Things to See and Do in Ella, Sri Lanka: A Travel Guide
Ella is a small town in Sri Lanka’s hill country with a dry, mild climate. Ella, Sri Lanka has a relaxing vibe, and over the years, it has become one of Sri Lanka’s top tourist hubs. So popular that almost everyone who visits Sri Lanka makes sure to plan a few days in Ella. The quaint mountain town has a lot to offer so it’s worth staying 3-4 days in Ella on your trip to Sri Lanka. This Ella travel guide will cover the best things to see and do in Ella, Sri Lanka including the top tourist attractions and offbeat destinations in the region.
How to Get to Ella, Sri Lanka
The train is obviously the most popular option. Colombo to Ella or Kandy to Ella train journey is also known as the world’s most scenic train ride. It takes about 9 hours to reach Ella by train from Colombo. The reserved seats sell out fast but, you can just turn up on the same day of your journey and buy a ticket. On weekends and public holidays, trains can be a little crowded. If you are reserving your seats, no need to book first class coaches as hill country has a pleasant climate. First class reserved: 1200 LKR, second class reserved: 600 LKR, third class reserved: 400 LKR.
If you are taking the bus, it’s faster. It takes about 5-6 hours to reach Ella from Colombo. There are overnight Volvo buses (1000 LKR) from Colombo to Passara which you can book online. Get off the bus at Kimbulawela Junction, and then take a tuk to Ella. It should cost you only 700 LKR for a tuk.
Things to see and do in Ella
1. Little Adam’s Peak
The hike to Little Adam’s Peak is a small one and a relatively easier one compared to the hike to Ella Rock. Due to its popularity among both foreign and local travelers to the region, you are likely to meet people from all over the world on your way to the top. Although the views remain spectacular throughout the day, some travelers prefer hiking before the dawn to see the sunrise. It’s also the perfect spot in Ella to see a gorgeous sunset. The trailhead starts right next to Ella Flower Garden Resort.
2. Ella Rock
When you think of the best things to see and do in Ella, Sri Lanka, one cannot miss Ella Rock. It’s strenuous but, it’s worth it! From the center of Ella town, the trek to Ella Rock takes about 2-3 hours. There are a few trails leading to the top of the rock. Walk to Ella Railway Station and walk on the railways till you reach Kithal Ella Railway Station. You will pass through tiny villages, smiling locals, small shops and tea gardens on your way to the trailhead. After you pass Kithal Ella Railway Station, you will come across two paths leading to Ella Rock. Take the second one as it’s a little less complicated (you get to cross a bridge, too). If you get a little lost, ask the locals or fellow travelers on your way!
3. Demodara Nine Arch Bridge
One of the world famous Instagram spots, Nine Arch Bridge is one of the most popular things to see and do in Ella. From Ella Railway Station, walk north along the railway lines towards Badulla. After a few kilometers, you will come to Demodara Loop and Nine Arch Bridge which is an architectural masterpiece. There are a few tiny shops to buy a soft drink, fresh fruit juices, and a small snack while you wait for the next train.
4. Ravana Falls
From the center of the town, it is about 8km to Ravana Falls. The route offers some of the most scenic views of the region. You can take a tuk but the most affordable way is to take the bus. Get onto a bus running towards Wellawaya and ask the conductor to drop you off at Ravana Falls. A few years ago, we could climb up to the top of the falls but, there was an accident happened in 2017. Climbing up the falls is prohibited now.
5. Take part in a cooking class
A cooking class is a great culturally immersive experience and one of the best things to do in Ella. Matey Hut next to Ella Railway Station not only has great Sri Lankan food but, has a Sri Lankan cooking class. Here, you’ll get to learn how to prepare rice & curry including a few main curry dishes. Pro tip: Contact them well in advance.
Things to see and do around Ella
Many tourists who come to Ella spend 2-3 nights and see the attractions mentioned above in the things to see and do in Ella section. However, around Ella, there are a few other interesting places to see. While some of these places are well-known to the local travelers, they remain as offbeat attractions among foreigners.
1. Dunhinda Falls
The 63m waterfall cascades down to a large pool creating a smoky cloud-like atmosphere. To get to Dunhinda Falls, you need to take a bus to Badulla Town first. From there, it’s 5km to the main entrance. A tuk-tuk will cost you 350 LKR. You can opt for the bus: take the bus to Mahiyanganaya and get off the bus at Dunhinda Falls Entrance. From the main road, it’s a 1km walk to the falls. Along the pathway, there are many small makeshift stalls where you can buy a glass of fresh orange juice, tea, and Sri Lankan snacks. Before you reach Dunhinda, you will see Kuda Dunhinda Falls at a distance. Don’t stop there! Keep walking! PS: There’s an entrance fee. It’s 100 LKR for a foreigner and 20 LKR for a local.
