Ella is a small town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Surrounded by jungle, mist and tea plantations, the range of outdoor activities and impressive sights make it one of the best places to visit in Sri Lanka.
Our first trip to Sri Lanka was 14 years ago on our honeymoon. We instantly fell in love with the food, the country and the opportunity to go on safari for the first time. We are excited to have visited the Land of Serendipity again recently, so we asked some fellow travellers to share their favorite things to do in Ella.
From stunning architectural feats such as Demodara Nine Arch Bridge to easy hikes and world class train trips, here are some of the most memorable places to visit in Ella Sri Lanka.
Best Places to Visit In Ella Sri Lanka
1. Ride The Kandy To Ella Train
One of the most iconic things to do in Ella is the journey to get there.
The Kandy to Ella train ride is considered one of the most spectacular train trips in the world and is one of the top things to do in Ella Sri Lanka.
Winding through tea plantations, past gushing waterfalls and through small villages, it is a quintessential Sri Lankan trip worth taking.
The journey can be taken in either direction and you can find the timetable here. Be warned the train from Kandy to Ella is a long trip – around 7 hours (or more depending on delays).
For a shorter trip, the section from Nanuoya (near Nuwara Eliya) to Ella is considered the most picturesque and takes around 3 hours.
Tickets can be booked 32 days in advance online at 12go.asia. We recommend booking if you are traveling in peak season as reserved seats do book out.
If you are happy to take your chances and travel in 2nd or 3rd class with an unreserved ticket, you can simply turn up on the day of travel an hour or so before the trip to purchase your ticket. You may not get a seat but the journey is guaranteed to be an experience you will remember!
Alternatively, if you have some time in the country before your train trip, you can book your seats when you arrive in the country at any train station.
2. Admire Nine Arch Bridge Ella
Nine Arch Bridge is one of the top Ella attractions due to its giant 24 metre high structure and magical jungle surroundings.
What makes this bridge so special is its unique old structure and 9 giant arches. It feels like something out of a fairytale movie and it is one of the best places to see in Sri Lanka.
There are 2 ways you can view this magical bridge. You can either view it from the above or from underneath. Viewing the bridge from above is lesser known and is definitely a view you shouldn’t miss.
To reach this viewpoint, head towards Art Umbrella Cafe. Just past the cafe you will see a small dirt carpark on the opposite side of the road. Next to the carpark will be a pathway leading into the forest. Follow this pathway for around 10 minutes and you will have the perfect view of the bridge from above.
After admiring the bridge, you can continue along the path which will lead you onto the train tracks. There is a small dirt pathway next to the bridge leading down underneath which is also an amazing way to view the arches. If you visit in the wet season, be sure to watch out for leeches!
It is still an active train track so if you visit at the right time, you’ll get to see the local train pass right by you. The trains are meant to pass by every hour so be sure to hang around if you want to see one.
The best time to visit is early in the morning at around 7am so that you can have this whole place to yourself as it can get very busy during the day due to its popularity.
The Nine Arch Bridge is only a 20 minute walk from the centre of Ella town. If you don’t feel like walking you can easily hop in a local TukTuk.
-Lola Hubner from Lolapan Travels
3. Enjoy The View From Little Adam’s Peak
One of my favourite places in Ella was Little Adam’s Peak. Unlike Adam’s Peak, Little Adam’s peak is a lot less daunting and a much easier climb that can be done by almost anyone.
Located a short walk outside Ella, this trek to Little Adam’s Peak in Ella is frequently combined with a visit to the Demodara Nine Arch bridge which is also close by.
You will find that the walk to the peak takes you through a path that is lined with tea plantations on either side. The valleys that bank the path are gorgeous and once you reach the top, the views are one of the best things to see in Ella Sri Lanka.
I would suggest heading out to the peak early in the morning and getting back in time for a late breakfast. This is because it starts to get hot in the midday sun and it makes the whole climb rather unpleasant.
Do make sure that you wear proper footwear and carry water, especially if you are heading to catch a glimpse of the trains passing over the famous bridge after you are done with little Adam’s peak.
Carry a snack if you haven’t had anything to eat because there aren’t many places to catch a bite to eat once you are out of the main village area.
– Penny Fernandes from GlobeTrove
4. Take A Cooking Class
Ella is such a beautiful place that it is tempting to spend all your time outside exploring the tea plantations and hiking in Ella.
But once the sun sets it is more difficult to know what to do in Ella. That is why one afternoon I decided to take part in a cooking class.
It turned out to be one of my favourite things to do in Ella and is one of the best things to do in Ella at night. Till then I had mixed experiences with Sri Lankan food.
Some dishes I had were pretty good, but in a lot of local restaurants it was so spicy that I couldn’t really taste the flavours. I felt I was really missing out on what Sri Lankan cuisine had to offer.
