2 days in Ella – Sri Lanka
Ella is the most visited town in Hill Country among foreign travellers. During the drive from the train station to our guesthouse I was shocked to see how touristy such a small town can get. The cafés and restaurants are “westernised” and there are countless guesthouses and B&Bs.
It is that touristy for a reason. It is located in the middle of the beautiful Hill Country of Sri Lanka and offers perfect hiking trails. I spent 1,5 days/1 night in Ella and couldn’t get enough of the beautiful views.
In this blog post: Hike to Little Adam's Peak Nine Arch Bridge Hike around Ella Rock Rawana Waterfall and Ella Gap Things to do around Ella Where to stay in Ella Where to eat in Ella How to get around in Ella How to get to/from Ella Ella or Nuwara Eliya or both? What to pack for Ella?
This tiny town is situated at an altitude of 1,041 metres above the sea level. Ella is surrounded by hills covered with cloud forests and tea plantations. In recent years Ella became so popular among foreign travellers that almost every week a new guesthouse or a B&B opens. This also brings it disadvantages that the town is more or less dependent of tourism and it looses its authenticity.
What to do and see in Ella
Hike to Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak is the easiest hiking trail in Ella. The beginning of the trail is only 20 minutes away from downtown. And hiking up to the peak takes about another 40 minutes, if you take it slowly and enjoy the views through the tea plantations while you’re hiking.
The pyramid shaped rock is called Little Adam’s Peak as it is a lighter version of the famous Adam’s Peak. It sits directly on the opposite side of Ella Rock so that you have beautiful views over the hills.
The path up the hill of Little Adam`s Peak is super easy to find as it is marked by signs. I told to you that Ella is very touristy and sometimes it has its advantages too.
The whole hiking trip takes about 2-3 hours. On my way back I turned right to find a café or restaurant for a refreshment. I followed the signs of 98 Acres Resort. From the terrace café/restaurant they have spectacular views. The service however was not so good and we were not even able to order something. On the way back we made a stop at “Coconut Passion” and had the best refreshment drink ever. King coconut juice mixed with passion fruit. You’ve got to try it!
At the beginning of the hiking path there are tuk tuk drivers waiting, in case you don’t want to walk to downtown or your guesthouse. It costs 200 LKR. Remember! Always negotiate with the tuk tuk drivers.
Nine Arch Bridge
The beautiful Nine Arch Bridge of stone is situated between Ella and Demodara train station. The stone bridge is almost 100 years and is absolutely worth seeing if you’re in Ella.
From Ella downtown it takes approx. 50 minutes walk to reach the railway. It might be confusing to find the right way. Before you arrive the beginning of Little Adam’s Peak’s path, keep left on the main road. You will see a small colourful Hindu shrine. Follow the dusty road next to the small pond and climb up the cement road.
At the end of the cement road you’ll find again a soil path where you might think you’re on the wrong way. You’re not. Trust me. Don’t be confused that you might be walking between the gardens of private houses.
Follow the road (which does not appear like a road) and climb up for a while. At some point you’ll see the bridge from above. Now, you can either stop here and watch the train coming from here and if you have tele lenses you can even take good pictures. Or you follow the path, now downwards for another 10-15 minutes to get closer to railway of the Nine Arch Bridge.
The train passes through around 9:20 am and 10:50 am. I tried to catch the train at 9:20 am before starting my hike to Little Adam’s Peak. Unfortunately I was a bit late so that I did not manage to walk down to get closer and stayed at the first view point. But I could clearly hear the train and see the blue train passing over the bridge and going through the tunnel. It was pretty cool. So don’t miss it!
Hike around Ella Rock
Since I was in too many hiking tours in the last days I decide to skip Ella Rock, but from the terrace of my room I could see this giant rock looming over the Ella town. Hiking around Ella Rock is not as easy as it sounds, which is one of the reasons that it is recommended to hire a guide for the hiking tour.
The hiking tour might take 4-5 hours and I’m told it is way harder than climbing Little Adam’s Peak. The hike tour combines rail track (first 1.5 km) and tea plantations. It might be foggy (hike very early in the morning to avoid it) and slippery, so you need to be pretty careful around here.
The paths are not marked with signs and it is very possible that you get lost. So do not save money here and hire a local guide. I heard they ask for 1500 LKR (10 US$). It is not much money for your safety.
