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What to do in Ella Sri Lanka: 12 Fun Activities

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Are you wondering what to do in Ella, Sri Lanka? Let me help! I first fell in love with Ella during my backpacking trip in 2018, and it instantly became a favorite place of mine on the island. When I returned recently with the Sri Lanka tourism board, the town was as breathtaking as I remembered.

Ella, with its inviting hill town vibe and stunning natural beauty, is perfect for anyone who loves spending time outdoors.

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Ella, Sri Lanka, I’ve got you covered. From peaceful hikes through expansive tea plantations to leisurely walks along Nine Arch Bridge, the small town of Ella offers plenty to fill your days.

Top things to do in Ella Sri Lanka

Hiking in Ella, Sri Lanka

Ella, renowned for its lush landscapes and stunning vistas over lush tea plantations, is a hiker’s paradise. Here are some of the best hikes in Ella.

1. Ella Rock Hike

 sunrise over the mountains on top of Ella rock

Getting up early in Ella has its rewards, especially if you’re up for a sunrise hike to Ella Rock. It’s the perfect time to catch the sky at its clearest and watch the sunrise paint the landscapes with vibrant colors. The trek to the top takes about an hour, making it a feasible morning adventure with breathtaking rewards.

Starting your hike early not only gives you the best views but also beats the heat, which can be intense later in the day. Keep in mind that the climb can be quite steep and challenging, but the effort is well worth it for the stunning panoramic views.

If you’re staying at the Ella Escapade Hostel, you’ll find the trailhead conveniently located just across the road. While the path to Ella Rock can be somewhat tricky to navigate, it’s manageable with some local advice and the occasional signpost. Some hikers opt for a guide, but with a bit of adventure spirit, we were able to go there independently.

2. Hike Little Adam’s Peak Ella

lora Hiking on Little Adam's Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka
Little Adam’s Peak

Little Adam’s Peak offers a more accessible hiking experience in Ella, especially when compared to its namesake, the more arduous Adam’s Peak in Nuwara Eliya. This gentle climb is ideal for those looking to enjoy the natural beauty of Ella without a strenuous trek.

Taking only about 15 minutes to reach the summit, Little Adam’s Peak is a popular choice among visitors and one of the best activities in Ella. The peak features a scenic ridge that extends beyond the main viewpoint, offering plenty of spots for stunning photos and serene moments away from the crowds.

Although I embarked on this hike mid-day and found it delightful, I’ve heard that catching a sunrise here is truly magical, with the early light casting a breathtaking glow over the rolling hills.

3. Lipton’s Seat

lora sitting on a statue of sri lipton while visiting liptons seat. it is a cloudy backdrop.

Lipton’s Seat is a landmark in Ella, deeply rooted in the history of Sri Lanka’s tea industry. This is the very spot where Sir Thomas Lipton, the tea magnate whose name graces one of the most famous tea brands worldwide, used to survey his sprawling tea plantations.

At the summit, not only can you find a statue commemorating Sir Thomas Lipton himself, but there’s also a quaint café where you can sip a cup of tea while soaking in the panoramic views of the lush greenery.

When I visited, the peak was shrouded in clouds, which is quite common given Ella’s capricious weather. However, the skies cleared as we descended, revealing the stunning landscape that makes this hike well worth it. That’s just how things go in Ella.

The journey to Lipton’s Seat is about 7 kilometers, and while not many travelers choose to walk both ways, an enjoyable alternative is to hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you to the top and then enjoy a leisurely stroll back down.

4. Nine Arch Bridge

an aerial shot of nine arch bridge. people are walking on the bridge and it is surrounded by lush green vegetaiton.

Walking along the railway tracks in Ella isn’t just a way to get around—it’s an adventure. The tracks that wind through the town lead to some stunning spots, but none quite as breathtaking as the famous Nine Arch Bridge.

Built in 1921, this bridge is a brilliant showcase of colonial-era construction, made entirely from bricks and cement without any steel.

The bridge, set against lush greenery, is perfect for anyone looking to snap that quintessential Instagram shot. However, it’s become incredibly popular, especially compared to my first visit in 2018. If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds for that perfect photo, an early morning visit is your best bet.

If you’re planning to fly a drone, you’ll need a permit because the noise can disturb the local wildlife, including wasps nesting under the bridge.

For easy access, a round-trip tuk-tuk ride from the main costs about 1,500 rupees. Time your visit right, and you might catch the train passing over the bridge—a truly thrilling sight and a highlight of my latest visit. The train, moving slowly enough, allows for an incredible up-close experience as it rumbles by.

