We spent three nights in Ella and, frankly speaking, I don’t completely share the excitement of other travelers calling Ella a sweet, cozy village. Ella definitely has its charm, but it is not a small and quiet as many people say. Ella is overflown with tourists, touristic shops and restaurants, the traffic is heavy and so is pollution. However, Ella is a convenient staging post between the Hill Country (countless tea plantations, lively waterfalls, Adam’s Peak) and the south and east coasts.
On our first day we visited the Uva Halpewatte tea factory – from Ella it costs around 500 rupees with a taxi to the foot of the hill. Afterwards we hiked about 1,7 km hiking through the picturesque tea plantations and reached the tea factory within 40 minutes. Unfortunately, the factory was closed and only the tea-shop was open. Make a mental note that if you would like to go on an excursion, you have to check the opening hours more carefully. In the factory shop mostly black teas are sold, so we preferred to buy some local tea at the shops in the town.
If you are only one day in Ella (or more, but you were lazy the first days), there is a good news for you: you can manage visiting the most prominent sights: the Ella Rock, the Little Adam’s Peak and the 9 Arch Bridge during one full day! We even allowed ourselves to sleep until nine, then to have a breakfast and only then started the tour.
From the place where we stayed, a bit outside of the city, it took us two hours and 7,2 km to reach the top of the Ella Rock. Only the last 45 minutes of the hike are harsh – you basically climb over the roots of the trees through the eucalyptus forest. Nevertheless, little children and elderly people also make it to the top easily. The track can be partly slippery and wet, so non-slippery, stable shoes are a must. However, we were overtaken by the locals running in, attention, flip-flops!
We were pondering if we had to start the tour earlier: probably it makes sense in terms of the better view – when we arrived at the top of the Ella Rock around noon it was pretty foggy. By the way, about 30 minutes before the top there is a small cafe serving you freshly squeezed juices for 200 rupees only!
We were also told that the locals sometimes try to delude you and show you the wrong way in order to help you getting to the right one for money (not big money, about 500, but still). Our advice would be to check the hike route in advance and to follow it without being confused by anyone. We found a very detailed description here: https://www.atlasandboots.com/ella-rock-how-to-hike-it-yourself/ and followed it carefully and successfully.
On the way back, we had lunch at the N2 restaurant and continued to the Little Adam’s Peak. From the main street, it’s about 30-minute walk and the last 5-10 minutes you have climb the stairs.
When we were there, a dog family with two cutest puppies was living there. Not sure how did they make it to the top, but the puppies were not a lesser attraction than the beautiful view to the hilled tea plantations.
From the Little Adam’s Peak, it’s very close to the 9 Arch Bridge. If you are well organized, you can even check the train timetable and be there when a train supposedly pass by. However, the trains are often delayed and we didn’t have any luck unfortunately.
Talking about things to do in Ella, cooking classes are in great request. The price starts from 1200 rupees per person and includes a dinner. As it gets dark pretty early, these cooking classes are a popular thing to do in the evening.
In Ella, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants, which serve very decent local food. Many of them could even be called hip, for example, the beloved by travelers Chill Café. Their freshly squeezed passion fruit juice is delicious. We also tried the deviled chicken, which was promised to be cooked medium-spicy, but it turned out to be really deviled – very hot! The prices are a bit more expensive than in other places, but the atmosphere and the ambiance is very pleasant.
Ak Ristoro is another modern and pretty cool place for a dinner. If you go there after the sunset, it’s better to make a reservation. Deviled fish and chicken are not as spicy as in the Chill restaurant and the prices are slightly lower – about 600-700 rupees for a main. We managed to get in all five of us without a reservation and ordered staff strictly in the drinks-tapas-mains order. The average check here is about 1800 rupees pp.
We were actually happy that we chose Ella a place to spend the New Year Eve. After having pre-drinks with two lovely ladies from the Netherlands (we were afraid that after midnight no alcohol will be served in the public places), we headed to the Dream cafe for a dinner and to the Chill cafe for party, which was cool and positively crowded!