If there’s one place you should include in your Sri Lanka trip, it should be Ella.
Because Ella is simply beautiful. This famous hill town in Sri Lanka offers fantastic viewpoints, scenic train rides, and laid-back vibes.
In fact, there are so many reasons to visit Ella. And in this guide, we’re going to share with you the 11 best things to do in Ella that you should not miss. We also have included the best places to stay, how to get around, and many insider tips you would not want to miss!
Table of Contents
1. Ride the Scenic Train from Kandy to Ella
If there’s one thing you must do on your Sri Lanka trip, it should be to hop on the train from Kandy to Ella.
Not only is it the most scenic, but also the most comfortable way of getting to the hill town of Ella. But, because of its popularity in recent years, the train ride is now busy with both locals and tourists.
Still, despite the crowd, it’s totally worth it!
Get ready to pass through misty forests, colorful towns, and endless tea plantations! To get the full experience, book a ticket in third class and take a seat in any of the open doorways. But, please be careful and be responsible!
Don’t be that tourist that falls off the train from trying to take Instagramable pictures.
Besides the scenery, we enjoyed our interactions with lovely locals on the trains. The way they offered their seats by the door so you can take your photos and have the experience. Their smiles and curious eyes as they bombard you with questions, which we were happy to answer. And the local's friendliness in sharing their local treats as you both enjoy the ride.
It is truly one of the most beautiful rides in the world you wouldn’t want to miss!
2. Walk Along the Train Tracks
There are two reasons why we recommend walking along the train tracks.
First, to avoid the steep hills.
Second, you’ll see more locals and fewer tourists.
You get to see the locals in their daily life as they commute and make their way over the tracks. Others sell coconuts and snacks close to the rails, plus you get amazing views of the lush hills.
The best part? Walking and balancing on the train tracks gives you this blissful feeling like you’re in a movie. Just, be wary of any incoming trains.
3. Hike Ella Rock
The viewpoint at Ella rock offers stunning views overlooking the town and surrounding areas. To reach Ella rock you have to hike a fair bit first, but the view is definitely worth it.
Heading to Ella Rock can be easily done on your own. The hike is moderate to hard depending on your physical level. It can take you up to three hours back and forth from the main town.
Note that the last stretch of the climb to the rock gets really steep and slippery when wet.
The good news is:
You will be in the forest so there are lots of shades to protect you from the sun. We recommend starting your trek early in the morning to avoid the scorching midday sun. Make sure to follow the train tracks till you see a sign that says Ella Rock, from there on follow the trail and hike up.
From our experience, a local approached us and directed us the wrong way up. Once we were lost, the same local showed up and guided us up to Ella Rock. He then charged us ridiculous prices for his service.
Try to be vigilant! The trail to Ella is very easy to follow and also popular among visitors. So if you're unsure, wait for another hiker and tag along with them.
Once you reach the rock, a breathtaking view of Ella and cold coconuts will greet you! Hopefully, the vendor will still be there by the time you visit. So pack some water and snacks to enjoy as you get yourself perched on one of the cliff rocks.
Oh, one more thing: Watch out for leeches during the rainy season! Wear long pants or high socks to avoid them.
4. Climb Little Adam’s Peak for Sunrise
The most accessible viewpoint in Ella is Little Adam’s Peak. This hike is easier compared to Adam’s Peak located in the Ratnapura district. The hike takes around 30 to 50 minutes and it’s best to leave before sunrise or early in the morning to avoid the heat.
You can hike on your own without a guide as the path is well marked. It starts with an easy walk on gravel roads through a tea plantation. Then followed by a few steps that lead you to a few meters of rocky terrain.
Though lower than Ella Rock’s, the view at the top still showcases the beauty of Ella’s green mountains. Bring water and snacks to enjoy while on the top. It can get quite busy given it’s in a tourist area, so make sure to leave early to beat the crowd.
5. Admire the Nine Arch Bridge
When you think about Ella, you probably picture this bridge.
To this day, the Nine Arch Bridge is one of the most visited tourist spots in Ella and it is so for many good reasons. This place is a photographer's paradise as it towers in the middle of the lush forest. The best time to visit is at sunrise when the warm golden light peeks through the forest. The sun will shine into the bridge's high beams and train tracks and it's perfect for photos.
The best part?
If you leave early, you’ll barely see anyone else!
