What to do on a day out in Ella

What to do on a day out in Ella

We spent a few days in Ella, and while we found the town itself a bit overrun by tourists, the countryside around it was just lovely. The views from just about anywhere are nothing short of spectacular, and you’ll meet friendly people anywhere you go. Here are some suggestions for what to do around Ella in one or several days.

The scenic but busy train ride from Kandy to Ella

Climbing Little Adam’s Peak

We set out after breakfast to climb the smallest peak, also known as Little Adam’s Peak, not to be confused with the actual Adam’s Peak located elsewhere on the island. It’s a very easy hike, the start of which is located on the Passara road going out from Ella. We were staying a bit out of town in that direction, but if you’re not, you may want to take a tuktuk.

You’re unlikely to be alone one the walk, so just follow all the other people and a few signs pointing toward the summit. The walk passes through tea plantations, and we saw a lot of trash that had been left behind by tourists, and some tourists that were walking up really close to the workers taking pictures of them. That seemed terribly disrespectful, please don’t be that person.

View from Little Adams Peak in Ella

The views over Ella Rock from the top were really great, and we also got some good views from the way up. We would’ve liked to climb the big one, but as it had been raining a lot in the days before we were worried the trail might be too slippery. I’m sure your accommodation or a tour operator in Ella can tell you about the conditions.

Lunch with a view

When we got back down to Passara road we wanted to get lunch, and sat down at the excellent Adam’s breeze restaurant, on a large porch overlooking a valley. The food was cheap, good and filling. I would especially recommend the koththu roti.

Being a vegetarian in Sri Lanka

Tea factory visit

We went to the tea factory closest to Ella Town, Newburgh Green Tea Factory, which offered a factory tour and a tasting for 500 rupies. The tour was a bit of a whirlwind through the factory, by a guide who seemed to be doing the same thing hundreds of times in a day and didn’t seem very passionate about it, to say the least. And for the tasting, we were pretty much served a cup of tea in the factory gift shop and that was that.

I can’t say this came as a complete surprise to us, and if you really want a quick idea of what a the factories might look like on the inside, this is a good option. I did however read some better reviews about other places around Ella, so maybe if you’re really into tea you could try one of those out. My favorite thing about the tea plantations is the view over the bushes from a hill overlooking them, which you can get anywhere around Ella. Just go for a walk!

Colorful hindu temple

Walking to Demodara Nine Arch Bridge

The Nine Arches Bridge is reached from another turn-off from Passara Road, a little bit longer out of town but not far from the way up Little Adam’s Peak, by a very pretty roadside temple that lets you take pictures for a donation.

Follow the road downhill until it ends in a path, and continue going down toward the bridge. The path gets very slippery when it’s wet, but there are trees to hold on to so just take it easy. There are some cafés up the hill that claim to have the best view of the bridge, we didn’t check it out but I’m sure there’s some truth to it.

There aren’t so many trains passing, so it’s safe to walk across the bridge to the other side. We also continued through the tunnel and along the tracks on the other side, all the way around to Ella station in a half hour or so. It’s easy to walk along the tracks, most of the time on the side, just make sure you listen for trains! Do note that it’s not allowed to walk on the tracks, although many people do it.

Demodara Nine Arch Bridge

Where to stay in Ella

Before we arrived, we really struggled to understand in which area we would like to stay. Most accommodation is spread out around the town, so we decided to stay along the Passara road toward the start of the hike to Little Adam’s Peak and other attractions. I’m happy we did, as that saved us time in the morning, and we were still close enough to the center of town to walk there for dinner and shopping. There are plenty of homestays, and I’d recommend to book in advance in the busy season as most places seemed full.

We stayed at Mama Cottage, a homestay with a few guest rooms run by Mama, who is quite the character. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but she still talks a lot, and she does serve great tea and breakfast in the morning. Rooms were $30 for a double with breakfast.

From Ella, we went on to Udawalawe National Park for a safari

Are you planning a trip to Sri Lanka? Here’s our two week itinerary!

View over Ella
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The scenic but busy train ride from Kandy to Ella

The scenic but busy train ride from Kandy to Ella

We knew that we were traveling at a busy time, just after Christmas, which seems to be the peak season for tourism in Sri Lanka. Many visitors book the train from Kandy to Ella ahead of time, when sales start several months in advance. We didn’t. A little bit because we didn’t want to be limited by a certain time we had to be somewhere, but mostly because we didn’t get around to planning until just before we left home.

Kandy, the perfect start of a trip to Sri Lanka

Buying the tickets at Ella station, easier said than done

What we did know was that we wanted to take the train to Ella. We travel by train as often as we can, and this journey in particular had come recommended by many. So upon our arrival in Kandy we went to the train station to try and find tickets, and were told that they were sold out for the next two weeks.

However, unreserved second and third class tickets cannot sell out, so in the morning on the day of our departure we lined up with many other people outside the ticket office at Ella station before it opened and got ourselves some unreserved second class tickets. The train was scheduled to leave at 8.45 AM and the ticket office opened at 8.00. At 7.40 the line outside was already quite long, so make sure you get there on time to buy your ticket.

Crowded train


Now, I suppose there are upsides to having your own seat, especially as the journey to Ella takes six hours. We were really lucky, as we first of all got on the train which not all tourists did, and second were standing next to a local family that got off after less than two hours, so we got their seats for the rest of the journey. Many others had to stand up the whole time.

Reserve a seat if you want to take pictures

If you’re going to take this train, you should really try to get a reserved seat. Only then can you look out the window and take good pictures, and standing for six hours with vendors and others constantly pushing through is mostly painful. Some travelers were lucky and got the spot by the door, but if you wait to get on there’s the risk of not getting on the train at all.

I did really enjoy the ride. The views were spectacular, and the slow pace was nice. Train rides are usually a good chance to spend some time with locals, and this one was no exception.

View from the train between Kandy and Ella

However, to me it wasn’t THAT amazing. I can’t really see how some people put this train ride as the highlight of their Sri Lanka trip. Maybe if I’d scored a seat in the observation car I would’ve understood better.

What to do on a day out in Ella

Train ride from Kandy to Ella
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