Attention hikers, nature-lovers and instagramers, do we have the destination for you! Positioned in the Uva Province in the hills of Sri Lanka lies Ella, a beautiful natural escape amongst rolling mountains and cascades. If you dare try all the walks Ella has to offer, your legs are bound to be left with a satisfying ache.
With a small bustling centre street boasting delicious traditional dishes (and non-traditional for those who’ve overdone it on the Sri Lankan cuisine and need to give their stomaches a break), there is enough to do in the resting hours that ensure you’ll never want to leave.
1. Nine Arch Bridge
The Nine Arch Bridge, located between Domodara and Ella station, is a stunning example of 20th Century engineering. Commissioned in 1921 under the colonial British Government, construction was achieved using only cement, stone and rocks.
Standing majestically amongst surrounding forest and tea fields, it serves as a link for trains between two mountains, still functioning to this day.
The walk itself to the Nine Arch Bridge from Ella Town is enjoyable no matter which way you go and takes roughly 20mins, with stunning sunrise and sunset views. You can follow your Google map, otherwise we found the easiest way was to just ask a local or tourist which way to go. You can also take a short Tuk Tuk ride that’ll drop you right up near the bridge.
When trains aren’t going by you can walk on the track and follow it across through the tunnel, but for the best photo moments, wait until a train passes through and stand on the tea plantations side, sipping a coconut while you’re at it. There are two types of trains you can capture – the older trains which are red, or the newer blue ones. Either way, you’ll witness people hanging out the doors of the train admiring the sights from onboard.
2. Little Adam’s Peak
For those of you who want to soar to great heights with striking views, without having to whip out your trekking poles, Little Adam’s Peak is the challenge for you. Not only that, but it’s also a great warm up before conquering the more famous Adam’s Peak, whose trek is a commonly celebrated Pilgrimage.
The best way to go to Little Adams Peak is by first making your way over by foot or Tuk Tuk to 98 Acres Resort and Spa. There is a cafe boasting views of the vast mountainous landscape for you to contemplate, as well as the most relaxing massage and spa services in town (so I’ve heard through a friend who decided to pay the steeper price). From the resort starts the trail, leading you all the way to the peak with various scenic stops along the way. While it may feel like you’ve seen all there is to see after the initial climb to the first plateau, continuing along to the peak is worth every step in the blistering sun.
If you’re feeling great after this warm up, you can continue along the trail to the various other peaks for more spectacular views, but careful you’re not caught at dusk without directions. Once you’re feeling up to the challenge, there’s also Ella Rock. It’s a more challenging, longer climb, but every bit as satisfying. Make sure you get proper directions or a guide for safety for this one.
3. Kandy – Ella Train
If you can, organise to travel by train between Kandy and Ella (or vice versa). This train ride is the perfect example of the quote “Life is about the journey, not just the destination”. The train ride is every bit the attraction as the towns themselves are.
Sitting on a window seat or hanging with your legs out the door is the best way to enjoy the views
.As you ride you will stop in local towns, pass beautiful tea plantations, and witness landscapes that seem like they’ve been drawn from someone’s imagination.
The train conductor will be sure to remind you to watch your bags, and while theft is not so common in Sri Lanka, there is every reason for this warning.
Be sure to purchase a ticket at least a day in advance, which you can do easily from a train station. Journeys can be long, often several hours between destinations, so it’s good to have a seat to come back to even if you do want to hang out of the door. Bookings can be made in first, second or third class with either reserved seat carriages or non-reserved (you’ll be fighting to get on). There’s not an enormous difference between the classes, and third class reserved is more than suitable for the trip. Be sure to try to snacks the local vendors bring around on the train – some of the best snacks I’ve had were on the train ride!
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There is plenty more to discover in Ella, so make sure you’ve booked enough time in at a Homestay (I recommend River Splendour Homestay, it had its own waterfall!), and enough time for rest days, sampling the delicious food (Cafe Chill is deservingly popular) and visits to the surrounding waterfalls.