Are you looking for the best places to visit in Ella? You’ve come to the right place!
Ella is one of the most popular backpacker destinations in Sri Lanka. With its incredible mountain scenery, cool air, and fantastic hiking trails, it’s no wonder why so many people come here.
Ella Rock, Nine-Arch Bridge, and Little Adam’s Peak are some of Ella’s top sights. When I visited Ella earlier this year, I loved hiking in the mountains and tea plantations surrounding the town. The views are spectacular.
Even if you – like me – tend to avoid the more obvious tourist destinations, I’d still recommend spending at least a couple of days in Ella. The wonderful scenery is worth it. And it’s nowhere near as crowded as I thought it would be.
🤩 Short on time? Check out this All-Inclusive Ella 5 Icons Day Tour
13 Best Places to Visit in Ella, Sri Lanka
Here’s my pick of the best things to do and places to visit in Ella. I’ve visited (and/or done) virtually all of these. Each one is a great addition to any Ella itinerary, and I’ve noted my personal favourites below.
1. Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak is a rewarding short hike and a great way to get an aerial view of Ella’s beauty. Named after the more famous Adam’s Peak (near Ratnapura) due to its similar shape, this hike is well worth the effort for its panoramic views.
The path to the summit is well-marked and fairly straightforward, even for novice hikers. There’s a bit of uphill, but nothing overly challenging. It takes most people around 45 minutes to reach the top.
At the peak, you get a 360-degree view of the surrounding area. It’s spectacular at any time, but especially at dawn or dusk. The sight of the sun emerging or retreating over the hills is a photographer’s dream.
The trail is easy to follow so it wouldn’t be that difficult to do one way in the dark, as long as you had a torch. Lots of people do it too, so you wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost.
Bring a camera, sturdy shoes, and plenty of water.
2. Ella Rock (my favourite place to visit in Ella!)
Ella Rock is my favourite hike in Ella. It’s longer and a bit more challenging than Little Adam’s Peak. But it’s still not that difficult.
Even so, this feels like a much more adventurous trek. You’ll venture across railway tracks, through tea plantations and dense forests, and along ridges with spectacular views.
The Ella Rock trailhead starts a few kilometres outside of the town. You could walk from the centre of Ella, but most people (myself included) opt to take a tuk-tuk to Kitha Ella train station and start from there.
This station is near the main trailhead and being dropped off here saves you a 4-kilometre walk along a winding road with a fair amount of traffic. Don’t worry, you won’t miss any scenery by doing this.
From Kitha Ella station, you have to walk about 500 metres (right, as you stand on the platform) along the railway tracks before you reach the trailhead for Ella Rock. Keep an eye (and an ear!) out for trains, although they’re not that frequent.
The trailhead will appear on your left. There are a few different routes to the summit. The main one crosses over a little bridge and then forks off to the left up through the tea plantations.
I tried to take a more adventurous route on the way up but got a bit lost and had to ask a local farmer for directions. It was very scenic though, passing through the terraced rice paddies. And I hardly saw any other people.
However, unless you’ve got a lot of time to spare, I’d recommend taking the main route!
The 1–2 hour ascent (depending on how fast you go) takes you through an ever-evolving landscape. Most of it is fairly well-shaded, although I’d still recommend packing suncream if you usually need it. And lots of water.
About two-thirds of the way to the top I came across a few vendors selling ice-cold water, juices, coconuts, snacks, and fruit smoothies. You could even buy some roti if you’re feeling extra hungry.
All the way, the air is cool and refreshing. I did this hike in the early afternoon – although, if you struggle with the heat, I’d recommend an early start, when it’s cooler.
After a final, steep-ish climb to the summit, you’re rewarded with sweeping views of Sri Lanka’s central highlands, including Ella, Little Adam’s Peak, and various other landmarks in the area.
Don’t miss this amazing hike. Ella Rock is definitely my favourite place to visit in Ella!
To get back down again, simply retrace your steps. Tuk-tuk drivers hang around at Kitha Ella station, so you won’t struggle to get a lift back into town once you’ve finished the hike.
Location: Ella Rock Trailhead, Ella, Sri Lanka
3. Ravana Falls
Ravana Falls is another must-see in Ella. This picturesque waterfall is known for its powerful cascade and links to King Ravana, the mythical Hindu King of Lanka. Here you can immerse yourself in nature and legend.
