Ella might be one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka and should be part of your itinerary when visiting Sri Lanka (read my full itinerary here). It is part of the hill country and awards you amazing views and a relaxed backpacker vibe. This full travel guide to Ella highlights my favourite things to do and the best places to eat and drink in and around Ella, Sri Lanka.
I would recommend you spend a minimum of two nights in Ella to make sure you can visit the main sights. I liked the vibe in Ella may be the best of all places in Sri Lanka! Ella is home to amazing places to stay, with stunning views and kind hosts. If you want to splurge (which is still affordable in Sri Lanka), I could highly recommend you to stay in either EKHO Ella or Zion View Ella Green Retreat. If you are into great views but want to benefit from the lower prices in the country, there are also amazing stays between 25 and 45 euros a night, such as Glorious Nature Inn, Guest Inn Avendra, Country Homes or Arana Sri Lanka Eco Lodge.
This famous bridge is in my opinion a must-visit. You can take a tuk-tuk to the bridge, but the walk over the train rails to get there is a great experience itself. Around 6 trains are passing the bridge a day. We went there around 9:45 in the morning and were able to see a train passing the bridge. Check the current timetable with locals or your guesthouse when the trains are supposed to come by.
Climbing Little Adam’s Peak, especially around sunrise, is worth it. A tuk-tuk can take you to the start of the ‘trail’, and it will take you around 1 hour – back and forth from the trailhead (it will take a little longer when you start in the town). When going in the early morning, you will also see the tea workers going to work and starting their jobs. Instructions along the route are quite clear and during the majority of the walk, the path is well-maintained.
If you want to combine the Nine Arch Bridge and Little Adam’s Peak, you can also opt for a tour combining these two.
Ella Rock was to me the most challenging hike we did in Sri Lanka. Hiking up takes you around 2 hours and it is quite a climb. Now you might be wondering how to get there. We read some route descriptions online and were almost fooled by guides along the way, telling us that is not the right way to go, and that they will guide us there (and you have to pay of course). Well, it turned out, this route was completely fine! From Ella, walk to the train station Kithal Ella. After the station, 15 meters before the 166 3/4 milestone, there is a small path to the left. You will cross a bridge afterwards. After the bridge, go left and walk past the tea fields. Afterwards, there is a shop where you can get a small refreshment and continue the way up afterwards. After this bit up, you will run into boulders and the real climb is about to start. Just follow the path and you will eventually reach the top of the Ella Rock!
If you would like to catch the sunrise at Ella Rock, you can also opt for a private guide to join you on this morning walk with the private Ella Rock Sunrise walk.
Rent a scooter or take a tuk-tuk to one of the nearby tea fields to get a tour. Lipton Seats is a bit further out, so we decided to go to Uva Halpewatte. To be honest, it is nice to see how the tea is made, but if you fear not having enough time, I would personally skip it.
Note: these pictures weren’t made at the tea plantations, but they suit well ;).
We wanted to do one cooking class during our trip to Sri Lanka and we’ve heard great stories about the cooking class from Matey Hut. During the day we made a reservation to cook a great Sri Lankan meal in the evening. I could recommend the experience!
What is a travel guide to Ella without a wonderful bar/restaurant? Cafe Chill is a place that is well known and for a reason! While we were in Ella, we visited the place at least once a day – whether it was for lunch, dinner or a beer or a cocktail. Take off your shoes and sit down on one of the beanbags or at one of the tables and enjoy your time here!
Besides Matey Hut and Chill Cafe, I could also recommend Dream Cafe, Cafe Guru or Starbeans Cafe for something to eat.