If you’re looking for a travel escapade with equal parts adventure and relaxation, Ella in Sri Lanka can be your beloved nest! The oceanside of pearl island is cool. The hillside of Sri Lanka is cooler – weatherwise and vibe-wise. So going to Sri Lanka and not seeing the hillside that got the nation’s most beautiful train route is a crime!
So here is your complete guide to travel to Ella in Sri Lanka – Away from the ocean, into the jungle.
- Why visit Ella
- Where to Stay
- How to Reach.
- How many days & what to do in Ella.
- Best places to eat in Ella.
- All about the Nine arch bridge.
- Different viewpoints.
Is it worth visiting Ella?
Visiting Ella is absolutely worth it! I am not exaggerating when I say Ella can be why you travel to Sri Lanka! There is great food, nice hiking trails and stunning landscape. I and Sahana have quite an arguement on which is the best of Sri Lanka. While she says it is Galle, I say Ella is the best-est of Sri Lanka.
It is one of the rare places on the earth where you can enjoy solitude simply lounging in a hammock with a good book and meet the crowd when you want to. With the lush green forest to hide in, hippie cafes to mingle, and hiking trails to be one with the earth – Ella is tranquil.
From the authentic Sri Lankan dishes to the Crissoants – good food, lesser people, and more nature are what won my heart.
Which is better Ella or Kandy?
Each has its soul and charectercharacter. But my heart beats for Ella more than Kandy. I am not saying Ella is the hidden gem of Sri Lanka. But definitely less crowded than touristy Kandy. Ella is smaller and cosier – You are closer to nature.
Where to stay in Ella, Sri Lanka?
When you choose the locality in Ella, consider if you want to be in the town centre that has got trendy cafes and spas. Or closer to any hiking trails in the jungle. Both have their own pros and cons. The term “Luxury” here means, you spend 100 USD/night/room/couple. So the budget stay starts with less than 20 USD/Night
The Town centre is great for those who love city vibes and nightlife. You get to meet and eat with globe travellers here. But you miss jungle tranquillity.
Some of the suggest places to stay in Ella town centre are :
- The Rock Face – Budget hotel within 100m from the main road is great a for those who want to be closer to cafes and mingle with other travellers.
- Ella Heritage – Mid range hotel, built in brick and their food tasted delicious
- Zion View Ella Green Retreat – A bit luxury hotel with that pool with a view can be a good idea if you want to pamper yourself a bit!
Which area is best to stay in Sri Lanka?
The best area to stay in Ella is in the woods. If you choose a homestay in the interiors amidst woods, you wake up to birds chirping, and your eyes always have a serene view. You breathe the freshest air. But you have to depend on your only homestay for food unless you are ready to spend on tuk-tuks. Or ready to walk 2 to 5km for every meal.
Suggested Accommodations in Ella are
Choosing the jungle tranquillity, we stayed at Nine arch viewpoint, now called Nine Arch Jungle Inn.– The Super affordable, made for budget travellers. Their locality is perfect, the host cooked us a delicious dinner and was super friendly. It was a 10 min downhill walk to the nine arch bridge. We could even see it from the front yard.
It is 2km from the town, in the middle of the forest beside tea estates. . You must hire their Tuk-Tuk for 100 LKR to go to the city. The cars can not reach the homestay. You’ll need to let them know about your arrival before so that they pick you up from the Ella main road or the road near the guest house.
Other suggested guesthouses near Nine Arch bridge in Ella are
- Barn Hills Nine Arch Ella – The mid range guesthouse gives you a clear view of the beautiful Nine arch bridge and the surrounding hills.
- New Cabin Ella – Perhaps, the closest accommodation to the nine arch bridge is amazing if you are willing to pay 100 USD/night! You get luxury for the cheapest price!
How to visit Ella, Sri Lanka?
There are several ways to travel to Ella. The nation’s public transport may not be the best in the world, but definetely efficient and decent
Which is the nearest airport to Ella?
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport – 85km is the nearest airport to Ella. Direct flights from a few cities in Tamil Nadu of India and Colombo are available.
Is there a train to Ella?
Yes! Ella is all about scenic train routes. Many claims that Kandy to Ella is the most beautiful train journey in the world. Ella is well connected with the railway network throughout Sri Lanka.
Buses to Ella
We came to Ella from Mirissa partly by bus and shared a taxi for the next half.
Travelling from Mirissa to Ella
Mirissa to Matara bus journey is faster, and we didn’t have to wait for it long. But buses didn’t leave until full at Matara bus station, route number 31 (Matara-Bandarwella).
So there is no fixed timing for these buses. Plus, Those “butt-hurting” red buses take five long hours to reach Ella from Matara. We saw many tourists like us standing in the station wondering what to do. Along with tourists, taxi drivers approach tourists saying, “3-hour journey- 9000 LKR” Fortunately, we got to the club with an Australian couple, so it came up to 2250LKR/person, and we saved money+time
How many days should you spend in Ella?
For those who want to see the 9 arch bridge only once, a day trip or on the way to Mirissa/ Nuwara Eliya can be an option, but we recommend at least an overnight stay. It is ideal to spend two full days in Ella. Though the 9-arch bridge isn’t just a bridge, it is one of the most serene places to enjoy yourself for hours together. And there are several hiking trails around for you to get lost peacefully.
We met a family from England, travelling in Sri Lanka past two months. They are in Ella for eight days with their kids because they love Ella’s weather. They were on a hike to all possible mountains and waterfalls nearby. It looks like Ella is a paradise for long-time travellers!
