Sunday 3 September 2017

What to do in Ella, Sri Lanka

Ella or Elle is a small town in Sri Lanka's hill country, surrounded by tea plantations. It's a good spot for a few days of hiking, eating and drinking tea. Here are our top things to do while you are there.

1. Take in the views from Little Adam's Peak
A walk up Little Adam's Park is about an hour and a half's round trip from the main street in Ella. The views of the surrounding mountains and across to Ella Rock make it is very much worth the trip.

It's very easy to find the route. From the main road in town, you follow the 'other' big looking road off to the right if coming up the mountain into Ella. Then follow this road as its snakes around, until you get to the Ella Flower Garden Resort. From there, there is a sign indicating the way and taking you off the road. It's flat for a bit along that path and then there's a short, puffy, climb to the top. 

2. Drink tea, walk through tea plantations and visit a tea factory
The area around Ella is carpeted with the lush green of tea plants. Drinking tea, strolling through tea plantations and finding out more about its production is a part of visiting the area. 

We visited the Newburgh Tea Factory - one of the only places in the area that makes green tea. We ended up there after following signs for it on our way back down Little Adam's Peak.

It was a (too?) quick, but interesting tour, with a tasting at the end. Perhaps because it was so brief, this particular tour fairs pretty badly on Trip Advisor, which will point you to Halpewatte instead. We were fine with our short visit though and it was situated conveniently between Little Adam's Peak and Nine Arches (see below).

Alternatively, it is a little further away, but get yourself to Dambatenne, which you can combine with a visit to the viewpoint of Lipton's seat. Visiting both would be a day trip.

We visited Lipton's seat one afternoon, which would have been even more worth it if it hadn't been so misty! To be fair, it cleared up a bit, we loved our tuk-tuk ride through the tea plantation up to Lipton's Seat and the views in the other direction across the tea fields were a sight for sore eyes.

3. Get excited by the railway and ride the train through beautiful landscapes
At the end of a small side road opposite the Newburgh Tea Estate (which we visited after Little Adams Peak - see above) and about a 15 minute walk away, is a great viewing spot for watching trains go across the Nine Arches Bridge. I have to admit, I was surprised by how excited I got by watching a train go across a bridge. 

When we were there (July 2017) trains were scheduled to cross the bridge at the following times: 6.20am, 6,45am, 9.20am, 10.55am, 11.55am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm, 6.30pm and 7.45pm. There's a little cafe overlooking the spot serving delicious, fresh juices.

After the train had crossed, we also had a wander across and then followed the train tracks back into town.

For more 'train action', the train trip between Ella and Kandy is also one of the most beautiful train trips that we have ever been on. It's a 6 hour trip, but the time just flew by as there is so much to look at and take photos of. 

4. Hike up to the top of Ella Rock
The hike up to the top of Ella Rock requires more puff than the walk up to Little Adam's Peak. There is also more risk of getting lost. 

To find the way, we used the guide from Nomadic Boys - thanks guys! (Although as an additional note to their guide, the bench in their point 4 wasn't there). Once we had turned off the railway track and were on the right path, it was easy to find the route to the top. The photo below shows you what the turn off to the left onto the path to the top looks like.

The hike takes you along the railway track, through tea plantations and up through tall pine trees. 

Once you've made it to the top, the views around the mountains and down through to the plains below are stunning. 

Make sure you also go to the other viewpoint at the top too and not just the main one.

The hike took us around 4 hours there and back.

5. Spoil your taste buds with tasty Sri Lankan fare
The curry we ate in Sri Lanka was really very tasty and there were lost of veggie options. Meals tend to consist of lots of little dishes - each a 'curry' concentrating on one ingredient, for example green beans, okra, potatos or even watermelon (which was surprisingly yummy!). 

Ella is a great place for sampling Sri Lankan food at its best. You'll be sure to see 'Chill' on the main road, which has great food and lovely ambience. But make sure you also try some of the smaller family-run places too. For example, we really liked Nilmini - a small eatery, with just 3 tables out front, run by Eileen and named after her daughter. 

If you want to learn how to make this tasty food, the cookery class at Ella Spice Garden also comes highly recommended. 

6. Ravana falls
For a short excursion from Ella, the Ravana Falls are a quick trip down the mountain on tuk-tuk or local bus.

While its not the most impressive waterfall we had ever seen, we enjoyed relaxing on the rocks for a while, watching monkeys climbing up the side of falls and hopping from rock to rock.

(N.B Locals seemed to be using the pool there as a place to wash and so I'm not sure its the nicest place for a dip.)  

Have you been to Ella? What were you best bits? What did we miss?

Related posts
Where we stayed - Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle: Part 1 - A rock and some caves
Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle: Part 2 - An Ancient City
Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle: Part 3 - A massage and a herd of elephants
Sri Lankan beach time - Arugam Bay

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