8 things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka

A laid back town, surrounded by hills formed of forest and tea fields sounds too good to be true right? Ella is exactly this. 

Located in the hill country of Sri Lanka you’ll find a cozy town that is home to the famous Nine Arch Bridge, charming Ravana Falls and marvelous hikes to Little Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock.

And that’s not all. To reach Ella you’ll have to jump aboard the world-famous Kandy to Ella train. This journey reveals the first glimpse of beauty Ella has to offer. And there is more, believe me.

Curious? These are the 8 things you need to do in Ella, Sri Lanka.


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I. walk along the rails of the nine arch bridge

Who would've thought, a bridge built in 1921, just outside of Ella, would one day single-handedly be responsible to attract travelers to Sri Lankan hill country.

The Nine Arch Bridge is hidden in a dense jungle that is formed by forest and tea fields. Early morning visits often bring mist which creates a moody but mystical vibe.

Try to plan your visit around 8 am, this gives you space to walk around and look at the bridge from various viewpoints without a huge crowd being around. 

With trains passing the Nine Arch Bridge at the following times: 9:30, 11:30, 15:30, 16:30, and 17:30, an early morning visit is perfectly right to watch a train gently follow the track along the bridge. Keep in mind that train times in Sri Lanka are unpredictable and trains often pass the bridge later than planned.


How to get to the Nine Arch Bridge

The Nine Arch Bridge is located just outside of Ella in a town named Demodara. A 15-minute hike through the jungle will take you along several satisfying viewpoints before reaching the famous bridge. In my honest opinion this is the most adventurous, authentic and pleasing way to experience your visit. 

Tuk-tuk  //  If a small hike through nature isn’t for you, a 200 - 300 LKR ($1 - $1.5) tuk-tuk ride can bring you straight to the beginning of the Nine Arch Bridge.

 

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II. watch sunset over ella gap from Little Adam’s Peak

The hill country of Sri Lanka and in particular Ella is well known for hiking. Little Adam’s Peak guarantees phenomenal views over Ella gap and the endlessly mountain ranges of the Ella region. 

During the hike up Little Adam’s Peak you’ll get introduced to the first viewpoints while crossing lush tea fields. The reward you’ll get for reaching the end of the trail is a panorama view over both Ella Rock and the breathtaking Ella Gap.

The best time to hike Little Adam’s Peak is during sunrise and sunset. Being at a height of 1141m above sea-level while the sunrise stretches over the mountains is just miraculous.


How to get to Little Adam’s Peak

From Ella town it’s a 1.5km walk to reach the start of the trail to Mini Adam’s Peak.

Tuk-tuk  //  You can take a tuk-tuk from the main street to the start of the trail for 200 LKR ($1).

 
Little Adams Peak, hike
 

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III. jump aboard the famous Train ride from Kandy to Ella

The train from Kandy to Ella is considered one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. And surprisingly but true, it feels like the 7-hour journey is going by way to quickly. 

Cruising along the tracks you’ll experience magnificent views over dense tea fields and green hills, not to mention the amazing authentic and vibrant atmosphere inside of the cabin.

3rd class in particular, is in my opinion the most authentic option. Kids playing a game, which means screaming down every tunnel, vendors walking around selling typical Sri Lankan snacks, while local people are always curious to make a chat.

A window seat on the left(right side if going from Ella to Kandy), a spot at an open door, is where you’ll want to be for the best views. Try grabbing a seat before reaching the most impressive part of the journey: Nanu Oya to Ella.

For me getting a ticket on the day of departing wasn’t that hard. During peak season it’s different. It’s wise to get your ticket 1-2 days in advance or by booking online here.


Cost  // 2nd class: 250 LKR ($1.5) per person, 3rd class: 180 LKR ($1) per person.

Cost booking online  // 1st class reserved AC: 3200 LKR per person ($18), 2nd class reserved no AC: 3000 LKR ($16) per person.  

Train times from Kandy to Ella  // 08:47, 11:10 | For more information about the train schedule click here.

 

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IV. hike to the summit of Ella Rock

The marvelous views when reaching the summit of Ella Rock are worth every bit of the somehow appealing but challenging trail. 

The journey begins by following the train tracks in the direction of Kandy starting at the Ella Railway Station. Along the way you’ll notice tea plantations, waterfalls and countless viewpoints. 

The climb up to the summit of Ella Rock lasts around 2.5 hours and can be quite misleading. To get a more accurate insight about the direction use the app maps.me. Don’t forget to fuel your activities with some snacks and water.


How to get to Ella Rock

Full hike  //  To get a more detailed description of the trail use this step-by-step guide.

Train or Tuk-tuk  // If you’re short in time or not feeling like doing the full hike, this is a good alternative. By taking a train or tuk-tuk from Ella to the Kital Ella Railway Station you trim down the hike by 45-minutes.

 

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v. marvel around at the Ravana falls

Sri Lanka’s widest waterfall is the multi-tiered Ravana Falls. Located at only a 10-minute drive away from Ella town. The 25m high waterfall is positioned almost directly at the winding road that runs in between Ella Rock and Mini Adam’s Peak.

With Ravana Falls being a three-tier waterfall it is possible to climb all the way to the top. On the right side is a path that brings you along both second and third tier-falls. The way up is quite rough and surprisingly difficult. It is not recommended to climb up by yourself, so bringing a local guide is not a luxury.

The Rawana Falls is a popular attraction among locals and foreigners. You do well to plan your visit early morning or late afternoon.


How to get to the Ravana Falls

Tuk-tuk  // It is quite a long and incline walk back to Ella from the Ravana Falls. Taking a tuk-tuk is your best option. Expect a price between 300 - 400 LKR ($1.5 - $2) one-way.