What are the best restaurants in Ella?
If you are craving full plate complete Lankan meals, Ella Heritage is the best place. There is a lot of difference between Mirissa’s beachside meals to this hilly region meals. Seafood is replaced with vegetable curries here.
Cafe UFO – Justifying its name, the appearance is uniquely chic and alien-ish. This is a great place to meet other travellers. If you are looking to tag along for your next destination to save money on a private taxi, you must not miss the place. Continental to Lankan food, you get a wide range of breakfast options with excellent coffee and funky music.
Best Things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka.
When you travel through Sri Lanka and visit Ella you will realise, it is hiker’s paradise.
- Hike to little Adam’s peak and chill at the cafe resting your foot.
- Bathe in the sky at the natural pool at Diyaluma falls
- Watch the train pass on the iconic NIne -Arch bridge from different viewpoints
- Get a spa or an ayurvedic massage in the town, and wander in the nearby tea estates.
- Take the train to Kandy.
Wow, this was our plan for two days. But because of Sahana’s “over adventurism” at Mirissa, where she was almost about to die, she couldn’t walk at all on our second day at Ella. So we stuck to watching trains at the bridge and enjoyed cafe scenes at Ella – something less hurtful for her feet.
Super crowded Ravana waterfalls weren’t worth our time and tuk-tuk money. We went there after a traveller at UFO Cafe explained how wonderful it is to shower here. But when we went, at least 50 people were showering and waiting to shower – We found it not worth the hype.
So we spent time at Nine Arch bridge mostly, walked around the tea estates and enjoyed the cafe scenes at Ella.
Ella Nine Arch Bridge
Every homestay owner in Ella will likely brief you about what this bridge is and the train timings. A 91M length, 24m in height bridge built with stone, Concrete and NO STEEL during the British era was built by a Sri Lankan engineer Mr Appuhami and his team.
Fine – an ancient engineering marvel – But what so wow about it?
The epic scenery, semi-circular arches, stones, and widespread manicured tea estate are magical to see the bright colour painted trains move on the arched bridge. It is neither a hidden gem nor as touristy as other places in Sri Lanka. You will find a group of people waiting for the train. The train comes, they click pictures and leave immediately. Soon, singing birds, the forest and the tea estate next to it all are yours! Again a train comes, people come and go – get back to solitude. It is beyond beautiful.
Where is the Nine Arch Bridge located?
The bridge was a 10minutes downhill walk from our homestay. Many tourists came here by tuk-tuk and walked downhill. The other route is a longer one (5km walk). From Ella, walk on the rugged road to reach Barn hills. Again, not so steep downhill walk gets you to the train track.
What time train passes Nine Arch Bridge?
On Friday we saw one train crossing at 6.30 PM, which was supposed to arrive at 5.30 PM. Saturday morning – 6.30 AM and 7 AM. Check with your host for accurate timings.
But do not plan your day like” I will watch the train at 9 AM and catch a bus at 9.30 at Ella” Very likely such plans do not work. The delay in train arrival is an obvious thing. Moreover, this place is so blissful that you may end up sitting here for hours together.
Early mornings are the best time to be there at the bridge: fewer people and good lighting for the photos. At 6.30 AM, there were probably 15 people. But everyone left as soon as the train passed. At 7 AM, it was only us, so we ended up staying till 9 AM! The previous evening there were around 80 people! It was entertaining to watch what tourists like us do here.
A young couple was doing their pre/post–wedding photoshoot.
A group of pranksters plucking the tea leaves to sniff it and throw it! I wonder how much the owner loses by these kinds of idiots.
Teenage girls (maybe aspiring to be models) trying to walk on the train track with high-heeled shoes and super stylish dresses posing pretty, perhaps for their Portfolio. People like us sit quietly in the middle of tea plants, watching all the madness around.
Later when we checked with our host he mentioned, many models from all over Sri Lanka travel to Ella solely for photoshoots! Of course, isn’t it an ideal background?
Why do tourists visit Nine Arch Bridge in Sri Lanka?
You hear the train horn blowing, and people are off the tracks. The locals travelling on the train know well that many tourists wait here. So they wave and howl, and so do the tourists. Click-click-click and Vanish as soon as the train passes. – It was a phenomenon to be experienced in the evenings.
The mornings are different. The sun rises slowly, changing the bottle green colour of tea leaves to parrot green. The foggy day is turning into a warm yellow sky. A few tourists go jogging. Other tourists set up their tripods, whispering. So you really hear birds singing and leaves rustling now. As usual, we sat on the bridge until a train arrived.
The joggers disappeared in the woods after the red train vanished. Probably four or five of us took sunshine and the cold breeze and took a walk on the steel rails and wandered in the tunnel.
A coconut vendor approached us. After the fresh coconut water, he pointed in a direction and said, “Go hill. very nice”. But, you must never ignore a local’s recommendation. Regretting, Sahana sat on the parapet with a hurting foot, and I climbed the hill to see the best view of all.
Different viewpoints in Ella to Enjoy the Nine Arch Bridge.
To save the route map, click here. The maps show longer routes; you can walk in the forest along the cliffs to reach those viewpoints. Make sure to wear comfortable footwear.
- Guesthouse – 9 arch jungle inn front yard
2. While going down from our homestay. The route is for non-guests too
3. 3. The bridge itself
4. From the tea tate. You can further go down to the foot of the bridge.
5th, the best of all – From the mountains.
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