Ella is a laidback village in Sri Lanka’s central highlands and is well known for it’s famous hikes and the Nine Arch Bridge.
The most scenic way to reach this little village is without any doubt by train. We think you should at least once take the train journey to or from Ella.
Because the South of Sri Lanka is not connected by railway with Ella, many travelers will arrive by bus or taxi. When you arrive by bus in Ella we strongly recommend to take the train when travelling from Ella to your next destination.
If you are coming from Colombo, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya or Haputale, you can already take the train on your way to reach this beautiful town.
Especially the route between Nuwara Eliya and Ella is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world!
How to get to Ella
Below, we give you a step-by-step guide on how to reach Ella when coming from other major destinations like Colombo and Kandy:
If you already experienced this train journey from/to Ella and prefer a quicker or more flexible option, you can also easily get here by bus or of course by booking a taxi.
Getting to Ella by Train
When taking the train from Colombo, Kandy, or Nuwara Eliya, you will pass by scenery of tea plantations and lush green hills. The train ride itself is the highlight of visiting Ella and missing it means you miss half of the adventure.
Because this train ride is one of Sri Lanka’s highlights, the trains can get very busy. You will not only have to share your space with locals using the train for their daily commute, but also hundreds of tourists when travelling the high season.
If you want to secure a seat, especially when coming from Kandy, you will have to book a reserved seat at least one month before your trip. We recommend to do this online via BookAway or 12go.asia. For more information, check out our page on how to book train tickets to Sri Lanka for more info.
There are no direct buses from Colombo to Ella, which means you will have to make a transfer during this ride. Bus #99 will take you only up to Kumbalwela Junction, from where you can take a tuk-tuk or taxi to your hotel.
From Kandy or Nuwara Eliya, Brown Tours offers direct tourist buses on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, their prices are more expensive at 3,630 Rs ($20).
When coming from southern towns like Galle or Mirissa, you can take bus 31-1. This departs from Matara and passes by Ella before making its last stop in Nuwara Eliya.
Although fares for local buses are very cheap, we still recommend that you take the train whenever possible.
Getting to Ella by Taxi
If you already did the train ride and want to get to your next destination quickly and conveniently, you can also book a taxi from/to Ella.
We recommend booking via reliable taxi apps like Uber and Pickme. When coming from Colombo, fares start at 12,700 Rs ($70).
Note that taxis from online taxi apps are not always available in this small town. In that case, alternate taxi booking websites include BookAway, 12go.asia, and TaxiGo.
9 Awesome Things to Do in Ella
The center of Ella is basically one main street with a few side streets and several bars and restaurants. However, the real reason to visit Ella is not the town center, but it’s beautiful surrounding nature.
This little village was able to retain most of its laidback charm despite the overwhelming number of tourists in recent years. You can easily spend a few days here just bonding with nature and enjoying its many gifts.
#1 Walk over the railway track at Nine Arch Bridge
Standing proud amongst jungles and mountains is the Nine Arch Bridge, a 24-meter high structure built of stone, brick and cement, without the use of any steel.
It is often the subject of the most beautiful photos taken in the Tea Country, and something you definitely shouldn’t miss when in Ella.
Walk over the railway tracks and enjoy the beauty around you. And don’t worry about the train suddenly passing by. You will hear the sounds and horn of the train far before it is approaching.
PRO-TIP: Ask at your guesthouse about the schedule of the train, so you can make the most beautiful picture when the train passes by over the magnificent Nine Arch Bridge.
#2 Watch the sunset at Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak is the so-called younger brother of the taller and the sacred Adam’s Peak, which is located close to Nuwara Elya.
Luckily this Little Adam’s peak is a much easier to hike. The whole hike (up&down) won’t take more than one hour and is rewards you with a stunning view, and hopefully sunset.
From Ella town center, you can easily reach the start of the trek by foot or a 5-10 min tuk tuk drive. The hike to the peak takes only about 20 minutes. From the top, you will have a gorgeous view of the town and Ella Rock.