Rawana Waterfall and Ella Gap
Ella Gap is as its name says is a gap between the mountains which surround Ella. From that gap, you can see the ocean. 5 km away from Ella Gap you can find the 25 meters high Ratana Waterfalls. Be warned about the annoying souvenirs sellers. On your way back you can catch a bus to downtown Ella (~10 LKR).
Things to do around Ella
Scenic train ride to Badulla
From Ella train station you can catch the train and go to Badulla for beautiful views of Hill Country. Badulla is only couple of stations away and the ride takes about 30-45 minutes.
From Ella one train departs at 1:36 pm and one at 15:15. From Badulla the last train departs at 5:50 pm.
Read next: Epic Train Ride in Sri Lanka
Where to stay in Ella
I stayed at Leisure Dream Inn which has the best views you can ever imagine. The rooms are nicely decorated, clean and spacious. And the breakfast! It was simply the BEST breakfast I had in Sri Lanka… Plus the view from the terrace is just priceless. You have Ella Rock just in front of you.
Leisure Dream Inn is managed by three brothers. Their mother prepare the best breakfast ever. The father is a police officer. As we were hiking up Little Adam’s Peak he was there and recognised us and came to talk to us. His wife described us as “big” couple (he meant our figures) and he knew who we were 🙂 It was kind of a funny situation.
Their youngest son is also a tuk tuk driver and will take you around if you need it.
Where to eat in Ella
There are countless restaurants in Ella. And you can find everything for every taste. Just look around and decide. Our host recommended Chill Café to have dinner. At the very second you enter the café-bar you realise that it is the meeting point of the western travellers. The menu offers meals from local cuisine and western meals such as burgers. The service, food and drinks were all ok but if I had another day I would have gone to another place for a little more local touch.
How to get around in Ella
Ella town is tiny so within the borders of the downtown everything is manageable on foot. If you are a bit lazy a tuk tuk drive would cost not more than 200 LKR.
TIP: Arrange a pick up service with your guesthouse or hotel for your arrival.
How to get to/from Ella
The best way to come to Ella is with the train from Kandy or Colombo. In Kandy if you catch the train at 11:10 you’ll arrive Ella around 6-7 pm. 2nd class train ticket (without reserved seats) costs only 160 LKR. From Ella train station you can either go to Badulla or to Colombo.
If you made a stop at Nuwara Eliya like me, you can catch the train in Nanu Oya at 12:40 pm and you’ll arrive in Ella at 15:15. From the train station in Ella (Elle) to downtown with Tuk Tuk it takes 10 minutes for 200 LKR.
If you want to head south of Sri Lanka, take the bus from the main road to Wellawaya and change here for any destination in the south of Sri Lanka, like Tissa (Tissamaharama), Tangalle and Matara. In Matara there is again a big Bus Station from where you can move forward to the rather western provinces, such as, Mirissa, Weligama, Unawatuna, Galle, and Hikkaduwa.
I moved forward to Tissa to visit Yala National Park, to the south of Sri Lanka. Twice a day (8:30 am and 12:30 pm) there is a direct bus from Ella to Tissa from the main road.
Ella or Nuwara Eliya or both?
That is the question I asked myself while i was planning my itinerary. Many suggested to pick one as they are very similar nature-wise. I didn’t and I don’t regret it.
Ella is more popular among young travellers, maybe because it has more facilities such as bars, cafés, restaurants with more western menus, supermarkets, and so on. But there is a downside of it all, that it is not really authentic. But also here you can enjoy the most beautiful nature hiking in Ella’s Rock and Little Adam’s Peak.
Nuwara Eliya doesn’t have all that what Ella has. But, therefore it remained more or less untouched and authentic.
So both have their pros and contras. If you have enough time anyway, visit both towns. If you have only a limited time, choose according your priorities. Do you want to meet other young fellow travellers and find something familiar? Then Ella is probably the better choice for you.
What to pack for Ella?
- Steady Shoes for hiking
- Good (video) camera to capture the beautiful landscapes
- Fleece Jacket for cool evenings and mornings
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For more insights from real pros I recommend Lonely Planet's Travel Guide for Sri Lanka. For price worthy accommodation check Booking.com or Agoda.com.
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