Exploring Ella

A mountain villa, charming tourist town, and days of adventure. Ella was our next destination in Sri Lanka.

We finished part 2 of one of the prettiest train rides in the world on our way to the town of Ella. The entire train ride from Kandy to Ella can be 7-8 hours, which is why we made the stop in Nuwara Eliya to break it up.

Ella is a small town located in the highlands of Sri Lanka, filled with mountains, waterfalls, and beautiful tea estates. It is a popular tourist area for hiking because of the breathtaking views (like the one above). Along with the abundance of nature, there are also some historical sites. It’s a perfect getaway from the busier cities and one of our favorites so far from our time in Sri Lanka.

Train to Ella

This ride was a little different than our first one because we were in 2nd class this time. This meant OPEN windows and doors! Somehow our seats ended up between windows again but this didn’t matter because we spent most of the ride dangling our feet out the door of the train. 

For both our tickets, it was about $5 total. The train left the station around 12:30 pm and took about 3.3 hours from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. This time the train seemed less busy, which was weird since it was Saturday. But this was obviously only better for us!

On the way to Ella, most of the views of tea plantations were on the left side of the train. Because of this, no one cared to look out the right side, leaving the doorway empty. We sat down and enjoyed the ride, waving at locals as we passed, watching monkeys jump back from the tracks, and watching the train curve around the tracks. It was so much fun!

Arriving in Ella

When we arrived in Ella, our homestay picked us up at the station in a tuk-tuk because it was a bit out of town (30 min by foot or 10 by tuk-tuk). But even at a distance from town, this was our favorite accommodation yet!

Our room was not connected to the rest of the house but sat above it on the hill. We had a patio with an AMAZING view of the surrounding hills. The bed was SO comfy and the water got so HOT! The hottest shower we’ve had in all of Sri Lanka. Remember the cold showers from the yoga retreat? This was a luxury. 

Upon arrival, we were served tea with bananas and crackers to snack on (which was nice because we were HUNGRY). We sat on our terrace, taking in the mountain views and were overwhelmed with a sense of peace. 

We took it easy that afternoon and even ate dinner at our guesthouse. During dinner, our host family was so kind to help us plan out our first full day of exploring Ella. They gave us recommendations of places to go and even knew the times that the train would cross the famous Nine Arch Bridge. 

Nine Arch Bridge

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast, watching the colorful birds fly from tree to tree. Then, we headed to a small waterfall, Little Ravana Falls, a short walk from our accommodation. At the falls, there was a group of young boys playing hand drums and singing. It was a neat thing to see. 

We walked to town along the railroad tracks and got lunch at Cafe Chill, a popular restaurant in town. Then, we headed to the Nine Arch Bridge and waited for the train to pass.

Since this is one of the TOP things to do in Ella, it was pretty crowded. To avoid the crowds, it’s best to go early in the morning. But, even with the crowd, it was cool to see the train pass by over the bridge.

Hiking Little Adam’s Peak

By now it was mid-afternoon so after the train passed, we headed to hike Little Adam’s Peak for sunset. Little Adam’s Peak is a shorter hike, about 30 minutes to the top. It is fairly easy but has LOTS of steps. At 1141 meters, it is called “Little” Adam’s Peak because it resembles the shape of a famous mountain a few hours away called “Adam’s Peak” which is almost double the size.

At the top of Little Adam’s Peak

From the top, the views were stunning. We were right across from Ella Rock (the next hike we planned to do). We found a spot to sit and watch the sunset. Before it was completely dark, we headed back down so we had some light. By the time we reached the bottom, bright colors filled the sky.

We took a tuk-tuk back to town and ate at a small restaurant called Matey Hut. It was delicious with so many curries to choose from. Sam tried 4 different curries including banana flower curry. Ty of course had Vegetable Kottu, his favorite dish in Sri Lanka. 

View of Ella Rock from the Little Adam’s Peak Trail

Tour by Tuk-Tuk

The next morning we woke up early for our tour with one of the family members who run the guesthouse. We were driven to many different viewpoints and some exciting stops in the area. It was a long day but we stopped at so many cool places and even swam in a waterfall pool.

