How-to: Ella in Two Days 0 344

How-to: Ella in Two Days 0 345

Once a sleepy mountain town, now a buzzing hive of activity and adventure – Ella has become one of Sri Lanka’s hottest destinations for travellers from all over the world.

Most opt to reach Ella by train – and rightfully so. The railway through our hills is often touted as one of the most scenic in the world. However, tickets are not always easy to score – and neither are seats, especially if you hop on from Colombo. In addition, the train ride (while beautiful) takes up nearly half a day, which feels like centuries if you’re on a tight schedule! But if you’re strapped for time, and you’ve landed in Colombo knowing you can’t leave Sri Lanka without seeing Ella, we can tell you how to pull it off in just two days!

Day 01

Getting to Ella

First things first, opt for an overnight bus ride from Colombo to save time. Superline offers comfortable buses and an online booking service too. Just pay online, get your eTicket via SMS, and show up at the Private Bus Stand in Pettah about 20 minutes prior to boarding. There are two buses that leave daily from Colombo to Badulla and Passara in the mountains, leaving at 10:00 PM and 11:00 PM respectively.

Book a ticket for Bandarawela, where you should arrive at between 3 and 4 AM depending on which bus you choose. From here, hop into a three-wheeler waiting by the bus stand and negotiate a fare to your accommodation in Ella.  The price should be in the range of LKR 700 if you stay in the heart of town. Yoho Rock View Guest House is a great option in this regard, not only because of its location but also for its charm as a former bungalow of a Scottish tea planter.

Sunrise at Little Adam’s Peak

Little Adam's Peak

If you have the energy after the bus ride, make your way up to Little Adam’s Peak for sunrise between 5:45 AM and 6:30 AM. At a height of 1,141 meters, the hike takes approximately an hour, and is an ascent that is nowhere near as strenuous as its original namesake – but the views are just as spectacular. Just hope for a clear day, and carry a flashlight when you start your hike in the dark! In the event that you can’t make it for sunrise, you can always make your way up Little Adam’s Peak later in the day or even opt for an alternative hike up Ella Rock.

All about Ravana

Later, head back to your accommodation for a well-earned breakfast. You can then choose to catch up on sleep or get back on your feet to discover the folklore of the area – starting with Ella’s resident cascade, Ravana Falls. Standing at 25 meters tall, the waterfall gets its name from the mythical Sri Lankan King Ravana, made famous by the ancient Hindu Epic of the Ramayana. The rocks here are slippery, but you can clamber to the upper levels of the fall, where you will find a safe base pool for swimming. Fair warning – it can get super crowded on weekends!

Ravana is associated with this attraction because legend has it that he hid the kidnapped Princess Sita in the caves behind this waterfall. One such cave is still accessible and is predictably known as Ravana’s Cave. Located closer to the Ella Town, the cave is accessed via an undulating half-hour hike through upcountry forests. The cave itself may seem underwhelming at first but is of great significance historically. The Department of Archaeology found evidence of human habitation here dating back 25,000 years!

When you return to Ella town, make plans for an early dinner so you can get an early start the next day. A number of popular restaurants and cafes have opened up in recent years including (but not limited to) Café Chill, Dream Café and In Reincarnation.

Day 02

The Instagram-Famous Nine Arches Bridge

Your final day in Ella is reserved for stunning scenery, starting with the Nine Arches Bridge. Not a day goes by in Sri Lanka without seeing this bridge on Instagram – and with good reason. An architectural marvel, the Nine Arches Bridge was commissioned in 1931 and stands at almost 100 feet tall. And that’s not all – the bridge is built entirely out of rocks, bricks and cement due to a shortage of steel that was used for World War 2 at the time of construction.

#YohoTip: Check the train schedules between Ella and Demodara when you plan your visit, so you can get that Instagram shot of a train crossing the bridge!

Dunhinda Falls

Dunhinda Falls
Dunhinda Falls

The last stop on this whirlwind adventure is a bit of a detour, but well worth it. Instead of heading back towards Colombo, we suggest heading to the provincial capital of Badulla. A mere 15-minute drive from the town takes you to the entrance of Dunhinda Falls. After a 45-minute stroll through a colourful shopping arcade followed by a trek on the side of a mountain, you will arrive at a landing that gives you a clear view of the waterfall. You’ll hear the roaring waterfall long before you see it, but when you do – the 64-meter high cascade will be crashing down at great speed, creating a mist-like vapour which gives Dunhinda its name. To explain, ‘dun’ in Sinhala means smoke or mist.

#YohoTip: If you’re willing to brave the afternoon sun, visit Dunhinda Falls right after lunch. The sun will be shining over the vapour to create a rainbow!

That concludes your two-day trip to Ella, complete with hikes, waterfalls, history and legends. Regardless of whether you plan on returning to Colombo or continuing to a new destination, the Badulla Bus Stand will have plenty of options to get you on your way. And if you plan on staying in the hills, we’ve got you covered in nearby towns such as Bandarawela, Ella, and even Haputale!

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