Arriving in Ella after a 7 hour train journey through stunning valleys, through quiet little villages and magical mountains to reach the remote, quiet and popular town of Ella. Ella is famous in its own right for stunning views, huge waterfalls, and even bigger hikes.
Here are some of the top things to do in the area and what I got upto;
1. Nine Arch Bridge
The poster image of Sri Lanka, and a stunning world wide known monument. A bridge which was destined to be a steel bridge before the British needed it for the war effort so became a 80 ft high stone bridge when constructed in 1921. The first time you set eyes on this hidden national treasure was a beautiful moment, framed from the bushes as you step down through the forest path i came through.
I met a friend and we hopped in a tuk tuk to the edge of the forest, you can easily walk through on the path for a good 25 minutes to reach the valley where the bridge is hiding. You walk through above the bridge and gradually head down the path until you arrive next to the train track. You can sit and watch the train go past, with the help from the time tables which are pinned to the trees around the bridge. I walked along the tracks to the other side where the tea bushes are all growing up the valley.
It was a crazy feeling knowing i was finally here and ended up chatting to a few of the other visitors who were all waiting for the train to go past. At 15 minutes past 9 a bright blue train which would of left Ella station not long before came over the bridge and before i knew it, it had gone. A beautiful moment.
2. Little Adams Peak
Only a 15 minute walk from the main town up hill, Little Adams Peak is a beautiful easy walk with the last 20 minute being up hill to provide panoramic views of the valley where Ella is situated. It walks through the town, past small little vegetarian restaurants, bamboo and wooden huts, no modern buildings in sight which gives you the feeling of being in the middle of no where, just surrounded by forrest and nature.
Once you get to the path which guides you upto the Peak there is layer after layer of lined tea bushes, with women balancing the baskets on the back of their heads with scarves picking the tea leaves with so much speed and skill. Little puppies following you along the path, a little girl smiling and wandering over to her mums postcard stall. Gradually ascending more and more until you see the new zipline from the Peak to the other side of tea plantation.
The last stretch is the steepest part but it doesn’t last long, until you arrive at the top above the clouds, looking over at Ella rock, with a steep drop and a perfect view for a bit of lunch, if you are lucky the clouds sometimes clear for views of the waterfalls running down some of the mountain cliffs, Ella town and the luxury hotel called 93 foot cabins dotted along the jungle tops, which do delicious lunches for visitors. What a way to wake up everyday!
3. Tea plantations
Surrounding the town, and covering the mountains of Sri Lanka in continuous fresh green tea leaves the plantations are an irreplaceable and hard to miss attraction to anyone visiting Sri Lanka let alone Ella. The earlier you are up the more activity you will see, with the cold early mornings being perfect picking weather for the employees. The bushes are not gated or fenced off so provide untouched views. It really doesn’t get old just how dramatic the scenery here is!
4. Ella town
The town itself is full of life, with bars, restaurants, shops, hostels and hotels running all the way along the main road. Taken over by backpackers and tourists wanting to take a little piece of Ella into their hearts. The atmosphere is relaxed, friendly and a sense of strangers being friends within 2 minutes. Everyone there for the same reason, with different stories of their travels so far through this beautiful country. The best part is how cost effective the town is for enjoying and treating yourself.
5. Ella Rock for the climbers and hikers
Its steep, long, but the views are meant to be insane from the top looking over the deep valleys, curvy hill tops, and the continuous lines of tea bushes. I wont lie and say I even tried to complete the hike, but I heard of the best way to enjoy the experience is to not do it alone due to the route being very confusing at times. Some people decide to have a guide to take you up as well for local knowledge.
6. Liptons Seat
If you are a tea lover, Liptons name will start to ring bells, its one of the largest tea providers around the world, and its natural beginnings is this plantation in the middle of Sri Lanka, with stunning views in every direction, tea rooms and just a beautiful day out in the countryside through the fields. A tuk tuk taxi can take you there from Ella easy peasy, with several stops whenever you would like. You will have a camera full of tea bush pictures! The seat is actually a hike to the top of a stoney flat rock, over looking the entire area, where Mr Thomas Lipton used to sit and contemplate. It takes around 2 and 1/2 hours to complete and like most hikes in Ella best done in the morning.
7. Nuwera Elya day trip
2 and 1/2 hours away from Ella town, Nuwara Elya is a colonised British town, with hugely influenced buildings like the famous post office, a cute red and white painted wooden building which is prominent on top a small mound overlooking the town. The court house and English pub were also key features of this cute little town, infused with the Sri Lankan culture and people. With picturesque lakes and stunning waterfalls all around this highly mountainous town, alot of peopel tend to stay here for a few days.
Instead I had a long day trip with a tuk tuk who took me to some of the main attractions, some of the nearby waterfalls and got to enjoy the views all the way there and back.
8. Ravana Caves and Falls
One of the highlights of Ella, a must visit for a morning hike. Firstly the Caves, which are actually the start of the tunnel which takes you down to the Falls a 45 minutes walk from the caves. For the caves there are 600 steps to climb, so be aware its not an easy walk, and better to be done early morning due to heat. The Falls are much easier to access from the road.
9. EllaWala Waterfalls
A small hike through a dirt track, then walking through jungle, leaf filled paths, and overgrown vines will bring you to a beautiful quiet clearing with a pool and powerful waterfall. Due to its small adventure to get there means its quiet with hardly any, if anyone there. I had a swim and cool down in the shallows, was perfect! We even met a friend on the way who made sure we got there okay!
10. Adams Peak
I didn’t end up doing this due to schedule, but for any avid hikers Adams Peak is one of the must dos in Sri Lanka, the alarm clock would need to be set for an early start, with a 4 hour hike to the top its an achievement in itself. . Adam’s Peak is a 2,243 metres high mountain located in central Sri Lanka. It is well known for the “sacred footprint”, a 1.8 m rock formation near the summit, which Buddhists tradition is the footprint of the Buddha, and there are several tracks with different views you can take so do a little research before heading off.
Alot of people go from Nuwera Elya due to it being closer. From Ella it is best to set off early for a cooler start and means you can enjoy the clear views from the top. Check the weather before setting off though due to its high altitude, it can be cold especially in the winter months.
11. Cooking lessons
A must do in Sri Lanka to learn how to make some of the authentic curries, hoppers and Kottu dishes found around the country by local cooks, even by people in their own homes. With great conversation, tips and an incredible meal at the end how could you say no! I went to one in Ella and from 3000 rupiahs (£12), Ella Rocks, Priyas Cookery Class and Village view Cookery Class are all ones which I chose to try out, both with vegetarian options.
12. Diyaluma Falls
A huge 220metre in total waterfall 1 hour from Ella town, has 3 separate main falls, the top fall having a view point and naturally formed pool to go and relax in as you watch the world go by. The 3rd tier is just as impressive with a huge 30 metre drop , and there is a footpath all the way up to the 3rd tier from the road infront of the waterfall.
Ella out of all the cities i visited in Sri Lanka has a special place in my heart, its where I met some amazing people throughout the town, from group meals, and bumping into people on trains and hilltops. Anyone heading to Sri Lanka needs to visit Ella only 3 hours by train from Colombo means its the perfect introduction to the beauty of the Sri Lankan jungle.