Nestled amid the Hill Country in Sri Lanka, Ella is a busy town that boasts tumbling waterfalls, lush jungle greenery and dramatic hillsides. The fresh mountain air offers a welcome respite from the hazy humidity you’re likely to experience in the cities. Explore our top 10 things to do in Ella below before planning your dream holiday in Sri Lanka.
Though in recent years the town has ballooned in popularity among tourists and travellers. Ella still remains relatively small and there is certainly no shortage of unforgettable things to do here.
10 Things to do in Ella
1. Experience folklore and legends at Ravana Falls
One of the widest waterfalls in Sri Lanka, the Ravana Falls, consists of 3 tiers and a number of rock pools that have formed across the rock face. The water thunders at an extremely high velocity from a height of around 82 feet. The picturesque waterfall is popular with visitors, who enjoy taking a dip in the water and climbing the winding trails.
Myths surround the waterfalls and tell tales of Ravana, a demon king that kidnapped Princess Sita and held her hostage in a cave behind the waterfall. It is said that Sita’s husband, Rama, and his brother, Laxmana, had cut off the nose of Ravana’s sister and this is thought to be the motive for the abduction.
2. Take a tour of a working tea factory
The luscious green hills of Ella are loaded with tea factories, many of which will offer tours whereby visitors can wander amongst the precious plantations and behind the processing scenes. Although some factories have become fairly commercial, there are a few which will still offer an authentic experience. Perhaps take a day trip to Dambetenne tea factory, which was built by Sir Thomas Lipton in the late 1800s, is an insightful place to learn about the history of tea in Sri Lanka and even taste some of the varieties grown there.
3. Cool off in Diyaluma Falls
Around 40km from Ella, you’ll find the 2nd largest waterfall in Sri Lanka, Diyaluma. This impressive waterfall, which is an astonishing 720 feet tall, is well worth the trip to experience natural infinity pools and stunning views of the water as it crashes into the valley below.
Following a warm, sweaty hike around the falls, a dip in the clear waters is exactly what you’ll need. However, it’s important to remember that swimming here may not be possible if you visit during the wet season when the water is simply too dangerous.
4. Admire the ‘Bridge in the Sky’
The Nine Arch Bridge, also known as the ‘Bridge in the Sky’ is a railway viaduct that stands tall amongst tea fields and greenery. The bridge, which is around 300 feet in length, connects two hills – allowing trains to pass.
There are many points from which you can view the bridge, the most popular being from the side of the bridge itself. To catch a glimpse of the train passing through, be sure to confirm the times with the station, although these may be subject to change based on the notorious unreliability of trains in the area. Combine a visit to the Nine Arch Bridge with section 16 of the Pekoe Trail which will allow you to hike along the bridge and venture further into the secluded hills of the tea country.
5. Enjoy the 360-degree views from Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak is popular for a slow-paced hike in the Sri Lankan countryside. The route is far less strenuous than that of nearby Ella’s rock and other surrounding hikes. From Little Adam’s Peak, you will be rewarded with views across the tea plantations and towards Udawalawe National Park.
On your descent stop off to enjoy a refreshing, cool coconut from one of the local vendors on the way back to Ella.
6. Try your hand at Sri Lankan cuisine
Cooking classes are increasingly popular in Ella, with a variety of locals now offering their services in the form of lessons. What greater way to experience the rich flavours and techniques than to be taught by someone who has learnt their recipes throughout generations of family? You’ll also get the rewarding feeling that comes with supporting and giving back to the local community, whilst filling up on an authentic and freshly cooked Sri Lankan meal, such as rice and curry.
7. Hike to the summit of Ella Rock
The Ella Rock hike is a challenging 10km climb that tends to take between 3-5 hours, depending on fitness levels and how long you stop to enjoy the summit. It can be easy to get lost on the trail, which is why a local guide to steer you in the right direction, can be extremely valuable. Section 15 of the Pekoe Trail will take you to the peak of Ella’s rock through a less touristy route and will also include a private trekking guide to help you along the way and keep you entertained with stories of Ella.
The trail takes you along the track tracks from Ella station, through tea bushes and grassy fields and then through the forest and up the rock. Some essentials for the journey include sun protection and comfortable, appropriate footwear. If you are walking with one of our private trekking guides you will can enjoy some traditional ‘small eats’ once you’ve reached the top!
8. Discover Ella Town
The bustling atmosphere in Ella town makes for a great destination to enjoy mouth-watering local cuisine, ice-cold Lion beers and even a spot of shopping. The bars and cafes on the vibrant main street are typically quite westernised and popular among backpackers but nestled in between there is the odd locally run restaurant which is a great place to mingle with the locals, as well as with other visitors who may even give you more inspiration for your future travels.
9. Glide through the air on the Flying Ravana Zipline
If you’re keen to get your heart racing and adrenaline rushing through your body, the Flying Ravana Zipline is a great activity for families with teenagers thrill-seeking teenagers. Ride alongside a travel companion as you speed through the air above the valleys and hillsides at 80kmph. You’ll get some great panoramic views of Sri Lanka’s beautiful surrounding hill country.
The adventure park, which is home to the zipline, also offers other thrilling outdoor activities including quad bike rides, abseiling and air rifling. As these are not traditional Sri Lankan activities, you should expect a few more tourists here, but if you need an adrenaline fix, this is perfect for you.
10. Take the train to Kandy
The 7-hour train ride from Ella to Kandy is said to be one of the most scenic train journeys you can take during your visit to the country. As you pass through the surrounding landscape you will be left in awe as at points the train chugs along above the clouds. Not only will you experience breath-taking views of waterfalls, tea plantations, old bridges and mountains, but you will also be offered delicacies prepared by local vendors, who tend to hop onboard at various stations along the way. These treats include fresh fruits such as pineapple, mango, and coconut, buttered, salty corn and freshly made curries with a variety of trimmings.
In Sri Lanka, it’s not uncommon for locals to walk along the train tracks, and you may even find yourself being able to greet them as they stand aside for the train to pass.
11. The Pekoe Trail
The Pekoe Trail is a 200-mile hiking route that starts in Kandy and winds its way through the Sri Lankan highlands into the heart of the hill country. The walkable tracks were established in the 19th-century for use of the tea industry. Where horse-drawn carts would transport plucked tea leaves from field to factory. The trail is now divided into 22 walkable sections, four of which can be done in and around Ella during your stay. Each between 9 and 12km they are of moderate difficulty. The perfect way to take in the sights of Ella such as Ella Rock, The Nine Arch Bridge or simply the luscious green and quiet secluded hills away from the buzz of Ella. All sections of the trail will be done with a private guide who will steer you in the right direction while giving insightful local knowledge of the area and of course some snacks and refreshments to sustain you!
If you’re already imagining yourself hiking Ella rock, tasting tea varieties as they’re processed, and relaxing in the waters of Ravana Falls, Experience Travel Group can make it a reality. Get in touch with our destination specialists who will take the time to find out exactly what you’re looking for and then craft your perfect holiday.
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