Having recently spent two weeks in Sri Lanka, the one memorable place that stood out the most to me was Ella. It’s a must-visit in any Sri Lanka itinerary.
It’s the perfect region for many outdoor activities such as hiking, canyoneering along waterfalls and wandering around tea plantations. In this Ella travel guide I’ve listed all the most awesome things you can do while in Ella.
- 1 About Ella
- 2 10 best things to do in Ella
- 2.1 Hike Little Adam’s Peak
- 2.2 Visit Nine Arch Bridge
- 2.3 Hike Ella Rock
- 2.4 Chill at the pool of Mountain Heavens
- 2.5 Visit Ravana Falls
- 2.6 Swim and go canyoneering in Diyaluma Falls
- 2.7 Visit a tea plantation
- 2.8 Attend a cooking class
- 2.9 Do a safari day trip to Udawalawe National Park!
- 2.10 Ride the scenic train to/from Kandy
- 3 Where to stay in Ella
Ella is a small laid-back town located in the central region of Sri Lanka.
It’s famous for many outdoor activities that can be done in the different tourist hotspots of this small town – such as hiking in the trails and rock formations as well as chilling out in waterfalls.
Unlike the chaotic and frenzied streets of Colombo and Kandy, the town of Ella has a very chilled backpacker vibe that is sure to make you feel relaxed and where you can wind down from the stress of travel.
10 best things to do in Ella
To give you a kick start to your trip to this small peaceful Sri Lankan town, here are the 10 best things than you can do while in Ella.
Hike Little Adam’s Peak
If you’re not feeling up to the challenge of hiking Adam’s Peak (no shame in that, I didn’t do it either) in Ella you’ll find a worthy alternative; Little Adam’s Peak.
The best time to start your hike is just before sunrise – when it is not too hot yet and you’ll be able to see a stunning sunrise over the hills and mountaintops.
It takes around 30 to 40 minutes to reach the top of Little Adam’s Peak from the town centre of Ella. The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, you will be able to navigate your way quite easily.
The surrounding mountains are quite high which means that the sun starts rising and the sky will start lightening well before the sun actually makes it past the mountains.
This makes the hike even easier as you can easily do it without torches and you’ll still be able to enjoy the sunrise.
Visit Nine Arch Bridge
Also known as the Bridge in the Sky, the Nine Arch Bridge is famous for its super tall arches, which you can walk on directly along the train tracks. It is located close to the town of Ella.
While walking on top of the tall arches, you will be met with breathtaking views of tea plantations down below and peaks of mountains overhead.
If you want to get the perfect shot with the iconic blue train on the bridge, you can check the times of departure and arrival of the trains and synch it up with your schedule.
Hike Ella Rock
Ella Rock is another great hike in Ella. It is more challenging than Little Adams Peak, but it’s well worth it as the views above are simply stunning.
What makes it more challenging than Little Adams Peak is that it’s not marked at all. While the terrain itself is pretty easy to walk on, it is only the final part that is quite steep. It can take up to four hours return in order to finish the hike.
I recommend setting off by mid-afternoon when the temperature starts to cool down a bit. I suggest to only wait for the sunset at the peak if you have the proper equipment for the way down: torches and hiking shoes.
The return is quite sleep and to be frank, I wouldn’t want to do it in the dark.
You can easily visit these three attractions alone, however if you prefer to be accompanied by a guide you can visit Little Adam’s Peak, Nine Arch Bridge and Ella Rock all together in a one day Ella highlights tour.
Chill at the pool of Mountain Heavens
It’s named ‘Mountain Heavens’ for a reason.
For only 550 LKR, you can access the pool at the Mountain Heavens Hotel for one hour. (Although it’s worth noting that we stayed for more than one hour but nobody approached us to complain or ask for more money.)
This pool is the perfect escape from the heat and strain of the outdoor activities. It’s an affordable place to chill out for a while if you’re staying in a hotel that does not have a pool.
This infinity pool has epic views over the tea plantations and mountains of Ella.
Visit Ravana Falls
Ravana Falls sports beautiful clear waters falling from a height of about 25 meters. You can take a dip, swim, enjoy and walk around during your visit.
They are a short 15-minute drive away from the centre of Ella and you can easily reach them by tuk-tuk or scooter.