And if you’re on the Calypso Express, you’ll enjoy a brief stop at the bridge. This pause gives everyone a chance to disembark, stretch their legs, and capture some photos of this iconic structure amidst the stunning landscapes of Sri Lanka. It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Ella, so don’t miss this stop!

Waterfalls in Ella

Don’t go listening to TLC, in Ella you can chase beautiful waterfalls until your heart’s content.

5. Ravana Falls

lora standing on a platform looking at a waterfall, next to her is a monkey and below is a dog. she is smiling.

Ravana Falls, one of the most accessible and charming waterfalls, is just a 15-minute drive from the center of Ella. If you’re coming from the South Coast, keep your eyes peeled to the left; the falls are hard to miss.

During my journey back south, we stopped to snap some playful photos from the viewing platform. The local monkeys and dogs hanging around add a whimsical touch to the scene, making it not just beautiful but also lively and fun.

For those who want to experience the waterfall up close, you can walk right up to it. While the rushing water beneath the falls is inviting, swimming here is highly discouraged due to safety concerns, and there are several signs warning visitors of the danger.

6. Diyaluma Falls

aerial shot of Diyaluma falls in Ella, Sri Lanka
Diyaluma falls in Ella, Sri Lanka

For those looking for a memorable adventure in Ella, a trip to Diyaluma Falls is a must. Not only is it the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka, but the journey and destination both offer incredible experiences. The falls are known for their breathtaking series of natural infinity rock pools at the top, perfect for a refreshing swim after a good hike.

The trip starts with about an hour’s drive from Ella, and you can either rent motorbikes or hire a tuk-tuk affordably. Upon arrival, you’ll see the lower falls immediately, but I recommend making the trek to the upper falls to truly experience the magic of Diyaluma.

While you’ll be offered guide services at the base of the falls, it’s completely feasible to navigate the path on your own with some good directions—just like my group did following a guide from the “Walk My World” blog.

The hike up is steep and takes roughly an hour, but the effort is worth it. Reaching the top and swimming in the natural infinity pools is an amazingreward. I went with a group of people from my hostel, and it turned out to be one of the funnest days I had in Ella.

We enjoyed the hike together, shared the excitement of discovering each pool, and relaxed in the water, letting the hours slip by in blissful leisure.

What to do in Ella Sri Lanka Beyond Hiking

7. Ride the train

man looking out the window on a red train going from ella to kandy

Taking the train in Sri Lanka is an absolute must, and Ella is one of the best places to start this iconic journey. The Kandy to Ella train route is famed for being one of the most scenic in the world, offering breathtaking views as you travel through lush landscapes and hillside tea plantations.

The full journey to Kandy takes about seven hours and can be quite the adventure, especially since seats are not always guaranteed. While it’s exhilarating to hang out of the train, capturing those perfect travel shots, doing so for the entire duration might be a bit much for some.

A great alternative is to break up the trip: travel from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, enjoy a few days there, and then continue on to Kandy. This allows you to savor the scenery and explore more of the highlands at a leisurely pace.

For those pressed for time or looking for a shorter excursion, the Calypso Express is a fantastic option. This new tourist train, featuring a wooden viewing platform, runs from Ella to Demodera and back in just 20 minutes.

We took this train on our recent press trip, and while the ride felt a bit rushed, it provided an opportunity to capture some stunning videos and photos. Check it out in the video below!

The Calypso Express offers a delightful taste of this quintessential Sri Lankan experience, making it ideal for those looking to soak in the views in a condensed timeframe.

8. Visit a tea factory

expansive tea fields in sri lanka, aerial shot
Ella Tea Fields

Ella’s rolling hills are a haven for photographers, especially with their vibrant green hues shaped by sprawling tea plantations.

After a scenic ride on the Calypso train from Ella to Demodera, we visited the Demodera Estate, a tea plantation that’s been in operation for over a century and has recently opened its doors for public tours for just 10 USD.

Learning about the tea-making process at Demodera was fascinating. It’s incredible to see the amount of effort and precision that goes into producing different types of tea. The factory we visited churns out an astonishing 30,000 kg of tea daily, amounting to about 1.2 billion kg each year!

