I should probably call it a town. But nevertheless, there is stuff to do and places to visit. The center is basicall one street with lots of cute cafes and souvenirs stores. There you can find cheap Sri Lankan food, expensive Sri Lankan food (in comparing), European, seafood and many others.
The center isn’t crowded during the day and you easily can find a good spot to get a coffee or a lunch. The evening on the other hand can get crowded, all the tourists are going to bars and restaurants to socialize and have a few drinks. The relaxing vibe is very catchy and you definitely will have a great time telling new friends about your traveling experience and learning something new from the others.
Do you like to feel an adrenaline rush in your body? If so then you must try a zip line in Ella. The adrenaline rush and a beautiful view is guaranteed! It is hard to miss Flying Ravana Mega Zipline at the bottom of Little Adam’s Peak. You can buy a ticket online or just purchase at the location. The ticket for the adults (16+) costs $20 per person.
The staff was very friendly and knew what they are doing. The equipment didn’t look old, so it was reassuring. It is nice that they pay attention to the safety of the tourist. The ride was amazing with all that greenery down below and mountains around you.
Hours: everyday: 8:30 AM to 5 PM;
Every blogger says that you need to visit a tea factory in Sri Lanka and I don’t disagree with that. However, you really should just walk around the tea plantations and see how people are picking the tea leaves, and how the tea bushes grow.
There is a nice walking path among the tea bushes not far from the Little Adam’s Peak that I found accidentally. Although I thought I was going to the bottom of the peak (that was a wrong path) the whole way I couldn’t stop thinking why there are no people enjoying this beautiful place and taking pictures. And as I understood that this was the wrong way I thought that not many people walk this way at all and that this fantastic view is underappreciated.
Price: free of charge;
Location: you can take the track below for walking among the tea bushes;
As I said earlier the train ride from Kandy to Ella or from Ella to Kandy is very famous due to the Instagram pictures of people hanging out of the train while it’s moving and due to a view that is gorgeous all the way from one city to another. If you got to Ella by taxi and are not planning on going to Kandy or Nuwara Eliya, or you rented a car and don’t need to bother with public transportation, you still should do this train ride just for the sake of the train ride.
It is really easy to buy a ticket at the train station. Preferably find out about the time of departure the day before. If they sell the tickets in advance then you can buy it. The tickets are cheap, and it doesn’t matter which class you sit, since you probably will hang out at the open door between the two train cars.
Charge your camera and be prepared to use it constantly. It is truly a magical ride and I recommend everyone to do it!
Sri Lankan cuisine is one of the most unique and while you are travelling in this country you should have a cooking class. Especially if you like to cook, then this activity is going to be fun and interesting. Cody, who is cooking all the time and writing for a cooking blog was anxious to find a person who would teach him how to make real home-made Sri Lankan food.
While there are a few cooking classes in Ella that you can take, we got lucky that our host and cook of our guesthouse (Ella Sisila View) offered to teach Cody how to make Sri Lankan dishes (cannot describe how happy Cody was that he was allowed in the kitchen).
Every day Mr. Winston would show how to make a new dish allowing Cody to join the process. He learned how to make: Ambul Thiyal, Mixed Vegetable Curry, Coconut Roti, and more. I am waiting until he will cook something Sri Lankan at home for our friends and family. Local cuisine is another part of the local culture and if you want to understand it better, you need to learn about all the aspects of it, including food. So if you don’t have such a person as Mr. Winston at your accommodation get yourself into a cooking class and learn about the culture of this incredible country.