There are few places nearby where you can order tea or coconuts and wait for trains to pass by. Both sides of the bridge are good viewpoints. You can also head down to the bottom, but you’ll need to pass through high grass and slippery slopes, so make sure to be careful.
Want to get a different view and perspective?
Climb up higher on the hills! Really, you could spend the whole day just looking at this beautiful bridge.
6. Explore Lipton Seat
Lipton’s Seat is a panoramic viewpoint located in the Haputale Mountain range, around 1 to 1.5 hours drive from Ella.
Here’s a fun fact:
Lipton’s Seat is where the famed tea planter Sir Thomas Lipton used to sit to survey his empire.
We recommended that you go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and late-morning fog. It offers the most breathtaking views of the hills and vibrant tea plantations. Walk through the magnificent tea fields and admire the surrounding natural beauty. You might even witness the local tea pickers as they go on their job.
7. Walk Around Ella Town
Enjoy the few restaurants that offer amazing food and ambiance in this laid-back town!
If you’ve been traveling for a while, Ella town is the perfect spot to indulge yourself in your comfort foods. It’s good to note that the restaurants cater mainly to tourists. So you’ll find that the prices are a bit higher than the rest of the country.
Here are our recommended restaurants to try:
Have breakfast at The Barn by Starbeans
They offer the usual pancakes, waffles and avocado toasts. Portions are big and their coffee is the best in town!
Have lunch at Cafe Chill
Go for the burgers and stay for the chill vibes. The cafe also has an amazing interior that makes you want to stay longer!
Have dinner at Café UFO Ella
This cafe has a very unique architecture that feels like you’re inside a wooden ship. Their menu revolves around Asian Fusion, Western and Sri Lankan food.
Have drinks at 98 Acres Resort
A bit further from the town, this upscale hotel has a restaurant and bar located on a hillside. They offer Western and Sri Lankan Cuisine and best to visit while watching the sunset. Enjoy the food and the stunning landscape from the restaurant.
8. Swim at Diyaluma Falls
Diyaluma falls is the second tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka and is a great day trip from Ella. What makes it great is the amazing views it offers at the top while you’re having a refreshing swim in the pools.
From Ella, rent a scooter or hire a tuk-tuk driver to visit the magnificent waterfall. It takes around an hour to reach the falls and another 30 to 40 minutes walk up to the top. You can definitely hike on your own or hire one of the many guides waiting at the bottom of the falls.
Remember to bring snacks and water to enjoy at the top!
9. Visit Ravana Falls
Ravana falls is worth a stop when in Ella as it’s only around 7 km away from the main town.
Located near the Wellawaya-Ella Road, these 30 feet high falls can be seen from the main road. Some locals will charge you for parking beside the road, so if you want to avoid that, you'll need to park away from the waterfall.
Enjoy the serenity as you admire the cascading waterfalls, landscape, and amazing views. It is accessible and there are stalls at the bottom where locals are selling food.
10. Join a Cooking Class at Ella Spice Garden
Finding yourself enjoying the Sri Lankan dishes?
Why not learn how to make them from scratch.
Book a class with Ella Spice Garden, one of the most popular and highly rated cooking classes in Ella. Spend an afternoon as you tour their spice garden. Then learn how to prepare a traditional Sri Lankan dish for 2000 LKR (10 USD) per person.
11. Rent a Scooter and Drive Around
One of the best things you can do almost anywhere in Asia is to drive around on a motorbike.
Driving in Ella is no exception.
You can access the narrow roads with a scooter. And it also gives you more opportunity to explore off the beaten path. Driving on your own is convenient as you can go wherever and whenever at your own pace. Take advantage of this as you stop at many of the viewpoints and witness the views of the rolling hills.
If you happen to stumble upon a noteworthy place, share it with us. We would love to know!
Best Time to Visit Ella
Ella has a tropical rainforest climate and the weather is mostly warm, humid, and rainy all year round.
The good news is you can visit Ella anytime during the year and still enjoy it. It’s good to note in what season you’re visiting Ella, so you know what clothes to bring and how to plan your activities.
On average, the hottest months are from June to August while the coldest month is January. Although October is the wet season, the rain often doesn’t last long and you can still enjoy the majority of the day.
But, if you want to enjoy the driest weather in Ella, plan your trip around January to April. During these months, there is less chance of rain and you can enjoy cooler weather in the evening. So expect occasional rainfall anytime during your visit but don’t let that put you off.