2. Ellewala Falls
This is a small waterfall and the perfect place to take a dip in the base pool. Take the bus to Wellawaya from Ella. From Wellawaya Town, it’s only 2km to Ellewella falls. A tuk-tuk should only cost you 100 LKR. You can opt for the bus, too. However, buses on this route (Wellawaya-Haputale) aren’t really a frequent option (there’s a once an hour bus service until the dusk falls). The area is known as Icepeella. You’ll see the Icepeella Water Purification Centre painted in light blue. Next to that, there’s a small footpath heading to the falls. Walk about 300m until you reach the falls. The surroundings are gorgeous and it’s the perfect place to have a picnic and spend a few hours soaking up the natural beauty. If you need a quick snack or a cup of tea, there’s a small roadside shop on the main road.
3. Diyaluma Falls
From Ellewala Falls, an 8km journey takes you to Diyaluma Falls. Located on the Wellawaya-Haputale Main Road, Diyaluma Falls are Sri Lanka’s 2nd highest waterfall. There’s a route which takes you to the top. However, while climbing to the plunge pool, wear good shoes with a tight grip as the rocks are slippery. Bathing is prohibited here after an accident happened in 2017. A tuk-tuk from Wellawaya Town costs 700 LKR (one way) or you could wait a bit longer and take the bus.
4. Namunukula Falls
Take the bus to Badulla. From there you can take a tuk-tuk directly to the falls, or take a bus to Passara, get off the bus at Namunukula Junction. From there, take a tuk to Namunukula Falls.
5. Lipton’s Seat
Lipton’s Seat is a popular attraction among the visitors to nearby Haputale Town. Haputale has a scenic misty atmosphere and is much less touristy compared to Ella. Lipton’s Seat is located in Dambetenna Tea Estate and offers a gorgeous panoramic view of the area. The easiest way to get to Haputale is to catch the train. If not, take the bus to Bandarawela. From there, take another bus to Haputale. From Haputale Town, take the bus (no.326) to Dambetenna Tea Factory. From the tea factory, it’s a 7km walk (2-3 hours) to the top. It’s advisable to reach there before 10 am as the area is covered by fog after that but, on a good day, you’ll get lucky! Pro tip: Ask the station for the earliest train to Haputale!
Places to eat in Ella
1. Cafe Chill
Cafe Chill is being around for a long time and is the most popular spot in Ella, Sri Lanka. It’s a cozy cafe bustling with life — the perfect place to enjoy good food and have a drink. From Sri Lankan cuisine to fusion and Western cuisine, they have so many interesting options. Skip the Sri Lankan meals here and opt for some pizzas and pasta. Their fish and chips was a good dish, too.
2. Dream Cafe
A good place for dinner or breakfast. Their Sri Lankan breakfast costs 400 LKR per head and comes with a portion of stringhoppers with lentils curry, coconut sambol, pol roti, and fresh fruit.
3. Matey Hut
Your best bet to try authentic Sri Lankan rice & curry in Ella, Sri Lanka!
4. Umbrella Art Cafe
You won’t miss this quirky artistic space on your way to Little Adam’s Peak. It’s a cozy cafe to slow down and have a good cuppa! They also have free Wi-Fi! Pro tip: Try their coffee!
5. Eat at small roadside shops
Yep! Although Ella has become a tourist hub, small roadside shops still exist. These places have amazing Sri Lankan food (see: koththu roti) for cheap prices. It costs twice cheaper here compared to a tourist restaurant or a cafe.
Where to stay in Ella
We stayed at Hangover Hostels Ella. The hostel is new, spacious and has a chilled out vibe. It’s situated in a convenient location close to the train station and Ella Town. At the hostel, you can also rent a motorbike to get around Ella.
Our advice is to not rush it! Take a few days in Ella (ideally 3-4 nights) since there are so many things to see and do in Ella. If you fancy, you can go on a tea making tour to the nearby tea factory or see the spice garden in Ella. If you are continuing your Sri Lankan trip, consider heading to the beaches in South Coast (Mirissa, Dickwella, and Tangalle are to name a few) or Nuwara Eliya — a sleepy tea town, or beaches in the East Coast — Arugam Bay is a popular option. See our Arugam Bay posts to get an idea of what to do in A’Bay!
Did you like our travel guide on things to see and do in Ella, Sri Lanka? Have you been to Ella, Sri Lanka? Comment below and let us know!
We would like to thank Hangover Hostels Ella for organizing our stay with them, but as always opinions are honest and entirely our own.