Ella is an intimate mellow mountain town, tucked away in the southern edge of the enchanting Central highlands in the Badulla District of Uva Province, Sri Lanka. An idyllic getaway from the hustle and bustle lifestyle of big cities, this exquisite little town is highly sought-after by adventurers and those seeking a tranquil setting to revel in the wonders of nature.
Ella is perched at an altitude of 1,041 metres amidst lush green pine forests. The village is a go-to hub for backpackers across the globe, with the glorious Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak being among the most popular hiking destinations, as the treks venture through plantations and wilderness with spectacular views along the way. The title ´Ella´ appropriately derives from the Sinhalese term for ´waterfall´, seeing as the village has multiple sublime cascades in its vicinity. Dunhinda Falls, Diyaluma Falls and Ravana Falls are few such waterfalls. Situated behind Ravana Falls is the The Ravana Cave, linked to King Ravana of the legendary Ramayana epic, where it is said the Demon King abducted Princess Sita in India and concealed her here.
Demodara Loop, known to be a marvel in railway engineering and the Nine Arches Bridge, also referred to as the Bridge in the Sky, are also prominent tourist attractions in Ella due to the architectural innovation and picturesque foliage surrounding both. The Dhowa Rock Temple and Cave located near Ella was declared an archaeological protected monument in Sri Lanka in 1996. Located 137 kilometres away from Kandy and 204 kilometres to the East of Colombo, the village is encompassed by magnificent mountains, cloud forests, vegetation and boundless tea plantations, and is also home to a rich biodiversity. The train ride to Ella, through the clouds and hills of Sri Lanka, is listed among the most beautiful and scenic train journeys in the world.
How to get there
There are many options of travel from Colombo to Ella which are by train, road, bus and air.
By train – This is the most preferred form of travelling to Ella, as it is comfortable, affordable and also considered one of the most exquisite train journeys in the world. The closest railway station to get to Ella is the Colombo Fort Railway Station, which has daily Express Trains departing to Ella thrice a day. The ´Podi Menike´ Express Train departs Colombo Fort Railway Station at 5:55am, ´Udarata Menike´ Express Train at 8:30am and 1007 Express Train at 9:45am. There is also a Night Mail Train departing at 8pm. The journey from Colombo to Ella takes approximately 9 and a half hours. The trains could also be boarded from Kandy Railway Station and NanuOya Railway Station in Nuwara Eliya, as the trains make stops at both these locations. Seats are available in 1st Class, 2nd Class and 3rd Class, with 1st Class Sleeper available on few overnight trains which carry sleeping-berths. Incredibly popular among tourists is the 1st Class Observation Car, available only on certain daytime trains, which provides a wide vista of the surrounding scenery. It is advisable to book the tickets a few days prior to your journey; your tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can assist you with these arrangements.
By road – Driving to Ella takes approximately 5-6 hours. There are two routes; one is via A4 (Colombo – Batticaloa highway), and thereafter taking A16 (Colombo – Ratnapura – Wellawaya – Batticaloa Road) past Pelmadulla, Balangoda, Belihuloya, Haputale and Bandarawela until you reach Ella Station Road. The alternate route option is to take the A1 highway (Kandy Road) up to Kurunegela. Drive down Mahaweli Raja Mawatha thereafter, and turn to Bandarawela Road and continue on the A5 highway (Bandarawela – Badulla Road) till you reach Ella Station Road. The drive is longer and more tedious than the other methods. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can make arrangements for a car for you.
By Bus – Bus travel is tiring with several stops, however there are hourly buses leaving Colombo Pettah daily. From Pettah CTB (Colombo Central Bus Stand), you could take the No.99 bus which is Badulla bound and get off at the Kumbalwela junction which is situated approximately 10 kilometres from Bandarawela. From thereon you could choose a bus or tuk tuk (trishaw) from Kumbalwela junction to Ella, which is about 5 kilometres apart.
By Air – There are no direct flights to Ella from Colombo. However, Cinnamon Air operates daily flights from the domestic terminal at Katunayake airport to Lake Gregory Water Aerodrome in Nuwara Eliya or Castlereagh Reservoir in Hatton which is close to Ella.
From Kandy – Ella is located 137 kilometres away from Kandy. The drive from Kandy would take approximately 3 and a half hours. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can make arrangements for a car for you. However, the most popular method of transport from Kandy to Ella is via train, would take approximately 6 hours.
From Nuwara Eliya – It is merely 60 kilometres between Nuwara Eliya and Kandy, the drive would take 2 hours to complete. Tour consultants at Epic Sri Lanka Holidays can arrange a car for you. However, once again the most popular method of transport is via train. The closest Railway Station in Nuwara Eliya is Nanu Oya Railway Station, and would take approximately 3-4 hours to reach Ella Railway Station from here.