The cooking class was an excellent introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine. She started showing us the fresh ingredients that she bought that day in the market and then explained about the spices that are central in Sri Lankan cuisine. Many of the spices came from her own garden and she showed us the process of preparing them.
We ended up making a variety of chutneys and curries with rice. It was already dark when we were finally ready to try what we had just made under the careful instructions of our cook.
It was all vegetarian and it was the best food I had in Sri Lanka. Whenever I think of Ella it is this memorable evening that pops up in my head first and only then I think of the beautiful Kandy to Ella train or the beautiful hikes in the tea plantations.
-Ellis Veen from Backpack Adventures
5. Hike Up Ella Rock
If you’re looking for the best things to do in Ella, you have to add Ella Rock to your bucket list.
We spent two weeks in Sri Lanka and Ella Rock was amongst the coolest hiking in Sri Lanka. The peak of Ella Rock is in the middle of a valley but surrounded by other hills, meaning that everywhere you look you will see sweeping hillsides and mountaintops all around you.
The hike itself is rather challenging, not so much in terms of fitness but because it’s not properly marked. If anything, the signs that are there actually point in the wrong direction.
They say that it’s done on purpose so that when you get lost amongst the tea fields a local farmer will show up to help you and then charge you to show you the right way!
To reach Ella Rock you have to walk along the train tracks from Ella and past the station of Kithalella railway station. After about 5-10 minutes there will be a yellow sign that says “speed 15 km/h”, this is where you turn off from the tracks and into the fields.
Just after the bridge you will see signs saying “quickest way to Ella Rock” that point right, you actually want to ignore these and go left in the tea plantations. This part of the hike is fairly flat, once you pop out of the tea plantations the hill starts going up quite steeply and it will be easy to figure out which direction to go in, uphill through the trees until you reach the peak!
Ella Rock Sri Lanka is a challenging hike, you might get lost around the tea plantations one or two times, but that is also part of the adventure when hiking in Ella and the views once you reach the peak are well worth the effort!
-Greta Omoboni from Greta’s Travels
6. Explore Diyaluma Falls
Diyaluma Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in the country and also one of the most beautiful places to see in Ella.
As well as a huge single drop falls there is also a series of pools which make for the most perfect swimming holes and relief from the sticky Sri Lankan heat.
To get to the falls is a bit of an adventure in itself, requiring a one-hour tuk tuk journey followed by a 30-45 minute uphill hike.
Once you’re at the top of the hill the first pool you’ll come to is the best for swimming as it’s large and deep and doesn’t have any drop offs.
Once you’ve made the most of the cool water you can head to the very top of the falls which has a natural infinity pool with magnificent views.
Be careful if you choose to swim here though as the force of the water could take you over the edge of the cliff. It’s a great spot to sit and relax on the cliff and makes the perfect picnic spot.
Diyaluma Falls is one of the best day trips from Ella Sri Lanka. Most people choose to visit this area with a guide, but you can actually get to Diyaluma Falls without a guide if you prefer. Elephants are sometimes present on the hike leading to the falls so keep an eye out and stay well back if you see them!
-Cat Smith from Walk My World
7. Treat Yourself At 98 Acres Resort and Spa
It might not be a ‘thing to do’ but we would argue that staying at the 98 Acres Hotel is one of the top priority items for anyone visiting Ella!
Nestled in the hills, 98 Acres was named the World’s Best Mountain Resort a few years ago, for good reason. This include resort is set on a gorgeous 98 acre tea estate offering not just luxury suites and delicious cuisine, but spectacular views across Ella.
The resort is well-known since you need to pass it if going to the famous Little Adam’s Peak. Actually, the trail for Little Adam’s Peak runs directly next to 98 Acres so you could be first up the mountain the morning, and get the sunrise all to yourself!
The chalets are made out of recycled materials but the entire resort remains premium: think old railway sleepers and straw roofs, but boasting crisp white linen and incredible bathrooms.
And it offers so many activities on site: a wonderful fitness centre, world-class spa, themed dinner nights, private cooking classes and you can even try your hand at archery!
We loved just lying by their pool and then taking time to walk through their grounds, where you’ll see women picking tea.
The team at the hotel can also offer a tea plantation experience in the grounds for you, where you can speak to the workers, go to the factory and even end the day with a tea-infused cocktail while watching the sun set over breath-taking Ella.
-Lee Nelson from The Travel Scribes
8. Take In The Views from Lipton Seat
If you are looking for things to do around Ella Sri Lanka, Lipton’s Seat is a gorgeous viewpoint high above the tea fields in the central highlands.
Named after the famous Thomas Lipton (yes, the owner of the international brand of Lipton tea) this viewpoint is both historic and scenic and one of the top things to see in Ella.
In the late 1800s, Lipton came to Sri Lanka from the UK and built a tea factory. He grew plenty of tea leaves and then made them into Lipton Yellow Label tea.
