Ella Sri Lanka: 5 interesting things to do in Ella
Ella is a small but beautiful town set in the luscious, green mountain region of Sri Lanka. It was a place I stumbled upon when planning our trip and I knew for sure that we had to pay a visit to this part of the country. Around 7 hours from Kandy, Ella has so much to offer travelers and I can say from experience it is worth the journey. Dan and I were blown away by the beauty of the area and actually wish we could have spent just a couple of days more to relax and explore. Even though our time here was short and sweet I thought I would still recommend my five recommendations for Ella, Enjoy!
Take the Train
Whenever you research travelling Sri Lanka one of the first things to pop up is the famous train journey from Kandy to Ella. Well it’s famous for a good reason, this journey might just be the most beautiful train journey in the world. Taking the train in any new country is always a sheer pleasure, firstly you get to experience a country from a relaxing mode of transport. You get to wander and walk along the carriage, take in some fantastic views and enjoy mingling with locals. It is also one of the most affordable ways to travel.The journey from Kandy to Ella takes a total of 7 hours so it certainly isn’t the fastest mode of transport, but the views more than make up for that. When we began planning, this experience was top of our list but after further research into our route we decided to skip taking the train from Kandy and instead taking the train further along the journey at Nuwara Eliya (Nano Oya Station)There were a few reasons that brought us to this decision, one being that the most scenic part of the journey actually begins at Nuwara Eliya, and the second being it saved us heaps of time. Choosing to drive to Nuwara Eliya and then take the train knocked off at least four hours of travel time, which allowed for us to use that time to explore more places along the coast later on in the trip. Driving part of it was also much more comfortable and allowed for us to see a lot more of Sri Lanka as we drove through the towns on route.
How much do tickets cost and can you buy them online?
Getting hold of tickets wasn’t as easy as I first anticipated, first off you can’t buy them online unless you go through a tour company meaning you can only get tickets by buying directly from the train station. Most blogs that I read also recommended to buy them as early as possible on the day, but I would not recommend doing that. It is best to get tickets a couple of days in advance at least. We saw so many travelers who arrived at Nuwara Eliya station trying to book tickets get turned away and I felt so gutted for them. We also met other travellers along the way that traveled twice in two days and still couldn't get tickets. We thankfully arranged for our driver to get ours, but even then, (because we didn’t give enough notice) the timings of the train weren’t what we would have liked. My advice is, get your tickets as soon as you work out your route to avoid any disappointment.
2. Stay in a Tree house
When I was searching for accommodation in Ella I did a fair bit of Instagram researching and whilst looking under the #Ella hashtag I discovered the place Serenite. A ridiculously beautiful and reasonably priced guest house which could be booked easily on booking.com. Not only was it only around £30 a night with the dreamiest decor but it was set among the trees with incredible views of all of Ella. I'm talking waterfall, mountains, trains - you name it. Not only that but it also included some cheeky morning visitors from a family of Monkeys! Although I think it best to warn you that these little buggers are not to be messed around with. The big daddy turned up when we were flying our drone and he legitimately looked like he was going to try and swipe it as we landed. We made the rather clever decision of carefully backing into our room and closing the door and instead got to enjoy the whole fam (including a teeny tiny baby) enjoying a spot of breakfast with the clementine we accidentally left on our table. Please note that feeding is completely frowned upon, in fact there are signs in the room stating this so please be careful, not only can these critters swipe expensive electrical goods they can also carry dangerous diseases such as rabies so always navigate with caution.
3. Nine Arch Bridge
Located just outside of Ella main town is the world famous 9 arches railway track, the largest railway bridge in Sri Lanka and definitely something you don't want to miss when you visit Ella. We brought the drone to Sri Lanka just for this very place as we heard it was really a thing of beauty. We had originally planned to make our way down to the railway track after taking a hike to Little Adams Peak ( a small mountain hike experience in Ella) but unfortunately things didn't work out. We underestimated just how exhausted we would be with travelling solidly for 72 hours as well as recovering from food poisoning and so made the more sensible choice of walking to Explore Ella town and then taking a Tuk Tuk to the railway track. Little did we realise that we were still in for a hefty hike when the driver dropped us off at the top of the hill looking down onto the bridge and we had to make our way down a very steep dirt track. Honestly I would not recommend this, I nearly stacked it at least four times and actually had to have both Dan and a complete stranger hold my hand as I tried to step down sometimes nearly vertical mud steps. We laugh about it now as when we got to the bottom we were both pouring with sweat (the humidity is no joke) and realised we might as well have done the Little Adam's Peak hike after all.
When we arrived at the bottom we were shocked to find out that in order to get to the bridge we would have to walk on or at least along an active railway track, which at first seemed scary, before we checked the times of the upcoming trains and realised we had quite a while before any train would be passing. We stopped for a photo on the tracks and then followed the track around to the bridge area where there were quite a few people taking photos and launching their drones. Our timings also worked really well and we were able to experience watching an old fashioned train (much like the one we rode on to get to Ella) pass right by as as we stood at the side of the bridge. All in all it was a really unique experience, one that we thoroughly enjoyed.
4. Take a cookery class
I am giving you this advice even though Dan and I didn't actually do this, why you ask? Well if I could go back in time and learn how to re-create this meal I would do in a heartbeat. The food at Matey Hut this tiny shack like restaurant (on the corner road of Ella town) was one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life let alone just in Sri Lanka. The plate in this photo shows a delicious four vegetable curry. Okra, Mango, pumpkin and green beans and guess how much all of that cost.... Would you believe me if I said just £2.20. TWO POUND TWENTY it's unbelievable that a plate of food this good, costs less than a single bus journey in London. Their classes also only cost a grand total of around £10 which actually includes the lunch you prepare. We were truly kicking ourselves for not taking the class, so don't make the same silly mistake we did. But if you are short of time make sure you at least enjoy a meal at this fantastic little spot.
5. Ella Waterfall
This is something we did as we were leaving Ella as our driver told us it was on the exit road to make our way to the coast. Sri our driver kindly stopped off and parked for us so we could wander and take a photo by the waterfall. Just a note, It gets pretty crowded in the afternoon after 12pm but it's a nice atmosphere and there are a few little stalls selling boiled corn and sweet mango at the roadside which is a must try. You may also see a monkey or 50 as this area is covered with them, in fact they were everywhere along the roads as we leaving which made for an interesting goodbye to the beautiful town of Ella.