PRO-TIP: We recommend to do the hike in the late afternoon and watch the sunset amidst the already magical backdrop.
#3 Hike Ella Rock
If you have more time and energy, take your hiking up a notch at Ella Rock. The hike takes 2-3 hours up, but it will be more than worth it! Most people spend easily an hour on top of the hill to enjoy the views, so plan in total about 4-5 hours for this Ella rock hike.
Make sure to bring water, a few snacks and wear proper (hiking) shoes. Be mindful of leeches as there are quite a few in this lush mountain.
The trail to the top is quite easy to find as long as you checked the directions beforehand. If you’re not comfortable hiking on your own, you can also get a guide. But make sure you agree on the price beforehand.
#4 Chill at Cafe Chill
It’s easy to find good cafes in Ella, but Cafe Chill is definitely my favorite!
Traditional Sri Lankan dishes, international cuisine, vegan-friendly meals, and cocktails – they have it all! Everything’s meticulously-prepared and the staff are very friendly.
Highly recommend to anyone visiting Ella!
#5 Swim at Ravana Waterfall
On hot afternoons, cool down in the basin of Ravana Waterfall, located 15 mins away from Ella. It might be full of locals on weekends, but on weekdays you can swim and shower in this waterfall with fewer tourists.
PRO-TIP: Stay away from men offering “free” crystals. You will have to give them something in return. If you don’t, you will be ugly surprised how quickly their friendliness changes to a different attitude.
#6 Learn how tea is made at Halpewatte Tea Factory
After China, India and Kenya, Sri Lanka is the 4th largest tea producer in the world. A vacation isn’t complete without a tour of its many tea plantations.
One of the best ways to get a true insight in how this tea is made, is by visiting one of the many factories.
We recommend visiting Halpewatte Tea Factory, where you can learn how they make their world-famous Ceylon tea. The tour includes a walkthrough of the tea-making process and then finishes up with tea-tasting overlooking the tea plantation from the top.
The whole tour takes about an hour and a ticket costs 540 Rs ($3). You can reach Halpewatte through a 20-min tuk-tuk or motorbike ride.
#7 Visit Buduruwagala Temple
About an hour away from Ella is the 1000-year-old Buduruwagala Temple.
Here you will find 7 statues carved in stone, one of which is the tallest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka at 15 meters high. Although an important Buddhist monument, very few tourists visit this site so you’ll most probably enjoy a peaceful moment here.
You can reach Buduruwagala Temple by bus, motorbike, or taxi/rented car.
#8 Day trip to Diyaluma Falls
Visiting this waterfall will take a complete day, but we promise you won’t regret this trip if you like waterfalls.
The Diyaluma Falls are the second-highest waterfalls in Sri Lanka and offer one of the most magnificent views you can imagine.
From Ella, the foot of the waterfalls is about an hour away by motorbike or car. It’s nice to see Diyaluma in all its majesty, but you wouldn’t want to stay there just looking to it from the bottom.
Drive or ride further to the start of the trekking which is about 30mins further. From the drop-off point, you can reach the top of the Diyaluma waterfalls in 30-45 minutes.
Here you will find natural pools of varying levels. You can jump from one of the smaller waterfalls, swim in the little pools and sunbathe on the large stones next to the waterfall.
Just remember to be very careful when you reach the last part of this waterfall! Diyaluma is 220 meters high and there is nothing that will protect you from falling if you are not careful enough.
#9 Train ride to Nuwara Eliya or Kandy
As I mentioned earlier, the train ride to and from Ella is half of the experience. The most scenic train route in Sri Lanka is the train ride between Kandy and Ella, with the highlights between Nuwara Eliya and Ella.
PRO-TIP: When taking the train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya or Kandy, try to sit on the left side for the most amazing views. And of course, the other (right) side when traveling to Ella.