Ella is famous for 3 main sites. Ella’s Rock, Little Adam’s Peak and the Demodara Nine Arches Bridge. Although we did not visit the Nine Arches Bridge, I think it is possible and ideal to do all 3 within a day.
If I were to redo my trip, I would do all 3 sights by my own 2 feet and it would be a full walking day for me in Ella. It is possible to get around by tuk-tuk and much faster, but why waste money and the chance the burn some calories?
I did not sleep a wink on my overnight train from Colombo to Ella.
We booked Nice View Homestay on the train the day before. I did not want to reach Ella and not be able to put my bags down! Ishari and her son waited for us at Ella railway station for an hour due to our train delay. We were slated to reach at 6.06am officially but we reached closer to 7am. Her son drove the tuk-tuk and we arrived at the guesthouse without much fuss.
Finally. After a torturous 11h sleeper train ride with no sleep and seats.
If you wish to read up more on my journey from Colombo to Ella, you can read it here. (Links isn’t up yet)
Was i going to sleep in and waste my morning in Ella? No.
It was only 7.30am. The day was young with a sleepy sun, gently spreading its radiance in the cloudless skies. It was a good time to set off for Ella Rock before the sun flexed its muscles.
A quick wash to the face and we were ready.
From Nice View Homestay, it is closer to Ella rock than from the city. Our guesthouse owner Ishari gave us the directions : Just head towards Kita Ella railway. If you stay in the city centre, you will simply walk along the tracks until you hit Kita Ella Railway.
At Kita Ella Railway, it would be easy to get to Ella Rock. Once you are at Kita Railway, there are many trails to Ella Rock. You will get there eventually if you follow the general direction in google maps find your way through the forest.
For those who rely on google maps, you can look at my gps route here : http://www.movescount.com/moves/move176814286.
I prefer to be precise. My instructions to Ella Rock were stored in my phone, using Pocket. There are many websites online proposing how to get to Ella Rock. Most of the websites or bloggers seem to only have very generic information or are only carbon copies of each other.
The best website to follow is this : http://gapyearescape.com/ella-rock-hike-the-best-step-by-step-direct-route/. The instructions are clear, easy to read and easy to follow.
Our first mission was to find the small road that led to Kita Ella Railway.
We walked back and forth past the road a few times and got misled because of miscommunication with the locals. Someone finally guided us to the correct road.
We went downhill towards the train station and within a few minutes, it was Kita Ella railway station.
The Sri Lankan sun was now showing off its full radiance. A trail of tourists decked in their summer clothes moved along the railway track. We were definitely in the right place.
With a smile like the teeth of a shark, an extremely friendly man approached us.
“To Ella Rock?”
“Yes, we wish to get to Ella Rock. Do you know the way?”
“Yes, it is this way.” He pointed to the direction in the opposite direction to the ones the others were going.
“I know a short cut. That way is the wrong way. Here turn left. Follow me.”
He smiled once again.
Ah, I had read about this. I played along with his game. I nodded along, agreed that the others were foolish, going the wrong direction. His way was the best way.
He urged us once again to follow him.
Smiling back, I decided to play for time. We just replied it is okay and that we wished to continue taking pictures.
I started taking my time taking pictures.
Mr “Guide” hovered around in the vicinity while observing us. He was still smiling and waiting for us to follow him.
I continued taking pictures and looking at the directions on the phone. He was definitely leading us another way. It might actually have been a short cut through the forest, but why would I want to risk it?
After seeing we were not moving for some time, he suddenly approached us and told us that the train was coming so we should go in 5 minutes time.
At this point, I laughed in my mind. This was the pressuring trick to try to rush you to make a decision. How would he know the train was coming if he was standing at the same spot all the time?
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he knew the rough timings of the trains and was kindly trying to warn us.
I just nodded silently and looked disinterested with my body language because I was wearing my shades. We slowly moved further away from him and continued taking some obscure pictures. I hope he sensed our discomfort and wariness.
Once I felt ready, I simply followed the instructions on my phone and went the same way as the others down the track. It was definitely the right way.
As we started walking down the track, he followed us behind.
Funny, because if his story held true, he would be going the opposite direction, why would he be following us?
We stopping intermittently to see if he was going to continue walking. All the while he walked presumptuously with us as though he was a guide.
He was more of a stalker actually. It might be an awkward situation if he asked us for a “guiding fee” when we reached Ella Rock.
I started walking faster as I knew the way. We caught up with the other groups of tourists. Seeing that we ignored him, he finally left us and tried to talk to the other tourists.
Some travelers were walking by themselves but they were obviously not prepared. They did not seem to know the way and at times just followed me. Others had guides. I have no idea why one needs a guide for somewhere simple like Ella Rock. They must truly wish to support the local economy. I prefer to think they are just too lazy to have searched for the directions to get there.
After navigating through the houses and farms as per the instructions, we reached the forest.
We walked through the tall trees until we saw a clearing. The trees had provided us some respite from the heat but not from the humidity.
Among the foliage was a peaceful spot with the breeze running by overlooking a valley. It was not Ella Rock, but it was a good place to relax. Ella Rock is going to be crowded looking at how many tourists were ahead of us.
It was such a good spot that the dogs, who doubled up as guides without asking for money followed us to the spot. They ignored the other tourists who tried to get them to follow up to Ella Rock and rolled about lazily in the shade.
We sat there chomping on our biscuits as we enjoyed the cool breeze. It was almost perfect temperature if you are in the shade.
Time passes when you just sit there and do nothing. We might have just slept there like the dogs if not for the fact we haven’t reached Ella Rock. I got up and tried to convince the dogs to follow us. They looked at me hesitantly but refused to lose their favorite resting spot. Nobody was going to stop their morning nap.
Life of a dog is good sometimes.
The rest of the path to Ella Rock was slightly steeper with bigger rocks but nothing too challenging. A quick 20 more minutes and we were there.
How did we know? A giant sign greeted us, along with some wooden logs for resting. There is usually an opportunist selling drinks there. This time the guy was missing, maybe enjoying the view but the water bottles and tea cups were left lying around.
Don’t expect Ella Rock to be anything spectacular. It does have a nice view of the surrounding areas and makes a nice 2 hour hike from Ella. Ella Rock is good for beginners and a good warm-up for the day. I wished we did it earlier so the sun would not be so hot. It would have been good if we could have started at 5am and reached there at 7am.
There was no shade in Ella Rock. It is easy to get sunburned because the wind and temperature makes you forget how scorching the sun is. We took a short break in the sun hoping that we would be recharged by it like rechargeable batteries.
We observed other tourists desperately trying to get their “unique” Ella Rock picture, only to get their pictures spoiled by others with the same intention. Once bored of it, we headed back down to Ella.
From Ella Rock, it was simply retracing our way back to Kita Ella railway station. From there, we simply followed the train tracks back to Ella railway station. It was quite fun to walk along the train tracks with the exception of it starting to get really scorching.
We heard the train from the distance and quickly hopped onto the grass and waited for the train to pass. The train moves at a slow pace so there is enough time to move to the side where the grass is. You wouldn’t want to be in a corner where there isn’t any space to move to.
Despite the train moving at a slow pace, I always feel tense when the train chugs past me with no proper separation except for a few metres and some grass, It feels like a few monster trucks strung together by.
Following the train tracks, we soon reached Ella railway station after 20 minutes.
This useful map which marks all the various points of interests is located at the Ella Railway station.
Ella reminded me of Bali.
Ella is simply a tourist town/village. It gives off a strong beach vibe. Many restaurants and shops catered towards the tourists, mainly the western tourists fill up the main street. The menus are made up mainly of burgers, milkshakes, cocktails and mainly non-local food. Surrounding the town centre and main street are the numerous homestays.
We were there during the off-season and most were empty. Having seen how this place has so much supply, I regretted booking my accommodation beforehand. It would be impossible not to find any place to stay in Ella, even during peak season.
