Unless you are already planning a trip to Sri Lanka, there’s a strong chance you won’t have heard of Ella. This tragedy, however, is about to be righted – and not a moment too soon!
Of all the beautiful parts of the world, Ella is a strong contender for first place with its lush, sloping hills and tranquil ambience. Yet, Ella is more than just a beauty queen, it is a literal breath of fresh air.
Located right in the heart of Sri Lanka (in the very inland), the highlands of Ella provide sweet relief from the oppressive heat found along the coast.
In other words, a trip to Ella means a break from being constantly hot and sticky. Believe me when I say you don’t know the meaning of hot and sticky until you’ve experienced the weather on Sri Lanka’s coastline.
So, what exactly is there to do in this highly-praised but little-known region? Well you are about to find out.
It is very rare that the process of getting somewhere constitutes as mind-blowing but the train journey to Ella is unlike anything you will have seen before.
I know what you’re thinking: seven hours on a train sounds like hell. But trust me, once that scenery starts coming into view the hours will melt away
Getting from Kandy to Ella by train takes around seven hours. I know what you’re thinking: seven hours on a train sounds like hell. But trust me, once that scenery starts coming into view the hours will melt away.
Often dubbed one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, the passage from Kandy to Ella by train is filled with staggering vistas. Get your camera ready as you pass vivid green hills, waterfalls, tea plantations and more. This is the kind of scenery that sucks you in and makes a seven hour train journey feel like 45 minutes.
Our tour guides will always have train tickets reserved for you in advance if you choose to travel from Kandy to Ella by train. However, if you happen to be travelling alone make sure you book early or you might end up without a seat. The journey will be drastically less enjoyable if you end up standing for seven hours.
Fancy some hiking in Ella but don’t quite feel up for the challenge of normal-sized Adam’s Peak (Sri Lanka’s holy mountain)? Little Adam’s Peak is the perfect compromise.
It took me – someone of limited physical fitness – around 30 minutes to get to the top and it isn’t too steep an incline so the panting was kept to a minimum. If you’re planning on climbing Ella Rock (coming up next on the list) then Little Adam’s Peak makes for a great warm up and the views aren’t bad either.
Finding the start of the trail is easy as all the locals know where it is, just tell them you’re looking for Little Adam’s Peak and they will point you in the right direction. Once you’re on the right path, the rest is easy.
If Little Adam’s Peak wasn’t enough physical exertion, strap your hiking boots back on and make your way up Ella Rock. This hike is slightly tougher than Little Adam’s Peak but if you have a reasonable level of fitness it can be done within 2 hours – provided you don’t get lost.
I personally love hiking solo because of the freedom it gives you but for Ella Rock I would recommend hiring a guide – you can usually negotiate a price between 1000-1500 rupees (£5 – 7.50 or $6.50 – 10).
The reason I suggest hiring a guide is that there have been numerous cases of tourists hiking the rock without a guide and being misdirected by Google Maps and also by the locals who will then offer to re-direct them in exchange for a lot of money. You really don’t want to ruin your experience by feeling like you’ve been ripped off by a few unfriendly locals.
Once you get to the top of Ella Rock Sri Lanka becomes your kingdom as your uninhibited gaze extends all the way to the horizon. Get here early for the best views. With a guide you will see more than one viewpoint – Google Maps won’t show you all of them.
Ever wanted to feel like a model from a Herbal Essences advert? Well now you can (although perhaps without the fabulously luscious locks).
Ravana Falls is situated around 6km outside of the centre of Ella so you’ll need to rent a scooter or hop in a tuk tuk to get there if you haven’t already booked a tour with one of the many wonderful drivers.
It might not be the most picturesque spot in the country due to it sitting on the edge of a main road and being peppered with litter, but the water is refreshing and it’s fun (and free) to have a quick splash. Be aware, however, that the pool is often full of locals having a bath so don’t expect to have it all to yourself.
It is pretty much impossible to spend any amount of time in Sri Lanka and not fall completely in love with its food – and after all that hiking, you can eat as much as you like guilt-free!
Ella Spice Garden is a small, family-owned business that offers fantastic cooking classes as well as tours through their garden. Once you’ve learned all about the different spices you can put your knowledge to practice by whipping up some authentic Sri Lankan dishes with the help of the teacher.
The best part of the whole experience? You get to eat it all at the end! The class costs 2,500 (£12.50 or $16) rupees per person, including a recipe book that you get to keep, and lasts 2-3 hours.
Everyone I met in Ella agreed that this was one of the highlights of their trip. The cooking instructor was entertaining, the food was delicious and the whole experience was really fun.
Just see the amazing user reviews from TripAdvisor below: