Ella in Sri Lanka is every bit as bewitching as the name suggests. I’ve been to Ella half a dozen times, and each and every time it leaves me speechless with the seemingly endless sprawl of lush tea plantations and mountain ranges. It’s not hard to understand why it is on every single Sri Lanka itinerary out there. Whether it’s your first trip to Sri Lanka or your tenth, you’ll love the clean air in hill country and views for days. Read on for everything you need to know about visiting Ella in Sri Lanka!
Where is Ella in Sri Lanka?
Ella is a small mountain town in south central Sri Lanka in Uva Province (Sri Lanka’s fourth largest province). It is south of both Nuwara Eliya and Kandy, and about 100 kilometres north of Hambantota along the southern coast of Sri Lanka. Though Ella is only about 200 kilometres east of Colombo, the road into Ella is mountainous and windy, which means the relatively short drive will take you nearly 6 hours in a car or 10 hours by train.
If you are planning on visiting Ella, I recommend stopping over for a few nights either on your way down to the south coast from Sigiriya or Kandy, or on your way up to the Cultural Triangle from the south. I generally advise against traveling direct to Ella from Colombo due to the arduous travel times.
The best time to visit Ella tends to be between January to April, and the rainiest months span from October to about mid-December. That being said, Ella is a popular year-round destination in Sri Lanka and is cooler than the coastal regions because of the altitude, so you should bring a scarf or light jacket.
Where to stay in Ella
Accommodation in Ella is aplenty, and caters to every type of traveler. There are hundreds of guesthouses, homestays and boutique hotels in Ella – but here are some of the best places to stay in Ella, tried-and-tested by yours truly.
For a high-end boutique luxury option, 98 Acres is one of the best hotels in Ella – there’s no doubt about it. This stunning property overlooks the tea plantations and Mini Adam’s Peak, the rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, the spa is incredible and the food is delicate and very tasty. The location is perfect as it is where the trail to Mini Adam’s Peak begins, and is also only a stone’s throw away from the Nine Arch Bridge. Click here to check current rates and availability at 98 Acres.
For a mid-range option in Ella with amazing views of the Ella mountain gap, stay at Ella Mountain Heavens, a cozy boutique hotel high up in the hills. Make sure you get a room with a balcony overlooking Ella Gap so you can enjoy the magical sunsets from the comfort of your own room. Since our stay the hotel has also built a killer infinity pool with incredible views of the mountain range. Click here to book your stay at Ella Mountain Heavens.
For a low mid-range option in Ella, I recommend The Bamboo. It is a small Sri Lankan family-run guesthouse that is conveniently located in the heart of town. Though the nightly rates are cheaper than 98 Acres and Ella Mountain Heavens, you don’t have to sacrifice comfort: the room is massive and tastefully decorated, and extremely clean. Light sleepers should bring some ear plugs as it is located right on the main street. Click here to book your stay at The Bamboo or click here for more accommodation options in Ella!
Wondering how many days to stay in Ella? In my opinion, you really don’t need more than 2 to 3 nights in Ella. It is a very small town and you can easily move onto other parts of Sri Lanka after just a few days – keep reading for suggestions of where to go after Ella.
The best things to do in Ella
You can easily get around Ella on foot or by tuk tuk, and can opt to fill your days with luxurious massages and tea tastings, or adventurous hikes and waterfall treks. Wondering what to do in Ella? Here are some of the best things to do in Ella if you only have 2 days to spare!
1. Visit a tea factory and tea plantation
Head to the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory which is 1,230 meters above sea level. Their daily tours run every 30 minutes or so from 8 AM to 4 PM – you can learn about tea manufacturing, taste different variations of tea and tour the working factory.
Tours cost US$3 per person or 450 Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR), and you can stock up on some souvenirs from the on-site shop at the end of the 45-minute tour.
2. Hike up Little Adam’s Peak or Ella Rock
Little Adam’s Peak is the miniature version of the famous pilgrimage route near Hatton. It is probably the easiest and most accessible hike in Ella. The beginning of the trail starts near the entrance to 98 Acres Hotel – follow the road to the right of the reception area and keep walking past the spa until you reach this sign.
The hike should take no longer than 45 minutes to an hour each way, but you’ll still need proper walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and plenty of water. Head there early in the morning or in the late afternoon for stunning 360-degree panoramic views.
I’ve tried to enjoy hiking, I really have, but alas – it just wasn’t meant to be. I very reluctantly go on hikes (I do it for the views), and avoid any treks longer than 2-3 hours. If you (for some reason) love to hike, hiking aficionados can trek up Ella Rock: a far more challenging journey for the uber keen. The payoff is substantial, and often you will find yourself sitting above the clouds.
3. Check out Nine Arch Bridge
One of the most-photographed landmarks in Sri Lanka, the Nine Arch Bridge (or Nine Arches Bridge) is located in Demodara. The picturesque colonial railway is often crowded with hordes of people snapping away – but be warned, Nine Arch Bridge is a working bridge that trains travel across several times a day. Get out of the way well before it makes its way along the bridge.
I’d also advise against sitting too close to the edge, making any loud noises or flying a drone – dozens of wasp nests hang from the underside of each of the nine arches: a wasp attack in early 2019 sent 20 people to the hospital!
The unmarked trail down to the Nine Arch Bridge from the main road used to be fairly difficult to find (close to Nisee Juice Bar) but these days there’s fairly clear signage leading you to the bridge. Tell any tuk tuk driver that you want to go to the Nine Arch Bridge and they’ll know where to go.
You might also like: 12 Things You Should Know Before Traveling to Sri Lanka
4. Chase waterfalls at Ravana Falls
Ravana Falls is one of the most beautiful places in Ella and one of the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. It’s located about half an hour away from Ella’s main road, and is a popular stop for tourists and local Sri Lankans alike. The waterfall was named after King Ravana, who kidnapped a princess and hid her in the caves behind the waterfall. The waterfall can get extremely powerful during the rainy season, so watch your step and avoid walking across the slippery rocks.
5. Marvel at the Ella Gap
Ella Gap is one of the most eye-catching natural landmarks in Ella. The valley sits between opposing mountain ranges and on a clear day even grants views all the way down to the south coast. For the best views of the Ella Gap head to Ella Mountain Heavens and go for a swim in their infinity pool.
6. Swim at the pools of Diyaluma Falls
Diyaluma Falls is the third highest waterfall in Sri Lanka. It’s located about an hour from Ella, and is a perfect day trip from Ella for waterfall lovers who want to immerse themselves in nature. You can either hike up to the natural pool at the top, or hike down for an easier route.
7. Go zip lining over tea fields
The Flying Ravana is the new kid on the block in Ella. The zip lining course only opened in mid-2019 but is already one of the top things to do in Ella for adventure seekers. The course runs for half a kilometre, reaching speeds of nearly 80 KM/hour.
The Flying Ravana is located close to the entrance to Little Adam’s Peak – you can get 10% off if you book ahead online or if you are a guest at 98 Acres Hotel.
8. Indulge in a herbal oil massage
If you don’t feel like doing much in Ella, head to the 98 Acres spa for a heavenly full body massage with a view of Little Adam’s Peak and the tea fields below. 1-hour massages are reasonably priced – you’re guaranteed to leave feeling relaxed and rested.
Planning on spending 3 days in Ella? You might also want to go for a short train ride around Demodara Loop, one of Sri Lanka’s railway engineering marvels, traverse over to the legendary Lipton’s Seat or learn to cook Sri Lankan food at a local cooking class.
Related article: 15 Things NOT to Do If You’re Visiting Sri Lanka
Where to go after Ella
Ella is a stop on almost every single Sri Lanka 2 week itinerary, and for good reason. Here are some options for places to visit after Ella, whether you are traveling from north to south or vice versa!
Train to Nuwara Eliya or Kandy: Taking the iconic train through hill country is one of the most popular things to do in Sri Lanka. The train runs from Ella up to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya station) followed by Kandy, and you can enjoy the views of lush tea plantations alongside the railway. The journey from Ella to Nuwara Eliya will take approximately 3 hours by train, or 6-7 hours if you’re headed all the way to Kandy. Click here for the train timetables. You can also stop at Hatton if you are planning on attempting the hike up to Adam’s Peak.
Ella to Arugam Bay: If you are an avid surfer and traveling in Sri Lanka from July to September, you might want to head east to Arugam Bay for the east coast’s peak season. The small surf town of Arugam Bay is just 3 hours away from Ella and is home to several world-class surf spots including Peanut Farm, Whisky Point and Pottuvil Point. Click here for my guide to surfing in Arugam Bay.
Ella to Udawalawe or Yala: Both national parks are a 2-hour drive away from Ella. Head to Udawalawe if you want guaranteed sightings of wild Asian elephants, or try your luck at spotting a leopard at Yala National Park.
Ella to the south coast of Sri Lanka: The south coast of Sri Lanka is home to some of the best beaches in Sri Lanka, and also has a lot to offer beyond its sandy coastline. Depending on where you are headed along the south coast, the drive from Ella will take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours. I recommend heading to Dikwella or Talalla so that you can relax on uncrowded beaches, stay within walking distance of restaurants and bars, venture out for a day trip to Galle Fort, see the famous stilt fishermen and more.
For more Sri Lanka travel tips, head over here for my guides to Ceylon, or click here for an easy 2 week Sri Lanka itinerary for first time visitors!
Ready to plan your trip to Ella? I recommend staying at 98 Acres for a luxury experience and outrageously picturesque views, or Ella Mountain Heavens if you’re after a cozy boutique hotel high up in the hills.
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