There are many wonderful things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka.
Ella, which literally means ‘waterfall’, is definitely one of the nicest towns you can visit in Sri Lanka. It is small and cosy; surrounded by beautiful mountains, green plantations of tea and an incredible amount of waterfalls. It really is one of the best places any person who enjoys the outdoors could hope to visit.
The town has been growing a lot recently thanks to its popularity especially among backpackers, so it’s easy to find bars and restaurants (which is quite nice in a country where they aren’t that common!); as well as guesthouses. The other side of the coin though is that Ella gets quite busy during high season.
Anyway, if you avoid sleeping on the main streets, it’s still a peaceful place to regenerate your body and soul.
I’ve spent only a few days in Ella, Sri Lanka but, if I could have, I would have stayed longer in order to enjoy all the amazing activities from hiking to tasting many a cups of tea.
In this post I highlight all the things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka in order to enjoy its beauty. I also add some useful information to plan your visit.
15 Wonderful Things To Do And Places To Visit In Ella, Sri Lanka
Have a walk around town
I recommend you start discovering Ella with a walk on the main street where there are bars, restaurants, small guest houses and souvenir shops.
On the way to town you will find Ella Spice Garden, that is a private garden with many types of spices. There even is a shop where to buy the spices you like, a restaurant and a school where you can attend cooking class – more about this later.
Every Wednesday morning there is a typical street market where you can buy spices, fruits, vegetables and clothes.
Climb up Little Adam’s Peak
One of the nicest things to do in Ella is hiking Little Adam’s Peak. As the name suggests, Little Adam’s Peak is a mini version of the more famous pilgrimage hike. In fact this is a nice walk, easy enough for inexperienced hikers.
The trail to Little Adam’s Peak starts from the entrance of 98 Acres Hotel. You have to follow the road down to the spa, and you will get to the main gate where tuk tuks are parked.
There are two ways to reach the top of Little Adam’s Peak: the first is the longer and beautiful trail among the tea plantations and the second is a series of steps all the way to the top. As I was there during the rainy season and there were leeches on the grass, I had no choice but to take the stairs.
The hike should take around one hour to go and come back if you want to take it easy and take some pictures. The stairway takes even less time. On your way you’ll encounter many lovely dogs that are perfectly confident with the trail and are used to reach the top for a quiet sleep.
Once you reach the top you’ll find two viewpoints. The landscape is absolutely stunning. You’ll be able to see the valley, Ella Rock, Ella Gap, Newburg Tea Factory and Rawana falls among the hills.
You can keep going following the pathway for another kilometer until you reach a second peak. Needless to say, the view from there is amazing.
After hiking, you can reward yourself with a delicious cup of tea and a sandwich at 98 Acres Cafè and Restaurant. The view from there is also really beautiful.
PRACTICAL TIPS: The best time to hike Little Adam’s Peak is early in the morning or before the sunset. I recommend checking the weather condition before starting the climb to be sure it won’t be foggy (it got really foggy soon after I got to the top – I literally just had enough time to take photos before the view got covered!). There is no entrance fee.
Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Hiking Little Adam’s Peak” for an even more detailed guide.
If you have little time to arrange all the transportation from one place to the other, you may want to go on a guided tour that takes you to Little Adam’s Peak and other attractions too. These are the best ones:
- Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge with transfer
- Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge Hiking
If you have never experienced a zip-line before, I recommend trying the Ravana zip-line. It’s the first Sri Lankan zip-line, it stretches for more than half a kilometer at the speed of 80 km per hour and you’ll feel like a bird flying over the valley. It will last less than a minute but I promise you that after that you will get addicted to that adrenaline rush under your skin.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Ravana zip-line costs $20 USD, I personally think that it’s a bit too expensive for just one zip-line. Anyway it’s just on the way to Little Adam’s Peak so you can have a look and think about it while hiking.
Admire Nine Arch Bridge
If you are in Ella you simply have to go to Nine Arch Bridge. This is definitely one of the things you must do in Sri Lanka. Located just outside of town on a green valley and surrounded by tea plantations, it was completed in 1921. The bridge is entirely made of brick, cement and stones and it has nine arches for a total length of 91 meters.
The famous train from Kandy to Bandarawela (via Ella) runs several times a day but rarely on time so check the train timetable but then be patient for the train to pass it over the bridge; it is well worth the wait. In the meantime, you can enjoy the view and the tea plantations, walk on the tracks to reach the other side of the bridge. A whistle will announce the train is arriving.
