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Ella is a beautiful little town in the hills of Sri Lanka. It’s charming, friendly and literally stunning. Make sure you spend at least a few days here – these are our favourite ideas of what to do in Ella.
Sri Lanka is famous for its tea, trains and hiking – guess where you’ll find all three!? If you’re wondering what to do in Ella that has nothing to do with the above, read this post to find out how to spend your time in the friendly town.
Ella is a great place for solo backpackers, groups, couples and even families (but older children will enjoy the area more than younger ones). It is such a great location that we have included it in our 7 day Sri Lanka itinerary and our insane 5 day Sri Lanka itinerary.
I’d highly recommend taking the time to find out what to do in Ella – you won’t be disappointed!
Read More: How To Backpack Sri Lanka On A Tight Budget!
What To Do In Ella: 15 Unique Ideas!
Everything on my list is within a short tuk-tuk drive from the centre of Ella. You can find hundreds of drivers in town, or you might have even rented your own tuk tuk to drive around!
You don’t have to go very far to enjoy everything that it has to offer. I’ve read plenty of blog posts about what to do in Ella that talk about driving for an hour to see something – in my opinion, that’s not ‘in’ Ella so I haven’t included anything in this list that is further than around 5km away, and that’s only one activity!
What To Do In Ella: Thrill-Seeking!
If you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, then this one is for you!
The Flying Ravana is Sri Lanka’s fastest and longest zipline, whizzing along at 80kph for over 500m.
Get geared up, rent a GoPro 9 or bring your own.
There are obviously some safety restrictions – weight and height limits apply, and you won’t be able to take part if you’re pregnant but you can still watch your travel partner go!
You can’t zip line in tandem but there are two lines so you can whizz along with a friend if you want.
Price: 5000 rupees for adults, 3750 for under 15s (these prices are for foreigners, locals pay 2500 regardless of age)
Length of time needed: 30 minutes but add extra time to walk to the office near the Little Adam’s Peak trailhead
2. Air Rifling
If you’re wondering what to do in Ella that is something a little bit different, this is one of the cool things!. You get 20 shots per session and the safety goggles are included in the price. You’ll get a short safety briefing, and there will be an instructor there to guide you!
The only extra limits on this activity are that you have to be over 6 years old (but the company does have other restrictions on certain types of people taking part so don’t forget to look at those too).
Price: 2250 per person
Length of time needed: No restrictions – finish your 20 shots and you’re done
Fancy dropping down a 35-metre high tower? Then make your way up to the base of Little Adam’s Peak and get geared up! You must be 16 or over to take part and don’t forget to check out the weight requirements too – it’s all for safety reasons so it is important!
You can either buy a mobile phone pouch to keep it safe or use one of the free lockers for your belongings.
You’ll get awesome views of Ella Rock and Ravana Falls as you make your way down the tower.
Price: 3000 rupees for every one
Length of time needed: I would give yourself around 45 minutes for this activity to get set up, prepped and down!
4. ATV Driving
Spend a whole hour (including training) getting to know the thrilling off-road trails in Ella. The adventure junkie in you is going to love bumping across the tracks, safe in the knowledge that your guide is experienced and knowledgable about the area and the drive.
You’ll need a valid driving licence, and the vehicles are designed only for one person so you’ll have to be a confident driver to take part.
You’ll drive around 2.5km in total, along a specific track in the tea fields.
Price: 10000 rupees
Length of time needed: Around 1 hour 30 minutes including registration etc, but be aware that there are specific time slots to do this activity which are 9 am, 10:30 am,12:00 pm, 1:30 pm and 3:00 pm.
Have a go at shooting some arrows in the hills of Ella!
You get 20 arrows included in the price, as well as chest and arm guards for protection. An instructor will brief you on safety, but it’s pretty simple to do and enjoy!
Price: 2250 rupees (both adults and children)
Length of time needed: No restrictions – finish your 20 arrows and you’re done
What To Do In Ella: Adventure Days Out
6. Little Adam’s Peak
One of the best things to do in Ella is a hike up to Little Adam’s Peak.
The mountain is actually named after the much bigger Sri Pada, or Adam’s Peak, which is situated in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Little Adam’s Peak, or Punchi Sri Pada, got its title because the two mountains look pretty similar.
This hike is well worth doing, and it’s best to climb before sunrise or before sunset.
I’d recommend going early in the morning simply because even though there will still be a decent amount of people, I think that most tourists won’t want to get up that early and will go later!
We went for sunrise, and the later it became, the more people turned up. The view still would have been stunning, but it doesn’t compare to a silent sunrise!
It takes about 25 minutes from the centre of town to walk to the base of the trial. If you’re going early, don’t forget to bring a headtorch because the roads aren’t well lit. Follow Google maps (see below) and reach the trailhead.
There are two paths to get to the top of the mountain from here. When you see the huge sign for Little Adam’s Peak and the zipline, you can turn right to follow that path.
Or, keep walking for about 50m until you see the gate on your right. Go through this (if it’s not open then you’ll have to slip through the gap in the corner!) and carry on along the path.
I personally think that the path by the gate is a little easier because it was a gradual incline, whereas the first path was pretty flat for most of the way and then there were a lot of stairs!
They do meet up though after about 5 minutes (at the zipline) so it’s not a huge difference.
There are a few great viewpoints at the peak, so choose your spot and wait for the sun!
After this, you’ll need to keep walking up a mixture of stairs and rocks to reach the top. It’s only another 300m but it can get quite steep so the time it takes depends on your fitness levels! In total, it took us about 30 minutes (this included a few stops to catch our breath!)
The views are breathtaking, so I highly recommend doing this hike.
As you’re at such a high altitude, it’s more than likely that there will be some sort of fog/cloud when you reach the top. This mist moves quickly with the wind, and as you can see, it adds a mystical mood to the scenery.
Price: Free unless you want a guide or to do it as a fun combined tour like this one.
Length of time needed: About 3 hours, including walking from and back to town.
7. Ella Rock
Give yourself a day’s rest, and then prepare yourself for an even bigger hike, all the way to Ella Rock!
This is more challenging, and it takes longer, but the scenic rewards are definitely worth it!
The problem with the route to Ella Rock is that there isn’t really one! There are a few different ways to reach the top, but there aren’t any official markers or signs. If you do see a sign, it’s better to ignore it and keep following your own plan because some of the locals have been known to create fake signs or move them, so that you get lost, ask for directions and then pay them to be your guide!
We took a tuk-tuk to Kithalella train station and began our walk from there.
We weren’t exactly sure where to go, and a lady began helping us and leading the way. We quickly realised she was going to take us all the way to Ella Rock and then ask for payment for being a guide. If that’s something that you want, then agree on a price beforehand. She asked for 3000 rupees.
You can book a guide before you arrive so that you don’t have to worry about finding someone you trust to take you the right way, and the journey to the station and back is already included in the price.
Watch the video at the top of this post for visual instructions on how to get to the top of Ella Rock!
Personally, I wouldn’t want to climb to Ella Rock in the dark, especially without a guide. It’s steep in places, easy to get lost and a little bit too remote for my liking without any phone signal! If something bad happened up here, you’d have to wait for another hiker to come and help you and even then, it would take a while for them to go back and call any emergency services.
If you definitely want to climb Ella Rock at sunrise, go with a guide who knows the area and has hiked the trail before.
However, I also don’t recommend going in the middle of the day as you will get overly hot and dehydrated – it’s very humid up here, so you’ll find it more difficult to climb than you usually would!
There are a few stalls at the top, selling fresh coconuts – absolutely ideal when you’ve climbed all that way!
Price: Free unless you want a guide or you want to combine climbing Ella Rock with Adam’s Peak and visiting Nine Arch Bridge like on this tour
Length of time needed: 3 – 4 hours from Kithaella Station (take snacks up with you and enjoy a scenic breakfast at the top!)
