Ella is located in the center of Sri Lanka and is an absolute nature gem.
In the heart of the tea plantations, Ella is a beautiful small town in the hill country. It is a great base for tourists & travelers who want to explore the surrounding hills and enjoy the breathtaking views of Badulla’s green valleys.
The British initially built the railway system in Sri Lanka in 1864, to transport tea and coffee from the Hills to Colombo, for shipping internationally.
Today there are train tracks between some of the biggest cities in Sri Lanka, in quite good conditions.
It is said that the « Kandy – Ella » train ride is the most beautiful train ride in the world. I wouldn’t guarantee it, yet it’s and amazing journey, and I highly recommend it if you are in the area, as taking the train to or from Ella is the most famous stretch of train travel in Sri Lanka, and is nearly a tourist attraction in itself
The scenery from the train is just breathtaking! Like a green carpet of tea bushes rolling by, with colorful sari-dressed tea pickers popping out of the sea of green…
Each stretch of the way offers a different landscape, different hills, and a different shade of green.
Do book your tickets and seats at least a month in advance if you want to be seated, as tickets run out fast.
From Kandy, two trains operate daily to Ella, one at 8h45 and another at 11h20.
In case you don’t get a reservation, just show up 45 minutes in advance and queue to get a « nonreservation » ticket for either 2nd or 3rd class. You’ll have to play it smart as the train gets really packed… What I’d suggest, if this is the case, is just to dump your bag somewhere safe (the trains are so packed no one will bother to steal it !), and find yourself a great spot by the door. Just sit and let your feet swing in nature… Not everywhere can you travel like this, so make up for the experience! Otherwise, cars and buses operate, and you can always plan your trip back to Kandy by train. If you do get to book your tickets in advance, make sure not to book 1st class tickets, as the wagons are A-Ced and therefore the windows are closed…. And dirty. You won’t enjoy your ride as much, as it is all about the view! As you reach the cute little train station, don’t be « off-ed » by how ugly the village itself look. As you’ve eaten up 7hrs of breathtaking landscape, the arrival might seem like a bad surprise, yet don’t you worry, the view is on its way!
Ella is a small peaceful village in the middle of a beautiful green countryside, with spectacular views! It is nestled in a valley, surrounded by high mountains, some of them higher than 2000 m.
I was there in August, and the weather is just wonderful in the morning. The afternoon gets cloudy, and tropical showers are to be expected.
The plan as many outings in the morning, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. Rains don’t necessarily last long, yet as most of the things to do are outdoors, it’s not always pleasant to treck under the pouring rain. Do carry a rain jacket, and an umbrella just in case!
Where to Stay?
Laura Homestay: Located up on the hills of Ella, a 10-minute walk from Ella’s main road, this little homestay offers an outstanding view, great bedrooms.
Each room has it’s own private terrasse, right in front of the mountains and tea fields. There’s nothing like waking up to such a piece of nature! The breakfast, held on the main terrasse is a feast, and the staff as helpful as friendly. A must go to! Prices go from 40$ and above for the rooms.
Rustil Hill: Right next to little Adam’s Peak, this guesthouse held by a local family has amazing service. Breakfast isn’t always included if you go through booking, yet the rooms are efficiently furnished, and you’ll get all the help you need from the owners.Many other places offers are there, satisfying all types of budgets!
What to do?
Little Adam’s Peak
The start of this little treck is accessible by foot from all the guest houses and hotels in the area.
Unlike it’s « elder brother,» Adam’s Peak, you’ll reach the top of this one in not time (a good 30 minutes), and the view from the top is divine.
On your way down, stop at Mr. Coco, who will make you some delicious coconut water with either passion fruit, line our pineapple. A great treat with an amazing view!
The beginning of the treck is really easy to find and the treck itself just a small hike, so no need to book a guide for this attraction.
Walk on the rail
It does seem random, yet it’s something one doesn’t get to do on a regular basis, let’s be honest! If you’ve seen the classic 1980s film, “Stand By Me,“ you’ll particularly appreciate the walk along the railway lines. All you have to do is get to the Ella train station, and head right (the Station being on your back), to go and see the bridge.
It’s, of course, nothing extraordinary, yet worth the small treck. Chances are, you’ll come across a train, and see yourself traveling from the outside!
The bridge is quite high, photos can be great, and a beverage place has been arranged in case you get thirsty, or just if you want to chill before heading back.
The Ella region has many waterfalls, and one of it’s most popular is the Ravana Waterfall. Located 7-8 km down the hill of Ella, I’d advise you to book a roundtrip tuk-tuk as the walk back will seem like endless, and quite tiring.
The place does crowd up by noon, so make sure to reach there sooner to avoid the tourists.
Don’t forget your bathing suit! Even though the water can be cold, there’s nothing like swimming under a waterfall. You can then chill and dry off on the rocks, before heading back to Ella.
Buses do operate there as well, don’t hesitate to ask your hotel’s front desk for more information.
Ella Rock is a famous cliff, located high above Ella’s village, roughly a two hours strenuous trek from the center of town. The rock offers stunning views across the hill country and the plains below. The trek to Ella Rock is about 8 km long and is quite easy if you follow the track. One of the highest peaks in the near surroundings, Ella rock, is best done with a guide, as the indications aren’t always there, and you might miss a turn. If you’re brave enough, start off your climb at night, to reach there by sunrise Do wear shoes and socks as leeches are around!
Do check out the Uva Halpewatte Tea plantation, because, after all, you are in the Country of the finest tea! For over 35 years, Halpewatte Tea has been producing some of the most distinctively delicious tealeaves hailing from Ceylon.
To get there catch a bus towards Bandarawela, get off at Kumbawela junction, and flag a bus going towards Badulla. Get off just after the 27km post, near the Halpe Temple. From here you have a very steep 2km walk to the factory (source: the Lonely Planet)
This outing is perfect as you get to see how world famous Ceylon tea is manufactured, step by step. You’ll also get to know about Ceylon tea here, and taste some of it as well. There is a shop for you to purchase gifts and tea as well, an “all in one” combo! You can also check out the Newburgh Green Tea Factory, owned by Finlay, one of the world’s larger tea producers.
Ella Spice Garden
There is a small spice garden near Ella as well, and you can get a visit to learn more about where and to grow some of the spices you could use on a daily basis.
Although the garden tour is short (around 15 minutes), the Spice Garden also offers cooking classes at lunch time with a personal cook, which will give you a great insight on Sri Lankan real food. Do book in advance if you wish to participate in the classes, as it can get quite full.
Where to eat?
The one and famous place there is the Café/Bar Chill, yet don’t expect to find any locals there! The menu is quite international, with some Sri Lankan specialties. The beers are a bargain (I guess that’s why all the travelers hang out there !) a well and the place is quite laid back, with sofas and bean bags on the top floor. All the good food spots are located on the main (and only) road in Ella, Wellawaya Ella Kumbalwela Highway. You’ll get local and international food everywhere, and prices don’t vary that much. A Barista has just opened on that same road, in case you really need your coffee fix! (The Sri Lankan coffee might taste a bit bland for some).
To sum it all up
Ella is absolutely breathtaking regarding view and landscape. The different shades of green, mixed with a clear blue sky, are definitely a view you could just watch all day long.
Most of the attractions can be done by foot, without any means of transportation.
Not that it’s physical, being well equipped (good shoes, shorts, and rain gear come in handy) and in a decent condition will make your trip an unforgettable experience!