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Located in the vast tea plantations of Sri Lanka’s cultural center, Ella is one of the most popular places to visit in Sri Lanka. Because of this, Ella was at the top of our Sri Lanka bucket list, and even with such high expectations, we weren’t disappointed!
We fell in love with the place during our visit – partly because of the vast variety of fun things to do in Ella! From short hikes to lessons on Sri Lankan tradition, our time in Ella was fun and memorable!
For first-time visitors, it can be hard to know exactly what to do. Especially when the most famous attraction in Ella, the Nine Arch Bridge, only takes an hour to visit.
So in this blog, we’re going to share with you the 17 best things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka. So you can not only see the famous bridge but also experience everything else this town has to offer.
- Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
- 1. Hike Little Adam’s Peak
- 2. Visit th famous Nine Arch Bridge for Sunrise
- 3. Flying Ravana Zipline
- 4. Take the train to Haputale or Kandy
- 5. Join a Sri Lankan Cooking Class
- 6. Visit Ravana Falls
- 7. Visit Lipton Seat
- 8. Visit a Tea Factory
- 9. Hike Ella Rock
- 10. Diyaluma Falls
- 11. Ravana’s Cave
- 12. Enjoy a Meal at Cafe Chill
- 13. Have a few Lion beers in town
- 14. Visit Sri Lanka’s tallest waterfall
- 15. Go on safari in Yala or Udawalawe National Park
- 16. Day trip to Horton Plains National Park
- 17. Day trip to Sigiriya
- Where to Stay in Ella, Sri Lanka
- Before you go…
Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka
1. Hike Little Adam’s Peak
Just because it’s called Little Adam’s Peak doesn’t mean it’s any less amazing than the original Adam’s Peak – it’s just easier to get to!
To reach the top of Little Adam’s Peak from Ella it takes around an hour, but if you want to shave some time off the hike then consider getting a tuk-tuk to the start of the trail at Ravana Zipline. From here, it’s only 20 minutes to the top.
Once you’re at the top you can then walk the ridgeline and explore. There are actually three peaks on Little Adam’s Peak and it takes around 30 minutes to reach the furthest one.
Due to safety reasons, I wouldn’t recommend hiking to the last peak if you’re traveling with children. It gets very narrow and steep!
Little Adams Peak is the most accessible hike in Ella and well worth checking out for the amazing views!
Guided tours are a great way to take the stress out of your holiday. This tour to Little Adams Peak and Nine Arch Bridge is great value at $70. It includes a village lunch, snacks, admission fees, guide, and water.
2. Visit th famous Nine Arch Bridge for Sunrise
Arguably the most famous attraction in Ella is the Nine Arch Bridge. This gorgeous bridge is surrounded by lush greenery and tea fields and has become the postcard of Sri Lanka.
Although I’m sure, almost everyone visits the Nine Arch Bridge during their visit to Ella, very few go for sunrise.
To me, it’s such a shame because not only are there fewer people (sometimes none) but there are two trains in the morning – one at 6:15 am and then one at 6:40 am. There are lots more trains throughout the day including around 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 3:30 pm, 4:30 pm, and 5:30 pm, but none as close together as in the morning.
Hot tip: Ask your hotel about the train times before you go as they can change without notice
It doesn’t matter which viewpoint you go to, but I recommend either one at each end of the bridge. If you arrive at the bridge 10 to 20 minutes before the train, you can explore before it arrives.
You can easily cross the tracks to the other viewpoints on either side but this specific viewpoint is my favorite. For others, it’s from the cafes above. The app Maps.Me has all of the different viewpoints marked on it.
Getting to the bridge is accessible by walking, and to the closest viewpoint, it’s 1.8km from Ella town center. If you don’t want to walk, consider getting a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk from town should only cost 300 rupees to one of the hiking trails to the bridge. Then it’s a 5 to 10-minute walk to the train tracks below.
3. Flying Ravana Zipline
One of the newest attractions in Ella is the Flying Ravana Zipline. It’s over 500m long and travels at over 80km per hour. It’s one activity that’s sure to get your heart racing!