8. Nine Arch Bridge
This is one of the most iconic spots in Ella to visit – I bet you’ve seen it on Instagram!
It’s a pretty view, and it’s fun to watch the train go past as all of the passengers go crazy and wave!
Here are some tips to make the most of your visit:
- Ask a tuk-tuk driver to take you to Nine Arch Bridge there and wait for you. This should cost no more than around 750 – 800 rupees but make sure you agree on a price beforehand. Don’t spend too long there either if you’ve asked the driver to wait for you – 30 minutes is enough to get some pretty pictures, watch the train ride past and grab a refreshing ice cream from one of the stalls on the way back!
- You might want to be there for when a train goes past but the train schedules aren’t always reliable, so don’t be too disheartened if nothing has gone by and you need to leave.
- The climb down to the viewpoint doesn’t take long – less than 5 minutes – but wear proper shoes as the path can be uneven and quite steep.
Price: Free if you want to walk there or 800 rupees in a tuk-tuk. You could also join a group tour to see it – check it out here.
9. Cycling Tour of Ella
The surrounding area of Ella is truly beautiful, so cycling through the tea plantations and past waterfalls to visit the popular tourist attractions is a great day out.
Water and local snacks are included in the price, and you’ll get picked up from the main street.
Spend around 5 hours cycling through the pretty landscapes, and taking in the incredible views.
- Tour Duration: 5 hours
- Pickup Included: Yes
- Lunch Included: No
- Start Time: 8 am
What To Do In Ella: Cultural Experiences
10. Tea Factory Tour
I mean, you’re in tea country in Sri Lanka – you CAN’T miss a tea factory tour! It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Ella! Even if you don’t drink tea, it’s a fun way to spend a morning, learning about all of the intricate processes that go into an everyday cuppa.
Upstairs, you’ll find a little cafe and shop, which is where you pay for your tour.
Be aware that the tea factory isn’t in full operation every day. It’s usually open on weekdays, but you could call ahead on the day or week you want to go to check.
When we went, it wasn’t in operation but we were still able to go on a tour and learn about how the tea is picked, rolled, dried and packed. There is a very knowledgeable guide ready to talk about his tea passion. I didn’t know so much went into the tea-making process, and we were impressed with the guide’s knowledge of the chemistry behind it.
There is a guard at the entrance, but they’ll just tell you where to go – you don’t have to pay to enter the building, just for the tour.
After your tour, you’ll have a short tea-tasting session, using everything you’ve just learnt about the tea to distinguish between the different types and flavours.
You can then buy a cup and sit on the veranda taking in the gorgeous scenery.
The shop sells lots of different types of tea, including different fruit flavours in pretty packaging, so they’d make a great souvenir or gift for a tea lover at home.
If you need them, there are toilets on the ground floor. Walk straight ahead from the entrance and turn left at the furthest building.
Find a tuk-tuk in town and ask them to take you to the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory. They’ll know where to go. Remember to agree to a price before you set off. A fair amount is around 700 – 800 rupees, or you can pay more and ask them to wait for you whilst you have your tour, and then they’ll take you back.
Price: 600 rupees per person
Length of time needed: 1 hour (around 30 minutes for the tour and then 30 minutes for tea tasting, shopping and taking in the beautiful views)
11. Cooking Class
This is definitely an activity not to miss in Sri Lanka! Ella is a great place to learn how to cook Sri Lankan food as there are plenty of restaurants and guesthouses to choose from.
Usually, these lessons are run by a local from their own kitchen, rather than a professional cook. Don’t let that put you off though – you’re getting lessons from someone who makes authentic homecooked Sri Lankan food daily, so you know it’s going to be good!
Sit down afterwards and enjoy a delicious meal with your classmates and teacher!
- Tour Duration: 4 hours
- Pickup Included: Yes
- Lunch Included: Yes
- Start Time: 9 am
12. Temple Visit
Just a 15-minute drive from Ella lies the popular Dhowa Rock Temple.
