Before arriving in Sri Lanka I had read a lot about Ella; backpackers paradise, the hikers dream, beautiful green rolling hills covered in jungle and tea plantations. I knew there was plenty to see and do. My guest house, La Ciel Ella was perfect, simple, out the way and had fantastic views of the Ella Gap; When I arrived the owner took me to my room which had a cute little veranda with table and chairs overlooking the valley. He spoke next to no English but with his best attempt pointed in one direction “Nine Arch Bridge”, another “Little Adam’s Peak” and yet another “Ella Rock”, smiling broadly he nodded and walked off. I suddenly felt a little bit daunted; here I was in this seemingly small town and I felt absolutely clueless how to get from one place to the next. I needed to figure things out…
Luckily with the Internet at our finger tips literally anything is possible; the phone ap. maps.me is awesome, you can download the map of an area and then you don’t need to use your phone data to navigate your way around, using that along with Google Maps you can find practically anything. After checking out some other traveller’s Blogs for more specific information I soon had a confidence boost and knew I would be good to go.
Nine Arch Bridge
I’d seen the photos on Instagram and read about the iconic bridge in my guide book. The Nine Arch Bridge is exactly what its name suggests; a large stone bridge which cuts across a lush valley. The easiest way to get there is to walk along the train tracks from Ella train station to the right in the direction of Demodara train station for approximately 40 minutes. I actually went the long way around and walked from the roads past the tea factory and approached the Nine Arch Bridge from the opposite direction, it’s a beautiful scenic route but is notably longer. From here you drop down onto the tracks and walk about 10 minutes before you round the corner where you can see the Nine Arch Bridge. Having grown up in England and knowing how you should “Never play on the train tracks” it felt rather wrong and mischievous to now be walking purposefully along the tracks!
The bridge was dotted with locals and tourists alike all snapping photos and posing for selfies. Thanks to the internet this location in the middle of nowhere has become a well known tourist hot spot. That aside it is a beautiful charming place, which personally is picture perfect when looked at with your back to the tunnel. I sat for a while on the edge of the bridge chatting to fellow tourists as we waited for the train from Ella to trundle on past us. After some time you could hear shrieks from the tunnel as people ran out, shortly followed by the whistle of the famous blue express train. The locals and tourists had now cleared from the bridge and were all vying for the perfect spot to photograph the train as it passed over the Nine Arch Bridge. The passengers were leaning out the windows and open doors waving frantically to the strangers as they passed by on their journey.
Little Adam’s Peak
My whole Little Adam’s Peak experience was probably my favourite; incredible views of the lush Ella landscape the whole way and even more stunning panoramic views once you reach the top! The trek is an easy one and not at all strenuous and with the help of the maps.me ap. you can easily navigate your way from anywhere in Ella. Despite the Peak’s name; Little Adam’s Peak stands proud at 1141m, it is named after the sacred Adams Peak (where the foot print of Lord Buddha is preserved) for the similarity between the two mountains. Starting the trek early in the day is recommended so you experience the best views before the clouds roll in. Once you have reached the top allow yourself time to sit and appreciate what lies before you…
From Little Adam’s Peak you stare out on to Ella Rock, standing proud jutting up into the clouds, sides covered with dense forest. The journey to reach the top is long, strenuous and a little bit of a maze. The day before I would embark on this trek I chatted to a German traveller who earlier in the day had completed the Ella adventure. He warned me against listening to any locals whom I met along the way and explained that they would send you in the wrong direction only to later ask for money to send you finally on the correct path! He told me of a traveller’s blog which explained the correct path to take. I did my homework the night before and it didn’t let me down.
Once again you feel like a naughty child as you climb on to the train tracks to walk 40 minutes along the tracks in the opposite direction to the Nine Arch Bridge. With no shade to talk of along the tracks the heat was pretty punishing, with my cap pulled down to shield the sun off my face I marched on.
- 40-minutes march along the train tracks.
- Before marker 166 1/4 you’ll take a left turn down an orange dirt track that veers sharply almost going back on yourself. There was a blue painted arrow on the rock but the locals have cemented over it.
- Walk along the narrow track and over the footbridge that goes over a rocky stream.
- You’ll see tall termite mounds, follow these to the left.
- At the end of here you’ll reach a fork in the path where the long grass starts. Turn right.
- At the next fork in the track take the left turn.
- Keep on going until you reach an opening and you’ll see a wooden cafe hut in front of you. Take the path to the right of the cafe.
- From here you shouldn’t be able to get lost – follow the track into the forest and start the demanding and slow climb up, up and up! The time to climb is dependant on fitness levels but approximately 45-minutes.
Once at the summit you can congratulate yourself on having navigated your way to the top of Ella Rock, sit back and enjoy the views which hopefully aren’t masked by the low hanging clouds.
Ravana Falls & Cave
I journeyed into Ella from the south and therefore passed by Ravana Falls on my drive in. The falls would have been impossible to miss with the cars, minibuses and tuk-tuks parked up around the mountain side bend in the road. The falls were swarming with the locals who were apparently bathing in the pools of the falls, bar of soap in hand as they rubbed their bodies over. There were no travellers taking a dip but the odd disappointed one sitting on the rocks looking rather put out at the washing session that was taking place before their eyes! If you don’t fancy joining in on the cultural cleaning experience there is a local restaurant just across the road where you can grab a plate of curry and look across the stunning valley views. If you look closely you’ll be sure to see monkeys swinging from the branches below you.
Only a short tuk-tuk ride from the Falls you can visit the Ravana Caves. There is a little ticket office on the road where for the grand price of 150 Sri Lankan Rupees (English – 70p) you will be allowed to enter through the gate to access the steps that will lead you towards the cave. The cave is set 1,370 m (4,490 ft) above sea level on the foundation of a cliff and according to history the cave was used by King Ravana to hide the Princess Sita. For us travellers to reach the cave entrance we have 700 steps to negotiate and let me tell you by the time you’ve reached the top you’ve more than broken out into a little sweat! There isn’t particularly a lot to see once you are up there but at various stages of the climb you are rewarded with beautiful views across Ella.
When travelling throughout Sri Lanka Ella really is a must see and should be on any travellers list of places to visit whatever your age. I stayed in Ella for 3 nights but wished I had allowed myself longer to enjoy the natural wonders that this diamond has to offer…