Tired and thirsty, we walked to one of the tourist restaurants and ordered a milkshake. Ah, how great it felt.
It was only 11am. We enjoyed the milkshakes and the shade so much we ordered another round.
The best time to hike was during the morning for sunrise usually, or during the evening for sunset. As Little Adam’s Peak was an easy 1hour hike and nearer to Ella, I preferred to leave it for the evening. If we did Ella Rock for the sunset, we would most likely need to walk in the dark which I did not like.
This meant that we had the whole afternoon free. It was time to get a good hearty lunch. We were about to set off before I noticed it was raining outside, despite the sun still blazing away.
Damn the monsoon season! These random rain moments.
We were not going to walk in the rain, so we sat back down. We still needed to get some lunch as we had not eaten since flying from Singapore. There was no way that my first meal in Sri Lanka would be an overpriced burger, or a dumbed-down local food at 5 times the price in this restaurant. We had to wait for the rain to stop and go somewhere else for lunch.
Giving in to my inner temptation, I ordered a Sri Lankan Beer, Lion Beer. It is a big bottle for me to slowly sip in the afternoon, like summer in Europe.
The rain went on for another 2 hours. Once it slowed to a drizzle, we went to find our lunch. It was 3+ by then. Ishari our guesthouse owner recommended Vimala/Wimala Hotel for us to get local food in the centre. Eateries in Sri Lanka are termed as “Hotels”.
It looked a bit dingy due to the lack of light but there were only locals sitting inside. We ordered 1 set of chicken curry with rice because I wasn’t too hungry. They took the food from the pre-prepared pots. Were the food cooked a day before or were they from the earlier lunch? I hoped the food was hot.
The food portion was way bigger than what we expected. It was slightly salty but delicious, perhaps due to our hunger. Our sides and rice were refillable!
With our desire for local food satisfied, we set off for Little Adam’s Peak.
LITTLE ADAM’S PEAK
Getting to Little Adam’s Peak is really easy. From the train station or the city centre, just make your way to Ella Flower Garden Resort. It is only the main and practically only road in Ella City Centre. From there, just follow the signposts or use google maps to get to Little Adam’s Peak. The journey is around 3km, or 1 hour there by walking.
Water-filled potholes plagued the first 1.5km of the road. There was nothing memorable except wishing for a tuk tuk or motorbike while avoiding vehicles. Clear signpost direct the way to Little Adam’s Peak.
After that, the road becomes a nice and wide sand-road. It is really easy to walk, with views of the surrounding hills and grasslands. The forest was full of greenery and flowers too.
It would have been a really enjoyable walk if not for the loud rumbling thunder and looming dark clouds. The dark clouds were streaming in faster than the Sri Lankan trains. I wouldn’t want to be caught in the rain, let alone lightning. There was no time to enjoy the view which was a pity. We started brisk walking in a race against the clouds. They all seemed to converge at Little Adam’s Peak as though there was a party there.
The last part consisted of a few minute of step-walking. When we reached the top, there was nothing but clouds. Another Singaporean lady who was travelling around was advising her travel partner to stay longer and wait for the clouds to depart, exclaiming how amazing the view was going to be. I could imagine the view in my head or search it on google images. I was not going to stay here longer with lightning and thunder.
We left almost as immediately as we arrived. Luckily for us, the clouds stayed behind with some foolish tourists to party. We still had to walk back the same way to Ella and back to our homestay.
I seriously considered getting a tuk-tuk, after all it was 3km back to Ella and another 2km back to the guesthouse. However, the stubborn me refused to grab a tuk tuk. Why do it when we can walk and burn some calories?
So we trudged back the same boring road to Ella. I thought it was going to be an easy 2km back to the guesthouse, but it was just a uphill. Now, this uphill was a way harder walk than Ella Rock or Little Adam’s Peak.
If you wish to check out my GPS route using my Suunto watch, you can see it here: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move176814281
Why did we choose this guesthouse again? Wasn’t it supposed to be quite close to the city centre? We spent another hour walking of constant uphill back to the guesthouse. Nightfall just arrived when we reached the guesthouse.
We were spent. Ishari was waiting for us and had cooked dinner for us. We quickly ate the Kottu which was prepared, showered and went for an early night. We needed some rest as we have to make our way to Hatton for Adam’s Peak tomorrow.
That concluded our first day in Sri Lanka.
To follow me on my second day to the real Adam’s Peak, please read my post on my journey from Ella – Adam’s Peak. This was done as part of my 1-week itinerary in Sri Lanka. where we explored other areas like Dambulla and Pidurangala, Kandy and the scenic train of Ella. You can also read up on my guide to how to travel Sri Lanka on a budget.
Expenses for 1 day in Ella :
Drinks @ Chill Cafe : 1210 LKR (including 10% service charge)
- Banana Yoghurt : 450 LKR
- Banana Lassie : 290 LKR
- Lion Lager : 360 LKR
1 night Accommodation at Nice View Guesthouse : 32 SGD ( 3700 LKR)
Dinner at homestay : 800 LKR
Lunch at Wimwala Restaurant : 350 LKR for rice with chicken curry.
Total : 6060 LKR / 40 USD for 2 persons.
Therefore, it was only 20 USD per person. Most of the costs were due to the drinks at chill cafe. We could have saved more by getting a cheaper accommodation and by not eating at the guesthouse. You will notice that most of the prices in Ella are slightly higher than other places like Dambulla.
I feel a need to review this guesthouse. Ishari is a really genuine and sincere lady. Her story is quite amazing because she has to take care of her family on top of running and expanding her guesthouse. You can see most of her reviews are positive, on tripadvisor, airbnb, or booking.com and on google maps.
As there are many guesthouses in Ella, booking through a third party platform means that a portion of the money goes there. A good alternative will be to contact her directly. You can check out her website or contact her via email at [email protected] or + 94572050631. This way, you can also negotiate a better price so it works out for both parties.
From the other reviews, you can see that her place is quiet and she has a nice family. There are also two-storey for guestrooms in her house and a nice porch with a “view”. The view is just a a view of some trees and her garden because the house is situated on a slope.
Some might complain about the mould but that to me is a minor issue. She keeps her place reasonably clean. One has to keep in mind that this is one of the cheapest accommodation listed in Ella. The saying goes, you pay for what you get. Objectively speaking, her rooms and her place are really good value for money.
One of the drawbacks for me was the extremely low water pressure for showering for our room.
The one issue which annoyed me was how it was supposed to be “close to city centre” and “walking distance to the centre of Ella”. Everything is relative, but her place is 2km uphill which means at least 45 minutes of walking, even for my speed. It is considered close by tuk-tuk but not exactly what I would call walking distance.
Staying here would most likely mean spending more money on tuk-tuks which isn’t cheap and will add to your expenses. You are also almost forced to eat at the guesthouse for breakfast and dinner because you are too far from any available eateries which are mostly located in the centre.
Therefore, if you are on a budget and backpacking which is most likely the reason why you have chosen Niceview Homestay, it becomes really ironic that it can end up being more expensive than staying elsewhere. So staying somewhere closer to the city centre might be a better idea.
Having said all that, this is NOT a bad review of Niceview Homestay. It wasn’t a bad experience. A homestay is more than just about the rooms, it is about the overall experience with the family. Ishari is really sincere, honest and helpful. She will try her best to make sure you have a good time in Ella.
If you are there for a few days and wish to have some quiet time away from the city, it is the place for you. If you wish to have a good value for money accommodation without soaring expectations, it will be a good experience.
As I am a calculative asshole who always looks to maximize everything I do, I went away feeling as though something was missing, like a buyer’s regret or an emptiness in my soul which needs to be fulfilled. Upon reflection, I realised it was because I felt that with that amount of money spent, I should have been able to get much more in Ella.
This insight became more prevalent after travelling to the other cities because Ella did become our most expensive night in Sri Lanka, by a mile. This is why I came up with some tips for travelling around Sri Lanka on a budget as well as the need to write this.