Remember: Rains in Ella don’t last long. In fact, the rain makes the area’s scenery green and fresh!
Read: Best Time to Visit Sri Lanka
How Many Days should you Stay in Ella?
To fully enjoy and experience Ella, we recommend staying at least 2 to 3 days.
This way, you’ll get to visit all the must-see places without rushing. And, you will still have enough time to spare in case it rains. If there’s a place you should take your time at, it should be here. With Ella’s laid-back vibes and plenty of activities, this charming town will make you want to stay longer.
Is Ella Safe to Visit?
Like anywhere else in the world, bad things can happen and petty crimes are present. Now, to answer the question: is Ella safe?
Yes, Ella is a safe place to visit.
In fact, Sri Lanka is probably the safest country we’ve traveled to in Asia. The locals are very friendly and crimes directed at tourists are rare. We’ve made two separate trips to Sri Lanka and not once did we feel unsafe. The only thing you should keep an eye out for is the harsh midday sun! So prepare your sunscreens and apply generously.
Obviously, we cannot guarantee that nothing will go wrong during your travels. Our advice is to do your research, use your good judgment, and don’t take unnecessary risks.
How to Get to Ella
The best way to reach Ella is to take the famous train from Kandy or Hatton if you’re coming from Adam’s Peak.
The train to Ella is considered one of the most beautiful rides in the world. And we agree! The ride captures the beautiful scenery of the lush hills and tea plantations.
The train passes by the charming small towns of Sri Lanka where you can witness the local life. The train also stops at these colorful stations that are brimming with life. From locals selling food from the windows to people rushing in and out of the train cars.
You can find the updated train schedules and pricing on the railway government site. But a ticket from Kandy to Ella costs 150 LKR (0.75 USD) for a third class and 270 LKR (1.36 USD) for a second class.
You can buy a ticket at the train station but if you want to make sure, reserve your tickets at the stations a day in advance. Especially if you’re traveling in the high season. Though in our case, we showed up on the day of our departure and bought our tickets with no trouble at the Kandy train station.
Alternatively, it is possible and cheap to take a bus from anywhere else to Ella. But, it is tiresome and complicated as you will need to change buses and might even have to take a tuk-tuk.
If you’re coming from Yala National Park, head to Tissamaharama and catch the bus to Bandarawela. Once you get on, tell the driver to drop you at Ella town on the way. Ask your accommodation for the most updated bus schedule and pricing.
The most convenient way to get to Ella is to book a taxi. Especially if you want to save time on your commute or if you have a lot of luggage. We recommend asking your accommodation to arrange a taxi for you. This is to avoid getting scammed and paying too much.
Where to Stay in Ella
Ella town has great accommodation options that offer great views. If you want to stay closer to most restaurants, stay around the town center or the railway station. But if you wish to stay in a quieter area, book accommodation along with Ella - Passara road. You’ll also be closer to the Nine Arch Bridge and Little Adam’s Peak.
Here are our recommended places to stay in Ella:
- Cascade Valley
Budget (20 - 30 USD)
- Dimuthu Homestay
Mid-Range (40 - 50 USD)
- 98 Acres Resort and Spa
High-End (200 - 600 USD)
How to Get Around in Ella
The best way to explore Ella is by tuk-tuk. It is convenient and cheap. You can find tuk-tuk drivers hanging around on the streets waiting for passengers. Or, organize a tuk-tuk with your accommodation. This way, they’ll send you local drivers who they know and are reliable.
Tip: If you flag a tuk-tuk on the street, agree on the price before riding to avoid paying too much.
Ella town is small and it’s easy to get around on foot. It is even possible to reach most of the main attractions by walking. Find your way along the railway tracks to avoid the steep hills.
If you get tired, you can always flag a tuk-tuk or hop on the local buses. Make sure they head to the main Ella Town. On our trip, we walked quite the distance and we took a bus back to the town center. The drivers knew exactly where we were heading as soon as they saw us (tourists) waiting on the side of the road.
If you have an international license, rent a scooter to explore Ella and the surrounding attractions. Be careful as you drive up the steep and winding roads. Rent one from your accommodation or any of the rental shops in town.
And that’s it!
The 11 top things to do in Ella that you should not miss.
Now it’s up to you to explore this beautiful town in Sri Lanka. And don't forget to let us know in the comments below which one you have enjoyed the most.