There are a lot of points of interest to visit in Ella Sri Lanka and 2 days in Ella can give a visitor plenty of stuff to go see. If you want to know about what to do in Ella here are several ideas.
What is Ella Sri Lanka like?
Ella is situated in hill country. Sri Lanka’s hills are not super tall, are very green, and they are quite old so they’re very rounded. What’s lovely about this area of the country is how much cooler the climate is. The altitude (about 1,041m/3,415ft above sea level) makes for cool breezes, misty mornings, and clouds. This is also tea country.
Ella Sri Lanka is a tourist hub. Let’s just be honest. If you are coming to this city to escape the crowds and find lots of beautiful natural wonders to enjoy on your own you are in the wrong place, friend.
Arriving in Ella was a shock.
The Northeast of Sri Lanka is quiet, sleepy, and non-touristy. Ella was the opposite. Ella Sri Lanka reminded me of Thailand: lots of backpackers, western music, western food and western tourists. I’m worried that more of Sri Lanka will look this in the next 5 years. This country is changing so rapidly.
Get here while you can, reader. I doubt the Sri Lanka Jackson and I have visited the last two years in a row will be here much longer. 2 days in Ella would be a perfect amount of time.
Even with change in the air in Sri Lanka, Ella remains a beautiful place to visit.
When we spent 2 days in Ella we:
- Climbed Ella Rock
- Got an ayurvedic massage
- Toured the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory
- Clambered around Ravana Falls
- Saw the famous “9 Arches” bridge
- Ate milk curd and treacle
- Hiked to Little Adam’s Peak
It was a lot to pack into 2 days, but it was a ton of fun.
How to Get to Ella Sri Lanka:
Don’t make the mistake we made. Don’t go from Trinco to Ella in one day. By bus. This epic trip took 12 hours. It was awful.
The bus we were on to get from Tincomalee to Kandy kept breaking down and we eventually had to get off and hop on a new one. I had to pee for, like, 2 hours before we stopped and found a bathroom.
The crazy thing? 12 hours of bus rides cost us about $5USD for BOTH of us to cross the country. These buses are no-kidding-around cheap and a great way to see the country. It’s amazing what people’ll pay to get driven around by a private car: $50-75USD one way sometimes.
In hindsight: we might have coughed up some more money for a car to get us across the country quicker and more comfortably, but, oh well. Sometimes bad days on the road can make great stories, am I right?
Although I doubt you’ll go from Trinco to Ella in one day by bus, like we did, you can get to Ella pretty easily by bus.
In Kandy, catch the bus to Badulla, transfer in Badulla, then get a bus to Ella. This should cost you only a couple bucks at the most.
You can take a train from Kandy to Ella as well. This train trip is apparently gorgeous, and that’s great. After spending a couple hours going from Colombo to Kandy by train, we got the point, and decided not to take the train. That said, people will rave about this train trip, so if you are sick of buses maybe give it a shot?
If you hire a private driver you can get pretty much anywhere in Sri Lanka. We hired a private driver on our second visit to Sri Lanka when we decided to go to Kandy via a different way than buses and trains. We used the PickMe app which is available in Sri Lanka.
PickMe was a really easy app to use and we found a driver to take us to Kandy for about $35 USD. This is expensive by Sri Lankan standards, but the trip was pretty easy. You can always check to see if anyone is willing to drive you to Ella from Kandy, which is a pretty common route.
Day 1 of our 2 Days in Ella:
Climb Ella Rock
Our first morning we set out to climb Ella Rock.
Finding the path to the hiking trail is difficult. It is not well marked, takes you on terribly dangerous paths, and is full of completely mind-blowing scenery. It is free to walk up the mountain.
Up and back takes about 2 hours from the center of Ella.
To get to the trail you need to skirt around some back streets, walk along some train tracks for 2km, turn off to the left after passing the Kital Ella railway station to take a dirt road that takes you through a tea plantation and then up a mountain.
To find all these roads takes a little luck, a sense of adventure, and a whole lot of asking backpackers where they found their information. One chick, Lisa, from Germany, joined us. She had a pdf of a hand-drawn map on her phone that she was referencing.
We wound up making friends with the gal who was staying at our home stay in Ella, her name was Lika and she was from The Netherlands. She tagged along with us as we hiked around Ella. At the top Lika, Lisa, Jackson and I marveled at the views. They were good climbing buddies.
Getting an Ayurvedic Massage
After the hike Jackson and I scheduled another ayurvedic massage at a “Lanka Grand Herbal Spa” on the main road. Overall, this was a pretty good massage. It was all quite relaxing until the end when, covered in oil, we got ready to get up off the beds and hose off. The lady who had been massaging me looked at us and said “One hour no shower! OK? One hour: NO shower!”