During the zipline, you can take in the stunning views around you as you zoom past the viewing deck of spectators. It’s also a dual zipline which means you can race your friend to the bottom or just sit back and enjoy the ride next to each other.
The Ravana Zipline costs $20 USD for an adult and $15 USD for a child. The zipline is located at the bottom of Little Adam’s Peak and is a great activity to pair with the hike.
Although not the craziest zipline in the world, I still really enjoyed the activity – especially for the price!
4. Take the train to Haputale or Kandy
The train ride from Ella to Kandy is one of the most beautiful in the world. This famous route travels through the vast, and somewhat never-ending, tea plantations in Sri Lanka.
The train to Kandy takes around 4 hours and there are three levels of classes available. If you value comfort, be sure to go with first-class, but if you want a local experience go with third – it’ll be a train ride you won’t forget! Tickets cost between 50 to 1,100 rupees depending on the destination and class you choose.
The train from Ella leaves for Kandy a few times a day. You can book tickets in advance in two different ways. One is on 12Go Asia and the other through a tour company. My choice would be the tour company for the simple fact that you’re more likely to get what you pay for.
With that said, you don’t have to go all the way to Kandy. Instead, consider stopping in the small town of Haputale for a night or two. Haputale is actually closer to some amazing places to visit such as Lipton Seat and there are lots of different things to do in Haputale.
5. Join a Sri Lankan Cooking Class
I did my first ever international cooking class in Ella and guess what? I absolutely loved it!
Despite traveling to over 40 countries, I just never seemed to get round to actually doing a cooking class, but, I’m really glad I did in Sri Lanka.
We did our cooking class through our guest house and we learned how to cook four curries from scratch…and I mean scratch. The class involved us making everything including coconut cream (which was always a mystery to me!)
Our class cost us 1000 rupees plus 400 rupees for the food each (1400 rupees each). The price varies depending on what meat, if any, you choose as well as where you do the cooking class. We opted for vegetarian but chicken or fish were only 500 rupees more.
After the class, we got to stuff our faces with all the food we cooked.
Overall, I think this was my favorite thing I did in Ella, Sri Lanka, and something I personally recommend.
If you book a tour with one of the cooking schools they charge 2000 rupees and usually cook 5 curries with meat. One of the most popular cooking classes in Ella is the Spice Garden. We booked our tour with our guesthouse and it was a real family experience where we were the only people taking the class with our hosts.
Related read: Another cool place do do a Sri Lankan cooking class is in Hikkaduwa!
6. Visit Ravana Falls
The first waterfall we’ll mention on this list of things to do in Ella is Ravana Falls. This huge waterfall is really quite impressive to see. Ravana Falls is also one of the closest waterfalls to Ella, making it very easy (and cheap) to get to.
Ravana Falls is located around a 10-minute drive from Ella along the main highway. Every tuk-tuk driver or taxi will know where it is but the location is also on Google maps.
Although you can’t really swim at Ravana Falls, it’s still a nice place to visit.
Around the falls you’ll always see lots of monkeys and there are some juice bars and small shops on the highway near the falls too. During the dry season, you can also hike to the top of Ravana Falls to admire the stunning views from above. During our visit, there was too much water to hike the trail.
A tuk-tuk to the falls and back should cost around 600 rupees. We drove our own tuk-tuk there and it was easy to find and there was plenty of parking on the side of the road.
7. Visit Lipton Seat
Lipton Seat is a stunning viewpoint named after the pioneer of tea in Sri Lanka, Thomas Lipton.
Although Thomas has since passed, his legacy of bringing tea to the working-class lives on. To this day you can visit his favorite viewpoint in Sri Lanka… Lipton Seat!
The viewpoint overlooks the vast tea fields he once owned and no trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without a visit to Lipton Seat.
Liptons Seat is located around an hour’s drive from Ella and is most commonly visited for sunrise. Once at Lipton Seat you can explore the many tea plantations or just enjoy a tea break at the Lipton Seat restaurant.
