Ella is a small and rather famous town in the Uva province of Sri Lanka, surrounded by jungle-clad hills dotted with some pretty impressive waterfalls. It’s usually the final destination for anyone riding the famous train from Kandy, and it’s a great place to hike, explore, eat too much good food, or just relax in the sun. If you only have time for one destination in central Sri Lanka, make it this one!
Nine Arch Bridge
This is probably the most Instagrammed spot in Sri Lanka which seems weird, it’s just a bridge, right? For me, seeing it in real life (finally) was quite incredible. This huge stone bridge looks like it grows straight out of the jungle, and if you get there early in the morning you can really appreciate it without the hordes of people.
We arrived at 8 a.m. and pretty much had the whole bridge to ourselves (keep in mind we were there during low season), and we hung around long enough to catch the blue train crossing it which was a great moment, I’d recommend timing your visit for this, trains cross at 9:30, 11:30, 15:30, 16:30 and 17:30, there are a few great viewpoints that are easily accessible.
Little Adam’s Peak
We hiked Little Adam’s Peak after visiting Nine Arch Bridge because it didn’t need such an early start, much easier to avoid the crowds when you’re on top of a hill with endless views around you! It’s a very quick hike up, maybe 20 minutes max, through tea estates and past the small zip-line (that honestly doesn’t seem worth the high price tag, the view is better from the top of the peak).
There are two parts to the peak, you can walk between both and watch the valley unfold beneath you. There’s an amazing view of Ella Rock, Ella town, and a 360-degree view of the endless jungle that surrounds it all. This really is the greenest country I’ve ever been to, I’m slightly obsessed with it.
You’ll need half a day for this hike, and I’d recommend going early in the morning before the clouds roll in and completely obscure the view. To start the hike you need to walk, take a tuk-tuk or ride the train to Kithalella Station. From here, continue south towards a spot marked on Maps.Me as “Start of Path to Ella Rock” and just going uphill from there! Eventually, you’ll make it to the top of Ella Rock where you’ll find two lovely ladies selling very good fresh juices with a fantastic view of Little Adam’s Peak and Ella town far below. A little further through the forest is another amazing viewpoint with a tiny cave temple.
Little Ravana Falls
On the way down from the top of Ella Rock, you can continue north instead of going back the way you came. This will bring you out to a viewpoint overlooking Ella Town and Little Ravana Falls, and if you can find the right path down you’ll eventually get to the top of the falls. From here, it’s an easy walk back to Ella town along the train tracks. Remember: the earlier the better, we got caught in a massive thunderstorm and there’s no shelter on the way back.
Ravana Falls and Diyaluma Falls
These are two destinations we had to miss out on because the road out of Ella had been destroyed by a landslide, but from what I’ve heard they are definitely worth visiting! Ravana, one of the widest in the country, is visible from Little Adam’s Rock, close to the base of Ella Rock but only accessible from the main road. You should be able to grab a tuk-tuk or take any local bus heading south along the main road. As for Diyaluma, it’s the second-largest in the country and you’re able to access the top and bottom of the falls via two separate hiking trails starting on the main road to the west. You should be able to hop on any bus heading south via Haputhale or Malatawela and jump off just south of Diyaluma town.
Where to sleep and eat in Ella
There are lots of options available for accommodation, so it’s worth looking around when you arrive. We booked online, but when we checked into Sleep Cheap Hostel we immediately left because it was so dirty, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this place. I moved down to Hostel For You which I loved for the amazing view of Ella Rock from the balcony! A friend stayed at Remo’s and raved about that place too. There are also a lot of places outside of town which had incredible views overlooking the neverending jungle, but it really depends on your budget.
As for food, there are so many choices. Most are actually quite expensive (for Sri Lanka), catering towards tourists more than backpackers, but there are still some great budget choices. The most popular place in town is the tiny Matey Hut, you might have to queue to get a table but it’s worth it, the local food is delicious, portions are huge and the staff are really friendly. Two other favourites were La Mensa, they did amazing kottu, and Dream Cafe for some good breakfast sets.
Getting in and out of Ella
You’ll be either be arriving in Ella after riding the famously scenic train from Kandy, or just before you start the journey north. The station is at the top of town, and on the main road at the other end of town is where you can wait to catch the local buses going north or south.
We had some trouble getting out of Ella thanks to the road closure after a massive landslide, so we ended up having to take the train to Bandarawela, a three-hour bus to Wellawaya, a four-hour bus all the way to Matara on the south coast, and a bus to our final destination in Mirissa. A lot of hassle! Normally you can hop on a direct bus to the coast.
Have you been to Ella, what other things can you recommend that I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments below!
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