If I could recommend one place in Sri Lanka, Ella would almost certainly be the chosen one. Radiating vibes similar to that of Thailand’s Pai, mountainous Ella is green, lush and laid-back. There are basically two main streets, which are basically packed to the rafters with restaurants, bars, accommodation and convenience stores. It is a lovely spot to unwind for a few days; it experiences cooler temperatures and more rain than the rest of Sri Lanka. It also makes a great base for a number of nearby hikes. Most likely you will arrive at Ella from the train (hopefully from Kandy); the station itself is rather quaint, but if you forget to look it doesn’t matter too much as you will most likely be back when you visit the nine arches bridge.
Some of my favourite things to do in or from Ella were:
- Lipton’s Seat: About 75 minutes by tuk-tuk from Ella, this is one of a number of activities in Ella which require an early start. This is because of the fog that creeps in at about 10am, interfering with many of the views. It costs 50R per person and 100R per vehicle to access Lipton’s Seat. If you prefer you can get out and walk from the gate (probably only 20 minutes) but only do it as an addition to walking down, not as an alternative. There is a cafe at the top which was closed when we were there but supposedly sells nice tea and roti for 100R a pop. After some confusion on where to go we ended up just following the road back down (which proved to be the right way). For about an hour we weaved through tea plantations, fields, and villages which were just beginning to stir in the early morning. Eventually we found ourselves at the tea plantation, which for 250R we got a tour. It was very interesting – it hadn’t been commercialised in any way, I would recommend that you mind your step because there is definitely one or two things to trip over.
- Little Adam’s Peak: With a height of 1141m, this is a hike that can be walked from Ella with no guide. If you only do one walk in Ella, I would suggest you make it this. It’s name derives from being a smaller version of Adam’s Peak; which is further west and 2243m high. Little Adam’s Peak is free to climb, although beware that the tea plantation ladies will most likely ask you for a photo and then have the cheek to ask for money. I would allow 2.5 hours for a return trip, it only takes about an hour to climb but there are ample photo opportunities and views to admire on the way. Again, an early morning is required in order to beat the fog. There are some sign posts, but basically if you stick to the main path when in doubt you will find it easy enough.
- Nine Arches Bridge: An easy (but boring) walk along the train tracks to an ancient bridge (with, you guessed it, nine arches). It takes about 45 minutes each way (and you can get a tuk-tuk if you prefer). Trains only come every 3 hours, so if you want to time your trip so there is a train going across the bridge you will need to plan ahead. The surrounding vegetation is very lush and beautiful, and walking along the train tracks is a unique experience.
- Ella Rock: Approximately double the size of Little Adam’s Peak this walk is much harder and a guide is recommended. A combination of bad weather and only three days in Ella meant that Mum and I opted to give this one a miss.
- There are also a number of waterfalls around Ella that tourists like waterfalls. The most popular of these is Rawana Ella Waterfall.
Between all this hiking about, good food is a must! My favourites were Chill Cafe (big & spacious, with relaxed vibes and a massive menu), AK Ristoro (Italian restaurant, hidden in a side alley but with delicious food) and the Umbrella Art Cafe (tie it in with Little Adam’s Peak as it is on the way).