But the real highlight for me was joining the tea pickers in the fields. There’s something uniquely calming about being in the midst of endless green, gently plucking tea leaves.

girl holding a tea leaf in ella sri lanka

9. Explore Ella Town

tuk tuk on street in ella sri lanka

Ella is quintessentially a backpacker town – the main street is lined with an array of hostels, restaurants, tour companies, and cozy coffee shops, making it a perfect hub for travelers.

During the day, Ella’s main road transforms with its variety of coffee shops and unique shopping experiences. Barista, a well-loved coffee chain throughout Sri Lanka, offers a great spot to refuel and enjoy a quality brew.

As you wander the streets, you’ll encounter both traditional souvenir shops and charming boutiques. I even found a shirt that quickly became a favorite! Ella’s mix of traditional and modern, combined with its backpacker-friendly vibe, warrants a couple of hours of exploration.

If you’re wondering what to do in Ella at night, there are a few places to hang out. Places like Cafe One Love provide a relaxed, hippie ambiance with comfy lounging areas, hookahs, and cheap cocktails, and they’re open all hours to cater to your schedule. Cafe Chill is also loved by travelers.

10. Learn to cook the local cuisine

taking a cooking class in ella
Private cooking class at Lanka cooking classes

Sri Lankan cuisine is bursting with flavor, making a cooking class an excellent way to delve deeper into the local culture and bring a taste of Sri Lanka back home with you.

Ella has several spots where you can learn to whip up traditional dishes, and my experience with Lanka Cooking Classes was fantastic. Ella Spice Garden also comes highly recommended, but it’s wise to book your spot in advance as these classes tend to fill up quickly.

We had initially planned to join a class on the spur of the moment, only to find that most places were fully booked. Fortunately, Lanka Cooking Classes accommodated us with a private session for our group of seven, which turned into a memorable culinary adventure.

The class was hands-on, teaching us to prepare four different types of curries and roti. Our instructor was engaging, ensuring we were involved in the cooking process from start to finish.

Not only did we learn about the techniques and spices that make Sri Lankan food uniquely delicious, but we also received a recipe book at the end of the class. This meant we could focus on cooking and enjoying the experience without worrying about taking notes.

The highlight, of course, was sitting down to a feast of our own creation. There was so much food that we couldn’t finish it all! It was a wonderful opportunity to bond over the meal we had prepared together and learn more about Sri Lankan life from the owner.

Ella Day Trips

11. Go on an Elephant Safari

lora looking at an elephant in udawale national park
Watching elephants up close on a Udawalawe National Park Safari

Just under two hours from Ella lies Udawalawe National Park, a premier destination for witnessing elephants in their natural habitat. While ideally, you might want to spend a night in Udawalawe to fully embrace the experience, it’s completely feasible to visit on a day trip from Ella if you’re tight on time.

Udawalawe is not directly in Ella, but its proximity makes it a popular day-trip option. Many local tour operators in Ella offer organized excursions to the park, making it easy to plan a seamless adventure. Besides Udawalawe, you can also arrange day tours from Ella to Yala National Park, renowned for its leopard sightings, offering a different kind of wildlife experience.

During my safari in Udawalawe, I was captivated by the majestic male elephants roaming freely. The park is also home to a diverse array of wildlife, including buffalo, a variety of birds, monkeys, and reptiles. Another highlight is the Elephant Transit Home, where orphaned baby elephants are cared for until they can be reintroduced into the wild.

12. Horton Plains National Park

deer in Horton Plains National Park
Friendly deer in Horton Plains National Park

On my journey from Ella towards Kandy, I made a point to stop in Nuwara Eliya, a picturesque town that’s perfectly nestled between the two. My main draw was the famed ‘end of the world’ viewpoint at Horton Plains National Park, an experience that’s easily accessible as a day trip from Ella.

Getting to Horton Plains requires an early start, as the drive from Ella takes about two hours, but the landscapes you see along the way are incredibly scenic and well worth the early morning wake-up. You can also take the train there.

Despite the cloudy weather during my visit, which obscured the iconic view at ‘World’s End’, the park itself was great to hike through. The expansive vistas and the lush greenery make for a peaceful escape into nature.

One of the unexpected joys of my visit was the local wildlife. As soon as we parked our van, a friendly deer approached to greet us. These deer are not just a beautiful sight but are also surprisingly sociable, even coming up to say goodbye as we were leaving!

Helpful Resource: Tourist Information Office in Ella

While exploring Ella, make sure to take advantage of the local tourist information office located next to the train station. This handy resource is invaluable for planning your activities in and around the area.

