In the hill country of Sri Lanka lies the sleepy mountain town of Ella. It’s quiet and peaceful, yet has enough to keep anyone busy for a couple days. It boasts some beautiful sights : Little Adam’s Peak , The Nine Arches Bridge, and tea fields as far as the eye can see. We managed to see all of them in one day-long hike that will take you to all of the area’s best spots. Want to know how to do it? Keep reading!
We were lucky enough to stay at The Chillout Ella, which is located right at the beginning of the hiking trail. One of the staff originally showed us the route that we’re going to show you. We highly recommend staying there on your trip to Ella. You can find a link to their booking page here. We receive nothing for this so don’t take this as some sort of self-promotion. We just like giving credit where credit is due!
The entire loop will take you anywhere from 4-8 hours, depending on how long you stay at each place. It will be about 15 kilometers total and it can be done by anyone in decent shape.
If you’re staying in town along the main road, make your way to Passara Road . Follow that road for about a kilometer until you get to the entrance to the Little Adam’s Peak trail, which will be directly in front of you as you go down the street. It will be clearly marked, but you can also look for The Chillout Ella which will be on the left, or Ella Flower Garden Restaurant on the right.
The entire walk is just picture perfect. You can’t go more than a minute without wanting to break out your camera and start snapping photos. Just be patient because the photo opportunities only get better as you make your way up Little Adam’s Peak.
You’ll walk for about 20 minutes on this path before you reach a green gate. Go through that gate, which will lead you to the beginning of the trail. As of February 2018 there was a ban on plastic water bottles on the trail. I guess the ban has been in place even longer than that, but it’s now starting to be enforced. Keep that in mind and bring a reusable bottle if you have one.
The hike to the top isn’t too strenuous, but it’s not a walk in the park either. It will take you about an hour to get to the top. Most of it is stairs or some other paved surface, but there are some points where you’ll be walking over tree roots and other light brush. Like I said it’s not hard, but don’t be one of those people doing it in flip flops. Nobody wants to carry you down the peak with a broken ankle because you didn’t want to put on shoes that day.
The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking. There are two main viewpoints : the one you climb up to and one off to the side. To get to the second viewpoint you have to go down a little bit to make your way back up. This little part was actually harder than the entire climb, but most great things don’t come easy. It will be worth it in the end.
Once you make your way back down the peak and exit the green gate, you’ll take a right instead of going back the way you came. You’ll walk on this path for about 15 minutes, surrounded by tea fields on both sides. If you’re lucky, you’ll see workers in the fields collecting the leaves that will be later processed at a facility down the street (which you’ll walk by later!).
You’ll end up at 98 Acres Resort where you can have tea or a light lunch at their restaurant, Cafe 98. There are tables overlooking the mountains outside and bean bag chairs inside, whichever you prefer.
When you’re done with your rest stop, or if you didn’t feel like taking one, walk back down to reception but leave on the other side from where you came. At the bottom of the hill, take a right and walk along the road for about 10 minutes until you come up to Newburgh Estate.
The factory offers tours for 500 Rupees ($3.25). We decided not to do the tour because we had already taken a tea factory tour just a couple weeks before in Malaysia, but if you’ve never done one it could be very interesting to you. If you decide to do it, let us know how it was!
To continue to the Nine Arches Bridge, walk past the tea factory and continue on this road for about 15 minutes.
**Be careful because local bus drivers, like all bus drivers worldwide, are maniacs and fly around the corners.
When you get to the “The Secret Ella”, you’ll walk down the path towards it, but instead of entering the hotel just keep walking straight. You’ll be on this for what seems like an eternity, at least it did for us. After about 15 minutes you’ll be able to see the train tracks in the distance, but they’ll be a ways below you. The road will zig zag and meander for a while and you’ll think you’re never going to get there, but fear not! The road will end and you’ll be at the tracks in no time! Take a left down the tracks and start making your way to the bridge!
My mom constantly harped on me as a kid to avoid train tracks because of the third rail, but they don’t have that in Sri Lanka so don’t worry. If you’ve made it to Ella you’ve probably seen plenty of people walking the tracks by now. Just be aware of your surroundings and if you hear a train coming, you’ll have a good six or seven minutes to get out of the way.
If you’re smart you’ll plan your trip around a train schedule. That may be hard though because of the variation in how long the beginning of your hike could take you. Maybe a smarter move would be to keep a little slip of paper on you with various times trains are rolling in and out of Ella station. We just showed up and waited for a train to come, but we got lucky and didn’t have to wait too long.
The bridge holds interest to people for different reasons. It’s a great example of British railway construction during it’s colonial occupation of Sri Lanka. If you’re into photography, you’ll love the shots you can get when the trains pass over it. People also think it resembles the bridge the Hogwarts Express passes over in Harry Potter, and if it was a little longer i’d swear they filmed that scene here. You’ll have to see for yourself!
You’re almost done! Continue down the tracks where you’ll eventually come to Ella’s main train station. From there just hop on the platform , walk out , and head down the hill to the town center! By this point you’ll likely need something a little stronger than tea to finish your day. We recommend the Chill Cafe. The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and they take credit card!
And that’s your day! It will be a long one, but full of beauty and what better way to get your exercise in than to get out and explore!
Have you been to Ella? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!