An Ella backpacking adventure is a must for anyone visiting the Sri Lankan Hill Country. It is one of Sri Lanka’s most loved destinations and I believe that is for good reason. Being right on the train line, combined with decent food, accommodation and activity options it makes for an excellent stop for people exploring Sri Lanka By Train. The great vibes around Ella mean that you could stay for a day or a month and you would still have a splendid time.
Where To Stay
During my time in Ella I stayed at a lovely guesthouse only a couple of minutes’ walk from the village hub and the train station, called Tunnel Gap Guesthouse/Resort. It had all the usual amenities including mosquito nets, WiFi and an incredible view of the many surrounding lush green tea plantations. Tea pluckers were often going about their work right next to the guesthouse and were super friendly people! Staying with locals will always give you an incredible experience as I have always found my hosts to be keen to show us around.
I would recommend finding a guesthouse that suits your budget for an affordable and more local experience. Booking in advance through websites such as booking,com would allow for a smoother time but there are many people offering accommodation as you walk out of the train station.
What to Do
There is a decent range of activities on offer when on your Ella backpacking trip, here is my pick of the bunch. There is not much in the way of museums, etc. but the things that are here are definitely worth spending your time on.
- Hiking up Little Adam’s Peak is something I would highly recommend. However the cloud and rain regularly rolls in after mid morning so an early rise will allow you to take in the panoramic views. Walking from the centre of town to the peak and back takes a comfortable two hours. The route will take you past many green lush tea plantations before reaching the summit.
- The Nine Arches Bridge is a little further up the road from Little Adams Peak and is also a spectacular sight contrasting the lush green forests surrounding the canyon. Checking the train timetable and timing your visit when a train chugs past allows for added photographic opportunities.
- Another decent hike is Ella Rock which boldly towers above the green landscape below. However there are lots of wrong turns and dead ends, so going with a guide is recommended if you want to make it to the top. Again the cloud often rolls in mid morning blanketing the landscape below in a sea of mist and could, so an early morning walk is advantageous to score the views.
- There are also some waterfalls nearby to Ella (around 6km from the train station) such as Ravana waterfalls which are worth a visit.
- Halpewatte Tea Factory offers some really informative tours of their tea factory showcasing the processes of getting tea from leaf to cup. It is only a short tuk tuk ride from town. Check in advance if the factory will be processing tea on the day of your visit for a more visual insight into production. Your guest house host is a great person to ask about this.
- Cooking classes are also offered around town. I signed up for one at Café Chill and had a great time learning how to cook many delicious Sri Lankan curries. I also got to sample everything for lunch after the lesson concluded.
What to Eat
Café Chill was my favourite place for drinks and a meal during my time in Ella. They have a menu that has Western, Chinese and Sri Lankan cuisines that are all tasty and affordable for a Sri Lankan tourist restaurant. Their speciality is their delicious 8 curry-tasting platter and rice, perfect for those wishing to sample lots of Sri Lankan foog. Their upstairs beanbag terrace (a.k.a. ‘Asylum for the mentally chill’) is also perfect for a cold beer or cocktail.
There are also many kotthu huts around town for a tasty and cheap eat. Keep your ears open for that distinctive “tap tap” as the cooks prepare the food in front of waiting customers. Kotthu was my favourite Sri Lankan food so definitely give it a try!
After hiking up Little Adam’s Peak, there are also some lovely tea houses/cafes if you need a refreshing drink and light meal. you will pass them on the way up, so keep your eyes open for one that takes your fancy.
How to Get Around
Everything in the village is within an easy walking distance, and so are Little Adam’s Peak and the Nine Arch Bridge. There are also numerous tuk-tuks forever reminding you of their services as you walk though town. The tuk tuks are not metred, so agreeing on a price before jumping in and taking off is important to prevent any undesirable rip offs (asking your guesthouse host for what a fair tuk tuk price is can be a useful tip).
In addition to this, there are also many intercity private taxis that can take you anywhere in Sri Lanka, they have set prices printed on their windscreens so working out a price is much more straightforward than tuk tuks.
I absolutely loved my time in Ella and would recommend it to anyone traveling to Sri Lanka. With the fabulous vibes, good food, relaxation and natural beauty, it is a must for any traveller.
Clouds rolling in at Little Adams Peak (photo from Jim via Flickr)
The Nine Arches bridge jutting out from the lush green canyon as a train passes over
Ella Rock towering above its surrounds (photo from Ankur P via Flickr)
Raven Falls which are only a short ride from Ella (Photo from Indi Samarajiva via Flickr)
Drying the tea leaves in the factory
Cooking up a storm in Café Chill’s cooking class
Tucking into the 8 curry tasting plates at Café Chill
Tuk-Tuks awaiting customers to tour around the sights nearby to Ella (Photo from Aidan Jones via Flickr)