Set in a picturesque mountain landscape dotted with tea fields, Ella is a must-visit destination for travelers to Sri Lanka. The village’s appeal continues to grow for a number of reasons.
First, THIS. It needs no explanation.
Second, it’s relatively easy to get to from the southern beaches where most tourists flock. It’s a good add-on destination for travelers on holiday who want to take a break from sand and sun for a couple of days.
Third, it’s a major stop on what is considered to be one of the most scenic train rides in the world. (See my write-up here.)
And fourth, it’s home to a booming tea industry with a couple of well-known tea factories that are easy to reach and offer good tours.
Together, all of this makes Ella an ideal destination for foreign tourists. The downside of Ella’s broad appeal is that it’s earned the town the dreaded reputation of being touristy.
I’ve been to Ella, and it does live up to its reputation. Compared to other parts of Sri Lanka, it is touristy. But that shouldn’t keep you away.
The tourist vibe is actually kind of nice.
Unlike other villages in Sri Lanka that go quiet at sunset, Ella is home to many cafes where you can grab a cup of coffee and people-watch for hours. Bars and restaurants buzz in the evenings with lively chatter and bumping music. For many tourists, it’s a taste of the familiar with a distinctly Sri Lankan twist. Though Ella definitely caters to tourists, it felt mostly authentic to me and wholly enjoyable.
Getting away from other tourists is easy.
The fact is, “touristy” is a relative term. Sri Lanka isn’t Disney World or Paris, and it’s easy to get away from the (tame) crowds if you want to.
You can go take a hike at Little Adam’s Peak or Ella Rock. You can walk along the railroad tracks and only see the occasional traveler (but be careful!). You can hang out in your guest house and eat the homemade food the host family cooks for you. There are plenty of opportunities to ditch the main drag and get a taste of authentic Sri Lanka.
The setting alone is worth the visit.
I’ll just leave this here.
Pro tip: book a guest house “up the hill” on Waterfall Road so you can enjoy sunrises like this. I recommend Hilltop Guest House, where I took this picture. The guest house had clean rooms, good food, uninterrupted views, and a really nice family managing it.
With the right guest house, if you find Ella’s tourist population to be completely insufferable, you can retreat to your mountain oasis and bask in the beauty of Ella Gap in peace.
You can explore Ella’s hills with minimal tourist interruption.
Little Adam’s Peak is a relatively easy hike that winds through tea fields and offers great views of Ella and the surrounding countryside. It’s easy enough for kids to hike, though the hills are a bit steep. (Do note that this is a well traveled footpath, so you will likely be around other travelers during the hike.)
If you want to make your hike more challenging, walk the ridge line until it ends. There are some steep slopes, but the views are great and you’re all but guaranteed to be alone.
For more serious hikers, Ella Rock offers a more challenging route that takes you to the top of Ella’s most iconic mountain. It takes a couple of hours to get to the top, and it’s best to have a local guide show you the way through the tea fields and unmarked trails.
You can visit a bridge that looks like it’s straight out of Harry Potter.
I mean, I’m not much of a bridge person, but this one is pretty cool.
Nine Arches Bridge is nearly 100 feet high and is constructed entirely out of bricks, stone and cement – no steel. An engineering marvel completed in 1921 while Sri Lanka was a British colony, the bridge supports passenger trains traveling between Ella and Demodara multiple times each day.
You can drink tea straight from the source.
Tea is harvested year round in Sri Lanka, and the microclimates in the hills make it one of the world’s most ideal tea growing regions. Sri Lanka is renowned for its Ceylon tea, and Ella has multiple tea factories that are open for tourist visits.
I opted for the Newburgh Tea Factory, which is one of only 11 tea factories in the country making green tea.
Tea factory visits are much like brewery or wine tours: You get a tour of the facilities and a walk-through of the production process, you do a tasting, and you have the opportunity to purchase it from the source. It’s an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
So, are you convinced that Ella is worth a visit? I hope so, because it was hands-down the most beautiful place I went to in Sri Lanka. For a country known for its beaches, it does a good mountain landscape too.
If you’ve been, comment and tell me what you thought of Ella. As always, thanks for reading and stay curious!
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