Ella, located in the centre of Sri Lanka is a small picturesque village surrounded by an array of mountains, tea plantations and rolling green hills. The weather is considerably cooler than that of the west and south coast making it a perfect destination for hiking. We arrived here by the scenic train journey from Nuwara Eliya, our favourite train ride yet!
The town itself is quite small with one main street, a few shops, a decent amount of restaurants, guest houses and tourist offices but you don’t just come for the town, you come for the surrounding areas.
Where to Stay in Ella?
Ella has no shortage of accommodation. You won’t find as many large resorts as they are primarily guest houses and home stays. There’s one main street with many choices on either side and in the hills. We stayed at Mount Breezevilla, a 10-minute walk into the centre of the town. The breakfast we received here was well above anything we’ve been served before.
Each morning out came 8 pieces of bread with butter and jam, a fruit salad each, coconut honey pancakes, 4 freshly cooked coconut roti, dahl curry and then gigantic pots of tea & coffee. I don’t know about you but that is an entire day worth of food right there! Whenever we finished something, it was replaced. The people of Sri Lanka are so warm and friendly and their hospitality is so fantastic, but yikes.
If you’re looking to splurge on accommodation, 98 Acres Resort and Spa is high in the hills with panoramic views of the valleys and tea fields below. There’s a great outdoor pool and restaurant.
Note: Ella’s a town you can show up to right off the train and find accommodation for cheaper. If being spontaneous is your thing, then Ella’s the town to do it. Otherwise, find something prior from the many available options here.
Things to do in Ella
Unfortunately, due to bad weather, we left Ella much sooner than we had anticipated, allowing us only 2 days in total. Had the weather been co-operating we would have easily stayed another 2 days.
Here are some suggestions:
Nine Arch Bridge
The Nine Arch Bridge, also known as ‘The Bridge in the Sky” is a famous bridge located between the stations of Ella and Demodara. The bridge was built during WWI using only bricks, cement and stone. We recommend stopping here on the way back from Little Adam’s Peak walk, however, there aren’t too many signs, so just ask around and the locals will send you in the right direction.
The bridge looks like it’s been removed right from a Harry Potter scene. If you’re lucky or plan your visit correctly (we just got lucky), you’ll see the train passing by. You’d think we’d never seen a train before as we sat in the bush and waited 45 minutes for it to pass!
Once it passed, we looked at each other and without saying a word knew we both thought the same thing “did we really just wait 45 minutes for that?” Oh well, we continued down the hill and walked along the bridge to take one giant selfie with some locals. I love that selfies and smiles are a universal language.
To reach Ella from the bridge, you can walk the 2 km along the train track or catch a tuk-tuk for an extremely elevated price. We contemplated the tuk-tuk but instead decided to walk. What a memorable mistake that was. The clouds started coming over and 10 minutes in, the rain started. It didn’t just rain, it poured cats and dogs. With nowhere to go, no cover and one tiny umbrella between the two of us we had to keep going forward along the slippery, wet, muddy train tracks.
At the time, it was a mess but looking back, all you can do is laugh… which I’m sure the Tuk-tuk driver was doing as he was staying dry!
Little Adam’s Peak Hike
This was our favourite hike that we did in Sri Lanka and we much preferred it to “The World’s End” walk that we did from Nuwara Eliya. Little Adam’s Peak is the brother of Adam’s Peak which is a strenuous walk that involves a lot of vertical stairs filled with tourists in the middle of the night to reach the top before sunrise. The best part about Little Adam’s Peak was it’s free! None of this 3000 LKR ($20 USD) business.
The walk is relatively easy and takes less than 2 hours from top to bottom (longer if you stay at the top longer). The top provides you with breathtaking landscape views and on a clear day, you can see very far in the distance. Once you reach what you think is the top look to the left and keep walking to the furthest tip, it’s totally worth it! We loved this hike and it’s doable for all physical levels and easy on the wallet.
Take a Cooking Class
Matey Hut, a very popular restaurant in Ella runs cooking classes in the afternoon from 4:00 pm- 7:00 pm. At only 1000 LKR ($6 USD), you can cook 6 different curries of your choice, followed by a dessert. We only heard about it the day we were leaving so, unfortunately, we couldn’t do it. Regret #2 of the trip (second behind not skydiving in Namibia). Someone please do it for us and take all the pictures and taste all the deliciousness.
Hike up Ella Rock
The walk up to Ella’s Rock takes around 4 hours total. It is much harder than Little Adam’s Peak and it is best to tackle first thing in the morning so you reach the top by sunrise. Make sure you bring a flashlight or use your phone light, the paths aren’t marked. The trail takes you through tea plantations, along the railway tracks and up the mountains for stunning 360 views of the scenery below.
Note: be cautious of the locals hanging around along the route of Ella’s Rock. They will purposely mislead you so you have to use them for help. The guide isn’t necessary so don’t fall for it. If you really need help, you can hire legit guides from the town.
Swim at Ravana Falls
These waterfalls are a good place to spend an afternoon in Ella. Only a short 5km south down the main road you can bring your swimmers and you can swim at the bottom. Be careful of the monkeys, they’re everywhere. Cheeky buggers will steal your food and sometimes belongings ;).
Where to fill your bellies
Trip Advisor was booming with restaurant reviews which made it fairly easy to find places to eat and drink. My favourite “roti stands” were on every second corner which could have kept me satisfied for days. I refer to these as “potato triangles”.
They’re simply roti, filled with spicy vegetable/potato mix and then put on the grill and sometimes deep fried in bread crumbs. They cost a mere 50 LKR ($.25c) and keep me satisfied for hours. The consumption of these may not be so good for my health but they sure are good for my happiness.
Cafe Chill – The “western hangout”. This is one of the larger restaurants in Ella serving Western, Asian, Sri Lankan, Italian, German, Greek and every other possible cuisine. It’s great for groups and one of the better places to grab a beer or cocktail. However, go easy on the cocktails, they’ll leave you a nasty headache the following morning! Local liquor perhaps?
Matey Hut – Our #1 favorite restaurant we ate at in Sri Lanka. This tiny small hut serves the BEST curries Sri Lanka has to offer. 4 types of curry, rice and papadum for 400 LKR ($2.60 USD). My favourite was the pumpkin curry with coconut roti for 200 LKR ($1.30 USD). If you ask for spicy, it will come spicy. Not western spicy, REAL spicy. Eye watering spicy. Mmmm.
Art Cafe Umbrella – A short walk from town will bring you to this quiet, peaceful, colourful cafe. Great spot for breakfast before heading towards Little Adams Peak.
We really enjoyed Ella, despite the rain. There’s no doubt we were disappointed we couldn’t spend longer here (mainly for the food!)… but maybe next time! There’s always a next time.
Married Days Survived: 752