Out of all the amazing destinations we have visited in Sri Lanka, nowhere compares with Ella in the central highlands. It is the perfect mix of locals and intrepid travellers and currently sits in that sweet spot where the balance is even. Even though it is quite small there is enough to keep you here for a few days or if you really want to relax, a few weeks. Below is a list of our favourite things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka. Visit the place now before it becomes too developed.
Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
Nuwara Eliya to Ella by train
A few fellow travellers mentioned how amazing the train journey was from Nuwara Eliya to Ella but no words can convey how spectacular the scenery is. First of all make sure you are sitting in 2nd class not 1st class on the train. The reason is that in 2nd class the windows and doors are open meaning you can take photos from either side of the carriage. In first class the windows are sealed as the carriage is air-conditioned.
Make sure your camera is fully charged because believe me you will be taking many photos. The Nuwara Eliya to Ella train route has to be one of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world. It is literally taking a train in the clouds. I hardly sat down for the entire route because each side of the carriage was trying to outdo the other with the stunning scenes.
Top tip: Sit in 2nd class on the train to take photos!
Are you heading to the beach after Ella? Read why Mirissa Beach is our favourite beach in Sri Lanka.
Trekking to Ella Rock
This is a lovely trek in Ella. It roughly takes around two hours to get to the rock but it took us a bit longer as we kept stopping to admire the scenery or to chat to locals. The trek is roughly 8km so make sure you take water with you. Part of the trek is along rail tracks making it feel very adventurous, especially when you hear the train coming!
- Start the trek at Ella Train Station by walking left all the way down the platform and getting on the tracks there. Ignore the signs saying not to do this as everybody does. Nobody will say anything.
- Walk along the tracks to Kithalella Train Station. This should take roughly 45 mins.
- After 5-10 minutes we came to a rock with a sign in blue telling us Ella Rock was towards the left.
- Cross the footbridge and keep to the left towards the tea plantation.
- Just past the tea plantation there are various routes leading off. Stick to the main path and don’t veer off.
- Once you get to the opening, you are there. Take your time and find the spot that suits you.
If the weather is good we would suggest taking a picnic as the scenery is beautiful.
Eat and Drink in Ella Town
Ella town is a one street town that has enough options to keep the intrepid traveller happy for a few days. Our favourite place to eat and drink was Cafe Chill. The food is a mix of international and Sri Lankan and they make wicked cocktails. It is a great place to meet fellow travellers or just sit back and listen to the good music they play every night. Another favourite was the Rotti Hut, a place for cheap and fast lunch. The rottis are delicious and they have a wide choice of flavours. One other thing to do in Ella is go for a massage, especially after a hard day’s trekking. The place we had a massage is now closed down which is not surprising as it wasn’t very good. From my research the Lanka Grand Herbal Spa gets the most positive reviews.
Trek to the Rawana Falls
As you can see the main activity to do in Ella in trekking. We got into a routine where we would wake up early in the morning, have breakfast in our guesthouse and head out early. In the afternoon we would have a siesta before heading out for dinner and cocktails in the town. The perfect day!
One of our most memorable moments was when we trekked to the Rawana Falls. The scenery along the way was jaw dropping. When we got near to the waterfall we met a local. He watched us go to the viewing area and then said to us to follow him. Not wanting to miss a challenge we duly followed. When he clambered under the safety barrier we started to have second thoughts. In the end we carried on as this is normal in Asia right?
I am so glad that we did follow him as he led us to a huge rock right next to the waterfall. We sat there for hours admiring the view and listening to the powerful water cascade over the edge. The only trouble was we forgot the route back up to the top!
You can also swim at the Rawana Falls. The weather in the highlands are a lot cooler than the coastal areas but it can sometimes get sticky. What better way to cool of then at the foot of some waterfalls? Just make sure you take care on the rocks as they are very slippy. Don’t try to climb the waterfall either as it’s very dangerous.
Trek to Little Adam’s Peak
This a beautiful trek that takes around 2/3 hours depending on how many times you stop for photos. This is the most popular trek in the area so expect to bump into fellow travellers you met in the bars the night before. Unlike the trek to Ella Rock the trek to Little Adam’s Peak is clearly signposted. Look for the signs to the 98 acres resort and you are on the right path. You will pass some lush tea plantations on the way and if you are lucky bump into the tea pickers. Out of all the treks we did in Ella, this was our favourite.
Hotels in Ella, Sri Lanka
Paraiso Homestay – This homestay has amazing views of the Ella countryside and the breakfasts are legendary. The rooms are large and clean and the staff are as friendly as they come. Click here to see the latest prices.
Zion View, Ella – Previous guests have raved about the view at this hotel claiming it has the best view in all of Ella. Apparently having a sundowner on your balcony is the done thing and who are we to argue? Click here to see the latest prices.
Ella Tree House Pearl – We love hotels that have a bit of character and you can’t get more characterful than this place. The owner built the place himself and people love the views, the rooms and the secret bathroom??? It looks amazing. Click here to see the latest prices.
Ella is a special little town that you should definitely include in your Sri Lanka itinerary. The train journey alone is worth the trip but the treks, people and general vibe of the place are also good enough reasons.