The hill country of Sri Lanka is home to some of the most beautiful locales of the island nation. The cool climate, which provide a much-needed respite from the sometimes overbearing heat of Sri Lanka, and the spectacular views have proven to be very popular with tourists too.
The small town of Ella, deep inside hill country, has been attracting considerably more tourists in recent years than ever before. If you want to see something different and you are done with the (admittedly fantastic) beaches of the island, you will find plenty to love around Ella.
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Take a hike
Adam’s Peak has been a popular pilgrimage site for centuries upon centuries and is still a very famous hike for both tourists and locals. This hike, however, is quite a challenge which would not be welcomed by everyone.
Of course, many will want to attempt it simply for the views. The compromise comes in the form of Little Adam’s Peak, a 30 to 45-minute walk from Ella which affords the same stunning views as its big brother without the physical exhaustion.
Ask any local, or perhaps the manager/owner of wherever you are staying at, and they will gladly direct you to the right way. Plenty of tourists will also be heading towards the same location so you may find friendly companions too.
If you are looking for more of a challenge, Ella Rock will surely satisfy your needs.
It takes a about 2 hours each way and there are certainly some amazing views from the top. Just make sure you are careful or hire a local guide as Google Maps might fail you here.
Before my second trip to Sri Lanka, I decided to read JJ’s own experience in climbing Ella Rock on her blog, takemetosrilanka.com, about the best way to go about it and took her advice on avoiding scammers and asking people I already trusted for guidance.
Take a dip at the Ravana Falls and explore the cave
A few km away from Ella you will find one of the country’s most popular and widest waterfalls, Ravana Falls. The waterfall is very beautiful and you will most likely spend some time just staring at the water flowing down.
Once you are done with that, however, then you are welcome to take a dip at its pool. Being that this is a very popular spot, both with tourists and locals, it is extremely unlikely that you will be alone, but you shouldn’t let that deter you.
Following a refreshing shower, you can also head up to the Ravana Ella Cave. The cave itself is a popular tourist spot too and it has a rich and interesting history with archaeological evidence showing that humans might have inhabited the cave even 25,000 years ago!
Take a walk through the tea plantations
Ella is famous for its tea plantations and there are many ways you can walk through them or simply enjoy them from a distance. Seeing the workers pick the tea is quite amazing and the tea leaves also give the hillside a unique look.
I would highly recommend that you visit the Halpewatte Tea Factory where you can see exactly what happens to all of that tea. The guided tours are very fun and informative for anyone with even a slight interest in Ceylon tea.
At the end of the tour, you will also be given a chance to buy fresh tea from the factory while the viewing areas will provide a very comfortable way of checking out the hills.
If you are willing to travel a little bit further, you should also visit Lipton’s Seat. Back in 1890, Sir Thomas Lipton decided to bring tea to the masses and the very place where he looked upon his tea empire can be found today.
As long as you get up there early in the morning before the clouds and mist sets in, you will be treated to some of the best views in Sri Lanka. Endless tea plantations and lush hills will fill your eyes and more than a few locals will probably attempt some friendly conversations.
Walk the Nine Arch Bridge
A little bit further away from Ella you will find Demodara and the famous Nine Arch Bridge. The bridge, which might remind some of similar structures in English countryside, offers incredible views and is a sight to behold on its own.
The bridge was constructed in the early 20th century and is quite a marvel of architecture as there is no steel in it at all. Rumor has it that the reason for that is the outbreak of the first World War which forced the British to reallocate the steel intended for the bridge to war efforts.
Today, anyone is free to walk alongside of it though you will want to be careful, especially while trains pass over. Once you are done with your walk, you can get a drink at the eponymous Nine Arch Cafe which also offers some great views.
Take a cooking class at Ella Spice Garden
The food in Sri Lanka is spectacular and there is no way you will not fall in love with at least one type of meal. If you are interested in cooking up things of your own, then you cannot go wrong with the cooking classes of the very popular Ella Spice Garden.
The family-owned business has been offering cooking classes centered around spices for a few years now and it has proven to be an absolute hit amongst tourists, which means that you will have to book a class well in advance.
The good news is that you will learn a whole lot of things about spicing up your food and you will also get to make and taste your own creations under the guidance of the knowledgeable teachers.
Eat some fantastic food
Ella is home to some of the best food places in Sri Lanka with plenty of small businesses serving up entirely authentic and delicious meals. The restaurants follow in the vibe of the town so everything is slow and relaxed, something which a lot of people will gladly enjoy.
There are few more satisfying things than heading up to a cafe after a day of walking and hiking and indulging in the many different flavors of Sri Lanka along with some cocktails or fresh juice.
It’s highly recommended that you avoid the more touristy places and head directly towards wherever the locals go. Ask someone that you trust and they will most certainly direct you towards their favorite eatery.
Don’t be afraid to explore
While Ella is slowly receiving a lot of tourists, the surrounding countryside and the town itself still offer ample opportunities to experience an authentic Sri Lanka. Go out there and explore the town and the regions around it.
My suggestion would be to find someone you trust in order to get good directions and tips for whatever you want to do. You can also get a tuk-tuk to take you pretty much anywhere so you shouldn’t have a hard time visiting any area around Ella.