It’s a perfect spot if you want to enjoy a slice of natural beauty without needing to hike. The lush surroundings, misty mountains, and cascading water help keep this place tranquil, despite its popularity.
The waterfall, with its wide curtain of water, tumbles into a series of serene pools. These are popular swimming spots with locals and tourists alike. If you do want to swim here, please be careful as the stones can be very slippery.
I’d also not recommend getting too close to the falls after periods of heavy rain, as the area can be prone to rock falls. Proceed at your own risk, use common sense, and obey any signage!
4. Nine Arch Bridge
The Nine Arch Bridge, known as the “Bridge in the Sky”, is a marvel of British colonial engineering. Built in 1921, the bridge features nine massive arches made from granite and brick.
Spanning 255 meters across a valley, it provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. It’s one of the most iconic sights in Ella (and Sri Lanka, more generally).
The towering arches, set against the backdrop of lush tea plantations, are magnificent and extremely photogenic.
It’s an easy 30–40 minute stroll from the centre of Ella to the Nine Arch Bridge. Take your time to enjoy the peaceful surroundings and picturesque greenery.
Alternatively, you could take a tuk-tuk there. But it’s a nice walk so I’d recommend going on foot if you can.
There’s a trail, called the Nine Arches Bridge Path that takes you all the way down to the bridge and allows you to walk along the bridge itself. It starts from about here (Google Maps).
A few tuk-tuk guys usually hang out around here and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction if you’re not sure.
However, I think you actually get a better view of the bridge from a place called Cafe Soul Ella.
This is an amazing local restaurant and bar. The guys there are friendly and kind, and they make some of the best coconut rotis I tasted during my 4 months in Sri Lanka!
They also have a guesthouse next door with fantastic views of the Nine Arch Bridge. This place looks very nice, and it costs less than most of the other similar guesthouses with the same view.
5. Ella Spice Garden
Ella Spice Garden is a great place to visit in Ella if you’re interested in Sri Lankan spices and cooking.
This family-run place offers a warm introduction to the local food culture and will teach you about various spices and their roles in traditional Sri Lankan dishes, culture, and even medicine.
From cardamom and cinnamon to tamarind and fresh curry leaves, you’ll learn all about these incredible flavours and aromas that feature in Sri Lankan cuisine.
The cooking classes here are a real treat too. You’ll learn how to prepare authentic Sri Lankan curries, all the way from grinding the spices to making homemade coconut sambal – a favourite local accompaniment to almost every dish.
Location: Lizzie Villa Rd, Ella 90090, Sri Lanka
6. Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory and Plantations
Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory (also known as Ella Tea Factory) is a major producer of Ceylon tea, one of Sri Lanka’s most famous exports. As a Brit, I love tea (surprise surprise), and the area around Ella produces some of the very best.
You can take a tour of the factory and plantation. It’s an insightful journey into the world of tea-making, covering the entire process from harvesting, drying, and fermenting through to blending and packaging.
This place offers a fascinating experience, both for tea enthusiasts and anyone else interested in this significant international industry.
You also get to taste various teas, from robust black teas to delicate green varieties. You can buy high-quality tea here too, a perfect souvenir to take home.
Price: $10 USD for a factory tour (includes tastings)
Opening times: 9 AM–4:30 PM, Mon; 9 AM–5 PM, Tue, Thu & Fri; 8:30 AM–4:30 PM, Wed, Sat & Sun;
7. Demodara Loop and Demodara Railway Station
Demodara Loop is an impressive feat of railway engineering, designed to help trains navigate the steep hills around Ella.
The track cleverly loops back on itself, wrapping around and then tunneling back through the mountain before emerging at the quaint Demodara Railway Station.
This station is a charming relic of a bygone era, a quaint glimpse into the past amidst spectacular surroundings.
The station master bustles around in an immaculately pressed uniform and is happy to chat about the railway and some of its unique features.
To get here, you can either take the train from Ella one stop in the direction of Badulla, or take a tuk-tuk from Ella. The advantage of taking the train is that you’ll also get to pass over the famous Nine Arches Bridge (see above).
8. Ella Gap
Ella Gap is the name of the steep-sided valley that leads up to the town of Ella itself. This is how I first arrived in the town – driving up from staying in Hiriketiya on the south coast.
