Ella is a small laid-back town in Sri Lanka surrounded by the beautiful greens of tea plantations. It is considered to be the cultural capital of the country and there are a lot of things to do in Ella. You can take one of the most beautiful train rides in the world from Nuwara Eliya to Ella and fall in love with the surroundings or you can go for a shorter train ride from Ella to Badulla which takes only 1 hour and you can definitely get a taste of the whole incredible experience if you’re short on time. The best time to visit Ella is from January to March with a comfortable climate where the nights are cool and the daytime around 28 degrees with a low chance of rainfalls.
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HOW TO GET THERE
The best way to get to Ella is by taking the beautiful scenic train ride from Colombo or from Kandy. It will take you about 10 hours from Colombo and about 6 hours from Kandy to get to Ella. Another way is to use the public bus that you can take from almost everywhere in the country to get to Ella, but you will have to change at least 2-3 buses, especially if you’re coming from far. It happened that we needed to get from Arugam Bay to Ella and it was a really long journey, starting from around 6 am in the morning and ending around 2 pm. Another option, of course, is to use a taxi or other private transportation, but it’s also the most expensive one. The best thing to do is to plan your trip in a way that allows you to visit Ella right after visiting Kandy, Dambulla or Sigiriya. This would be the easiest and shortest ride to Ella.
WHAT TO DO IN ELLA
1. CLIMB UP LITTLE ADAM’S PEAK
Hiking Little Adam’s Peak was our favorite activity in Ella! It was so good, that we did it twice – once during sunset and the second time, we went for the sunrise! It was so worth the early wake-up call and see the rising sun from here! The view over the valley on the top is absolutely incredible! You can relax and observe for hours. From Ella Town to the foot of the mountain takes 30 minutes, and to get to the top around 15 minutes more. The whole hike is very moderate and very pleasing in our opinion. You will enjoy incredible views all the way up and down, just remember to have comfortable shoes. You will also pass along some gorgeous tea plantations and if you’re lucky enough you can get the chance to talk with some locals who take care of the tea plantations.
2. Admire Ella’s Famous Nine Arch Bridge and walk along the rails
Hidden by a thick jungle and tea plantations this stone bridge stands proudly across a lush green gorge in the hill country just outside Ella.
This is probably the most picturesque spot in Ella, especially during sunrise on a moody day when the famous blue train passes slowly over the bridge, creating a dreamy, captivating and mystical scene.
This world-famous bridge is located just outside of Ella Town on the same way as Little Adam’s Peak. After a short 20 minute walk through the jungle, you will reach this beautiful piece of architecture hidden between lush green tea fields. This is one of the things you must do in Sri Lanka and was one of our favorite things to do in Ella along with hiking Little Adam’s Peak for sunrise!
The Nine Arch Bridge is 30 meters high and is open to being visited during the whole day.
Although train times are very unreliable in Sri Lanka, trains tend to pass the Nine Arch Bridge around the following times: 6:45, 9:30, 11:30, 15:30, 16:30, and 17:30.
There are many places to view the bridge from, with the most popular being from the actual bridge itself, above from the jungle both sides of the hills, below from the tea plantation (this is private land, so please ask for permission before entering).
For us, the best view was from above, looking from the forest surrounding the bridge coming from the jungle walk on the same way for Little Adam’s Peak, because that way the sunrise is right opposites you.
Another great place to admire Nine Arch Bridge in Ella is from one of the cafe platforms in the surrounding hills. Watching the train slowly make its way across the bridge is a wonderful sight.
3. TAKE THE WORLD FAMOUS TRAIN RIDE FROM ELLA
Taking a train ride in Sri Lanka is a must-do, they’re plenty of routes and options, but I will recommend you those that are known to be the best one. A train ride from Kandy to Ella is the best thing you’ll do in Sri Lanka. You will admire incredible views along the way and this will cost you around 10$ for the whole 10-hour journey.
