As we rolled into Ella I was surprised by the number of tourists walking around with huge backpacks. I had imagined we were coming to a relatively untouched and less touristy part of the country. But after exploring for a few days, hiking the picturesque green hills, walking along forgotten railway tracks and sipping all the tea I could get my hands on, I completely understood the influx of tourism. Heading to Sri Lanka’s mountain haven? Here are the 8 best things to do in Ella Sri Lanka.
1. Hike to Little Adam’s Peak Sri Lanka
Little Adam’s Peak in Ella is just one of the many awesome walks in Sri Lanka. Now, I say walk because it’s known to be one of the easiest hikes in Ella. The climb to the top of Little Adam’s Peak Ella Sri Lanka should take you just over an hour from the centre of town. Most of the walk is flat however the last 10 minutes are made up completely of stairs. Don’t worry though, there will be a number of people on their way down ready to offer encouragement. And the view at the top is worth that last little struggle up the hill. I’d recommend heading off from town quite early (7 am) as, like most of the Ella tourist attractions, Little Adam’s Peak can get pretty busy.
2. Play Daredevil on Nine Arche Bridge Ella
One of the best things to do in Ella Sri Lanka is walk along the Nine Arche Bridge. This dizzying high arched bridge was built by the British in 1921 and looks like something out of Harry Potter. I’d recommend heading up to the Nine Arch Bridge View Point (it’s noted on Maps.me) first to get the view of the whole bridge from above. And then wander down the 2km track to the bridge itself. Where you can play around and snap a few pics. #doingitfortheinsta. If you time your visit right, you can also catch a train going past.
One other thing to note. Nine Arches Bridge and Little Adams Peak can be done in a loop. It will take you about 3 hours to do them both and you don’t need to head back into town at all. It’s a great way to start your day and they are definitely two of the best things to see in Ella Sri Lanka. I’d start with Little Adam’s Peak first as it seems to be busier. Your hotel should be able to help you out with a walking route. Otherwise, all the trails are marked on Maps.me
3. Take a Day Trip to Haputale
One of the best things to do in Ella Sri Lanka actually involves leaving and taking a day trip to Haputale. If you’re excited by the history of the tea fields and want to experience where Mr Lipton (of Lipton’s Tea) himself ran plantations, then this is one of the places to visit in Ella. The views from the top of Lipton’s seat, where Mr Lipton used to take in his multitude of tea fields is supposedly stunning (I wouldn’t know as the day we went it was pouring with rain and completely cloudy… Fail). Other things to do in Haputale while you’re here are visiting the Adisham Monastery. A Benedictine Monastery founded in the 13th Century. It’s open on the weekend for tours. You can also take a tour of the Dambatenne Tea Factory for Rs. 250 per person. I probably wouldn’t recommend this tea factory as the tour felt very rushed and you didn’t even get to sample the tea after!? Sacrilege.
4. Try the Serious Hikes – Ella Rock and Adam’s Peak
If you’re a serious hiker and wondering what to do in Ella Sri Lanka, then this is the tip for you! Apart from Little Adam’s Peak, there are two other stunning hikes in Ella – Adam’s Peak and Ella Rock. I have to admit, I didn’t hike either of these two myself as I was with my parents and the thought of two hikes was a little daunting for them. However, Ella Rock Sri Lanka is meant to be a super nice three-hour round trip hike (10 km in total). You can find in-depth directions here. Adam’s Peak, on the other hand, is a much tougher overnight Ella hike. It takes about 6-hours round trip and includes some 5,500 steps. Out. You can find a full guide to hiking Adam’s Peak here.
5. Ride the World’s Most Beautiful Train Journey
If you were wondering what to see in Ella Sri Lanka, your journey in may have answered your quetions. The railway that runs from Kandi to Ella is meant to be one of the most picturesque in the world. And an Ella attraction in it’s own right. It’s also a super cheap way to get around the countryside. (Tickets go for around $10 USD for first class). My biggest tip would be to book well in advance. At least three days if you’re there in high season. You can either head to one of the local stations to book (it can be any station) or head to a travel agent. They may charge a little extra though.
6. Gobble up Delicious Street Food
There are a number of really nice restaurants in Ella. However, I was the most impressed by the street-food. Steaming hot and spicy vegetable samosas; super naughty Nutella and banana roti; and the delicious curd with treacle, which is actually made in Ella and tastes a little like a funky yoghurt layered with honey. Trying all of this incredible street-food was one of my favourite things to do in Ella Sri Lanka.
7. Sip Tea at the Halpewatte Tea Factory
The Halpewatte tea factory Ella is one of the most popular tea factories in Sri Lanka. It’s also the largest in the region. And is only 5 minutes by tuk-tuk from Ella. Your friendly guide will take you on a step-by-step tour of the entire tea process. And once you’re finished you’re treated to a yummy tea tasting The tour will cost you 450 LKR (around $3 USD) per person. If you’re a tea lover, a Halpewatte tea factory tour should definitely be on your list of things to do around Ella Sri Lanka. Just make sure you double check that they are producing tea on that day. As otherwise, the tour will be pretty boring.
8. Go Back in Time While Wandering Along the Train Tracks
For anyone who grew up reading the Famous Five, the fact that you can just wander along the train tracks here (and the fact that everybody does it) really made me feel like I’d gone back in time. Pretty much any walk you do will have you wandering along the picturesque tracks greeting locals as they walk by. If you’re heading to Ella, make sure you don’t miss out on this unique experience.
Where to Stay in Ella Sri Lanka
One of the best things about this part of the world is that all the hotels in Ella Sri Lanka are up in the hills looking out over an incredible view. There are a number of awesome places to stay in Ella, from hotels, to homestays and hostels. Overall homestays definitely seem to be everywhere in Ella. But my top picks across all options are below.
Ella Daily Budget
Ella is definitely not as expensive as other touristic areas of Sri Lanka. As you’ll do a lot of walking most of the things to do in Ella Sri Lanka are free! We spent about $30 USD per person per day. Staying at a homestay, which included breakfast and eating out for dinner every night.
How to Get to Ella
ON THE CHEAP:
If you’re looking to get to Ella on the cheap the train is your best option. First class is airconditioned and will cost you only $10 USD for the 6-hour trip from Kandy. If you’re arriving from Colombo you can take a bus to Colombo Fort and then a train from there.
You can also get to Ella from Colombo by bus. Take a bus to Colombo Fort. And then from there take the bus to Badulla. Ask the driver to let you off at Kumbalwela junction which is about 10 km from Bandarawela. From here it’s about 5km to Ella, so you can take a tuk-tuk or another bus. There’s a great guide on getting to Ella on the cheap here.
GOT DA CASH:
The quickest and easiest way to get to Ella is by private taxi. We took a taxi from Udawalewe National Park. It took 4 hours and cost 10,000 LKR (around $65 USD). Ask around for a few price options before booking your taxi, as you’ll find they vary quite a bit.