On one side of Ella Gap sits Little Adam’s Peak, on the other side is Ella Rock. It’s a spectacular sight, especially when mists weave around the hills around dusk and dawn.
The Gap is visible from various spots in town and also along several hiking trails (including the two described above), so there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy this iconic view.
One of my favourite views of Ella Gap is actually from the guesthouse where I stayed in Ella. It’s an amazing, mid-priced place called Misty Peak View and I’d highly recommend it!
9. Diyaluma Falls
Diyaluma Falls is a little further away than many of the other places to visit in Ella that I’ve mentioned in this guide. However, it’s well worth the extra effort to get here.
Diyaluma is the second-highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, with a breathtaking 220-metre (720 ft) cascade. The water flows smoothly, creating a mesmerising effect before plunging into the pool below.
There’s a moderately challenging hike to the top of the falls (only to be attempted in the dry season), but the best views are from down below, just off the main road.
Surrounding Diyaluma Falls is a landscape rich in wildlife and lush vegetation. Whether you’re keen for an adventurous trek or a leisurely stroll, the area around the falls is a beautiful place to enjoy being at one with nature.
10. Ella Rock Cave (Ravana’s Cave)
I only learned about Ella Rock Cave (also known as Ravana’s Cave) after I returned from hiking up Ella Rock, so I wasn’t able to come here myself. Which is a shame, because – according to my guesthouse host – it’s really impressive!
Hidden away in the greenery on the northern slopes of Ella Rock, to get here you need to climb up a series of steep steps from the main road.
The cave is shrouded in local legends. Many people believe that this cave leads to a network of tunnels, a huge cavern with multiple rooms, and an underground lake that formed part of King Ravana’s palace.
However, today you can only go part of the way inside the cave. The rest has been blocked off – presumably because it’s not safe to explore further.
Either way, I was sad to have missed this place. If you have time, try to visit it – and let me know what it’s like!
Location: V27X+QFR, Ella, Sri Lanka
11. Ella Village
Ella Village is the bustling heart of this highland town, with its quaint charm and relaxed atmosphere. It’s a hub for backpackers and other travellers, with a number of cheap bars, cafes, and lots of places to eat.
As well as the usual eating and drinking establishments (and baggy elephant trouser vendors, of course), here you’ll find a few cosy bookshops, Ayurvedic shops, tea houses, and fresh fruit stalls.
There isn’t as much going on here as in your average Southeast Asian backpacker hub – most people just come to Ella for hiking and the famous train journey.
But it’s still a pleasant enough place to hang out, with lots of good-value places to stay (see below), and is an ideal base for exploring the area.
Location: Ella, Uva Province, Sri Lanka
12. Cooking Classes in Ella
I did several cooking classes in Sri Lanka, and Ella has some of the best ones. Guided by local experts, you’ll learn to select and prepare fresh local ingredients, blend your own spices, and even make your own coconut milk.
Then, you’ll be taught how to combine these ingredients to make some iconic Sri Lankan dishes including dhal, pumpkin curry, and various others.
All the recipes are designed to give your palate a taste of the unique flavours and aromas of Sri Lanka.
It’s a hands-on way to gain a deeper appreciation for the local cuisine and culture. And you’ll leave with a handful of new recipes that you can try making at home too.
After the lesson, you’ll get to feast on your creations. Every cooking class I took in Sri Lanka finished with an enormous meal – and you’ll definitely want to go back for seconds. Come hungry!
13. Yoga Shalas in Ella
Ella has a few highly-rated yoga shalas and studios. These peaceful havens provide a serene escape, surrounded by Ella’s inspiring views and lush greenery.
Whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced yogi, you won’t struggle to find a class that’s right for you. From challenging vinyasa flows to restorative and meditative practices, there’s something for everyone here.
Post-yoga, you’ll feel a deeper connection to Ella’s tranquil environment. Taking a yoga class in Ella is a perfect way to complement your other activities in the area.
Three of the best yoga studios in Ella are:
BONUS: Ella to Kandy Train Journey
The Ella to Kandy train journey is an unforgettable experience. It’s often described as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, and for good reason.
The train takes you through lush green tea plantations, picturesque landscapes, and breathtaking views of the hill country. From the open windows of the carriage, you can catch glimpses of waterfalls, and even (if you’re lucky) wild elephants!
The journey takes around six to seven hours, but with views this stunning, you’ll wish it was longer.
