Visiting Nine Arch Bridge is a must when in Ella. In the last few years, this has become one of the most iconic attractions in the country. Completed in 1921 and entirely made of brick, stone and cement, the bridge has nice arches, with a total length of 91 meters and a height of 24 meters.
Nine Arch Bridge is located between Ella and Demodara stations, on a green valley and surrounded by gorgeous tea plantations. It’s one of those hidden gems that will soon make it on the wishlist of anybody visiting Sri Lanka.
Upon visiting, it is easy to see why. The area where the bridge is located is lush and absolutely charming, in a mysterious kind of way. After all, this is the Hill Country – one of the most beautiful regions of Sri Lanka, famous for the train journeys that are thought to be among the most beautiful in the world.
In this post, I explain everything you need to know to visit Nine Arch Bridge, with plenty of tips to avoid the crowds and to fully enjoy your visit. Before doing that, however, let me go through its history.
The History Of Nine Arch Bridge
As I have already pointed out, Nine Arch Bridge was completed in 1921, when Sri Lanka was still part of the British Empire. Located in Gotuwala, between the stations of Ella and Demodara, it was known as the “nine skies bridge,” a name that apparently refers to the fact that, if you stand below the bridge, you can see the sky through its arches.
The bridge was built in stone, cement and bricks because, at the time of its construction, World War I was waging in Europe and materials such as steel and other metals had to be used in the war effort – in order to complete the bridge, it was thus decided to use whatever other materials would be available.
11 Things To Know Before Visiting Nine Arch Bridge
You can easily get there from Ella
Ella is the most obvious access point to get to Nine Arch Bridge. From there, you can take a tuk tuk for around 600 LKR (Sri Lanka Rupees) (round trip). Alternatively, turn left at Sri Kanaser Temple on the Ella to Passara road and from there you just have to follow the signs.
Once you get off the tuk tuk, it is a 30 minute walk through the jungle and tea fields, whichever part of the bridge you decide to go to.
You can get to Nine Arch Bridge from Little Adam’s Peak
One alternative and fun way to get to Nine Arch Bridge is from the summit of Little Adam’s Peak hike. From there, you can follow a trail that goes directly to the bridge, so you can save some time if you are in town for a limited amount of time and want to hit both attractions on the same day. The hike can take between two and three hours, depending on how often you stop.
There are several viewpoints
You have plenty of places from which you can admire Nine Arch Bridge. Where you go is all a matter of what kind of views you prefer. I decided to wait for the train to arrive from the small coconut shop near the bridge – so most of my photos are taken from there.
These are the most famous viewpoints.
The coconut shop
Coming down from the trail where the tuk tuk leaves you, you get to a viewpoint where there is a small coconut shop. There are a couple of tables – the place is actually very modest. But the views of the bridge are just perfect.
This café is thought to have the best views of the bridge. It’s located on the northern end of the bridge, and offers stunning views of the curve of the bridge. From there, you will be able to see the train as it comes out of the tunnel.
The hills above the bridge
On the same side as Asanka CafAè you will find a track on your right hand side that will lead you to a nice viewpoint.
The tea plantations
Pretty much anywhere below the bridge, there are tea plantations from where you can look up and get stunning shots. If you intend to go there, keep in mind that this is private land; it will be muddy and that you may find leeches, so you really need to wear proper shoes.
The hills on the way to Ella station
If you go towards the tunnel at the end of the bridge, on the way to Ella, you will get to the forest and you can walk up for perfect views of the bridge and the train passing on it.
It is free to visit
Like many other incredible attractions in Sri Lanka, Nine Arch Bridge is free to visit. You will only have to pay for the tuk tuk ride to get there – unless you decide to walk all the way there.
You should plan to visit in the dry season
Nine Arch Bridge is located in Ella, in the Uva Province, south of Kandy, at about 1000 meters above sea level. This part of Sri Lanka is not as hot as the rest of the island, but it tends to rain regularly. I recommend visiting between January and April and between June and September to skip the peak rainy season. Keep in mind that there are chances of rain even when it is supposed to be dry season.