PRO TIP: There is a small coconut shop with tables and the best view of the bridge. For a real steal you can have one of the most delicious coconuts you can imagine while waiting for the train to come.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The easiest way to get to Nine Arch Bridge is to take a tuk tuk from Ella for around 600 LKR (Sri Lanka Rupees) (round trip); otherwise from Sri Kanaser Temple on Passara road follow the signs. It’s a 30 minute walk through the jungle and tea fields but during rainy season avoid the walk unless you have hiking shoes because the trail is infested with leeches.
CROWD BEATING TIP: You can skip the crowds by going to the bridge in time for sunrise. Then, you’ll have the chance to see the train twice from a different point of view because two trains run in half an hour.
If you want to go on a tour of Ella that also include Nine Arch Bridge, these are a few options:
- Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge with transfer
- Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge Hiking
Jump on the train
Once you’ve seen the train passing on Nine Arch Bridge, it’s time to get on board.!You can start your six-hour journey from Ella to Kandy taking the most famous and scenic train in Sri Lanka. The route goes through stunning mountains, splendid tea fields, beautiful valleys and colorful towns.
TIP: You need to buy first-class ticket for $25 USD in advance if you want to be sure to find a window seat. But if you don’t mind standing and traveling like a local you can get a third-class ticket for a real steal.
Cool down at Diyaluma Falls
Diyaluma Falls is the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and it is a marvelous sight. Water comes down from a height of 220 meters over a smooth rock side to the valley below and it’s simply amazing.
Getting there is a bit of a way, so you may want to plan it as a day trip from Ella – but it’s well worth the effort.
When you reach the top you won’t find any safety barriers so you really need to stay away from the cliffs! At the top, there are a series of natural pools where you can swim – though make sure not to do so during the rain season as the current will be too strong.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: From Ella you first need to reach Wellawaya by bus and then take the bus headed to Beragala/Haputale or a tuk tuk to Poonagala (it is between 3500 and 4500 LKR). There are two ways to get to the top. You can hike from the bottom, on a circular trail that starts right off the main road and takes an overall 2 to 3 hours. As the trail is not really well marked you may want to invest in a guide for around 2000 LKR. Alternatively, you can start the hike at Poonagala village – it is shorter, less popular and not so strenuous.
Enjoy the view of Ravana Falls
On the way to Ella, make sure to look for the magnificent Ravana Falls. It’s roughly a 15 to 20 minute drive. You can hire a tuk tuk for around 600 LKR or take any bus heading to Wellawaya. This really is one of the nicest places to visit near Ella!
The falls are 90 meters high and are multi-tiered. When I was there I met several monkeys looking for something to eat, so pay attention to your backpack and by all means, do not feed them!
The waterfall can get extremely powerful during the rainy season, so avoid going beyond the balustrade as the rocks may get very slippery and the chances to fall are high! During the dry season local people usually cool down in the flowing water but, please, don’t follow them even if the temperature gets very high. There are signs everywhere that warns you not to swim in the falls – and for a good reason!
TIP: If you want to reach the top, exclusively during the dry season, ask a local guide to come with you and show you the way. The view from the top is breathtaking and well worth the hike.
Visit Ravana Cave
Near the falls, at the top of 600 steps carved in the rock, you can visit Ravana Cave, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sri Lanka. Although it’s a small cave located at 1370 meters above sea level, it has an important legendary and historical value: in fact according to legend it was in this cave that King Ravana hid Princess Sita hoping she’d fall in love with him.
The cave was inhabited 25000 years ago.
To get there from Ella take the road to Wellawaya and after 2 km on your right there’s a trail going up the mountain until you can reach the cave. It’s easier to take a tuk tuk and ask the driver to be left at the beginning of the trail.
On the way to the cave you’ll find a small stall that sells tea and drinks. I recommend carrying a torch or headlamp to walk inside the cave.
Swim at Elle Wala Waterfall
One of the nicest things to do in Ella is visiting Elle Wala Waterfall. This is a small waterfall hidden in the jungle with a lovely natural pool where you can swim.
Once you have seen the Ravana Falls, you can ask your tuk tuk driver to continue driving on the same road (A23) for another 18 km until you see the Rathmal Wehera Buddist Temple. Once there, take the opposite direction to the temple to get to the waterfall.
You can hire a local guide to show you the way or walk on your own to the falls following the trail. It only takes a few minutes by foot to reach it, and you are bound to love it as it is not nearly as crowded as Ravana Falls. Take your time to enjoy the place, to cool down in the water and relax. Be aware that during rainy season the level of the water rises dramatically.
