5 Great Things to do in and around Ella, Sri Lanka

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Little Adam’s Peak, Ella

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 

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View from 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.

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Little Adam’s Peak

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The trail continues to a secondary peak with more impressive views

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Ziplining at Little Adam’s Peak

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Looking out over the incredible greenery

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Exploring at the top of Little Adam’s Peak

Watching the train at Nine Arch Bridge

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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.

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Great view from the jungle trail

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Lots of activity on the tracks

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Tea plantations and jungle vegetation frame the bridge

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Jungle path from Passara Road to Nine Arch Bridge

Hiking to Ella Rock

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View from 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.

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The hike starts with 40 minute walk along the railway track

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It travels through rice fields and tea plantations

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And continues through sections of high grass

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Before the final steep push, there’s a nice interim viewpoint

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Beautiful views at the top of Ella Rock

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Savouring the views

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Much appreciated fruit drinks at the summit

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Buddha cave near Ella Rock

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More lovely views near the Buddha cave

Visiting the Uva Halpewatta Tea Factory 

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Teas sorted into different grades at Uva Halpewatta

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.

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One of the largest tea factories in Sri Lanka

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Our tuk-tuk driver at a scenic bend on the way to the tea factory

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Tea plantations and rice fields enroute to Uva Halpewatta

Sleeping and Eating in Ella

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Silly signs and great pizza at MozzarElla

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.

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Our hosts with Mike at the Emerald Mirror Guesthouse (my birthday breakfast)

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Not much to look at, but food at Matey Hut is fantastic

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The chill Mandala Cafe is a relaxing post-hike spot

Next Post: Hiking through the tea plantations at Lipton’s Seat in Haputale and Oliphant Estate near Nuwara Eliya.

Categories: Sri Lanka | Tags: , , , , , | 29 Comments

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29 thoughts on “5 Great Things to do in and around Ella, Sri Lanka

  1. Mike Hohmann

    Hi Caroline. I was out on the road/trail for about a month and totally missed this post on your visit to Ella, in Sri Lanka. Looks like a beautiful countryside to hike in. Your photos are excellent as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Mike, no worries…you gotta have a life too! There’s never any expectation that you read/comment on all my stuff. I find it gets a bit overwhelming at times to follow all the good blogs out there. Anyway, glad you liked the post and I am happy you did check in.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Wandering through Sri Lanka’s tea plantations: an unexpected highlight | Writes of Passage

  3. I’ve been to Sri Lanka twice, but I have never visited Ella. I think the first time I was in the country my driver told me that it wasn’t the best time to visit this town — it was dry season. On my second visit, however, I spent more time in Kandy and decided to skip Ella (again) altogether. On a side note, it’s so nice to see so much greenery in your photos after a trip to Jordan last week. It was amazing though, but as a person who grew up in a tropical island I did miss my big trees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe you’ll get to Ella on a third try Bama. We really enjoyed Ella (as well as Haputale and Nuwara Eliya region—next post). There’s lots to see in Sri Lanka and you can’t do it all. Despite being there for almost 4 weeks, there are several popular places we missed, one being Kandy. As I’ve mentioned in a few of my comments, I too loved how green it was around Ella.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe I should really make Ella as one of the stops for my third visit to Sri Lanka (whenever that is). SriLankan Airlines flies to Jakarta, so I don’t have many reasons not to go back to this beautiful island.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I forgot about those signs! I loved ‘our beer is colder than your ex’! We had their pizza too and it was pretty good! Great post, for being a backpackers haven, Ella still has a lot to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. With every post you make Sri Lanka more enticing. And your photos are stunning. When we decide to go your posts will be the first place I look for ideas!
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  6. pam@ichoosethis

    Sooooo beautiful! That green color is stunning!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a nice range of things to do and see. You might imagine that I liked the looks of the hikes, and the views of the green hills are magnificent, but my biggest takeaway is how DID that lady get all that fruit up there?!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know…unbelievable, and of course all in flip flops! I didn’t see any easier way up, so I’m pretty sure that she and her family/friends carried it all. Thank God for those enterprising fruit drink people. They saved me on several occasions. I’m not used to that kind of heat. If the Ella Rock hike were here in Vancouver, I’d probably classify it as easy, but the heat made it challenging.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh my goodness Caroline, it all looks so beautiful and the photography is amazing

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Amazing pictures! We loved this post. We had some a wonderful time in Ella. The train ride in was phenomenal! The hiking was just as amazing. Just watch out for those railway scammers! Thanks for this awesome blog post 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your enthusiasm. Sounds like you had an amazing time there….it would be tough not to with all that beauty and the great activities. I hadn’t heard about the railway scammers; thankfully, except for the occasional tuk-tuk ripoff (minor) we didn’t have any bad experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Anonymous

    I continue to be amazed by all your beautiful photos of Sri Lanka!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Fantastic information. Looks awesome.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Those are really beautiful views from Ella Rock – can’t believe how stunning and colourful this part of the world is! Thanks for sharing, absolutely enjoyed reading about your hiking adventures in Sri Lanka!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. josypheen

    Wooowza! What stunning scenery to hike through! It does look hot, but I looove all those bright green mountains from Ella Rock.

    What happens when the train comes? Do people have to rush off the bridge? It would pretty scary if you were half way across when you heard a train!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha…good question. It’s certainly not the safest thing to be walking along the tracks, but the locals do it all the time as it is often the fastest way to get somewhere. They know the schedule (and the delays) and the trains are pretty slow. As this is such a tourist attraction, there were plenty of people keeping tabs on the trains arrival at the bridge. We were super cautious and my heart was racing even when I knew there was no train coming for a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

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