It was built over 2000 years ago and is famous for its unfinished sculpture of Buddha carved into the rock.
You might be asked to pay a small donation (around 100 rupees) but it’s worth it if you’re into history and learning about the local culture!
There are a few other temples in Ella that you can go and visit too if you wanted to see a variety of places:
- Ella Temple
- Sri Sumanarama Viharaya
- Ravana Ella Temple
- Vipassana Bhavana Arana
- Sri Vivekaramaya Buddhist Temple
- Yahalamadiththa Rajamaha Viharaya
What To Do In Ella: Relaxing Activities
13. Explore Ella Town
I’d definitely recommend spending an afternoon wandering down the main street of Ella town!
As well as all of your standard supermarkets and scooter rentals, there are some really cool shops to explore – you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Here are some places not to miss:
- I Love Ceylon – vintage poster/postcard shop
- Slow Days – boutique clothing shop
- Chill Bay – cute souvenir shop
- Ceylon Tea Centre – tea shop where you can try and buy different flavoured teas
Ella is not a huge place but there is plenty to do to keep yourself entertained.
14. Ravana Falls
This is another beautiful place to go and visit in Ella.
Go early – it gets very busy throughout the day so I’d avoid visiting after around 8 am!
There are a few stalls in the area, selling fruit, souvenirs and drinks, but it’s only a short drive from Ella town so don’t feel like they are your only option.
There are plenty of safety signs telling you NOT to swim in the water. Some people choose to ignore these, and we saw some swimmers but the falls are fast so I wouldn’t recommend it.
15. Eat Out!
For a small town, Ella really does have some amazing places to eat! As there are so many backpackers and tourists who travel here, there are lots of places serving western-style food as well as traditional Sri Lanka dishes.
Here are our top recommendations + dishes!
- Chill Cafe – poutine│burgers
- Ice Cube – burgers│creamy pasta│cocktails
- Cafe UFO – fish tacos│arrack cocktails
- Raha Ella – Sri Lankan rice + curry
- 360 Ella – masala dosa
Don’t be tempted to go in the first place you see – walk around, look through the menus and take a sneaky peek at other’s people food if you can!
Don’t visit Sri Lanka without taking a massage somewhere! In Ella, there are a few great spa places, where you can pick from a huge variety of massages and treatments.
Most places offer Ayurvedic massages (a type of massage based on relaxation and stress relief) but you’ll also find steam baths, face packs and more.
Expect to pay around 4500 – 5000 rupees for an hour’s full body massage, 3500 for a neck and back and 2500 for a head massage.
Here are a few top recommendations for places to try a massage in Ella:
- Ella Suwsetha Piyasa & Spa
- Nature’s Spa Ella
- Hela Osu Suwapiyasa
Where To Go In Ella For Accommodation
You have SO many options for accommodation in Ella. Even though Ella is small, you can find everything from super luxury hotels, friendly backpacker hostels or local guesthouses and even a few campsites if that’s your thing!
A short walk or tuk-tuk journey away from the train station, Tunnel Gap Homestay is the perfect place in Ella if you want good, home cooked food, comfortable beds and hosts that will treat you like family! What else could you want?!
This is the place to be if you’re looking for chilled but social accommodation! It’s a fantastic price and you even get breakfast included too. The location is great for exploring the local hikes but near enough to the town centre as well.
Stay here for an exceptional view of the mountains, an amazing breakfast that’s included in the price and great staff who will always go out of their way to make sure you have the perfect stay.
Sometimes you just want to get close to nature, and camping is the obvious way to do that! The tents here are basic but the beds are comfortable, and you can spend all day here relaxing, talking to the staff and other guests. In the evening, there’s a campfire too!
Have we answered your questions about what to do in Ella? We recommend spending at least 4 – 5 days here to fully enjoy the town without being too rushed! If you do still have any questions about an activity, ask us in the comments!