Bus  // All bus journeys that leave Ella to go south will come along the Ravana Falls. The 10-minute bus ride will cost you only 50 LKR ($0.25).

 

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Vi. Join a Tea Factory tour

The circumstances found in the hill country of Sri Lanka are perfectly balanced to cultivate a superior quality of tea. With that being said, you’ll understand that finding a Tea Factory isn’t that hard of a challenge.

Halpewatte tea factory

Leaving Sri Lanka without visiting a Tea Factory is a no-go. In Ella alone you’ll find three factories where you can attend the tea making process while tasting first-class tea. Halpewatte Tea Factory is one of them. Taking a tour here is interesting, educational and an enrichment for the senses.

The other two tea factories in Ella are the Kinnelan Tea Factory and the Ceylon Tea Factory.


Cost  // 500 LKR ($2.75) per person, including tasting of 6 different sort of tea.

Opening hours  // 08:00 am - 16:00 pm, daily

 

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Vii. hike to the top of Diyaluma Falls

Looking for a full day adventure in Ella? The 2nd highest waterfall of Sri Lanka is located just outside of Ella. The 220 meter high Diyaluma Falls involves multiple natural infinity pools overlooking the Badulla region.

The easiest way to reach the hike to Diyaluma Falls is by taking a tuk-tuk from Ella to Poonagala. From here a 30-minute hike will bring you to the top of the waterfall.

The total time of this day trip from Ella is between 4-6 hours depending on how long you plan to stay at the waterfall. It is wise to bring some snacks and water to fuel the hike.

An alternative option is joining a day tour from Ella. This day tour includes a visit to the Diyaluma Falls and a lunch. For prices and availability check here.


How to get to the Diyaluma Falls  //  For a more detailed description of the trail, check this insightful guide.

You can also join a day tour to the Diyaluma Falls.

Cost  // Going to the waterfall is free, getting there with a tuk-tuk is between 3.000 - 5.000 LKR ($16 - $27) round trip.

Tip // Elephants can be active here, so keep an eye out and don’t visit in the dark.

 
Photo by: Jackson Groves |  journeyera.com

Photo by: Jackson Groves | journeyera.com

 

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VIII. do a day tour to Lipton Seat + Dambatenne tea factory

A day trip to Haputale is a great option when in Ella. Haputale is home to the world-famous Lipton Seat and Dambatenne tea factory, built by Sir Thomas Lipton himself. 

The views over Lipton Seat are something else and walking among the tea fields feels like a fairytale. Down the hill you can witness the tea making process during a Dambatenne Tea Factory tour.

To reach Haputale, jump on a train from Ella to Kandy with a stop in Haputale. Please note that a round trip is around 5 hours.

The easy way is by Joining a day tour from Ella. This tour includes a visit to Lipton Seat and a tour at the Dambatenne Tea Factory. For prices and availability check here.


How to get to the Lipton Seat  // Take a train from Ella to Kandy and get out at the Haputale Railway Station. At the station you can get a tuk-tuk straight to Lipton Seat. Cost  // 2.500 - 3.000 LKR ($13 - $16) per person.

Or by joining a day tour to Lipton Seat and the Dambatenne Tea Factory.

entrance cost  // 250 LKR ($1.40) per person

Opening hours  // 09:00 am - 17:00 pm, Monday - Saturday


 

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Where to stay in Ella

98 Acres Resort & Spa  // Luxurious hotel surrounded by lush tea fields at only 8 minutes from the 9 Arch Bridge.

BOOK  //  availability here

Mountain heavens  // Comfortable rooms and an infinity pool overlooking Ella Gap.

BOOK  //  availability here

Rawana Den  // Excellent hotel, near Ella town and with spacious rooms for a decent price.

BOOK  //  availability here

Ella has many interesting accommodations to offer. Find an option that suits your needs on booking.com.


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Where to eat in Ella

Chill Cafe  // By far the most popular restaurant in Ella. The diverse menu includes burgers, local dishes and smoothies.

360 Ella  // Excellent food, a nice atmosphere and live music every now and then. 

Cafe One Love // A nice lounge cafe inspired by Bob Marley. You recognize this by the pleasant vibe.


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Best time to visit Ella

The temperature in Ella is good year round averaging 25 degrees. However there ain’t no such thing as green hills without rainfall. During September and December is the wet season but mornings are still good to go hiking. The best time to visit Ella is during the months January till May.


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How to get to Ella


From Kandy to Ella

Train  // One of the most beautiful train rides in the world is between Kandy and Ella. A scenic 6 - 7 hour ride brings you along green hills and lush tea fields.

Travel time: 6 - 7 hours.

Cost  // 2nd class: 250 LKR ($1.5) per person, 3rd class: 180 LKR ($1) per person.


From Yala National Park (Tissamaharama) to ella

Bus  // From Tissa take a direct bus to Bandarawela with a stop in Ella.

Cost  // 200 - 250 LKR ($1 - $1.5)

Travel time  //  2.5 - 3 hours


From Arugam Bay to Ella

Bus  // Pottuvil - Monaragala - Wellawaya - Ella | This journey requires switching busses often.

Cost  // 300 - 600 LKR ($2 - $3.5)

Travel time  //  3-3.5 hours

Tuk-tuk  //  A tuk-tuk from Ella to Arugam Bay takes around 3 hours. This journey gives you a perfect opportunity to get your first glimpse of the beauty that Ella has to offer. 

Cost  // 5.000 - 5.500 LKR ($27 - $30)

Travel time  //  2.5 - 3 hours


 
What to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
 

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