Amba Estate: The Hidden Gem of Ella

Amba Estate: The Hidden Gem of Ella

Kandy-Ella, arguably the world’s most scenic train journey! Take someone in this train journey and he or she will love you for life. And that’s what Nathan did when Z took him in this train journey. The first time we went to Ella was in a small goods train with one or two passenger compartments. This time, we reserved our seats in Colombo-Badulla Podi Menike train, popular as ‘the blue dragon’ among many. Sri Lankan trains have funky, hilarious yet fabulous names. Let’s talk about that in another post! (Also read: Why train is the best way to travel)

The train journey is nine hours long. Yet, along the way are cascades of waterfalls, tea plantations, herds of cattle, mini mountainous houses painted in bright pop up colours to keep you glued to this picturesque journey. We sat by the door, letting our feet out and often wondering that we were brought into some sort of a surreal heaven. (Also read: Off the beaten path: a stay at The Weir House)

And after 9 hours, we got off the train at Heel Oya Station, a tiny but beautiful, vintage-ish station before Kital Ella and Ella. From there, we took a tuk tuk to our destination as instructed by Simon before the journey. And then we arrived at Amba Estate – our home for a few days. And if we could, we’d call it home everyday.

Kandy Ella Train NatnZin

Amba Estate NatnZin

Amba Estate NatnZin

Clove Tree Amba Estate

Amba Estate Ella

Amba Estate is a beautiful guesthouse complex with a tea estate and a farm that support the local community and focus on self-sufficient and sustainable living. It’s only a 20 minute drive from Heel Oya (30 minutes from Ella) yet Amba is a hidden gem, away from the hustle-bustle of Ella. It’s as if the entire journey of nine hours is compact in one beautiful estate.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by Baloo, Gus and Tiger, furry friends who call Amba their home. Baloo is the resident pooch, only a few weeks old but he’s a hefty fella who’d take your heart away. Gus is a fox-like nutter with so much life to him. Tiger’s the tiniest fella but the toughest of them all, and apparently Baloo’s companion, too.

Then, we were welcomed by Cindy, as Simon was away on a trip. She’s the most amazing host one could hope for and we bonded with Cindy in no time.

Our room at Amba was in the main building, an old tea bungalow. The main bungalow has four rooms. Ours had two twin beds. Each with comfortable mattress and soft duvets. And in one corner, there was a big wooden almirah. It’s as if you paid a visit to your grandma’s old home in Sri Lanka. Inside the living room, there were a few glass vases adorned with heliconia flowers. Tiny keepsake boxes and metal tins, kept on wooden tables, with painted embroidery-type patterns. Remember sugar plums, it’s the the little things. Amba is detail-oriented and we love it.

On our arrival, we have a cup of lemongrass iced tea, produced by Amba itself. And then we head to a viewpoint, a small walk uphill which gives you a breathtaking panoramic view of Ella and mountains beyond. Baloo guide us to the top, and sit with us, gazing at the beautiful nothingness as if it was one beautiful movie. Growing up, often, as kids, we dreamt of living the mountain life, even if it’s for a few days. And here, we are, today!

You, the person you love and an adorable pooch with the backdrop of the giant Ella Rock. If only our eyes could film what they see, it would have been one amazing movie. In a far corner, are layers and layers of mountains, mist-laden, and the sun bids goodbye for another day in paradise, painting skies above in soft hues. Days like these are what we live for.

As the dust settles, we walk back downhill with Baloo. Along the way are trees filled with Sri Lankan Pera, hailing from Guava family. It’s the first time Nathan ever had Pera and he’s overjoyed! Amba Estate has a big Pera and Lavulu plantation and the team are experimenting on new products based on these two Lankan fruits. 

Food Amba Estatae NatnZin
Nalini’s rice & curry the second night with delicious guava (pera) curry

Dinner is served at the big dining table inside the main building. Everyone sits together to engage in a meaningful conversation. There’s no better way to bring strangers together than culinary experiences, right? And Amba does it the best! The dinner table was full of mouthwatering food prepared by Nalini and plenty of smiles. Dinner here is a three course menu. The first night we got Sri Lankan vadai as starters. It was followed by rice and curry with plenty of curry dishes. For dessert, we got a curd pudding with a ginger biscuit base. Nalini’s food is absolutely delicious. Nalini worked as a tea plucker in the estate. When Amba didn’t have a resident chef, the village ladies suggested Nalini as the best cook in the village. And that’s how she started her work as the chef at Amba! Her food is amazing. Despite that, she’s the sweetest lady you could ever meet. It’s lovely to see how a little compliment about her food brightens up her face as well. Besides, she introduced us to guava curry. Yep, we aren’t kidding. Being Sri Lankans ourselves, we’ve never had a guava curry before.

