Sri Lanka: Ella

On the most beautiful railroad in the world

On our way from Hatton to Ella, it got colder and colder with every minute. The train passed tea plantations, tunnels, and dense forests. As the train was so crowded, we were standing at the open doors during the whole journey. If all the pictures on social media tell the truth, this is the ultimate way to travel by train, isn’t it? 

The railroad from Hatton to Ella is stunning

Arriving in Ella, almost everyone got out of the train. We had trouble finding our way out of the station, because of all the people and backpacks around us. Standing in drizzling rain, we expected the worst… 

In front of the station, tuk-tuks were already waiting for customers. Despite the rain, we decided to go the short way to our homestay by foot.  

Ella is a relatively small town with a long main street. Jim remembered quite well how this town looked like three years ago. There weren’t that many clubs and restaurants back then. Additionally, there are many bigger and more luxurious hotels now. You’ve got it: way too many people for this small, charming town. 

Ella is a small mountain town well-known among tourists

Recovery and delicious curry at the “Nimsara Homestay”

When we were almost at our homestay, it started raining as hell. We passed bars, tuk-tuks, busses, and spa-studios, before reaching our accommodation far away from the crowds. It was a tough way, especially after climbing the Adam’s Peak the same day. The “Nimsara Homestay” is located on a hill, with a very nice view – well, three years ago. Today, there are large concrete-buildings in front of all the charming homestays, blocking the endless view. Not only for their guests, but also for the locals these circumstances result in a significant loss of liveability.  

The road from Nimsara Homestay down to the main road

Despite all the tourists, we enjoyed Ella a lot. First of all, because of the delicious food we were offered in our homestay. Every morning and every evening they served us a variety of vegetable curries containing things we’d never heard of before. We’d got curry with pumpkin, banana, jackfruit, tomato, ladyfinger, and always spiced with the best curry, chili, and garlic. We ate more than we could and recovered well from our Adam’s Peak experience. 

Sri Lankan breakfast in all its vegan glory at the Nimsara Homestay

The Little Adam’s Peak

Apropos Adam’s Peak: we might not have had enough, so we decided to climb the Little Adam’s Peak in Ella, too. Compared to his big brother, this mountain has a lot less steps, but the view from up there was similar stunning. So, we’ve got another nice sunrise at a dizzy height.  

From the peak of Little Adam's Peak you look at the neighbouring Ella Rock

The way back to our homestay was painful and every muscle hurt. Especially climbing down the stairs was horrible and we decided not to make any more step this day (well, anyone who knows Jim could imagine that this was not the case…). 

The tea plantations and factories of Ella

When you are in Ella, don’t miss to make a trip through all the amazing tea plantations extending everywhere around the town. You can also visit several tea factories, where the freshly harvested tea leaves are processed. We visited two factories (Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory and Newburgh Tea Factory), but without participating in a guided tour. In Newburgh we enjoyed a cup of freshly brewed tea and bought some packages later. This Sri Lankan tea is not comparable with the imported “Ceylon” tea you can buy in Europe, price- and taste-wise. 

View of the Newburgh Tea Factory from the Little Adam's Peak

The Nine Arch Bridge – many people, not so many trains

Another sight in Ella is the so called Nine Arch Bridge. With its nine arches the rail bridge is a well-preserved building from the colonial era and now a tourist magnet. When you visit this place, you also visit the crowds of people waiting for a train with their selfie-sticks. We really love the composition of the bridge and the tea plantations around it and we wished to capture the train up there. Instead, we ended up with some okayish pictures without a train, but with many selfie-taking people on it. Well, that’s the reality. 

The way back to the main road lead us over hilly streets, passing some wooden houses and luxurious spa-centres, with coconuts for sale at every corner. 

On our second day in Ella we rented a moped to explore the area. So we had the opportunity to visit places we would never have reached with our hurting legs. As we fuelled more than we needed, we decided to visit the Nine Arch Bridge again (did we hope to see less people there?!). There is a road open for mopeds, tuk-tuks, and bikes leading directly to the bridge. We passed the bumpy street over steep hills and reached the bridge just before a train came by. 

Lots of squirrels running through the canopies around the Nine Arch Bridge

As we did not expect so see the train, we were not prepared to take a picture, but still amused about all the crazy selfie-people posing around the passing train. 

The waterfalls around Ella

Our hosts in Ella recommended to visit some of the waterfalls near the town. Well, “near” is not really appropriate, as there are daytrips offered to visit the Diyaluma Falls, the Ellatota Waterfalls and the Ellewala Waterfalls, which are further away from Ella. We decided to make a short evening trip to the Ravana Waterfalls by ourselves. We still had access to the motorbike we rented. Although we reached the waterfall after sunset, the place was still crowded. You can see the “attraction” from the main street, so you don’t even have to walk. There is an observation deck, surrounded by many stalls selling this and that. Well, a nice place, but the forty-minute drive wasn’t really worth it. 

The Ravana Waterfalls in Ella

In desperate need of a massage after Adam's Peak

Oh, how pleasant was the leg- and foot massage we indulged ourselves with in Ella! It definitely was worth to invest 10€ per person for a 40-minute treatment. To be smarter than us, take the massage directly at the day of the effort (of either climbing the Adam’s Peak, the Little Adam’s Peak or the Ella Rock) – not one day later, as we did. We were invited in the studio to lie on two beds, separated by curtains. Two competent women gave us a massage with a special herbal oil which did what was promised. Who does not have enough after this treatment can also enjoy a neck-, shoulder-, back-, or full-body massage. 

In the spice-heaven

When we left Ella, our backpacks were not only filled with delicious tea, we also had the possibility to buy some traditional spices. From this day on, a spicy smell (a blend of curry, chili, and cinnamon powder) dwelled in our backpacks. We bought the spices in a special shop in a bigger town near Ella. Without the help of our friendly and helpful hosts at the Nimsara Homestay, we wouldn’t have been so successful. The thirty-minute motorbike ride was totally worth it, as we left the town with about 1,6 kg spices for only 6€ altogether. 

So that's what's in all those delicious curries...

When you have the possibility, we recommend staying in Ella for more than one or two nights. The town and the area around have so much to offer, and it is also perfect to recover after your exhausting Adam’s Peak trip. Our stay would have been only half as pleasant without the amazing hosts and the delicious Sri Lankan food at Nimsara Homestay! 

Jessica
Author

Sri Lanka Travel Log

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