He also owned a bungalow that sat 2,000m above sea level on a ridgeline where he could watch all of the fields and workers. This place where his bungalow once was is now known as Lipton Seat.
Eventually, Sri Lanka took back ownership of the tea fields and factory. Today, Lipton tea is still made from the leaves grown here, and the company is still one of the region’s best customers!
For tourists, you can visit Lipton’s Seat to experience the tea fields and views for yourself. From Ella you can reach Lipton’s Seat in one of three ways; take a tuk-tuk, join an organized group tour, or catch the local bus.
Of course, the bus is the cheapest way but it is a little time consuming and involves three different buses over the course of more than two hours. In a tuk-tuk, you can reach Lipton’s Seat in just over an hour (but expect to pay 2,000 LKR more or less for the roundtrip.)
If you do visit Lipton’s Seat be sure to stop at the Dambatenne Tea Factory as well. This tea factory is only 7km from Lipton’s Seat and offers tours in English of the facilities for only a couple of dollars. It is quite interesting to learn how tea is made!
For me, visiting Lipton’s Seat at sunrise was one of the best things I did while in Sri Lanka. In the mornings there is less cloud and as the sky glowed pink it was magic!
-Bailey from Destinationless Travel
9. Tour a Tea Factory Ella
Sri Lanka is the world’s 4th largest producer of tea and some of the best quality tea is grown in the central highlands around Ella and Nuwara Eliya.
Many of the hikes around Ella pass through tea plantations (such as Little Adam’s Peak) but a tour of one of the local tea factories near Ella is one of the more unique things to do around Ella Sri Lanka.
One of the closest and most popular tea factories near Ella is Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory. The best time to go on a factory tour is when the factory is running, so best to check their site for their production schedule.
Alternatively, if you are planning day trips from Ella and you want to go to Lipton Seat, this guided tour takes you to Dambetanna Tea Factory, one of the oldest tea factories in Sri Lanka. Click here for more details.
10. Swim At Ella Wala Falls
There are dozens of waterfalls near Ella. But Elle Wala Falls is not like other Ella attractions as it is a place not many tourists get to visit, so chances are that if you venture all the way there you’ll be the only person at this Ella waterfall.
The is a single drop waterfall of around 5 meters with a nice swimming hole right below – the water is shallow and very cold, which may be a welcome thing in the heat of Sri Lanka. Make sure to wear your swimsuit and carry a towel if you intend to take a dip.
It’s an easy walk on a trail that tends to be muddy, and during which you’ll encounter one or two persons at most, and a couple of lovely dogs who will lead you all the way to the waterfall, as if they were the guardians (in fact, some locals as well as some tourists say they are).
Elle Wala waterfall is located at 26 km and a 40 minutes car ride from Ella.
The best way to get there from Ella is on a bus that goes all the way to Wellawaya and then a tuc tuc. Alternatively, you can opt to go there by car. Local drivers know the best place to stop to reach the waterfall, for which you have to walk through the jungle.
-Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World
Where To Stay In Ella
Ella is firmly on the tourist trail in Sri Lanka, with new guesthouses and hotels popping up all the time. As a result there is a huge range of accommodation available at all price points from luxury to hostel.
Luxury: For the ultimate Ella stay, 98 Acres Resort and Spa is the standout choice.
With luxury rooms and villas, fantastic position on a ridge with gorgeous views, easy access to Little Adams Peak and Nine Arch Bridge, it is one of the best luxury hotels in Ella, Sri Lanka.
Boutique: If you are looking for a small boutique hotel close to town, you can’t go past Zion View.
With an infinity pool, hammocks to laze away in and private balconies with spectacular views across Ella Gap, it is a popular travellers choice with consistently great reviews.
Homestay: If you are looking for a homestay, you cannot go past Chamodya Home Stay.
Chamodya holds a 5 star rating on Trip Advisor from nearly 500 reviews, and was awarded the 2019 Travellers Choice award. It is a great choice, but you will need to book early to secure a room!
Best Time To Visit Ella Sri Lanka
The best time to visit Ella is from January to April during the dry season. The weather in Ella Sri Lanka tends to be warm and humid all year round. Average day time temperatures hover around 25 – 30 degrees celcius (86 F).
Due to the higher elevation you will notice the temperature cools off more in the evening than it does on the coast, which is a pleasant change.
The biggest thing to take note of when planning your trip is rainfall. The most significant rain falls from April to November.
The dry season runs from December to March, which is why this is the most popular time to visit Ella, particularly if you are planning to hike.
Plan Your Sri Lanka Itinerary
Hikkaduwa – read our article on the top things to do in Hikkaduwa here.
Mirissa – find the best place to stay in Mirissa with our Mirissa Hotels Guide.
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Enjoy planning your trip to Ella! We hope you now know what to do in Ella Sri Lanka. If you have any questions leave us a comment.