The crown jewel of Sri Lanka’s hill country, Ella has been on the radar for several years and for good reason. This hill country destination has it all; a cool climate with plenty of sunshine almost year-round, rugged, hilly tea plantations for miles, misty cloud forests, jaw-dropping viewpoints and a handful of sleepy, boho cafés for relaxing down after a day of exploring.
This small, eclectic town is located 3,415 ft above sea level and ranks high amongst Sri Lanka’s bucket list destinations in the tea country for its unrivalled, natural beauty. It also has a great mix of accommodations, from budget guest houses to luxury bungalows. We’ve picked our top things to do in Ella and shared some top tips for visiting them:
1. For the gram: Sunrise over Nine Arch Bridge
Easily among Sri Lanka’s best experiences in the tea country, the Nine Arch Bridge is incredibly insta-worthy, drawing large crowds of people for its striking architecture and setting. If you are fascinated by trains and railways, read up about the ‘Demodara Loop’ which is just around the corner. The duration of this walk could take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour, depending on which part of Ella you’re based at. The walk from Nine Skies to Demodara Loop, for example, takes about 1.5 hours on foot (return) while a walk to Nine Arch Bridge is about 20 minutes in a vehicle or about an hour on foot (one way).
Tip: To get the perfect picture here, we recommend making an early start.
2. Explore the Ella Town
You’ll find plenty to do in Ella Town, including visits (guided or unaccompanied) to tea factories, cycling paths and plenty of cafés or restaurants in Ella to unwind at. From a good Italian espresso to cold Lion beer or typical rural rice and curries, you’ll find it all in town.
3. Climb Little Adam’s Peak
So named for sharing near identical physical features to the mighty Adam’s Peak, this shorter climb is well worth the effort if you haven’t got the time nor energy for the 4 + hour hike of its big brother. If you don’t have a head for heights, this climb is relatively fast, easy, and is among the most rewarding shorter treks in Sri Lanka.
Tip: Time your visit to make the most of sundown beers in the town.
4. Hike up Ella Rock
Considered among the most breathtaking mountain ranges found in the island, the summit of Ella Rock presents magnificent views of the Ella Gap, a vast valley that stretches from the central highlands to the southern plains. The Ella Rock Hike is a top experience in the tea country. The hour-long trail includes a short walk over railway tracks before cutting into the rock which at times is steep, with a challenging terrain. If you’re staying at Nine Skies, and are pressed for time, partial views of the Ella Gap can also be viewed from the garden and pool.
5. Blue Water Pond (Nil Diya Pokuna)
If you have a spirit for adventure holidays, and prepared to get a little muddy, we can’t recommend this experience enough. ‘Nil Diya Pokuna’ translates to Blue Water Pond, an astonishing underground pond located 80 metres deep inside a mountain cave near Ella. The cave is believed to have been built by King Ravana and is shrouded in folklore. This experience is carried out by an experienced guide, from a nearby village. He will introduce himself at the entrance and provide you with powerful headlamps to use on your journey into the cave.
Tip: Wear your swimsuit under light cool clothing, the pond is an amazing spot for a dip