Apparently, if you book a one hour massage at this place you can’t hose off when you’re done. Ew. Lost a lot of brownie points from me. The massage was 4000LKR (about 26USD) each, which was pretty expensive for one hour.
Ayurvedic massages are not like your bog standard western massage. They’ll use a lot of oil and rub you down with it. In my experience, it’s not very deep tissue.
That said: getting a massage after a hike is awesome. If you are in spending 2 days in Ella, I’d highly recommend going for a rub down one afternoon.
Day 2 of 2 Days in Ella:
Lika, Jackson and I decided to rent a tuk-tuk and go check out the highlights of Ella Sri Lanka. The driver for the day cost 3,500LKR (23USD) for the 3 of us (I feel like we could have gotten it for 3000, but oh well- still a great price for several hours).
It was nice to have the driver for a few hours because some of the sites in Ella are quite spaced out and hard to see in one day without a vehicle.
Tour a Tea Factory
We were ferried to Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory and went on a tour to see how they make tea. The tour was fascinating! It was 300LKR (about $2USD) each for the tour which lasted an hour. We couldn’t take any pictures of the factory, unfortunately, but watching and learning about the process of tea making was so cool!
I highly recommend stopping there and learning about it. They even took us down to the machines to watch the leaves being processed. The whole building smelled like black tea and there were tea plantations everywhere. The location is gorgeous, too. It’s high in the mountains (to help dry the leaves, of course!) and the factory is old, with large wooden floorboards and old glass windows.
If you are not sure about what to do in Ella, I highly recommend going to a Tea Factory.
View Ravana Falls
After the tour we sped over to see Ravana Falls, a waterfall that is chuck-full of tourists. Jackson and I couldn’t help feeling jaded as we’ve seen quite a few waterfalls (and hiked through a few as well) in New Zealand and elsewhere and this one was so full of tourists it was hard to get an idea of what it was like as a place of zen contemplation.
Jackson and Lika decided to take a walk around the falls and look at the swimming hole that you can take a dip in. The walk was very slippery but pretty! The swimming hole was packed with people. We didn’t stay long.
Going and coming back will take you up and down a massive hill. In a tuk-tuk this was terrifying! There were massive buses swinging around the corners at mach speeds. It was crazy! Plus, the drops off the side of the cliff was scary as hell – especially without a seat belt.
You only live once, people. Checking out this falls is nice and if you are looking for an answer to “what to do in Ella?” this is one of the choices!
See 9 Arches Bridge:
We saw the famous “9 Arches” bridge that the train goes over. A sight that looks nice when you first see it and then we were like: meh. It was nice, but we’d spent the previous day hiking all over train tracks so it didn’t blow our minds.
What’s amazing to me is that so many people go crazy over trying to take pictures of this bridge. It’s nice, but it’s not mind-blowing. Thankfully, it’s only a few minutes out of town and takes not even ten minutes to look at and snap a few shots. It does look really good as an instagram photo. If you are only spending 2 days in Ella, it’s worth a quick trip.
Our next stop was a green tea factory that tried to charge us 500LKR for a tour which we declined because we’d just done the black tea factory. As far as I can tell, if you’ve done a tea factory once, you’ve done them all.
We decided to get lunch.
Eat Curd and Treacle:
There’s a delicious dish in Sri Lanka made of milk curd and treacle. I HIGHLY recommend getting this if you have the chance. It is so delicious! It tastes like very sour, creamy yogurt covered in a thin, sweet, floral sauce. There’s a curd shop in Ella that serves the curd and it’s called “Curd Shop” (original and catchy, right?) for 200LKR (about $1.75USD). We stopped in there and devoured our shares. Yum!
I wrote about Sri Lankan food to try when there if you are curious about the cuisine on this Island.
Hike to Little Adam’s Peak:
The 3 of us decided to hike up Little Adam’s Peak to enjoy the view at the end of the day. It was really nice. The hike is easy and walkable from town. It’s a lot easier to find than Ella Rock as well. If you don’t know what to do in Ella: do this. It’s hella easy.
The hike to Little Adam’s Peak took about 1.5 hours round-trip. The top of the mountain had good views (although Ella Rock’s views are better, but the hike is a lot more strenuous and takes a whole day, which if you are only spending 2 days in Ella can be expensive on time!).
Or second day was a LONG day in Ella, but I’m glad we decided to fit it all in one day. I felt like we did Ella justice.
Ella Sri Lanka is lovely.
I know why people go here. It’s westernized main street is easy to navigate and can be a break from the cultural shock of the rest of Sri Lanka.
I don’t know that Ella was my favorite stop in Sri Lanka, but 2 days in Ella was enough. I enjoyed the hiking, the food and the sights without getting too sick of it all.