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Ella is a small town in Sri Lanka surrounded by mountains and lush green fields of tea. It’s the type of town I could get stuck for weeks with so much natural beauty around and fun things to do.
But even if you only have a few days to spend in Ella – there’s still plenty to do there. Here are my top 10 recommendations for things to do in Ella.
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Watch the Sunrise from Ella Rock
Your best shot at a clear sky in Ella is to get up earlier rather than later so why not enjoy a beautiful sunrise hike?
Hiking Ella Rock is one of the best treks to do in the morning in Ella as it is only an hour up to the top and provides stunning views of the rising sun against the surrounding landscapes.
Added bonus, by going early in the morning you won’t get too hot as the sun is very strong in Sri Lanka during the day. But even without the sun this hike is challenging as it’s a steep climb to the top from the base.
If you stay at Ella Escapade Hostel Ella Rock is easy to reach in the morning, as the hostel is located directly across from it. The trek is a bit confusing and there are guides around if you need them, but we were able to find our own way there via signs and asking a few locals.
Visit Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak is a relatively easy hike in Ella, especially when compared with the famous Adam’s Peak in Nuwara Eliya that it is named after.
It’s one of the best things to do in Ella, as it takes only 15 minutes to climb up. Once at the top, there is a nice ridge you can walk along, with tons of viewpoints and photo ops. I ended up walking way past the original peak, which was nice to get away from the crowds and have the views to myself.
I hiked Little Adam’s Peak mid-day and enjoyed it, although I can imagine watching the sunrise over the rolling hills would make the scenery all that more special.
Learn to cook the local cuisine
Sri Lankan food is incredibly tasty so why not take a cooking class and bring home some knowledge of what makes the delicious flavors? There are several restaurants in Ella that offer cooking classes. We ended up going with Lanka cooking classes, but I’ve also heard great things about Ella Spice Garden.
I recommend booking the class in advance as they are popular. We called several the day we wanted to go and they were all full, but Lanka cooking classes was awesome enough to put on a private class for the seven of us!
The class was a great experience. We got to make four different types of curries and roti, with clear instruction. After finishing, we got to eat all our hard-work which was delicious. There was so much food, we couldn’t even finish it!
Taking a cooking class is a great thing to do in Ella if you need a recovery day from all the trekking.
Visit a tea factory
The rolling hills of Ella are a photographers dreams and what makes these hills pop so much is the stunning green color created by the tea fields.
If you’re trekking around the Ella area you can easily stop into a tea plantation and find out how the tea is made from leaf to cup.
It was really interesting to learn about how the different types of tea are created through the refining process. The factory we visited alone produces 20,000kg of tea per year!
Check out Lipton’s Seat
I’m sure you’ve heard of Lipton’s Tea – well, this is where it all began.
Sri Thomas Lipton owned acres of tea plantations throughout Ella and Lipton’s Seat is where he used to go to look over his tea empire. At the top, there is a statue of Sir Thomas Lipton and a small cafe to have a cup of tea while you admire the view.
Unfortunately, as you may be able to tell from the background of that photo, it was cloudy at the top when we visited. By the time we came back down, it was sunny again! That’s just how things go in Ella.
It’s about a 7km walk to the top but not many travelers opt for this. Instead, you can get a ride to the top and then walk down along the beautiful rolling hills.
Walk along the train tracks to Nine Arch Bridge
In Sri Lanka a railway track also serves as a sidewalk and they are so much fun to walk on. Don’t worry, the train makes a ton of noise before it comes so you have time to jump off the tracks!
The town of Ella is well connected to the railway tracks so you can use them to get around the city and nearby areas. One of the prettiest places to visit along the tracks is Nine Arch Bridge.
This bridge was constructed in 1921 and is one of the best examples of colonial-era railway construction in the country. It makes for a perfect instagram photo op.
The train runs several times a day so if you wait around long enough you can also see the train pass over the bridge, or even stand next to it as it passes through – it’s quite the thrill!
Don’t go listening to TLC, in Ella you can chase waterfalls until your heart’s content.
If you’re looking for something close and easy to town you can check out Ravana falls. They are about a 15-minute drive right off the main road. You might see them coming in or out of Ella from the South Coast along the way.
From the road, you can walk up to the top and stand at the edge of the flowing water beneath the falls. Some people choose to swim there, but it’s incredibly dangerous with several signs warning you not too.
There is also a cave near the falls, named Ravana Cave, which you can visit.
If you’re looking for an adventure I highly recommend making the trek out to Diyaluma falls. At the falls there are several natural infinity pools which you can spend the day exploring and swimming in.
The falls are about an hour away from town so you need to either rent motorbikes or get a tuk tuk to drive you (they are cheap to hire). From the road where the driver will drop you off you can see the falls, but to get up to the top where you can swim is a trek.
There are locals around that will try to guide you but this is possible to do on your own. Walk my world wrote a great blog post about getting there without a guide which we followed to get there. You can read that here!
Explore Ella Town
The actual town of Ella is small but has a number of accommodations, shops, restaurants, and bars. If you’re looking for things to do in Ella at night, this is one of the few options.
Like most of Sri Lanka, the prices are cheap and many offer cheap cocktail deals late into the night. I liked cafe one love, which has a hippy vibe – offering comfy seats to lounge out on, hookah, and cheap cocktails. And it’s open 24 hours!
Ride the Train
Taking the train in Sri Lanka is a quintessential Sri Lanka experience and there’s no better place to get on it then Ella. This is the start of Sri Lanka’s most famous train ride, one that’s known to be among the most beautiful in the world, the Ella-Kandy train.
The journey takes about seven hours in total and seats are not guaranteed. While hanging out the train is fun, it’s not something you want to do for that long. An alternative is to take the train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, spend a couple of days there, and then continue on to Kandy.
Where to stay in Ella
Budget: I recommend staying at Ella Escapade Hostel. This is where I spent most of time in Ella, and although it’s not in Ella Town, it has the most amazing backpacker atmosphere. As soon as you walk into the place you are welcomed by everyone there. It’s location is beautiful as it looks out over the train tracks, and you can watch the trains go by during the day. You can walk the train tracks to Ella Town in just half an hour.
If you want to stay closer to Ella town, I’ve heard good about things about Backpackers Paradise.
Mid-range: Rawana Den is a lovely hotel right in Ella Town.
Luxury: 98 Acres Resort & Spa. This resort is located right next to Little Adam’s Peak. Even if you can’t afford to stay here, you can visit the restaurant which offers great food with a stunning view of Little Adam’s Peak.
Where to go after Ella
Depending on what direction you are heading, you can either take the train North to Nuwara Eliya or Kandy, further East to Arugam bay, or take a bus down to the southern coast for surfing and beaches. For help planning your Sri Lanka trip, check out my guide on how to plan the best Sri Lanka itinerary.
Ella is such a beautiful town and an absolute must if you’re visiting Sri Lanka. Tell me, have you been to Ella before? Did you love it as much as me? Let me know in the comments below!