Once you’re done taking in the views you can visit the Dambatenne Tea Factory. The factory is located 7 km from Lipton Seat on your way back to Ella. You can either walk the 7 km through the tea fields or take a tuk-tuk.
From Ella, a tuk-tuk will cost around 3000 rupees for the return trip. If you want to make it up for sunrise be sure to leave at 5 am and book your tuk-tuk the day before. You can also get the train from Ella to Kandy but get off in Haputale. This first train runs at 6 am so although you’ll miss the sunrise, it’s much cheaper.
You can also do an organized tour of Lipton Seat. This specific tour includes a sunrise visit to Lipton Seat as well as a few other cool attractions nearby.
8. Visit a Tea Factory
You simply can’t come to Sri Lanka without visiting a tea factory. I mean, it’s like going to Italy and not eating pizza!
There are a few tea factories in Ella but the most popular one to visit is the Halpewatte Tea Factory. This tea factory is actually the largest tea factory in Sri Lanka.
To get there you will need a taxi or your own transport as it’s located just over 6 km from the town. A tuk-tuk there and back will cost around 1500 rupees. A tour of the tea factory costs 525 rupees per person and runs for 40 minutes.
If you’ve decided to visit Lipton Seat then your best option is to visit the Dambatenne Tea Factory near there. The factory tour here costs 250 rupees but isn’t as in-depth as the Halpawatte Tea Factory.
9. Hike Ella Rock
If you’re after a more challenging hike than Little Adam’s Peak then Ella Rock is perfect.
Although the trail has similar views to Little Adam’s Peak, it does take you much higher up for a more panoramic view. In fact, I’d say it’s the best viewpoint in Ella!
The trail to the top and back took us 4 hours from Ella and is 8km long. It’s not overly hard but does involve some fitness (especially for the way up!)
One thing I will say about Ella Rock is to read a guide before you go. The way up can be confusing without reading one. This guide by the Nomadic Boys is perfect and clears it all up. I even took notes and screenshots so I didn’t get lost!
If you would feel more comfortable with a local guide you can hire them in town or book this organized tour.
10. Diyaluma Falls
If you’re going to visit one waterfall in Sri Lanka then Diyaluma Falls is a great choice. It’s Sri Lanka’s second-largest waterfall and an epic place to explore.
The falls are 220m tall and you can both swim at the bottom of the falls or the top – with the top being the better option.
The top part of the waterfall is made up of small pools you can swim in. Here you can enjoy the breathtaking views. During the wet season, it becomes far too dangerous to swim in the pools closest to the edge due to the amount of water rushing down the falls.
From Ella, it’s over an hour’s drive to the falls by tuk-tuk and there are actually two different ways to go.
One takes you above the falls on Poonagala Road and you must walk down. The other takes you to the bottom of the falls at Koslanda village and you must walk up.
Take the route to the top and walk down. Then get your tuk-tuk to meet you at Koslanda village at the bottom. This way, you never have to hike upwards!
A tuk-tuk to the falls and back costs around 2,000 rupees but you can also get the local bus for much cheaper but you’ll need to allow at least 4 hours. They know the route so just clarify it all with them beforehand.
11. Ravana’s Cave
The Ravana’s Cave is another interesting attraction in Ella. The caves are said to be the place King Ravana used to hide Princess Sita. The other interesting thing about the caves is that they were man-made and part of a tunnel network used by the king.
The tunnels served as a quick passage through the hills and are a testament to King Ravana’s architectural accomplishments.
Although the caves are not that amazing it’s certainly a unique attraction in Ella.
The caves are only 2km from Ella town center it is possible to walk the Ravana Caves. On Maps.Me you can clearly see the path that leads from the A23 highway.
If you need more directions then simply head to Adams Apple Homestay. The path starts from here and involves a 650 step climb over 1km.
12. Enjoy a Meal at Cafe Chill
Cafe Chill is where we had one of the best meals during our time in Sri Lanka. The restaurant serves a range of local and western foods at a reasonable price.
The building itself is beautiful and a great place to relax both during the day and night. We spent many hours here just relaxing and watching the busy streets.
Personally, I loved the pizza, and after 2 months in Asia, I was missing it a lot! However, most meals looked delicious!