When I visited Nine Arch Bridge, at the end of October, I got quite a bit of rain!
The early morning hours are the best
Nine Arch Bridge is not a crowded attraction, but if you really want to have the place all to yourself, make sure to plan your visit around sunrise time – it’s best for light and even for rain (it tends to start raining in the early afternoon). The only downside of visiting at sunrise is that there are no trains passing on the bridge,
You should look at the train timetable to plan your visit
The best time to visit Nine Arch Bridge is when the train is crossing it. The train from Kandy to Bandarawela (via Ella) runs several times a day. However, keep in mind it is rarely on time so check the train timetable but factor in enough time for it to arrive. As you wait for the train, you can walk around to admire the tea plantations. You will know when the train is about to arrive as a whistle will announce it.
You can expect trains to go over the bridge at the following times: 9:30 am; 11:30 am; 3:30 pm; 4:30 pm; 5:30 pm.
There are guided tours that take you there
You can easily visit Nine Arch Bridge independently, but if you have limited time in Ella and want to hit all the main attractions in one day, you can opt for a guided tour.
These are the best options:
- Ella Rock, Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge with transfer
- Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge Hiking
- Ella Three Icons Tour
You can sip coconut while you admire the views
There is a small coconut shop with tables and the best views right in front of the bridge. There, you can get a fresh coconut for a real steal. It’s a nice and refreshing way to spend some time while waiting for the train.
There are leeches on the trail
Especially during rainy season, leeches are a common issue in Sri Lanka. Make sure to wear shoes (best if hiking boots) and thick socks to protect your ankles, and to avoid walking on the grass where leeches may be hiding. We didn’t have an issue, but we saw several people battling to take them off.
You need to be dressed properly
The main reason I suggest appropriate attire when visiting Nine Arch Bridge is that there is a bit of walking to do (nothing strenuous); there are leeches on the trail; and the chances of rain are high. You should plan to wear good shoes, socks and rain proof gear.
This is a list of essential items to wear and carry:
- Osprey Manta 28 – this is a good backpack perfect for shorter hikes and can be used as a daypack.
- A 10 L drybag – bring it with you if you want to protect your camera in case of rain.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX or another pair of hiking boots or shoes – best if water repellent.
- A pair of hiking pants such as Horizn Convertible. You can also wear shorts – but remember there are leeches on the trail!
- A cotton t-shirt such as the Lea Pullover.
- A rain jacket or a poncho such as Kuhl Hydroflex.
- A good DSLR camera. I have a Nikon D3300.
- A good lens such as the 18-105 mm.
- If you aren’t into photography a good compact mirrorless camera may actually be a better (and lighter) option.
- Water bottle and filter.
- An umbrella.
Other Useful Information For Visiting Nine Arch Bridge
Where to sleep and eat in Ella
Ella is the starting point for visiting Nine Arch Bridge, and has some excellent accommodation options. You can eat your meals at the hotel or guest house, but you will be glad to know that there are a few good restaurants in Ella. These are the best places to stay:
- 98 Acres is the best hotel in Ella. There are beautiful bungalows with their own balcony and plunge pool, and fantastic views of the valley. Click here for the latest rates.
- Will Guest Homestay is a budget friendly place with plain but clean rooms, all with a view. Click here for the latest rates.
Other useful information
Keep in mind you may need a visa to visit Sri Lanka, so make sure to research before you fly. At the moment, citizens of many countries – including the United States, Canada and all EU countries – do not need to pay for a visa, but still have to apply for it. Should you need to get a regular visa, you can easily apply for your visa online here.
I also recommend getting a good travel insurance for your trip to Sri Lanka. Get yours here.
Check out my post “Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.”
Make sure to read my other posts about Sri Lanka for extra help in planning your trip:
- 20 Fabulous Places To Visit In Sri Lanka
- A Complete Guide to Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
- A Guide To The Most Unique Buddhist Temples In Sri Lanka
- What To Wear In Sri Lanka: Essential Items You Shouldn’t Travel Without
- 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
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.