A GEM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHLANDS: ELLA

A GEM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HIGHLANDS: ELLA

Ella is a small village in the middle of Sri Lankan Highlands. It was and still is an important road junction before becoming a touristic centre.

There’s not really much to do and see in the village itself, as a matter of fact all the main attractions are scattered some km away. Being located right in the middle of all of them, and being reachable from 3 directions, makes Ella a perfect place to use as a base to visit its surroundings.


DAY 1
The town is packed with accommodations and facilities for foreigners, there are probably more tourists than locals here. We find a nice house owned by a cute family (Misty Mount Homestay), about 1km uphill from the centre, where we’ll stay for 3 nights. After the heat of the south, we are now 1000m above sea level, it’s cooler and pleasant.
The next morning, we hike up to Little Adam’s Peak, named after it’s more famous bigger brother in Nuwara Eliya. It’s a 3 km trek uphill, we start to see the first tea plantations, before climbing the one hundred steps to get to the top and enjoy the nice views.

We walk down on the opposite side looking for the beautiful Nine Arches Bridge. We lose ourselves meandering for a while through the plantations, searching for a shortcut they told us about, while hearing the train whistle nearby, and losing the first opportunity to see it on the bridge. At last we get in front of Nine Arches Bridge from an excellent spot.

9 Arches Bridge, view from above, Ella, Sri Lanka

Nine Arches Bridge, view from above

We are actually in some people’s garden! A young boy comes out smiling and welcomes us with enthusiasm, offering fresh fruit juices. He is very curious and full of questions, he shows us with pride a guestbook with lots of people’s witnesses from all over the world, he knows everything about Ella, the railway, and advises us about what’s best to see. Awesome host!

He’s even building with is bare hands a tiny chalet he wants to turn in a guestroom with a view! He tells us the next train should be at 1.30 pm, but coming from Kandy about 160 km of slow up and downs through the mountains it comes hours late sometimes. After thanking him and saying goodbye, we decide to walk down onto the bridge.

9 Arches Bridge, Ella, Sri Lanka

9 Arches Bridge, Ella

There are many tourists and locals walking and taking pictures. Minutes before, Edo asked the boy which was the shortest way to go back to Ella, and he replied “The railway”, as Edo said “Yeah but the next station is far” he replied “No, no train, you walk on the railway up to Ella!” So we go for it!

Many people do it, there’s only one train every two or three hours, they run very slowly. It’s a very fascinating walk, definitely not one you do everyday! After a couple of km, here comes the train in front of us! We step on the side and go back on the rails, until we finally approach Ella station on platform 1, what a great time!

Walking on railway, Ella, Sri Lanka

A different walk…

Walking back uptown, we decide to rent a scooter for the rest of the day and the next morning. We go and see Ravana Falls, a total of 80meter-high drop, but it’s full of locals swimming and even having a proper shower with shampoo, so we do not feel to take a dip.
In the evening, we have a nice pumpkin soup and taste the typical curd with honey, a sort of yogurt made of buffalo milk.


DAY 2

The following day we decide to go to Lipton’s Seat, about 30 km far. Google Maps is very approximate in this area, it suggests us roads that end in courtyards or don’t even exist. Finally we reach the feet of the highlands covered with tea cultivations: the last 9 km are all hairpins through them, an amazing spectacle.

Women working, Lipton's Seat, Sri Lanka

Leaf pickers women working

We pay a small fee to cross some checkpoints, we are actually in a private estate property. A lot of women work by picking the leaves one by one, we can feel their fatigue. Nevertheless they are all very surprised and happy to see us, the all smile and say hi.

We are coming up from a different road, surely not the main from Haputale that most people do, arriving by train or bus in the city and walking up for the last 7 km. That’s why we are the only strangers here. 2 km away from the top, we connect with the main road, entering the Dambatenne estate. Many brave tourists are hiking up, we are glad being on our scooter, going at 10 km/h we take our time to enjoy the view.

Tea plantations, Lipton's Seat, Sri Lanka

Tea and more tea

Finally at the top, we take the symbolic photos with Sir Lipton’s statue, the visionary entrepreneur who transformed all the surrounding hectares in plantations back in 1890, lowering its selling price and making it the popular drink everybody can afford nowadays. We just stay for few minutes, some nervous hornets are flying around, and the view is not very special compared to the road which is far more rewarding.

Lipton's Seat, Sri Lanka

With Sir Lipton

We go down again, engine off, and slowly admire the endless fields everywhere around us: an unforgettable view. Once down, we quickly visit the Dambatenne Tea Factory (quickly because of the guide’s rush), interesting and perfumed.
We go back to Ella for lunch, before returning the scooter. For dinner we try another tasty typical dish, that will become one of our favourites: the delicious Kotthu, a minced variation of Rotti.
One last night sipping fresh picked tea, and we get ready to leave to Kandy.

The awesome Ella-Kandy train ride awaits us tomorrow!

View on the highlands, Sri Lanka

View on the highlands

WHERE TO STAY:
  • Misty Mount Homestay, Ella: 1500-2000rs/night, 1km from town, very silent place, sweet family.  

FIND CHEAP AND FRIENDLY HOMESTAYS IN ELLA

HOW TO MOVE AROUND:
  • Motorbike, from a small shop in town: 1500rs/24hours;
  • Fuel: 600rs, full tank.
FEES:
  • Lipton’s Seat, Dambatenne Estate: 40rs/person, 50rs/motorbike;
  • Dambatenne Tea Factory: 250rs/person.
HOW TO GET YOUR VISA TO SRI LANKA:


 

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