Tucked away in the densely forested highlands of Sri Lanka, Ella is a dreamy countryside retreat. Waterfalls gush into placid pools, tea plantations work their way up the hills and rail bridges cut through its peaks to provide one of the most scenic train rides you’ll ever go on. Its main draw is the hiking – its trails can take you up to summits above the clouds and to panoramic sunset viewpoints. At its heart, there’s a chilled village that fuses traditional Sri Lankan culture with cosy cafés and relaxed bars.
You can enjoy the area's tropical landscapes in an Ella hostel with stays in a traditional Sri Lankan hut underneath mesmerising starry skies, or nestled within the forest in a tent. You’ll also find jungle-style huts which have balconies overlooking the canopies, as well as hipster hangouts with art-filled walls and cool communal spaces. Check out hostels in Ella with yoga classes, cooking lessons, themed nights and freshly cooked local dishes. You can keep your online life updated too, as most Ella hostels have free Wi-Fi.
Ella’s main town is compact and easy enough to walk around. Most of its shops and restaurants are based along its main street. At the northern end, you’ll find the town’s train station and a number of relaxed bars, as well as a Bob Marley-themed café. The town is flanked by towering mountains on either side, providing lush scenery everywhere you look. Ella Rock, one of the highest peaks, takes around 4 hours to hike.
One of Ella’s most iconic sights is the Nine Arch Bridge. Weaving its way through the thickly wooded hills, the 1920s bridge is impressive to look at, both from the surrounding hills and the bridge itself. Love challenging hikes? Head up Adam’s Peak overnight and watch the sunrise from its summit. For an easier trek, scale its smaller sibling, Little Adam’s Peak, which takes 2 hours and passes through tea plantations. There’s also the Diyaluma Falls walk. It starts from Poonagala village and takes you to Sri Lanka's second tallest waterfall with pools for basking.
The train to Ella passes through lush hillside scenery. From Haputale and Badulla, the journey takes about an hour. From Colombo, it’s 9 hours. There’s also a bus service which connects up to Wellawaya and beyond. The easiest way to get around is on foot, but there are also tuk-tuks available if you need a lift somewhere.