Travel Guides

Ella, Sri Lanka | Adventure Destination Guide

Come to Ella, Sri Lanka, and unwind by hiking peaks, drinking tea, and bathing in waterfalls

Ella, Sri Lanka, is a favourite with adventurous travellers. From this laid-back village you can explore numerous hiking routes to gushing waterfalls and peaks that overlook tea plantations (walk alongside rows of tea bushes where friendly women are diligently filling up their sacks, that sort of thing). The lively main thoroughfare is lined with busy cafes, bars and restaurants, while tranquil homestays and hotels are perched on the surrounding hillsides.

How To Get There

As Sri Lanka is an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, you will need to fly to Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport. SriLankan Airlines have direct flights that take 10 and a half hours. While Qatar, Emirates, Oman Air and Gulf Air all have one connection and tend to take around 12 hours or more.

Pictured: The iconic blue train of Ella, Sri Lanka. Photo: Egle Sidaraviciute

If you are travelling to Ella from the airport, you’ll need to get a driver or a taxi. As public transport isn’t often used by travellers, having a driver is commonplace. Day rates are around 10,000 Sri Lankan rupees (about £42), and you will need to discuss your driver’s accommodation with them as they will accompany you for your stay – or as long as you need them. The drive to Ella is around three and a half hours on windy roads, so bear this in mind if you get car sick. Alternatively, you can use the Sri Lankan taxi app PickMe that has reasonable fares.

A common route in Sri Lanka is to go from Colombo to Kandy, from Kandy you can then get the popular and much-photographed Blue Train (Podi Manike) all the way to Ella. This train leaves Kandy train station at 08.47, arriving in Ella at around 15.14 provided it’s on time. You can only buy tickets in Kandy, and you ideally want first or second class tickets. Due to popular demand, purchasing tickets can be tricky as touts often buy them in bulk and inflate the prices.

Pictured: View from Little Adams Peak near Ella, Sri Lanka

Things To Do In Ella, Sri Lanka

It’s no surprise that Instagram feeds are filled with photos from Ella, everywhere you look is extremely photogenic. Starting with your journey from either Kandy or Nuwara Eliya to Ella on the blue train, trundling past a forest of green and views of dramatic valleys.

One of the easiest and most famous hikes, the foot of Little Adam’s Peak is just a 45 minutes walk from Ella. Then there is around a 15-minute ascent to the top, depending on how many stops you make for photos or breathers. Those with a head for heights may like to whizz across the valley by zip line on your way down.

The real deal, Adam’s Peak is a harder hike with between 5,000-6,000 crumbling steps. Depending on your fitness level, it can take between two and four hours to climb, with a two-hour descent. If you intend to climb it for sunrise, it’s worth going with a local or someone that knows the path well.

Pictured: Diyaluma Falls, the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka

For the Ella Rock hike, head north along the train tracks and alongside paddy fields and rows of tea bushes. It takes around two hours, but the path can be difficult to determine. Make sure you get some good directions before you leave and ask along the way if you’re not sure.

Another spectacular viewpoint, Lipton’s Seat is named after the Scottish tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton who used to overlook his plantation from here. Take a short train to Haputale, then a tuk-tuk to where Sir Lipton planted the first tea seeds in 1890. At the top you will see swathes of tea plantations across the valley, and hard-working women plugging away. Treat yourself to a nice cup of ‘Rosie Lee’ here, and take a tour around the Dambethenne Tea Factory – built by Sir Lipton in 1890. At the end of the tour, you can taste the tea while soaking up the view.

“It’s no surprise that Instagram feeds are filled with photos from Ella, everywhere you look is extremely photogenic”

The second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, the 220m high Diyaluma Falls are truly spectacular. It’s an hour’s drive to the foot of the waterfall, followed by a 30-minute drive to the top where the hiking trail begins. It’s then a 45-minute walk to the natural pools, which reward you with a pleasant cool down.

Fancy chasing another waterfall? Ravana Waterfalls is a three-tier fall and a nice easy hike from Ella. You can take the bus or a tuk-tuk if you think you’ve overdone it on the hiking front,

Walk along the train tracks to the Nine Arches crossing, made famous by its Insta-worthy setting. It’s around a 30-minute walk through the woods from Ella Town. Get a coconut or some mango slices from a local vendor while you wait for a train to chug past.

Pictured: Adam’s Peak. Photo: Dhanura Munasinghe
Pictured: View from Lipton’s Seat near Ella, Sri Lanka

Where To Stay

Those wanting amazing views across the valley, an infinity pool, and a Western hotel should check out the popular haunt 98 Acres. For a more authentic stay, the Sri Lankan homestay website is where you will find a good selection of B&Bs (, AirBnB and Hostelworld also have more suggestions).

Your main choice is whether you want peace and quiet, waking up to spectacularly green views, or to be walking distance to the main street where all the cafes, bars and restaurants are.

Eating and Drinking

By far the tastiest meal is at Matey Hut, and don’t be deterred by the rustic exterior and the queue. There’s good reason people rave about it and are willing to wait for a seat. Try the fresh mango juice, veggie dahl and a delicious assortment of curries. But do be careful when you’re asked how much spice you like; their tolerance here is a lot higher than back home.

Cafe Chill is always busy, serving a mix of Sri Lankan curries and Western dishes. The lampraisis an absolute must – vegetables and rice are slow cooked in a banana leaf. Starbeans is a good spot with breakfast, lunch, coffee and cakes. Other options are AK Ristoro, Rainbow Inn’s The Reincarnation lounge (with comfy bean bags), and Adam’s Breeze near Little Adam’s Peak.

Check out our other adventure travel destinations for 2020.

This destination guide was brought to you in association with outdoor fashion retailer Blackleaf.

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