Ella was our second stop in the hill country of Sri Lanka and the gorgeous yet small town did not disappoint. Until a few years ago Ella wasn’t a place many had heard about but in the last few years it has become more popular and for good reason. It is home to several beautiful hikes, waterfalls, tea plantations and the iconic Nine Arch Bridge. This cute town is a stop I would highly recommend in Sri Lanka so I’ve put this list of things to do in Ella together to help you plan your trip.
Ella is a town near the end of the iconic train journey from Colombo and it’s the perfect place to end a journey through the hills. The town itself is set on two main streets with bars, cafes, restaurants, shops and guesthouses all located along the roads. It is certainly a ‘backpacker’ town with cheap prices and a laid back vibe that makes it feel like a beach town. Head away from the main drag though and you’ll find more boutique hotels and a little luxury.
READ MORE: Why you should visit Sri Lanka
Things to do
Hike Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak is the easier of the two hikes on offer in Ella. You can start from the town and the whole hike is relatively easy but with a huge reward of incredible views from the top. The initial walk from the town is by road which didn’t seem all that safe. To skip that bit just head to 98 Acres Resort in a tux-tuk and pick up the track from there, as it is well sign posted. The walk from there is pretty flat to start with until the final twenty minutes where the stairs and climbing will start.
Once at the top there are a few different viewing spots. I’d recommend heading towards the left away from the main hill as the views are amazing from there and far less people are around. The initial hill you arrive at with the Buddha statue is still worth a look before you head down but expect this part to be busy. I’d also recommend heading up at sunrise to avoid the full heat of the day and to experience smaller crowds.
The second hike is Ella Rock, a hike that is tougher and longer than Little Adam’s Peak. Of course the views you get from the top would make up for this but it still wasn’t enough to persuade us to give it ago. From what I’ve read it’s best done with a guide as the track isn’t well marked and it will take several hours each way.
Nine Arch Bridge
You’ve probably heard of this one even if you know nothing about Ella. It is the gorgeous arch bridge which is located just on the track outside of Ella. The bridge is surrounded by forests and tea plants for basically as far as the eye can see and offers some breathtaking views from both the bridge itself and above. There are several entrances to the Nine Arch Bridge but all of them will involve a bit of a walk, some steeper than others. If you aren’t too steady on your feet I’d maybe research which path you want.
We took a tuk-tuk from the main town up to a cafe with incredible views above the bridge, it wasn’t a view I’d seen before so I think we got lucky. From there we could then trek down to the bridge. I say trek because it was a steep climb in places and very narrow at times too. At the bridge you can wander along the length as well as head down to the tea plantation just below the bridge. Try and time it for when a train will cross the bridge as this view is pretty magical.
This waterfall is about a 15 minute drive out of Ella but is totally worth it. We took a tuk-tuk from the main town and agreed a price beforehand which included the driver waiting while we swam. The views on the drive to and from were incredible. You wind down the ‘gap’; the valley of the Ella hills and can see for miles in the distance.
The falls rush down from high above and create a small swimming hole that you can walk over to. The water is pretty cold but felt refreshing against the hot temperatures.
Eat Rottis from the 360 Rotti Hut
This was one of the best places for a rotti in the whole of Sri Lanka (or at least of the places we tried). They fried them up right in front of you in a little booth that seemed to be working non-stop from the time they open until the time they closed. The menu was extensive featuring both savory and sweet options, we went for one of both but the latter was the stickiest mess ever. The best thing about these rottis was how much filling they stuffed inside and how much flavour they had. Oh I’m hungry just talking about them.
We stayed at City Grand Hotel in Ella which had wonderful balcony views, a great breakfast and a good location. It was on the cheaper side of accommodation offered in Ella and I’d recommend if you’re on a budget.
If you have some cash to splash then I’ve heard amazing things about 98 Acre Resort and judging from when we walked through this would be a huge treat yourself stay.
I’ve also heard good things about the lovely Ella Flower Garden resort that is a good ‘in the middle’ option for accommodation.
Relax at Cafe Chill
Probably one of the most popular restaurants in Ella. Chill is the place to go to wind down after a day of hiking or to relax after a busy day exploring. Their space spans over three floors with the top floor having plenty of bean bags and floor tables to encourage you to really sit back and relax. They have a great menu featuring lots of local dishes and western bites. The iced teas was also pretty amazing.
Enjoy happy hour at 360 bar
This was our most visited spot in town and it wasn’t just for their happy hour offers. It has such a nice vibe and the food was amazing. There had the best selection of Sri Lankan food and every dish we tried was amazing albeit a bit spicy at times. They also had a very long evening happy hour on 3 for 2 cocktails, which as a couple was deadly because we ordered three each time. This bar really reminded me of our proper backpacking days with the groups of travellers, live music playing and electric atmosphere.
Hopefully this list of things to do in Ella helps you to plan for next trip to this cute town. Is there anything else I should add to this list?