Swim and go canyoneering in Diyaluma Falls
Compared to Ravana Falls, Diyaluma Falls is a bit further away from Ella but also considerably cooler. We paid 7,000 LKR to rent a car with driver to take us there.
Once you reach the parking area, there will be locals who will offer to be your guides and take you to Diyaluma Falls for 2000 LKR. I would recommend using a guide as the trail isn’t well marked and it’s difficult to find the falls without one.
At the top of Diyaluma Falls you will find rock pools at the edge of a 220-meter drop that you can swim in. Couple that with epic views that will take your breath away and you have a winner.
You can then walk your way up the river and there are three other smaller waterfalls that you can swim in.
There are natural rock slides that you can slide down and there is spot where you can do a 7m jump into the waterfall – it’s like nature’s own original version of a water park!
Visiting Diyaluma Falls was one of my favourite days in Sri Lanka.
Visit a tea plantation
As mentioned earlier, overlooking the Nine Arch Bridges are the tea plantations that Ella is famous for. While Sri Lanka has lots of tea plantations, it is the ones in Ella that receive the most attention.
I visited Lipton’s Seat in Haputale, and loved going there and enjoying the salt in my hair and the aroma of tea wafting through me. It was the tea plantation that used to produce Sri Lanka’s largest export – the yellow-branded Lipton Tea.
In the morning, take a short train ride to Haputale. Once you get off the train station, ride a tuk-tuk to get up top of Lipton’s Seat. You have two choices: you can either walk around yourself or do an organized tuk-tuk walking tour.
Attend a cooking class
Another activity to add on your list of things to do while in Ella is to attend a cooking class. This is the perfect opportunity to learn how to cook your own rice and curry – the traditional and most typical Sri Lankan dish.
They will usually also teach you about the ingredients used in Sri Lankan cuisine, and the history and heritage that surrounds each dish. There are lots of local family-run restaurants in Ella that offer cooking classes.
I suggest that if you have dinner in a specific restaurant and really enjoy the food, just ask the restaurant runners about it, they might organise cooking classes and you can book directly with them!
Do a safari day trip to Udawalawe National Park!
Udawalawe National Park is a 2-hour drive away from Ella, and since the best time to do a safari is at sunrise, be ready for an early wake up! We woke up at 4:30AM and were on the road by 5AM in order to make the morning 7AM safari.
Be ready to see tons of elephants in the national park, but also lots of other cool animals like crocodiles and buffaloes lazing around. We saw our first elephant even before crossing the park gates!
If you do the safari as a day trip from Ella you should be back in time for lunch. Our hostel organized our safari day trip for 5,000 LKR per person with a minimum of five heads in order to start the tour.
Ride the scenic train to/from Kandy
When it comes time to leave Ella, make sure you do so by train! The train route from Kandy to Ella is known as one of the most beautiful train routes in the world – and for good reason!
All throughout the journey you will see stunning mountains and tea plantations. Make sure to book a ticket beforehand or you might end up standing for the whole journey (which can be up to seven hours if you’re going to Kandy)!
Book a third class seat if you want to live this experience like the locals, and get those shots with the whole train snaking behind you.
Pictures and videos posted all over the web fall short on capturing the breathtaking view that I managed to see while riding the train back to Kandy.
Where to stay in Ella
If you are travelling on a budget your best bet is the Hangover Hostels, conveniently located within a few minutes from the Ella railway station and town centre.
Just like its other branches all over Sri Lanka, it offers a tree house-like feel with good housekeeping, good food and good hospitality.
They’re also very sociable hostels and you’re guaranteed to meet new friends. I definitely recommend it.
For a more medium-tiered budget (or for those for which 1 hour of swimming pool chilling isn’t enough) why not try Mountain Heavens? Besides an epic pool with view they have comfy rooms and good food.
If you want a luxurious experience you can stay at The One Ella, just outside the city centre it offers a secluded forest experience and excellent service.
Final thoughts on the best things to do in Ella
Ella – a small town paradise, hidden in between mountains and tea plantations, the perfect place to enjoy nature while being connected to it through outdoor activities.
Have you been to Ella before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below! I hope you find this Ella travel guide useful in planning your own time in Ella.
Looking for more Sri Lanka travel advice? Check out my guides:
- Plan your elephant safari in Sri Lanka
- Hike Pidurangala Rock + epic view over Sigiriya
- Discover the beautiful Dalawella Beach swing
- Best things to do in Mirissa