Why Visit the town of Ella?
Ella is a special and small mountain town located in the central region of Sri Lanka. For obvious reasons, this town is on most backpackers (or anyone who’s anyone) travel route when they visit Sri Lanka. In addition to the relaxed vibe, they come for the hiking, Ella’s Rock being a popular spot.
The town is perfectly quaint with a laid-back mountain-hikey vibe to it. Being from New England, I felt it had the feel of a small Vermont town. Downtown has a bunch of cool shops and a ton of hip restaurants.
The food is also delicious. However, because their are a lot of restaurants it’s easy to caught up eating in westernized places. I recommend sticking to the Sri Lankan owned restaurant and you’ll be extremely satisfied [Read more about our food experiences in Ella here].
Hiking in Ella (Ella’s Rock)
Since you are surrounded by hills and tea plantations, there is always something to discover. Nearly all the tourists I saw walking the streets, downtown or train tracks wore hiking boots and spandex.
With Ella’s perfectly cool climate and nearby mountains, you should get outside and explore.
There are two big hikes in Ella: Ella’s Rock and Little Adams Peak. Unfortunately, due to some rain we didn’t get a chance to do both hikes. However, we had a great time hiking Ella’s Rock.
Need to know before the hike
It is quite a demanding walk to the peak, but naturally views are worth it. If you start in town it may take you 3-4hrs round trip depending on your pace.
Nearly 75% of Ella’s peak is easy. Most of the time you’ll be at a slow incline. However, the last 25% (or 20-30min hiking) is a steep incline.
In addition, it’s important to note that lots of hikers walk up with a guide. Our hotel owner told us a lot of travelers get lost going up and suggested hiring a local guide. Since we are adventurers, we skipped the guide and found it ourselves [guide costs approximately 1,500 slr].
Also, if you want to see less tourists and have a gorgeous sunrise all to yourself wake up early. My recommendation is leaving at 4:30 or 5am.
Since Ella is known for having an afternoon rain shower I don’t suggesting leaving too late. If it rains, the rocks will be slippery (especially going down). We left at 10am and got caught in the rain for 5-10min on the hike down and we had to go slow because it was very slippery!
Hiking to the top of Ella’s Rock (photo directions)
Step 1: walk along the train tracks for about 45min (pick up a local guide dog)
Step 2: Continue pass the train station and the Sri Lankan’s directing your way. They’re probably guiding you through to go in the direction to get you to buy something or hire a guide, so I recommend keep walking and follow these directions instead.
Step 3: Right after you see a sign for 166 1/2, but before the 166 1/4 sign, turn a hard left down the path
Step 4: Walk past the rice paddies, past a river, and cross a bridge. Take a left up a path and enter into tea plantation territory and dandelion fields.
Step 5: Go through tall trees, gorgeous views, and pass a small hut selling coffee, snacks, and Sri Lankan food. Keep going up!
Step 6: nearly there! Keep going!
Here’s a short clip of our short trek:
I absolutely loved hiking Ella’s Rock. The top was crowded with people taking selfies once we reached the peak, but the climb itself was nearly empty.
If we did it again we would leave early at 5am (or 4:30am) to reach the peak for sunrise. I definitely recommend wearing good shoes, bringing a raincoat, sunscreen, a hat, and a few snacks.
If you’re feeling really bold their is a great spot at the top to put your camping tent!