Ella is an up and coming tourist destination in Sri Lanka, popular for its stunning views of the hillside and waterfalls, scenic train rides, amazing hikes, insta-worthy food, and backpacker-friendly places to stay.
Hidden away in the hills in Badulla district of Uva Province, Sri Lanka, Ella is approximately 200 kilometers east of Colombo, Capital of Sri Lanka. Cool climate, misty mountain tops, forest trails rich with rare flora and fauna, cascading waterfalls, and the friendly locals are only a few of the reasons you would never want to leave once you visit Ella.
How to get there:
You can take the train, bus, or taxi to get to Ella, depending on where you’re planning to start the trip from.
The train ride is the most recommended way to get to Ella, since the journey is famed for the unmatched views as the train makes its way between tea estates and the highlands stretched as far as the eye can see. If you are traveling from Colombo, there are four direct trains to Ella that depart from Colombo Fort station daily, and takes approximately 9 hrs to reach Ella. Check out more details on train timetables and reservations here.
If you rather fancy a bus ride, you can take the bus to Badulla from Colombo bus station. The journey take approximately 7 hrs. The last stop will be Kumbalwela junction, and Ella is only 5 km away, to which you can flag down a tuk tuk.
You can find out more travel options from here.
Where to stay:
Ella is also known for the friendly locals and homestays that offer not only amazing views, but also equally amazing breakfast, for a wee price. Following are some budget friendly and highly recommended places to stay in Ella:
Backpackers Paradise – 8$/night
Hipsters Hideout – 6$/night
Hi Lanka Backpackers – 8$/night + breakfast
Pepper Hills Hostel – 8$/night + breakfast
Hangover Hostels – 14$
Locals drive tuk tuks, the most popular and common form of taxis in Sri Lanka. You can either hire a tuk for the day, or rent a bike/scooter for the period you’re planning to stay in Ella. Either way, getting around Ella is very easy and cheap.
Places to see/Things to do:
The following are some of the most famed places around Ella that you should not miss.
Mini Adam’s Peak
The easy/moderate hike to Mini Adam’s peak only takes around an hour, and is famous for the spectacular views of the Ella gap. The starting point of the hike is a 15-minute walk from Ella town: the entrance is at the 3rd mile post heading toward Passara road, take the sharp bend to your right just after the Flower Garden Resort.
A a must-visit place in Ella, Ella Rock offers what is considered as the best view of the Ella gap. The trek to Ella Rock is a more difficult venture, but the panoramic view at the top is worth the struggle. You can walk along the train tracks towards Kithalella Railway Station, and the starting point is just by the smaller Ravana Falls. The hike up is moderate/difficult, taking 4 hrs to climb up to the top and come back down.
Demodara Nine Arch Bridge
This will remind you the spectacular journey of the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies. Built by the British in 1921, the Nine Arch Bridge is another must-visit place of Ella. You’ll definitely be able to get some instagram-gold pictures of this place, especially when a train is passing by. The bridge is located on the same way as Mini Adam’s Peak, just outside of Ella town.
Just a 10-minute drive from Ella town, Ravana Falls is located right by the main road. Considered as one of the widest waterfalls in the country, Ravana Falls flows at its best during the rainy season. Although locals as well as tourists go for the occasional dip in the lower parts of the waterfall, it is not advised.
Ravana Ella Caves
Sitting behind the Ravana Falls, the legend says that King Ravana had hidden the kidnapped princess Sita inside these caves. Located about 2 kilometers from Ella town, the climb up to the cave is quite steep and tough. Add the caves to your Ella bucket list if you are a fan of local folklores and historical places.
Ella Wala Falls
About 20 kilometres on the Wellawaya road from Ella, and a few more kilometers into the jungle, lies the Ella Wala waterfall. small, enchantingly beautiful waterfall hidden away in the dense forest, Ella Wala Falls is complete with a natural pool at the base of the waterfall. Although it would not be safe on rainy days, it is an ideal place for a dip in the cool, clean water, since it is also less crowded compared to other crowd-favourite spots around Ella.