Oh, and we discovered Icelandic chocolate was pretty much the world’s best (according to Cindy). Have you ever had them?

The next morning we woke up to Amba breakfast. Beautiful country side farm breakfast. Fresh bread, baked right at the house, soft and creamy, accompanied with delicious passion fruit jam, ginger jam and marmalade. Amba has a small shop with their products like tea, jams and mosquito repellents made with Sri Lankan herbs. If you ever want to take a bit of Amba back home with you, that’s the place you want to visit. Fresh fruit, village curd mixed with Kithul treacle were followed by pipping hot dosai with sambal. And you get a good cup of freshly brewed morning chai, too. All home grown, fresh, organic food!

Soon after our breakfast, we hiked to Eagle’s Rock with Cindy where you get a beautiful panoramic view of Ella and beyond. In our previous trips, we’ve visited Ella before but Amba, hands down has the access to best hikes and viewpoints of Ella. At noon, we walked to Upper Ravana Falls with another guest who was staying at Clove Tree Cottage which belongs to Amba. You walk through Pera and tea plantations and cross a wooden bridge to get to these glorious waterfalls. Upper Ravana Falls are simply majestic. Make sure you bring your swimming costumes here. You can take a dip in this majestic natural bathing pool.

Breakfast Amba Estate

Amba Estate Ella

Ella Rock NatnZin

Hiking Amba Estate NatnZin

Amba Hiking Ella

Our stay at Amba was one of the best trips we’ve ever had and if we could, we’d go back in a heartbeat. There’s so much to do in and around here and Amba partners are planning on making a retreat where you could stay one or two weeks, with yoga, meditation, homegrown tea and island’s some of the finest homegrown food. In future, there’ll be gorgeous open air cafe upon Ravana Falls to sit back, relax and watch the clouds go past Sri Lanka’s pristine mountains at Ella.

And with that, there’s nothing that you would not love about Amba: a gorgeous farm house stay with homegrown food and freshly brewed tea, breathtaking viewpoints and majestic Upper Ravana Falls. All mingled with love and care of the hosts, and the local community. Amba, a beautiful, beautiful home (away from home.)

Ella NatnZin Ravana Falls

Upper Ravana Falls Ella

Ravana Fall NatnZin Ella

Ravana Falls Amba Estate

Practical Information

Amba Estate focuses on self sufficient living, community development, environmental restoration and promoting mental well-being. There are three guesthouses at the moment: Amba Farmhouse (3 double bed rooms and 1 twin room), Eagle Rock Villa, a private home with 2 double bed rooms and 2 twin rooms, and Clove Tree Cottage with 1 triple bedroom, 1 double bed room and 1 twin bed room. Amba suggests you to reserve the whole house so you have all the privacy. But if you want, you can book one or any number of rooms as per your wish as well.

Things to see and do: At Amba, you can go on a tour around their organic farm and see the process of tea making and join a tea tasting session. You can hike to Eagle’s Rock, the viewpoint at Amba, Upper Ravana Falls and Ella Rock.

Excursions: You can take small trips to Lipton’s Seat in Bandarawela, Adisham Bungalow in Haputale, Buduruwagala Temple, Dova Temple and the covered bridge at Bolgoda.

How to get there: If you are using public transportation, train is the best way to get to Amba, nine hours from Colombo and six hours from Kandy. Make sure you reserve your tickets prior to your journey to avoid any hassle.

You can drive your own vehicle up to Amba or if you are coming with a driver, Amba can arrange driver accommodation with three meals a day. 

We would like to thank Amba Estate for organizing our stay with them, but as always opinions are honest and entirely our own.

44 thoughts on “Amba Estate: The Hidden Gem of Ella”

  • What a relaxing escape! The train ride sounds magical. Yummy food, beautiful scenery, and a great location to recharge.

    • It is relaxing but packed with a lot of exciting activities like hiking, farmhouse trails and so on. The food was easily some of the best here. Amba are planing to make a beautiful retreat where you can throw back and relax. It will be exciting to see how it goes.

  • It looks like a glorious train journey. Like you say it seems to have wonderful and scenic views to enjoy which we cannot complain about. We love train travel, we hope to try this one day

    • Yeah the train journey to Amba was beautiful but Amba itself was so gorgeous. It’s as if the whole train journey is in one place with beautiful mountain views and pretty waterfalls.

  • I love traveling by train. All the more so if there is a beautiful place and good food at the end. Nine hours through all that countryside would go by quickly.

    • Yep! You never know how nine hours go by when you are traveling through the beautiful countryside. And Amba Estate was the best destination one could ask for.

  • There are so many wonderful scenic train rides I want to take. Now I have added another to my list. I love the pictures of the waterfall. Great ob in capturing it.

    • Yeah the waterfall was so magical. It’s as if you are living a dream. Oh yes, Kandy to Ella is called the world’s most scenic train journey so you sure need to add it to your list!

  • Amba Estate seems to be the perfect place to stay around Ella. In fact the train journey up there sounds wonderful, I’ll have to find a date and make her fall in love with me! The surroundings of the Amba Estate seem to be a paradise, I can understand if someone stayed there for weeks and months. The cuisine you photographed looks delicious too.

    • It’s such a beautiful place no one would feel like leaving Amba! The food is absolutely the best. All home grown and made with love <3

  • I’ve seen a few posts on Sri Lanka recently and I’d really love to go. Your photos of the waterfalls and scenery are stunning! It sounds like the ideal break and the hiking looks great. Amba Estate looks like the ideal place to stay.

  • The guava curry looks so delicious. I better find a recipe of that. I got engrossed reading your dining experience. Nalini sounds so nice and a great chef. I like her remarkable story too. I would search more about the Icelandic chocolate. Then your breakfast looks super yummy too. I would love to visit Amba someday too.

  • I have heard so much about the train journeys in Sri Lanka, especially those which involve Kandy in the route. Trains are my most preferred way to travel. Amba Estate is such a gorgeous place. I can spend all day here just, reading, writing, chatting with loved ones or just snoozing.

    • Yes, Kandy to Nanu Oya and Ella are the two most popular train journeys. Colombo-Matara (South Coast) is also a good option with endless sea views. It sure is. Amba is a gorgeous place.

  • Your blog and pictures itself is tempting me to go here. Infact the train journey up here itself sounds good, at least for the one who loves to travel by train. This is definitely my kind of a place where I would love to get myself lost in the lap of nature.

  • Amba estates seems like the ideal place to stay in around in Ella. The train ride would be a wonderful experience in itself. The proximity to all the hiking trails makes it the perfect spot to explore all the scenic views Ella has to offer. Staying there for a two week retreat would be bliss.

    • Exactly! It sure is the perfect base, away from the hustle bustle of Ella town and with the access to all the amazing hikes and waterfalls.

  • Traveling through Sri Lanka in a train, has been there on my to do list for a long time now. I loved seeing Sri Lanka and specially the guesthouse through your eyes. The pictures of the waterfall are beautifully captured.

    • Thank you so much! You’d love train travel in Sri Lanka. There are many scenic routes you could take: Colombo-Kandy, Kandy-Ella, Colombo-Galle/Matara, Colombo-Jaffna and more 🙂

  • From that waterfall to the sumptuous food platter, everything seems perfect in this estate. Also, love that tiny hill strain. I can travel on such a train for days. I also loved the subdued decor that blends well with the surroundings.

  • That train ride looks very scenic. Great way to start the vacation! I could imagine the Amba Estate and your wonderful experience. It sounds like the perfect place to destress and recover from the usual, busy lifestyle. The food seems very organic, flavorful and delicious! Just to answer your question, I have already tried the Icelandic chocolate and it is really, really good.:)

    • Amba is the perfect place to stay if you are ever traveling to Ella. Ella town has become a chaotic tourist hub now. It’s so commercialised but Amba remains unspoilt and still so closer to all the beautiful hikes and waterfalls in Ella. Oh awesome! That’s what Cindy told us, too. Is it better than Swiss and Belgian chocolate?

  • This looks like such a beautiful getaway from humdrum of life. I didn’t know Kandy-Ella is the world’s most scenic train journey. Your estate, toy train, room, decor, food…everything looks perfect. Would love to visit it.

    • It is arguably named the most scenic by a lot of people. I’ve seen a lot of train rides in India, too which are as beautiful as Kandy-Ella train ride. Specially the Kalka-Shimla Toy Train <3 You should definitely make a trip to Sri Lanka.

  • Oh this looks like a wonderful place to visit. So much greenery. Such a beautiful guest house. And who doesn’t love a good train ride?

    • Amba indeed is a beautiful place to visit and stay! They’ve major plans to make it a retreat, too. Yay to that! Train rides are everything <3

  • This sounds so rejuvenating. The interiors done up so well, not exactly lavish but definitely more than sufficient.
    The scenic views so worth framing. I would love to visit some day.

    • It’s indeed not lavish but all the little things of countryside is there, making it a fabulous stay! And that’s what all matters, right?

  • Those waterfall photographs are just stunning! Beautiful photography in your post. This looks like a gorgeous place to visit! I love the idea of the home grown food at the guest house. A beautiful place to stay after a very long (but scenic) train ride!

    • Thanks so much! We love responsible travel and those places who promote sustainable and self-sufficient living. And indeed, Amba was just the place we needed.

  • Sounds like a great journey, the place is so fantastic. Traveling by train like that is already a great experience. Nice travel blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.