Riding through misty forests, lush tea plantations, over gushing waterfalls and streams, and past colorful towns and excitable locals, this is, in my opinion, the most picturesque train ride in the world. The journey from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is also known to be the prettiest train ride in the world, but we didn’t actually make it, because we didn’t have time, unfortunately. We took a shorter version from Ella to Badulla, which took us about an hour and a half one direction, but it was totally amazingly beautiful and the best thing was that there was almost no one in the train, only a few locals making their way home at the end of the weekend. The reason is that it is yet a not so popular choice among tourists, which would prefer to hop on the Ella-Nuwara Eliya train ride, which is overcrowded and I believe it would be much harder to enjoy the views. Another non-touristic option was to take the train ride from Ella to Haputale, it was just a longer one. Next time we are definitely doing this! I recommend choosing third-class tickets because ti’s not only the cheapest option but in my opinion, it’s also the best one as it allows you to sit/hang out of the doorways. You’ll also find it’s filled with friendly locals keen to help you enjoy your experience.
4. HIKE THE FAMOUS ELLA ROCK
If you are up to a bigger challenge and in search for incredible mountain views, hike to the top of Ella Rock. Little Adam’s peak is a laugh compared to this one. It takes 2 hours to hike from bottom to top. It can be done with a guide or on your own but please make sure you asked the directions from someone you trust, like your guesthouse manager. Please make sure to be well equipped as you will be walking through the jungle and flip flops and shorts are probably not your best choice. Also, remember to pack enough water and snacks to power your journey.
5. VISIT BEAUTIFUL WATERFALLS AROUND ELLA
Unfortunately, we didn’t do that, as we were really short on time, but next time we visit Ella, we will make sure not to miss that incredible experience for sure! They’re 2 famous waterfalls just outside of Ella town and they are both incredibly beautiful as we have seen on photos!
You can visit and swim at Diyaluma Falls, which is the 2nd highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. To do that you will probably need the whole day, or at least if you are planning to visit it from the top.
Another beautiful waterfall is Ravana Fall. You can reach it with a quick 10-minute drive from Ella town. It is located next to the main road so you can easily take a dip. Much easier than Diyaluma Falls. Ravana Falls is getting more popular each year with both locals and foreigners stopping by to enjoy this piece of nature and a cooldown in the water.
6.BONUS: PARTY, EAT, AND CHILL IN ELLA TOWN
The most popular Ella’s backpacker spot is the main street, which is becoming home to hip new cafes and bars, boutique and souvenir shops.
If you’re up for a party and some backpacker’s vibes, the perfect place for that will be Cafe Chill, located right in the center of town. Serving delicious western-style food, cocktails, and a decent soundtrack, Cafe Chill is where backpackers and freelancers hang. At night, the upper deck becomes a bar/lounge, perfect for a few Lion Beers. AK Ristoro is a bit out of the main street and has superb fresh pizza, pasta, and sushi. Further towards the train station are a number of relaxed bars serving beers and cocktails, some of which are open 24-hours, including the Bob Marley inspired Cafe One Love.
WHERE TO STAY IN ELLA
We stayed at Ella Alpine Resort and totally recommend you to chose this incredible hotel for your stay! The location is perfect if you want to be far from the hustle and bustle of the city center and at the same time by 10-15 minutes walking distance from the main street cafes and restaurants.
With breathtaking views and huge terraces to enjoy them this place will forever stay in my heart! We had the most pleasant experience here, the room was huge, very clean, coffee and tea were served during the day, we even had a beautiful romantic bath with windows and also a very delicious continental breakfast served at the restaurant with a spectacular view of the green hills. The Ella Rail station was only 10 min walking distance if you take the way through the rails. Ella Alpine Resort is the perfect start point for hiking Ella Rock and the only 6km from Rawana falls! Restaurants serving local food are easy to find close to the property!
One of the best experiences from our stay at Ella Alpine Resort was seeing the sunrise from the balcony of our room, so if you are an early bird, please don’t miss it! And the sounds of the jungle in the morning are something else!!!
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