The staff there are friendly locals, ready to assist with advice on everything from hiking trails to local attractions – and there’s no cost! It’s definitely worth popping into the tourist office to say hi and gather some insider tips to enhance your Ella adventure.

lora walking the railway tracks over nine arch bridge in ella
Walking along the railway tracks in Ella

FAQ: What to do in Ella Sri Lanka

Is Ella Sri Lanka worth visiting?

Absolutely, Ella is worth visiting for its breathtaking views, serene nature trails, and the vibrant local culture that backpackers fall in love with.

How long should I spend in Ella, Sri Lanka?

A stay of two to three days is ideal to explore Ella’s main attractions and enjoy some leisurely hiking.

What is Ella famous for?

Ella is famous for its stunning landscapes, particularly its tea plantations, the Nine Arches Bridge, and scenic hikes like Little Adams Peak.

Is there more to do in Kandy or Ella?

Kandy offers more cultural and historical sites, while Ella is better known for its natural beauty and hiking opportunities.

Can you get the train from Ella to Kandy?

Yes, you can take a train from Ella to Kandy, which is known as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world.

When to visit Ella Sri Lanka?

The best time to visit Ella is between January and April when the weather is dry and sunny, making outdoor activities more enjoyable.

Where to go after Ella Sri Lanka?

After visiting Ella, popular next stops include Yala National Park for wildlife safaris, the beaches of the south coast, or continuing to cultural sites like Kandy or Anuradhapura.

How to get from Ella to Colombo?

The most scenic way to travel from Ella to Colombo is by train, which offers stunning views of the countryside but it’s not direct. Alternatively, you can take a bus or hire a private car for a faster, more direct journey.

Is Ella Worth Visiting?

Absolutely! Ella is a must-visit for anyone who loves nature, hiking, and scenic views.

What to do in Ella when it rains?

Rainy days in Ella are perfect for exploring the local cafes and restaurants, taking a cooking class to learn about Sri Lankan cuisine, or visiting a tea factory to see the tea-making process firsthand.

Where to stay in Ella

Budget: In 2018, I stayed at Ella Escapade Hostel. This is where I spent most of my time in Ella, and although it’s not in the main Town, it has the most amazing atmosphere. As soon as you walk into the place, you feel welcome. It looks out over the train tracks, and you can watch the trains go by during the day. You can walk the train tracks to Ella Town in just half an hour.

Mid-range: Rawana Den is a lovely hotel right in Ella Town.

Luxury: 98 Acres Resort & Spa. This resort is located right next to Little Adam’s Peak. Even if you can’t afford to stay here, you can visit the restaurant which offers great food with a stunning view of Little Adam’s Peak.

Unique: We spent a night at the Ella Jungle Inn, which was quite the experience. The roads are in bad condition, so you have to take a 25-minute truck ride to get there – followed by a cable car (or hike) through the jungle.

The rooms are massive, and you truly are in the middle of the jungle, which means you may have some visitors at night. This place has a lot of potential to be amazing, but it’s still working out some kinks.

Final Thoughts: Things to do Ella Sri Lanka

After spending time in Ella, I can confidently say that this small town packs a big punch. From the exhilarating train rides that weave through the lush landscapes to the peaceful hikes up Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak, Ella has a way of making each moment here feel special.

Ella might be a small dot on the map, but the experiences it offers are vast. If you’re deciding whether to add Ella to your itinerary, my advice is simple: go for it. You’ll find more than just amazing views here—you’ll find a vibrant spirit and adventures that fill your days with joy.

For help planning your Sri Lanka trip, check out my comprehensive Sri Lanka travel guide itinerary.

aerial shot of nine arch bridge with overlay text that says what to do in ella sri lanka


  • Lora Pope

    Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country in the world and pet as many dogs as she can along the way. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled to 70+ countries and six continents solo. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home and enjoys ending each day with sunset and tacos on the beach.

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  1. Shireen says:

    Cooking class sounds brill! How much did it cost you? ?

    • lora says:

      It was $2000 Sri Lanka rupees which is about $11USD. Not bad for a nights entertainment and more food then anyone could eat!

  2. Cat says:

    Hi Lora, gorgeous photos. Love your train tracks one in particular. Totally with you on could have stayed for ages, it was very hard to leave for us too! : ) x

    • lora says:

      Thanks so much! It was such a fun place to play with my drone, although I found out after you aren’t allowed to use them. Luckily I already had the pics haha x