13. Have a few Lion beers in town
Ella is a vibrant city and one of the most popular places in Sri Lanka to visit. The streets are always busy and the bars and restaurants have a very relaxed and fun vibe to them.
On the main street, you can choose to sit at one of the nicer restaurants or enjoy a beer at a more local place where the food is cheap and the beers are ice cold.
Lion beer is the official beer of Sri Lanka and if you haven’t already tried one then Ella is the perfect place to do it! Personally, I don’t rate Lion Beer as that amazing, but a lot of people love it!
14. Visit Sri Lanka’s tallest waterfall
Bambarakanda waterfall is Sri Lanka’s tallest waterfall at 263m. This waterfall is located in the lush forest only a short drive from the town of Haputale.
Although we visited Bambarakanda waterfall when we were staying in Hpautale, it is possible to visit from Ella too. Just beware, it is about a 2-hour drive away.
Alternatively, you can take this organized hiking tuk-tuk tour that’ll pick you up from your hotel in Ella.
15. Go on safari in Yala or Udawalawe National Park
Ella is the perfect place to spend a lot of your time in Sri Lanka. The only downside is that in Ella you can’t see elephants or leopards. To see these animals you must leave Ella and go on a safari!
There are plenty of tours that leave from Ella and head off to either Udawalawe or Yala National Park. In all honesty, I preferred Udawalawe National Park, however in Yala you have a chance of spotting leopards, whereas Udawalawe is more about elephants.
Regardless of where you go, you simply must join a safari in Sri Lanka during your visit!
This tour to Udawalawe National Park includes hotel pick-up in an air-conditioned vehicle, park entry fees, and a safari in Udawalawe National Park. It is the cheapest safari experience from Ella for only $94.
This tour to Yala National Park includes pickup from your hotel, transport in an air-conditioned vehicle, park fees, guide, safari tour, and refreshments for only $94.
16. Day trip to Horton Plains National Park
Horton Plains National Park is one of Sri Lanka’s lesser-visited parks – but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth going to!
In fact, Horton Plains is home to one of the best hikes in Sri Lanka, the World’s End.
The Worlds End trail is a 9.5 km circuit that offers breathtaking views along the way. It’s not just the nice views that make it so popular though because along the trail you can also visit a few waterfalls and truly get lost in nature.
There are also other waterfalls you can visit in the national park, but the World’s End circuit is the main attraction.
Entrance to the national park isn’t cheap and costs around 4,000 rupees per person (this changes depending on your group size and vehicle). You will need to allow a full day to visit the National Park and complete the hike.
In my opinion, the World’s End hike is a great alternative to the overcrowded Adam’s Peak. The national park is actually closer to Nuwara Eliya but it’s still common for people to visit from Ella.
Tour tip: Horton Plains National Park is a long drive from Ella so I really recommend joining an organized tour for this one. They are fairly priced considering how far it is and how much the entrance fees cost.
17. Day trip to Sigiriya
Sigiriya is a small town in central Sri Lanka. Here, you’ll find the Sigiriya Rock Fortress which is an incredible wonder and World Heritage site. Exploring the ruins at the top of this massive rock is definitely one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka!
Many travelers visit Sigiriya, and Sigiriya Rock from closer cities such as Kandy, however, you can visit from Ella too! Although it makes for a long, day, if you aren’t heading further north already then this is one of those big day trips that is totally worth it!
Expect to drive about 3-4 hours each way to get from Ella to Sigiriya. But once there, you can climb the rock, go to the museum, and even climb Pidurangala Rock too! Nearby is the famous Dambulla Rock Temple that is worth a visit too!
Tour tip: If you’re planning on visiting Sigiriya on a day trip from Ella, an organized tour is the best way (so you can relax during the drive.) This particular tour visits Sigiriya Rock as well as Minneriya National Park where you’ll go on a safari. This national park is less touristic and a great place to see animals!
Where to Stay in Ella, Sri Lanka
We have searched all of the hotels in Ella to find the best rated and value for money. Below are our suggestions for where to stay in Ella.
