Ella, a small town nestled in the lush green hills of Sri Lanka, is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. From scenic hikes to tea plantations to waterfalls and ancient temples, Ella offers a range of activities to cater to everyone’s interests.
In this blog post, I will share with you some of the top things to do in Ella and discover why it’s a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Sri Lanka.
Table of Contents
The best things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
Rent a scooter to explore Ella town and the surroundings
The absolute best thing to do in Ella is just to rent a scooter and drive around. There’s so much to explore, and having your own bike is the best and most convenient option to cover as much as possible. and even if you don’t go anywhere in particular, just driving through the surrounding tea plantations, forests, and hills is a pleasure on its own.
Hike to Little Adam’s peak
Hiking to Little Adam’s Peak is among the most popular and wonderful things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka. The peak is named after the sacred Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), one of the most revered pilgrimage sites in the country. However, unlike the exhausting trek up Sri Pada, Little Adam’s Peak is easily accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels. The hike from the town of Ella to the peak takes about 30-45 minutes in total.
The trail winds through lush tea plantations and offers panoramic views of the surrounding hills and valleys. At the top, you’ll be greeted with a beautiful 360-degree view of the area. Don’t miss it!
TIP: The best time to hike to Little Adam’s Peak is early morning or late afternoon when the temperature is cooler and the lighting is perfect for photography.
See the Nine Arches bridge
The Nine Arches Bridge, also known as the Demodara Nine Arches Bridge, is a popular attraction and engineering marvel located in the town of Ella. The bridge was built during the British colonial period in the early 20th century, using only bricks, cement, and steel. It spans a 91-meter-long gorge with nine arches, hence its name.
You can walk on the bridge or wait for one of the passing trains – it is a nice experience as the people on the train show on the doors and windows to greet all visitors to the Nine Arches Bridge.
Wander through the tea plantations
The tea plantations of Sri Lanka were originally established by the Brits in the 19th century when they colonized the island. The cool climate and high altitude of the central highlands of Sri Lanka make it an ideal location for growing tea. Nowadays, Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth-largest producer of tea after China, India, and Kenya.
The tea plantations around Ella are some of the most beautiful and picturesque in Sri Lanka. You can visit one of the nearby plantations and factories and take guided tours to learn about the tea-making process, from picking the tea leaves to the final product. Many tea factories also offer tea-tasting sessions, where visitors can sample different varieties of tea.
One of the most popular tea plantations to visit around Ella is the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory.
On the way back from Little Adam’s peak, you can enjoy one of the longest ziplines in Asia. Covering a distance of 1 kilometer at speeds of up to 80 kilometers per hour, the Flying Ravana Mega Zipline consists of two parallel lines so that you can ride alongside your travel buddy. The flight takes you over Ella’s tea estates and lush greenery but takes only about a minute.
Visit Lipton’s seat
Named after Sir Thomas Lipton, a British tea magnate who used to survey his tea plantations from that spot, Lipton’s Seat is a scenic viewpoint located near Ella, Sri Lanka. The viewpoint offers panoramic views of the surrounding hills, valleys, and tea estates. But the seat viewpoint is not the best thing about this activity; it is the journey getting to it. To reach Lipton’s Seat, you’ll need to take a bumpy but scenic ride, passing through picturesque tea plantations and small villages along the way. We gave up on reaching the seat but enjoyed the ride through the tea plantations so much. Friends told us the view is beautiful, but not anything that you can’t miss. Anyway, if you make the journey and have the time, to the finish point.
Hike Ella Rock
I love hiking, so naturally, hiking to Ella Rock was one of my favorite things to do in Ella. This hike takes you through eucalyptus forests, tea plantations, and gardens and offers beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding hills and valleys. You can either start the hike from the Ella Railway Station or drive or hire a tuk-tuk to this starting point – from here, the hike is shorter, taking about 40 minutes or so. Make sure to wear suitable shoes, not necessarily hiking boots, but sneakers at a minimum, and bring enough water. You can buy a fresh coconut or another refreshing drink from the vendors on the trail.
Take a day trip to Udawalawe National Park
With between 500-700 elephants living here, Udawalawe National Park safari is at the top of the bucket list for many planning a trip to Sri Lanka and want to see the famous Sri Lankan elephants up close. Udawalawe has the largest population of Asian elephants in all of the national parks in Sri Lanka, so the chance of seeing those beautiful animals is guaranteed. But there’s much more to see in Udawalawe than elephants. Udawalawe National Park is also home to water buffalos, crocodiles, deer, wild boars, monkeys, lizards, and a wide variety of birds. If you are extremely lucky, you can also see one of the few leopards living here; however, the chances are very small.
Walk up to Ravena’s cave
In my opinion (as we didn’t see anyone else), Ravana’s cave is one of the least visited attractions of Ella. The cave is relatively small and can be explored quite quickly, but you first need to climb up several flights of stairs to reach the entrance, which depending on your fitness level, could take from 30 minutes to 1 hour. It is a very nice climb tho and the way up offers some pretty views of Little Adam’s Peak and the cave’s surroundings.
See the Ravana waterfall
As one of the most famous natural attractions in the area, our list of things to do in Ella cannot go without the Ravana waterfall. Cascading down from a height of over 80 meters, the waterfall is easily accessible from the town of Ella either by scooter ride, tuk-tuk, or on foot. You can enjoy the view of the waterfall from the road or take a refreshing dip in the pool beneath it.
