Thanks to the beautiful scenery in the area, Ella has become a popular stop for travellers in Sri Lanka. The small town is the perfect place to spend a few days hiking to fantastic viewpoints and enjoying the laid back vibe. Even the journey there is filled with amazing views if you opt to go by train, as the journey from Kandy as is considered to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world! After visiting in December 2017, we’d definitely recommend stopping off in Ella – so check out these tips for travelling Sri Lanka before you start your trip! If you’re looking for hotels in this part of Sri Lanka, click here to find out the best places to stay in Ella or go straight to Agoda to see some brilliant properties at great prices. The rest of what you need to know is covered in this complete travel guide to Ella.
Planning a trip to Sri Lanka but not sure what to pack? Check out this guide of what to pack for Sri Lanka to make sure you’ve got everything you need for an amazing trip!
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How to get to Ella, Sri Lanka
Train – Undoubtedly the best way to travel to Ella is by train. The ride from Kandy to Ella is known for being one of the most beautiful in the world, and really should be included on any Sri Lanka itinerary. There are 3 trains running daily on this route, with the journey taking around 6-7 hours in total.
When coming from Kandy, the views from both sides of the train are equally good. Earlier in the journey the right side has better views, but later on the left side get them. In our opinion both sides are equally good, however some people seem to think the right side has better views overall.
It’s also possible to travel from Colombo to Ella via train, however most services don’t follow the route from Kandy to Ella – meaning you’ll miss out on spectacular views. Schedule and pricing information is easily found on the Sri Lanka Railways journey planner, with prices starting at 125 rupees from Kandy to Ella, and 270 rupees from Colombo to Ella.
If you’re planning on travelling to Ella by train, make sure to check out our guide to public transport in Sri Lanka.
Bus – Direct buses run from Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, but from most other major cities you’ll have to make at least one change. If you’re planning on travelling via bus from elsewhere, we recommend checking out this guide on getting to Ella. Although buses are relatively cheap in Sri Lanka, we’d recommend travelling to Ella via train due to the amazing views.
Getting around Ella, Sri Lanka
As Ella is relatively small, it’s easy enough to get around the town itself by walking. It’s even possible to reach most of the attractions in the area on foot, so unless you’re planning to go further afield then renting a bike isn’t necessary.
If you find yourself wanting a lift, tuk tuks are cheap – but make sure to negotiate a good price and don’t settle for the original price quoted to you.
Best time to visit Ella, Sri Lanka
The best time of year to visit Ella is from January to March, as these months bring the driest weather to this part of Sri Lanka. Visiting at this time means you’ll be able to enjoy hikes and the surrounding nature with less chance of rain affecting your stay.
Monsoon season in Ella is between July and November, and so it’s best to avoid visiting at this time if possible. That being said, you should expect the occasional downpour whenever you visit, as this is what keeps the area’s scenery so green.
For the rest of the year though, Ella is a great place to visit as long as you aren’t put off by a bit of rain. The hottest month is April, although this brings more rain to the area than January-March.
Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
Nine arch bridge – While the thought of visiting a bridge may not immediately strike you as particularly interesting, it’s actually a combination of the picturesque location and bridge itself that make this spot worth a visit. The beautifully designed bridge cuts through Sri Lanka’s lush countryside surrounded by tea plantations and forest.
If you time your visit well you’ll be able to watch a train pass over the bridge, which makes for a great photo opportunity. To ensure this you’re best to ask a local in advance when trains are expected – although keep in mind that they sometimes can run very late!
The arches themselves are best viewed from below or by the tunnel. To reach the nine arch bridge from Ella you can either walk or take a tuk tuk. It’s possible to walk along the tracks from Ella’s train station or take a route close to the little Adam’s peak hike. For the latter we’d recommend using the app maps.me so that you don’t get lost. A tuk tuk should cost around 500 rupees one way.
Ravana falls – One of the most popular things to do when in Ella is visit Ravana falls – one of the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. Around 5km outside of the town, the falls stand at 25m high and are located right next to the main road. As an added bonus there are a number of monkeys in the area surrounding the falls
Although it’s possible to cool off in falls, be extremely careful if you choose to as there have been over 30 deaths here. To reach the falls you’ll either need to rent a bike or hire a tuk tuk for a return journey (which should cost around 1000 rupees).
While we did enjoy our visit to Ravana falls, we recommend clicking here to read our Nuwara Eliya guide to see some of our favourite waterfalls in Sri Lanka.
Ella rock – If you’re looking to do some hiking, Ella rock should be the first place on your list. At the top you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Sri Lanka’s hill country, with greenery stretching as far as you can see.
The easiest way to do the hike is to follow this guide by Atlas and Boots, as they break down the directions into simple steps. It’s important to know that a number of locals will try to lead you a different route so that when you’re lost they can offer their services as a guide in exchange for payment. If you stick to the guide above though, you can’t go wrong.
Towards the end of the hike it becomes very steep depending on the route you take. Although the steeper route is quicker and more direct, it’s a lot tougher so it’s up to you if you’d rather take the long way round.
Once you’re at the top, make sure to check out the 2nd viewpoint, which is around 500m to the right of Ella rock. The view here is well worth taking in as well and is less crowded than Ella rock itself.
In total the hike should take around 3-4 hours round trip, with the start point being Ella railway station.
Little Adam’s peak – For wonderful views without the need to hike for a few hours, little Adam’s peak is the place to go. It’s an easier alternative to Ella rock, with a much shorter trail to reach the top. Although the majority of the path is relatively steady, there is a tougher stretch of stairs to reach the peak at the end.
At the top there are fantastic views of Sri Lanka’s picturesque countryside in every direction. It’s a very popular spot to visit for sunrise or sunset, as the colours make this scenic spot even more special! The trail is well marked and so there are no issues doing it in low light.
The trail can be found next to Ella flower garden resort, from which it should only take around 30 minutes to reach the peak.
Where to eat in Ella
Matey Hut – A great option for good quality Sri Lankan food on a budget. With only a few tables available, you’ll need to arrive early to avoid a wait. Meals start from around 300 rupees, with the chicken kottu being one of our favourite options. If you’re looking for a cooking class in Ella they are offered here, but spaces are limited so it’s best to book a couple of days in advance.
Ice Cube Restaurant and Bar – With friendly staff, great drinks deals and delicious food, this is probably our favourite restaurant in Ella. The hot butter cuttlefish is one of the tastiest dishes we had in the whole of Sri Lanka and costs just 700 rupees. Cocktails are 3 for 2 during happy hour, meaning for 1200 rupees you can get 3 – the best value we found in Ella. The staff are extremely helpful whether it’s deciding what to order or giving advice about what to do and see in the area.
Adam’s Breeze – Around a kilometre from the main street of Ella, Adam’s breeze is THE place to go for a great Sri Lankan curry. Alongside your main curry and rice, you’ll be treated to 5 other tasty dishes – including dhal, potato curry and more. The restaurant is located quite near to the start of the little Adam’s peak hike, so it’s the perfect place to grab a meal before you begin!
Cafe Chill – Although we much preferred other restaurants in Ella, cafe Chill is an extremely popular spot. The food was good enough, but in general we found most of the menu overpriced given that we had better quality meals elsewhere for less. We also found better deals on drinks elsewhere, but if you’re interested in seeing what the hype is about then it’s worth a visit.
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