There are plenty of amazing things to do in Ella – the small laid-back town tucked away in the misty Sri Lankan highlands. The town is surrounded by lush green tea fields and gushing waterfalls. Ella has become one of the most popular stops on the Sri Lanka itinerary – probably thanks to its beautiful hike trails and, of course, the famous Nine Arch Bridge. Here’s my selection of the best things to do in Ella, plus a guide to the town on where to stay, eat, and how to get there.
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Map of the best things to do in Ella
This Google map shows all recommendations on things to do in Ella, including the route for the world-famous train ride from Kandy to Ella.
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The views from Little Adam’s Peak in Ella.
1. Hike to Little Adam’s Peak
Visiting Little Adam’s Peak is one of the most popular things to do in Ella. Hiking to the peak is relatively easy and only takes around 1 hour from Ella town (45 minute walk to the foot of the mountain, 15 minutes climbing). The peak is 1141 metres high with a good path all the way up. It’s a small effort for a magnificent view of the mountain tops around Ella. On your way down you can stop at 98 Acres Resort, a 5-star resort with spectacular views, for a cup of tea and lunch.
Tips! Try to do the hike at sunrise to experience an amazing light and calmness. Start hiking no later than 05:45 am to reach the peak in time for the sunrise.
Diyaluma Falls is the second tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka.
2. Take a swim on top of Diyaluma Falls
Around 1,5 hours from Ella lies Diyaluma Falls. Diyaluma Falls is a 220-meter-high waterfall with natural pools on top. Here you can swim, and even jump between different levels. Don’t miss the last pool, just before the waterfall splashes its 220 meters down to the ground. This is such a cool experience, and definitely a part of my top things to do in Sri Lanka.
The iconic Nine Arch Bridge, reachable with a 15-20 minute walk from Ella town.
3. Visit the iconic Nine Arch Bridge
Nine Arch Bridge in Ella is what put this little village on the map. The astonishing bridge is located a 15–20-minute walk from Ella town, in between the Ella and Demodara train stations. The bridge was constructed in 1921 and is one of the best examples of colonial-era railway construction in the country. You can reach the bridge either by going along the train track from Ella station, or follow the road to Little Adam’s Peak and turn left by the Nine Arch Bridge sign.
Tips! Look up the train timetable before you go and try to take an iconic photo of the train on the bridge.
The view from Ella Rock hike.
4. Hike to Ella Rock
Another famous peak in Ella is the Ella Rock. The hike to Ella Rock is a bit more demanding than Little Adam’s Peak – and according to me the views are not as beautiful. I recommend prioritizing Little Adam’s Peak over Ella Rock, but if you are into hiking and have more time in Ella, then Ella Rock is definitely worth the effort.
Note: Getting to Ella Rock can be a bit tricky, and the locals usually try to trick you to take the wrong way (so that they can guide you for a small fee). In the beginning of the hike you just follow the train track west from Ella train station, for about 45 minutes. It is pretty easy to see where to turn and start the climb upwards. Follow this guide for all the details.
The train ride from Kandy to Ella is beautiful, and usually crowded.
5. Take the world-famous train ride from Kandy to Ella
The train ride from Kandy to Ella is known to be the most beautiful train ride in Sri Lanka. The 7-hour long train ride takes you through lush tea plantations, on mountain sides and through cute villages. This is definitely the most exciting way to get to Ella.
Note: The train ride from Kandy to Ella has become a popular activity for tourists. Make sure to book a ticket in advance to make sure you get a seat.
Café Chill offers great food and a relaxing atmosphere.
6. Eat and chill at Café Chill
Ella town has plenty of restaurant options, but I always end up at Café Chill. Their food and service are great, the atmosphere is relaxed (try the beam bags on the top floor!) and they offer free wi-fi. This place seems to unite backpackers from all over the world. Go here for lunch to cool down, or spend your evening here.
Ravana Falls is a grand waterfall just a few kilometers from Ella town.
7. Visit Ravana Falls
A few kilometers from Ella town lies Ravana Falls. Ravana Falls is one of the widest falls in Sri Lanka. If you don’t have time to visit the Diyaluma Falls, this can be a fair alternative. To reach Ravana Falls you can take a tuk tuk or if you dare, the bus. Ravana Falls is located just a few stops from Ella town.
The Ravana mega zipline is located on the way up to Little Adam’s Peak.
8. Try the Ravana mega zip line
Since 2019 Ella has had its own zip line, taking you from point A to point B with a beautiful view of the mountains. The zip line is located on the way up to Little Adam’s Peak, just before the steep steps begin. The zip line is quite small and might be more suitable for children than adults, but that’s pretty much a judgment call. It costs 4500 LKR.
Things to do in the area surrounding Ella
Do you have a few extra days in the area around Ella? Lucky you! If you are willing to drive just a few hours from Ella, there are many more places to visit and things to do. Here’s a list of additional activities in the area around Ella.
- Udawalawe National Park: You can’t visit Sri Lanka without experiencing the country’s rich wildlife on a safari. Udawalawe National Park is listed as 1 of the 10 must-do activities while in Sri Lanka, and it’s located only 2 hours from Ella. Udawalawe National Park is known to be the best place to see wild elephants in Sri Lanka.
- Lipton’s Seat: Lipton Seat is a viewpoint in Haputale, located 1,5 hours from Ella. This is where Sir Thomas Lipton, the famous tea producer, used to sit and admire his beautiful tea fields. From this point, you have a gorgeous view of the endless green tea fields. While you’re in Haputale you should stop by Dambatenne Tea Factory.
- Nuwara Eliya: Explore the lush mountain village Nuwara Eliya, also known as Little England of Sri Lanka. Nuwara Eliya is located at 1900 meters above sea level which makes the environment unique, with lush tea plantations and cooler temperatures
- Horton Plains National Park: Horton Plains is a national park located near Nuwara Eliya and only 2 hours from Ella. The national park is located at 2100–2300 meters above sea level and offers unique nature, with montane grassland and cloud forest. Read more about Horton Plains National Park here.
Best restaurants in Ella
Ella town is filled with restaurants serving both western-inspired food and Sri Lankan cuisine. Here are some recommendations.
Café chill is for sure the best restaurant in Ella. A lot of tourists gather here to eat the delicious food.
Yummy points: 5/5
Vegan friendly: Yes
I recommend: Their veggie burger, the Greek salad and their passion/lime iced tea.
Price: A burger for 850 LKR, a salad for 1100 LKR and an iced tea for 300 LKR.
On a budget? Raha offers great Sri Lankan food to a cheap price. Perfect for a take out!
Yummy points: 3/5
Vegan friendly: Yes
I recommend: Their veggie kottu
Price: A kottu for 300–500 LKR
This Mexican place offers tasty taco & burritos.
Yummy points: 4/5
Vegan friendly: Yes
I recommend: Their avocado burrito
Price: You can get a meal for 800–1100 LKR
How to get to Ella
Ella is best reached by train. Ella is the main stop on the world-famous Sri Lanka’s most beautiful train ride, that goes from Kandy to Ella. Make sure you book your train ticket before arrival. If you arrive from the south coast of Sri Lanka, I would recommend taking a cab. The price for taxi service from Dikwella to Ella is 11 000 LKR.
➳ Read more: Book tickets to the world-famous Kandy-Ella train
When to visit Ella
The best time to visit Ella is between January and May. Note that Ella is a mountain village, located 1041 metres above sea level, with warm days and cool nights. You will probably need a sweater in the evening here. The monsoon season in this part of the country is usually between July and November.
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