Lipton’s Seat

After breakfast, we headed to Lipton’s Seat. We drove through a large tea plantation before arriving at the misty view. You’ve probably heard of Lipton Tea before right? Lipton’s seat is a viewpoint located in the midst of a large tea plantation where Sir Thomas Lipton surveyed the land of his tea empire.

Diyaluma Falls

After Lipton’s Seat, we visited Diyaluma Falls. This waterfall is Sri Lanka’s 2nd tallest waterfall and #361 in the world! In total it is roughly 772 feet tall.

Our driver had his friend take us on the hike up to the falls and showed us the different parts, swimming pools and viewpoints. Most people just go to the infinity pools at the front so we basically had the first pool all to ourselves (minus a mom and son for a little bit).

The water felt so wonderful and we swam for about 30 minutes. Ty even jumped from the small ledge into the pool We saw some brave travellers jumping off the 7-meter tall fall in the middle but were NOT brave enough to do it ourselves!

Looking down from the last part was a bit scary as it was the largest part of the falls. But check out this interesting view from the bottom:

Ravana Falls

Our next stop was another waterfall, Ravana Falls which have a viewing point right along the road. We stopped to take in this beautiful 82-foot tall waterfall. This island is truly beautiful. There were many visitors here (monkeys included) since it is right alongside the road. We saw some people getting in the water at the bottom but we don’t think this is allowed since the police started whistling and waving at them.

Cultural Sites

We had two more stops for the day, the Ravana Cave and the Dowa Rock Temple.

The Ravana Cave is a large cave that is said to connect, not only to the Dowa Rock Temple but various other cave systems in the area. It requires a LOT of steps to get up to. The cave was super dark and we are pretty sure we saw a few bats fly out.

The second temple, the Dowa Rock Temple, was much different. This temple has a large 38 ft tall Buddha carved into the rock outside and is estimated to be over 2,000 years old. Inside the temple, there are many beautiful murals of Buddha’s life, as well as, a number of different Buddha statues.

We walked around the different rooms admiring the art and were told about a residential cobra that lives in a cave outside. Apparently, they feed it eggs sometimes and it was seen the week before. Sam was happy it wasn’t there that day but Ty was a little disappointed because that would have been cool to see!

After a long day of exploring, we headed back to the guesthouse and had a delicious dinner, before crashing for the night, we had a big morning ahead of us. 

Hiking Ella Rock

The hike to Ella Rock was a little over 3.5 miles round trip from the Kital Ella Train Station and took us just over 3 hours (including the time we sat to watch the sunrise).

We woke up at 4 am to get dressed for our sunrise hike. Our host family brought us tea and bananas at 4:30 am (how kind!) and we headed out with a member of the family that runs the guest house at 4:45. Navigating the hike can be quite difficult so he was kind enough to help get us started.

Luckily the trail was mapped on AllTrails and we downloaded it the night before, so we knew where to go.  He gave us flashlights and to our surprise, they even packed a thermos for tea, bananas, and biscuits for us to enjoy once we made it up to the top.

We hiked up the steep slope in the dark, hoping not to see anything spooky like a leopard or giant spiders. The only animal we did see was a dog, who stayed with us for a while (just like Scrappy from Plitvice Lakes). This made us feel a bit safer because we figured if there was anything dangerous the dog would bark as a warning (at least we hoped!).  

We made it to the top just as daylight started to come through. We pulled out our thermos and drank some tea while watching the sunrise over the hilly horizon. The early morning hike was definitely worth it!

We made it back to the guesthouse around 8:30 and to our surprise, breakfast was served! We thought the packed meal would be our breakfast for the day. This was a nice surprise since we had definitely worked up an appetite. We took it easy the rest of the day, besides going to dinner and made plans for our next week. 

Farewell to Ella

In the morning, the family’s brother took us by tuk-tuk to the next town where the buses start. Sometimes, there are no seats left by the time it gets to Ella so this ensured we would have a seat for this 4-hour journey. We said our farewells and were off to the coast! 

From waterfalls to viewpoint hikes, this is such a beautiful place. The weather is so comfortable, warm in the day but cool at night. Ella might be one of our top favorite places in Sri Lanka. Although it is super touristy, we really enjoyed the hiking and the nature in the area! It is a must-see if you ever plan to go!

Until next time,

Sam and Ty