When it comes to booking tickets for the Ella to Kandy train, it’s best to reserve your seats as early as possible since they often sell out days in advance.
Also, it’s much better to take this journey from Ella to Kandy than from Kandy to Ella. Most people go in the opposite direction and, unfortunately, that means that trains are often full of tourists and Instagram influencers.
I rode the train from Ella to Kandy and there were more locals than tourists – much better!
If you do need to take the train from Kandy to Ella, you can book tickets online in advance here.
Price: $20 USD
Guided Tours in Ella
There are several excellent guided tours in and around Ella. Here are some of the top-rated tours that I recommend.
- All-Inclusive Ella 5 Icons Day Tour: This 7-hour tour includes pickup and takes you to the Rock, 9-Arch Bridge, Ravana Falls, Little Adam’s Peak, and the Demodara Loop
- Ella City Three Icons Tour: This full-day private tour focuses on Little Adam’s Peak, Ella Rock, and the 9-Arch Bridge
- Ella Private Day Tour From Kandy: Starting from Kandy, this tour offers a comprehensive Ella experience
How to Get to Ella
Getting to Ella is easy, with various travel options available.
Taking the train is the most scenic option. The journey winds through the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, offering spectacular views and wonderful photo opportunities.
Taking the bus is the most budget-friendly option, though less comfortable.
You could also consider taking a taxi for a more comfortable and flexible journey. This is a very convenient way to get to Ella, but is also much more expensive than using public transport.
My favourite way to travel around Sri Lanka is to rent a tuk-tuk and drive myself. There’s nothing like the freedom this mode of transport gives you. You can stop at beaches and small towns along the way. And it’s also super fun!
Where to Stay in Ella
Ella has a range of accommodation to suit any preference, from cosy guesthouses to upscale hotels.
Guesthouses are a great way to meet locals and enjoy homely comforts, often complete with home-cooked meals and tips on hidden gems to explore.
For those looking for a touch of luxury, there are a few hotels in Ella that provide amazing views and high-end amenities.
Here are some of the top-rated places to stay in Ella:
- Rest Full Homestay (budget)
- Misty Peak View (mid-range) – I’ve stayed here and it’s excellent (amazing view, lovely host, delicious breakfast!)
- Arawe Retreat (high-end/luxury)
Whichever option you choose, waking up to the cool, crisp air of Ella and the lush greenery of the surrounding hills is the perfect start to any day.
FAQs About Visiting Ella and the Best Things to Do in Ella
Here are some frequently asked questions about the best things to do in Ella.
Is Ella, Sri Lanka worth visiting?
Ella, Sri Lanka, is definitely worth visiting for its stunning landscapes, hiking trails, and relaxing atmosphere.
What is the highest point in Ella?
The highest point in Ella is Ella Rock, which offers panoramic views of the hill country.
What is Ella known for?
Ella is known for its scenic beauty, tea plantations, and the iconic Nine Arch Bridge.
How many days should you spend in Ella?
You should spend at least two full days in Ella to explore its main attractions, do a hike or two, and enjoy some leisure time.
How do I get from Ella to Yala National Park?
To get from Ella to Yala National Park, you can take a bus or hire a taxi for the journey, which takes about two hours.
How long is the train ride from Kandy to Ella?
The train ride from Kandy to Ella covers 190 kilometres and usually takes between six to seven hours, depending on the service and delays.
How long is the train from Ella to Colombo?
The train journey from Ella to Colombo takes approximately nine hours, offering scenic views of the hill country along the way.
Is Kandy or Ella better?
Whether Kandy or Ella is better for you to visit depends on you and your interests. Kandy is rich in history and culture; while Ella offers nature, hiking, and other outdoor adventures. I like both places, they’re very different.
Are there mosquitos in Ella?
Mosquitoes can be found in most parts of Sri Lanka, including Ella. It’s a good idea to bring mosquito repellent with you.
🤩 Check out this All-Inclusive Ella 5 Icons Day Tour
Final Thoughts on What to Do in Ella
Ella is an excellent destination for anyone planning a trip to Sri Lanka. With its breathtaking landscapes, stunning views, and exciting activities, there’s a reason why it’s such a popular place to visit.
Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly spot to meet other backpackers, an active honeymoon escape, or simply a beautiful place to enjoy nature and the great outdoors, Ella offers something for every type of traveller.
Have you been to Ella? What was your favourite place there? Let me know below!