We didn’t make the short trip to Diyaluma Falls, but according to many visitors, the falls must be on every nature lover and adventure seeker’s list of things to do in Ella. Diyaluma Falls is made up of several cascading tiers, with a total height of around 220 meters, making it one of the highest waterfalls in Sri Lanka. What attracts people there are the pools in which you can swim in.
Visit the Dowa Rock Temple
The Dowa Rock Temple also didn’t feel as touristy as other attractions in the Ella area. Believed to have been built during the 1st century BC, the temple features several ancient paintings and murals depicting scenes from Buddhist mythology. Behind the temple, there is also a large 12-meter rock-cut unfinished Buddha statue and a cave that serves as a shrine. Also, inside the cave, there is a tunnel that is now sealed but it is believed that it used to connect the Dowa Rock Temple with other temples in the town of Ella.
Apart from its historical and cultural significance, the Dowa Rock Temple also offers a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere, thanks to which visiting it become one of my favorite things to do in Ella.
Ride the famous Ella – Kandy train
The train journey from Ella to Kandy is considered one of the most scenic train journeys in Sri Lanka, if not the world. The train ride covers a distance of approximately 140 kilometers and takes around 6-7 hours to complete, depending on the train you choose. The train passes through some of the most breathtaking scenery in Sri Lanka, including lush green tea plantations, misty hills, and picturesque waterfalls, making it a highlight for many travelers to Sri Lanka.
TIP: The train gets really busy as every tourist takes it, as well as locals use it on a daily basis to go from one place to another, so it is advisable to book tickets in advance.
Indulge in a massage
Getting a massage in Ella is a great way to unwind and de-stress after a long day of sightseeing and hiking. There are plenty of options, from traditional Ayurvedic massages to more modern spa treatments available, so you can choose based on your preferences and budget. We wanted to go to the 98 Acres Resort spa and get massages there, but it turned out they are fully booked and if you want to have a message there, you need to make a reservation in advance. we then visited another place where the massage was not amazing, but I’m sure that this depends strongly on a person’s preferences, choice of massage, and the studio one chooses to visit.
The best places to eat in Ella, Sri Lanka
- Matey hut – traditional Sri Lankan food. This was the first place we ended up eating in Ella and the one we returned to the most. Super friendly staff and good food. Highly recommended.
- Rainbow cafe – healthy and delicious food, perfect for every time of the day.
- 98 Acres Resort – although this is perhaps the most expensive resort in Ella, the restaurant is still affordable. It provides nice views over Ella, the atmosphere is nice, the service is good, and the food is delicious, too.
- Cafe Chill – I think this is one of the most popular restaurants in town, and it always tends to be full (for a reason). Consider booking a table in advance.
Where to next?
If you want to continue exploring Central Sri Lanka, I could recommend you also visit Hatton. The town is nothing special. I actually didn’t like the town at all. However, the surroundings of Hatton as just as beautiful and exciting as those of Ella. From here, you are closer to Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak) if you’re interested in visiting it. You can also do a day trip to explore Nuwara Eliya or Horton Plains National Park. There are many waterfalls to explore, too – don’t miss my favorite, Laxapana Falls, the reason why we decided to visit Hatton in the first place.
Nuwara Eliya is supposed to be one of the nicest places to visit in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, we missed it as we saw lots of rain on the day we wanted to go there. However, if you’re lucky, I’m sure it’s worth it. Nuwara Eliya is also home to many waterfalls, team plantations, and parks. It is the closest place to Ella and Hatton to the Horton Plains National Park. If you don’t have the time to include all three places (Ella, Nuwara Eliya, and Hatton) on your Sri Lanka itinerary, then I suggest you think well of what exactly you want to see and do in this region and then decide which town would serve you as a base best.
Weligama is one of the coolest spots in Sri Lanka. Located on the southern coast of the country, Weligama attracts with its fabulous beginner surfing conditions, hip cafes and restaurants, and nearby pretty beaches. We spent about two weeks in Weligama and absolutely loved the place. It is a great place to visit not only to surf but also to explore the southern coast and all the great things to do in Weligama and this region of Sri Lanka. Go, visit, and thank me later.
Located in the heart of Sri Lanka, Kandy is the second-largest city in the country and is considered to be the cultural hub of Sri Lanka. Kandy is famous for the Temple of the Tooth Relic, a UNESCO World Heritage site that houses a sacred tooth relic of the Buddha. The city is surrounded by hills and forests and attracts visitors with its Botanical Garden. I personally didn’t like Kandy, but there are some interesting places that you could visit in the city and around. As a day trip or half-day trip, you can visit Sigiriya, Pidurangala Rock, Dambulla Cave Temple, Anuradhapura, and Ambuluwawa Tower.
Where to stay in Ella, Sri Lanka
While in Ella, we stayed in two places, and I can highly recommend the first – Ella Touch. Spacious room, large and comfortable bed, super clean. The location was good too and there is a little garden with a nice area to relax. And did I mention how budget-friendly this place is?! If you’re not looking for anything fancy or a guest house with a panoramic view but just a pretty, comfortable place to sleep, shower and relax, I recommend you book this place as soon as you start planning your trip to Ella.
I hope that this article gave you a good overview of the best things to do in Ella. If you have any additional questions or comments, please let me know in the comment section below, and don’t hesitate to contact me.