Hike Ella Rock
If you like hiking and if don’t mind waking up early in the morning, hiking up to the top of Ella Rock is one of the nicest things to do in Ella. If you are lazy but fit and if you like sleeping late in the morning, for once change your mind and hike up to the top of Ella Rock. In other words, you have to do it!
Hiking Ella Rock is truly worth it! Going early in the morning means you will avoid the heat; there are less people and the sun rising from the top of Ella Rock is something you won’t forget.
TIP: Before starting the hike make sure to check the weather forecast, particularly in rainy season, to be sure it won’t be too foggy. I was there in October and I managed to reach the top just in time, a minute later it got completely misty.
From Ella it takes approximately 3 to 4 hours to climb up and come down. This hike is not as easy as that to Little Adam’s Peak so take your time to reach the top: stop for pictures, drink some water, bite a snack and last but not least enjoy the stunning view.
You’ll walk through some tea plantations, on rail tracks and go on steep ascent. Once you reach the top, the view is simply breathtaking!
The 8 km trail is not very well marked and touts along the trail may even point you in the wrong direction. You may want to hire a guide for around 1500 to 2000 LKR – check with your hotel or local people or, during the busiest time, follow other groups with a guide! Alternatively, you can book a guided hike online.
These are the best options:
- Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge with transfer
- Ella Rock hike
- Sunrise hike to Ella Rock
Spoil yourself with a herbal oil massage
What do you deserve after an early wake up and a long hike if not a herbal oil massage? You can spoil yourself with a full body massage at 98 Acres spa (make sure to book it in advance) to relaxed those worked up muscles. Alternatively, stop at Hela Osu Suwapiyasa Centre in town.
Take tea plantation tour
You have the opportunity to walk through a tea plantation almost everywhere around Ella: tea fields are on the way to Little Adam’s Peak and in the valley next to Nine Arch Bridge. But if you want to have more information about how tea is grown and the refining process, you should take a tour of a tea factory.
I think it’s one of the best things to do in Ella – after all, Sri Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world and tea in Uva district is so good and famous thanks to the altitude at which it’s grown.
There are many tea factories around Ella. The following are just a couple.
Dambatenne Tea Factory
Located near Haputale and close to the famous Lipton Seat (guess why?), was built in 1890 by Thomas Lipton. Lipton tea is cultivated in Sri Lanka and is exported all over the world. You can rent a tuk tuk or take a local bus to Dambatenne and then walk from there to reach the tea factory.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Tours are from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm for 250 LKR and show the whole tea production process from the picking, drying, fermenting, sieving and grading of the tea.
Halpewatte Tea Factory
Dating back to 1940, this is one of the largest factories in the Uva region. It’s located 6 km outside of Ella. Mornings, except Mondays or any days after holidays, are the best time to visit the factory, when all activities are running at full capacity.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: A tuk- uk to go, wait for you and come back costs about 1500 LKR. Guided tours start at 8:00 am and run until 4:00 pm Monday to Saturday. They last about 45 minutes, cost around 450 LKR and include a detailed explanation of all the steps of tea making, a tasting of different kinds of tea, a stop by the shop where you can buy many varieties of tea powder and, last but not least, have a walk through the plantations.
Visit Dhowa Temple
Dhowa Rock Temple is a protected site located at about 10 km from Ella on the main road to Bandarawela.
This small temple is famous for its 12 metter unfinished Buddha statue, carved in the granite rock, the ornamental gate and the Sri Lankan style Buddhist murals on the walls of the cave shrine. The temple dates back over 2000 years and is thought to be done by King Walagamba when he found refuge in this area after the Indian invasion. Unfortunately the Buddha statue is not very well preserved.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: All the buses to Bandarawela pass right by the temple, tell the driver that your destination is the Temple because it’s well hidden in the jungle. A stupa is the only signal of the temple on the main road. A free donation is asked to visit the temple.
Enjoy the stunning view from Lipton’s Seat
Lipton’s Seat owes its name to Sir Thomas Lipton, the owner of acres of tea plantations throughout Ella who used to supervise his tea empire from here.
This is definitely one of the most incredible viewpoints in Sri Lanka, almost 360° over tea estates up to Udawalawe National Park and beyond to Hambantota Port.
The best time to enjoy it is early in the morning, mainly because fog covers up the view later in the day and you won’t be able to see past your nose. At the top there is a statue of Sir Lipton and a small café where you can have a delicious cup of tea (what else?) while admiring one of the most breathaking scenery you’ll ever see.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: From Ella take the train to Kandy and get off at Haputale, then hire a tuk tuk to the Dambatenne Tea Factory (around 2500 LKR for the whole trip), where the trail begins, or directly to Lipton’s Seat. The hike lasts a couple of hours and costs 100 LKR per person. On your way back you can visit Dambatenne Tea Factory.