The ideal time to visit Ella is from January to May. You are most likely to experience favourable weather and agreeable average temperatures during this time.
Ella’s elevated position offers the area a cooler climate that contrasts to the tropical climate that persists across majority of the island. Ella experiences rains throughout the year, with the weather here generally ranging from 20-28 degrees °C.
October is the wettest month, experiencing the highest amount of rainfall, while March is the driest.
Food and Drink
A wide array of food is available at Ella, ranging from Local cuisines to Western, Chinese and Indian cuisines. There are plenty of small and charming cafés and restaurants in the village that offer food from cheap-eats to mid-range, even with ample options available for vegans and vegetarians.
Hot spots among tourists are Café Chill, In Reincarnation, Adam´s Breeze, AK Ristoro, Honey Bee Garden, Café C Ella, Café Guru, Matey Hut, Art Café Umbrella, Ceylon Tea Factory Restaurant, The Remo´s Restaurant and Ella Flower Garden Restaurant.
´Kandy – Ella´ OR ´Nuwara Eliya – Ella´ train excursions – Often referred to as one of the most scenic train rides in existence; the train journeys through clouds and misty lush landscapes of the Central hills of Sri Lanka, with phenomenal views of tea plantations, mountains, lush greenery, cascades and small villages unfolding along the way.
Ravana Falls and Cave – Linked to King Ravana, of the legendary Indian epic Ramayana, Ravana Cave is a prominent spectacle in Ella. The cave resides behind the cascade, Ravana Falls (Ravana Ella), considered one of the widest in Sri Lanka, especially during the rainy season.
Ella Rock – The scenic trek to the glorious summit of the Ella Rock is most popular among backpackers. It is approximately a 10 kilometre (round trip) hike across the woodlands of Ella, which present magnificent vistas such as the Ella Gap Waterfall, and the Ella Gap; a space between the mountains that reveal a spectacular view that stretches all the way to the Southern Coast of the isle.
Little Adam’s Peak (Punchi Sri Pada) – Named so due to its striking similitude to the sacred mountain Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), Little Adam´s Peak, also referred to as Mini Adam´s Peak, is another popular hiking destination in the vicinity. The 1,141 metre peak is a relatively less demanding hike than that of Ella Rock.
The Demodare Nine Arches Bridge – Also titled the Bridge in the Sky, the Nine Arches Bridge in Demodare is a unique 30 meter high viaduct, constructed amidst picturesque foliage of the central hills, using solely cement and stone bricks. Its architectural brilliance and the railway track with its breathtaking panoramic surrounding has rendered it a favourite among tourists.
The Demodare Loop – Demodare tunnel and railway entrance referred to as the Demodare Loop, is where the rail line travels around a spiral loop beneath itself and appears out of a tunnel located precisely underneath the Demodare train station. This railway engineering marvel is the only spiral loop in the world where a tunnel lies under a railway station.
Diyaluma Excursion – The second tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka, Diyaluma Falls is at an incredible height of 220 meters. The Diyaluma Excursion could be divided into two. Lower Diyaluma Falls is much easier to access as it is located close to Koslanda, on the side of the Colombo – Badulla highway. However, the Upper Diyaluma Trek is a glory to behold, with several natural pools nestling atop the 220 meter waterfall.
Ella Spice Garden – Located amidst a tea estate, this private garden is home to an assortment of Sri Lankan spices cultivated by a local household. Ella Spice Garden provides an exemplary culinary experience of the extensive range of the complex local cuisines in Sri Lanka, popularly known as ´rice and curry´.
Dhowa Rock Temple and Cave – Declared a protected heritage site and an archaeological protected monument in Sri Lanka in 1996, Dhowa Temple is famed for its incomplete 38 ft Buddha Statue, carved out of a granite boulder. The temple is amalgamated with the cave that is adorned with vibrant and striking murals depicting Jataka stories. It is believed to have been constructed by King Walagamba in the first century BC, when he took refuge in the Uva Province, following Indian invasions.
Lipton´s Seat – With one of the most impressive and panoramic viewpoints, it is named so after Sir Thomas Lipton, the renown Scottish aristocrat and tea planter. He used to observe his flourishing tea empire from this point, from which a magnificent view unfolds at your feet, displaying the 7 provinces, Hambanthota Harbour in the Southern coast and many other notable points.
Dunhinda Falls – Famed as one of the most gorgeous waterfalls, the 64 meter cascade is also known as Bridal Falls due to the shape of the fall resembling that of a Bridal veil.
Bambarakanda Ella Falls – The Highest waterfall in Sri Lanka cascading from a lush cliff falling 240 metres from Horton Plains into the Valawe River.
Ella Market on Wednesdays – On Wednesday mornings, Ella has a charming little market down Passara Road (Ella Super). The road is fringed with tiny stalls; the vendors sell fresh fruits, vegetables, clothing and herbs.