Hangover Hostel – The hangover hostels are always a good choice and the one in Ella has really great reviews. They are known to be social and a little bit of a party so don’t stay here if you’re after a quiet homestay.
Nice View Homestay – This is where we stayed and we really loved this place. We did our cooking lesson here and the place is super friendly and includes a lovely breakfast. The only downside is that it’s a 5-minute tuk-tuk ride from town.
Rawana Den – This is where I would have stayed if it was available. Very close to town but still has great views and the breakfast is supposed to be amazing! It’s almost mid-range but their budget room is only $20.
City Life Homestay – This homestay is right on the main street in Ella so you couldn’t be closer to the restaurants and bars. It has a perfect review score and includes a great breakfast.
The Chilout Ella – Mountain views with even better reviews this hotel is great value for money considering how close you are to town and how amazing the views are. They have family rooms and double rooms that are very reasonably priced!
New cabin Ella – One of the best-located hotels in Ella with views of Nine Arch Bridge. If you came because of the bridge then there’s no better place to stay!
98 Acres Resort and Spa – If I didn’t have a budget this is where I would stay. It’s not the most expensive, but wow, it’s so stunningly beautiful it would be a dream. If you’re on a honeymoon or just enjoy luxury then this is the place to stay. Expect to pay around $230 USD a night.
If none of our recommendations seem suitable, check out all of the accommodation available in Ella!
Getting Around Sri Lanka
To visit all of the best places in Sri Lanka, you’re going to need a mode of transport. You have a few choices when it comes to getting around Sri Lanka:
Rent a Tuk-tuk
Easily the most popular (and most fun) way to travel around Sri Lanka. We actually rented a tuk-tuk on our trip and absolutely loved it! Tuk-tuks are easy to drive, cheap to rent, and the freedom that comes with your own wheels is unmatched.
If you do decide to rent a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka, be sure to go with a reputable company that provides quality tuk-tuks, such as Tuktuk Rental (who we rented from.) These guys not only offer an amazing service, but their tuk-tuks are actually rented from local families, providing income for the local community.
If you decide to rent from Tuktuk Rental, be sure to use the coupon code ‘DEST‘ for 5% off!
For more info, read our blog: The Truth about Renting a Tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka.
Hire a Driver
If you’re only planning on going to a couple of destinations, then a private driver is not a bad idea. In the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, your driver can take you to your next destination. All you have to do is sit back and relax!
You can hire highly-rated drivers in advance to pick you up right from the airport when you arrive in Sri Lanka. This driver will take you to your hotel in Mirissa, Galle, Bentota, or Unawatuna. Whereas, this driver will take you to Kandy.
Of course, every time you want to change destinations you will have to arrange for another driver (unless you book this driver who will drive you around for an entire week). Car transfer can easily be organized through your hotel.
Take Public Transport
This is a choice I only recommend for those on a very tight budget and with plenty of time. Public transport is everywhere in Sri Lanka in the form of public buses and trains. It is also very cheap, costing less than a couple of dollars per journey.
However, it isn’t the most comfortable way to travel. The buses don’t have air conditioning and neither do many train services. They can also be slow-moving, stopping every couple of minutes to pick up more passengers.
With that said, public transport is popular with budget backpackers, and it is mostly safe. This is one way to travel for those who want to get around as the locals do!
Before you go…
I hope this blog about the best things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka will help you to stay busy while you’re visiting. If I missed anything, be sure to leave a comment below!
Have a great time in Sri Lanka, and especially in Ella! Happy Travels!
IF you found this blog helpful, be sure to check out the rest of our Sri Lanka blog articles. Some you might like are below too!
Most Romantic Honeymoon Hotels in Sri Lanka – Our list of the best, most romantic hotels in Sri Lanka
Things to do in Mirissa – The southern coast of Sri Lanka is a beach lovers paradise and Mirissa is one of the best towns to explore. Although a small beach town there are a ton of unique and interesting things to do here!
The BEST Beaches in Sri Lanka – A guide to most pristine and gorgeous beaches in all of Sri Lanka!
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