It was tough to tear ourselves away from the beaches of Tangalla, but promises of sweeping mountain views, tea plantations, and hiking got us excited about Ella. The town makes a great base for exploring Sri Lanka’s hill country, and sits in the middle of some really WOW scenery. While Ella’s busy main drag is a bit off-putting, the town has lots of good places to sleep, eat, drink, and get a massage after a long day of hiking. Here’s a summary of our favourite activities around Ella.
Hiking Little Adam’s Peak
I was itching to do a hike as soon as we arrived in Ella, and Little Adam’s Peak was the perfect choice for a late afternoon activity. It’s not a difficult hike, and it has stunning views down Ella Gap and over the rounded, green peaks. We walked from the centre of town, but you can cut off a couple of kilometres by taking a tuk-tuk or scooter closer to the trailhead at Flower Garden Resort on Passara Road. This hike is very popular and there were lots of tourists and locals along the way who were happy to point us in the right direction. From the trailhead, the signed, well-maintained pathway winds its way up through a pretty tea plantation to Little Adam’s Peak with its gold Buddha statue. It’s a wonderful spot, but for a little more effort, the path continues down a gully and then up a fairly steep ridge to an even more impressive peak.
On average, the hike takes 2-3 hours but the views might keep you lingering longer. We were surprised by how hot it was, even late in the afternoon, so bring plenty of water. For those seeking more adventure, there’s a cool-looking zip line operation along the trail. And, for a post-hike treat, The Chillout, right at the entrance to the trail, makes a mean mango lassie.
Watching the train at Nine Arch Bridge
If you’ve ever done any travel research on Sri Lanka, you’ve likely come across photos of the iconic Nine Arch Bridge. I was super keen on seeing the bridge with a train on it, so we checked the schedule at Ella station and timed our visit. Unfortunately, the train was about an hour late, but we hung out, took photos, and chatted with other visitors. I was amazed by how much I got caught up in the excited anticipation. The bridge itself, rising above jungle vegetation and tea plantations, is a spectacular sight, but watching the blue train rumble across the 91 meter, Colonial-era bridge was definitely worth the wait.
To get to the bridge, I recommend walking the jungle path off Passara Road (very close to the entrance of Little Adam’s Peak). It only takes about 20 minutes, it’s nicely shaded, and provides great views looking down to the bridge. If you’re not up for a walk, a tuk-tuk can drop you off right at the bridge.
Hiking to Ella Rock
A lot of people rave about sunrise at Ella Rock, but we didn’t manage to get out the door until 7:00 a.m. Our lovely hosts at the Emerald Mirror Guest House armed us with a hearty takeaway breakfast and detailed instructions from the Atlas and Boots blog.The latter is very important as the trail is not marked (the instructions were spot on).
It’s a fun hike, but longer and much more strenuous than Little Adam’s Peak—about 10 km return/4 hours. We enjoyed the novelty of walking along the railway tracks before turning onto the trail that travels through tea plantations and tall grasses. There’s a gorgeous interim viewpoint before the steep climb through the forest to Ella Rock. It’s a hot, sweaty slog, but the views at the top, over the scalloped peaks, are breathtaking.
Hats off to the wonderful lady selling fruit smoothies and king coconuts at the summit. I can’t believe she schlepped a blender, glasses and all that fruit up the trail.
Before going back down, don’t miss a 10-minute out and back trail that takes you to a Buddha cave and another fantastic viewpoint—just make a right at the little summit hut.
Visiting the Uva Halpewatta Tea Factory
We did several tea factory tours in Sri Lanka and the one at Uva Halpewatta was by far the best. Our tour guide, Siva, was super informative and had a great sense of humour. He took us through the large factory and explained each step of the processing. At the end, we tasted various types and grades of tea. Sadly, my photos inside the factory turned out poorly.
Uva Halpewatta is about 5 km from Ella, and the route is very scenic. Our friendly tuk-tuk driver stopped at some amazing viewpoints overlooking tea plantation and rice fields. It was easy to see how much he loved this beautiful area.
Sleeping and Eating in Ella
Our experience at Ella’s Emerald Mirror Guesthouse ranks in our top two of our entire Sri Lanka trip. Kumari and Yapa, our hosts, made our stay very special in their comfortable home. I was really touched by the over-the-top birthday breakfast they made for me on the day we left Ella.
Despite my introductory comments about Ella’s less than charming “downtown”, it is home to some delicious eateries. From the hole-in-the-wall Matey Hut with its exquisite curries, to the cleverly named MozzarElla pizza place, to the chilled vibe and excellent roti at Mandala Cafe, Ella is a fun place to refuel after a day of activity in the hill country.
Next Post: Hiking through the tea plantations at Lipton’s Seat in Haputale and Oliphant Estate near Nuwara Eliya.