Attend a cooking class
If you enjoy food in Sri Lanka, don’t miss the opportunity to learn how to prepare it. Chances are that during a cooking class you’ll be making rice and curry, the most popular dish of the country, and other 3 or 4 dishes.
Many family-run restaurants and guest houses in Ella offer cooking classes. They usually last 2 to 3 hours and costs around 2500 LKR. The very best comes at the end when you get to eat what you’ve cooked! I recommend to book it in advance as this is one of the most popular things to do in Ella and classes fill up quickly.
These are the best places for a cooking class:
Lanka cooking – you’ll learn 5 different recipes using the traditional terracotta vases over a wood fire. Lanka’s way of cooking remains really close to tradition. There is one class per day in the evening.
Ella Spice Garden – classes start with a tour of the spice garden where you get lots of information about how to use the different spices and end with a recipe book. There is one class in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Grand 39 – the teacher and chef will show you how to cook a complete meal: five different types of vegan rice and curry, a second course with chicken or fish and a dessert.
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Ella, Sri Lanka
How to get to Ella
Ella is very well connected to the Hill Country of Sri Lanka by train, with direct trains to Kandy and Nanu Oya, right outside Nuwara Eliya. You should book the train in advance, especially if you want a first class ticket.
Buses from Colombo’s Pettah bus station are also available every day. Tickets are cheap but I won’t recommend the bus for such a long distance due to the traffic jams and the bumpy roads.
When to visit Ella
Ella is located in Uva Province, south of Kandy, and thanks to its altitude, about 1000 meters above sea level, the temperatures are usually not nearly as warm as they are in the rest of the country.
I recommend visiting Ella from January till April and from June till September to skip the rainy season and leeches that infest any greenery with that.
When I was there, at the end of October, I was lucky enough to wear trainers otherwise, with flip flops or other open shoes, on the grass and mud I would have ‘met’ these little creatures – as happened to my guide and to a family I met when I visited Nine Arch Bridge.
Where to sleep and eat in Ella, Sri Lanka
Ella has some excellent accommodation options. Much like in the rest of the country, you can eat your meals at the hotel or guest house. These are the best places to stay in Ella:
- 98 Acres is by far the best hotel in Ella, Sri Lanka, with beautiful bungalows each with their own balcony and plunge pool, and fantastic views of the valley. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
- Will Guest Homestay is a more budget friendly option. It has plain but clean rooms, all with a view. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews.
Guided tours of Sri Lanka that also go to Ella
If you want all the fun but none of the worries of planning a trip to Sri Lanka, you may want to consider a guided tour and leave the planning bits to the experts. G Adventures has several ones that also go to Ella. These are a few of them:
- Sri Lanka spice gardens and seaside – a 12 days tour perfect for a younger crowd.
- Sri Lanka express – it only lasts 8 days, so it is perfect if you have limited time.
- Sri Lanka encompassed – a 14 days tour that covers all the most famous places to visit in the country.
Other useful information
Make sure to check if you need a visa before your trip to Sri Lanka. At the moment, citizens of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – benefit from a visa waiver. You still have to apply for the visa before you go, but don’t have to pay for it. Should you need to get a regular visa, you can easily apply for your visa online here.
Make sure to get a good travel insurance for your trip. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
For further readings Sri Lanka, you can check one of these books:
Further readings about Sri Lanka
If you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, make sure to read my other posts:
- Everything You Should Know Before Backpacking Sri Lanka
- 19 Things To Know Before Visiting Sri Lanka
- 20 Absolutely Beautiful Places To Visit In Sri Lanka
- A Guide To The Most Unique Temples In Sri Lanka
- A Great Guide To Anuradhapura Sri Lanka
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Sigiriya Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide To Kandy, Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide To Galle, Sri Lanka
- A Guide To What To See And Do In Trincomalee Sri Lanka
- What To Wear In Sri Lanka – Essential Items You Shouldn’t Travel Without
- 13 Incredibly Cool Things To Do In Colombo
- Where To Do A Safari In Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide To Visiting Nine Arch Bridge
- 9 Fabulous Things To Do In Mirissa Sri Lanka, And One Not To
- 13 Things To Know About Whale Watching In Mirissa
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Bentota, Sri Lanka
- Food In Sri Lanka: 25 Delicious Dishes You Should Try
This post was written by My Adventures Across The World contributor Elisabetta Tavani.
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau during my trip to Sri Lanka, and I wish to thank them for the incredible trip and all the useful insights. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post remain mine.