Ella is a small town on the eastern edge of the Hill Country in Sri Lanka. Its unique location among the jungle, small mountains and valleys, waterfalls and tea plantations made Ella very popular among tourists. So, if you do not mind, I would highly recommend this place and suggests a few tips on how to get there and what to see.
Ella is one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka mainly because such a small town (or rather a village) has so much to offer. Although not everything here is pink: the streets (two streets to be precise) are busy with tourists and even larger crowds of tuck tuck and taxi drivers. It’s quite easy here to lose money, especially while going out for lunch and… in Ella there is some strange Sri Lanka-Arctic climate.
Seriously, don’t laugh. I read about this before and also I experienced it myself! I’ve been to Ella four times, and it happened that the night was so cold that once I slept in long pants and a pullover, and another time under two blankets. Really, there at nights when the temperature can drop to 15 degrees (when during the day it’s 30 – the difference is very noticeable if you are used to the Sri Lankan heat). Also, this is a very rainy place, and the rain always falls in the afternoon. December is the most rainy month (as it starts to rain about 2 p.m. and keeps raining the whole night), but mornings are sunny, sometimes you can see few clouds. But in the morning the conditions are perfect for walking! And there is one more thing… the humidity… Nothing dries in Ella!
But on the other hand, Ella owes its amazing appearance to this endless humidity and continuous rains. Because if it rains somewhere almost every day of the year, then imagine how the area looks!
Ella is surrounded by a tropical garden. Somewhere I read that in a forest in temperate climate there is about 20 species of trees and shrubs 1 hectare, while in the equatorial zone grow as many as 200 species of plants on 1 hectare! (Sri Lanka has an unique climate because of the island’s terrain and the location between the ocean and the continent. It’s a bit tropical, a bit equatorial and extremely humid, with irregular rainfall and monsoons.)
So when you look at the surrounding landscape from the window of your guesthouse (especially when it’s located somewhere on the hill) everywhere around you see a huge, dense jungle. A wonderful and breathtaking view. And as you look closer, you have the impression that none of the trees next to each other are the same.
And that is why it is worth coming here! For Mother Nature!
My favorite trail is to Little Adam’s Peak to see the sunrise (you should leave around 5 am and take a torch!), when morning clouds fill the valley. The trail is not difficult and rather resembles the path between plantations. One-way walk will take approx. 45 minutes (add to it 2 km from the center of Ella to the trail).
For more demanding walks I recommend Ella Rock trail that runs through the forest, rice fields and tea plantations. The mountain is the highest in the area and very distinctive – it looks as if it was broken. The views from there are amazing!
If you want to take a stroll among the tea plantations and factories, I recommend the Uva Province Tea Trail. Don’t look for it in Google because you will not find it, but there is a map in Ella (on the road from the centre to the Little Adam’s Peak) with a marked trail linking several tea factories.
Sri Lanka is famous for tea so visiting at least one tea factory is a must! In Ella there are factories of black and green tea (this is the same species of plant, only the production process is different – black tea is fermented).
I will write a separate entry about the tea itself, factories and plantations, because the topic is interesting and vast and it makes no sense to trivialize it here. But if you’re looking for the place to stroll among the tea plantations, Ella in my opinion is perfect!
Halpewatte Tea Factory – black tea factory, admission Rs 350 / person. + 500 Rs tasting (for whole group). Guided tour around the factory was very interesting and the guide answered every question we had. I highly recommend Halpewatte! The outlet of the factory is located in a different place, literally a 5 minute walk from the factory. They have black tea at very good prices 🙂
Nuwburgh Estate – green tea factory, admission 500 Rs. The first time I really enjoyed it, so I visited this place again and… I was very disappointed, because guided tour was two times shorter than before, they raised the price of admission (previously it was 300 Rs) and don’t make tasting! Skip the visiting but I recommend to buy some very good green tea there (package of highest quality tea costs 1000 Rs)
Have you heard about the Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic poem? It tells the story of King Rama. His wife Sita was kidnapped by the demon Ravana, who was also the ruler of the kingdom of Lanka and hid Sita on the island, in a cave behind the waterfall.
The legendary place described in the Ramayana – the waterfall and cave Ravana – is only 6 km from the center of Ella. The waterfall is tall and picturesque but normal, busy street leads to it and it’s full of serpentines and very narrow shoulder, so you’d better take a tuck tuck. Waterfall is referred to one of the most “wild” on the island and impressive, although unfortunately the road distroys a lot from this savagery effect. Near the waterfall there is a temple in the cave (Ravana’s Cave).
However, if we want to see something away from civilization, we can go into the jungle. Let’s ask in our guesthouse/hotel if they have a contact number to the organizers of such expeditions. I know that somewhere in the jungle (but I don’t know where :D) are huge waterfalls where you can bathe. Well, the place is more wild and spectacular than Ravana.
the Buduruwagala Temple
30 km south from Ella is an ancient temple Buduruwagala, one of my favorite places in Sri Lanka, because I almost never meet tourists there.
Buduruwagala is a complex of Buddha statues carved in the rock (hence the name in Sinhali: Budu – Buddha; ruva – image; gala – stone) from 10th century AD. The highest statue of Buddha measuring 16m and is also the highest standing statue of the Enlightened in whole island. A place I can highly recommend if you’re looking for something really off the path.
To get there grab a bus to Wellawaya (70 Rs one way) and from there take the tuck tuck. They will probably offer you a price of 1,000 Rs to the temple and back (one way is exactly 10 km), but try to bargain Rs 800 Rs at least. If you want to take a taxi or tuck tuck from Ella it will probably cost approx. 2-3 thousand rupees, so I do not recommend it.
Ella – where to sleep?
You can go to Ella without booking an accommodation. There is so many options of guesthouses that we will find some without problems as soon as we get out of the train. Dozens of tuck tuck drivers wait at the train station for tourists and offer free rooms, so you can even something as cheap as 1500 Rs for two people. (Usually we pay for the room approx. 2,000 Rs without breakfast) If the standard is not a priority for us then I would recommend this option.
If you are looking for something better I checked the Ella Okreech Cottages (approx. 4000 Rs per room), and besides Booking and Agoda are full of different options.
For an extra breakfast usually we pay approx. 350-450 Rs.
Ella – where to eat?
There is one place in Elle, where I make an exception from cheap local food – Chill Cafe. They serve Rice & Curry of the day for 700 Rs, but it’s not only rice and max. 3 curry, but at least 6 curry + papadam and chutney! The food is not spicy, but it reaaaaaaly tasty. The restaurant is so busy that it’s better to make a reservation if you travel in group.
Besides I recommend the Sri lankan traditional dessert: curd (a type of yoghurt) with honey in Curd Shop. For 300 Rs glass you will get a huge burst of fruit and pieces of cake. Omnomnom!
Both places are located on the main road and are easily visible, surely you will find it. 🙂
Have you been to Ella in Sri Lanka? Do you agree with me, and you think that the place is too touristy? Or maybe you still liked it? And if you were not – would you like to go there? Feel free to discuss in the comments!
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