a complete guide to Ella, Sri Lanka: where to eat, where to stay, how to get there, + the coolest things to do

Ella is a small, quiet town in Sri Lanka completely enveloped in nature. Outdoor enthusiasts will be in heaven with all the hikes and waterfalls to visit. Anyone who digs relaxed destinations with a bit of a nightlife are bound to fall in love with Ella.

After staying in Nuwara Eliya, Ella was a completely different kind of town. It had a truly hippie energy to it. Reggae music played in most eateries, and everyone was incredibly relaxed. I found Ella extremely beautiful and I ate some of the best food during my trip in the sleepy town. The hikes were fun and the views were breathtaking. However, I felt like Ella was pretty overpriced compared to other places I visited in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, Ella was home to some of the many highlights I had on my journey through the island nation.


read on for a complete guide to ella


A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA

getting to ella

You’ll definitely want to get to Ella via the famous “Kandy to Ella train”. Not only is the ride scenic, but it’s extremely cheap and part of the quintessential Sri Lankan travel experience. The trip takes 7-8 hours, but I recommend breaking the journey up with a stop in Nuwara Eliya.

READ MY COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THE KANDY TO ELLA TRAIN HERE.

There are direct, local buses to Ella from Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, however, they both require a bus change. I rode multiple buses and trains while in Sri Lanka, and as ridiculously cheap as the buses are, you do not get the same views of experience that you do via the train.

a complete guide to ella

WHEN TO VISIT ELLA

The best time to visit Ella, according to, is from January until May. The weather is warm, but it gets cooler at night. I visited in April, however, and found it to be just fine. Yeah, the days were hot, but I’d been places that were much hotter. Rain in the evening made it cool and refreshing. Power outages were frequent, but you don’t really need electricity if you’re out and about during the day, do you?

a complete guide to ella, sri lanka

GETTING AROUND ELLA

Ella is a relatively small town, so it’s walkable. It’s possible, and cheapest, to reach most of the main tourist attractions by foot, so it isn’t necessary to rent a motorbike. In general, I think the best way to see most places is by foot. Youll save yourself money and you end up stumbling upon things you would have missed otherwise.

When it gets really hot, or if your accommodation is a bit further out from town, you may consider renting a motorbike or snagging a lift from a tuk-tuk. If you do grab a tuk-tuk ride, make sure you negotiate before you get into the tuk-tuk.

A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA

WHERE TO STAY

I stayed at Namal’s Great Views Homestay, nestled away in the mountains. The views were, as the name implies, great. The homestay was about a 10-minute walk from the center of town, just follow the railway passed Matey Hut. The stroll adds a level of adventure and atmosphere to the stroll.

Rooms are basic and private. Each level of the guesthouse has a cushioned swing-seat, perfect to gaze out into the valley below. You can actually see Ravana Falls, Ella Rock, and Little Adam’s Peak from the top floor’s swing. The top floor is also where breakfast is served, at additional cost, to guests who order it.

PSST… Use my airbnb code here to save yourself USD $30 on your first booking

FOUR CURRIES MEAL AT MATEY HUT

FOUR CURRIES MEAL AT MATEY HUT

SRI LANKAN SAMBLAR + CURRY MIX AT CAFÉ CHILL

SRI LANKAN SAMBLAR + CURRY MIX AT CAFÉ CHILL

VEGETARIAN BURRITOS FROM IN REINCARNATION

VEGETARIAN BURRITOS FROM IN REINCARNATION


WHERE TO EAT

You will not go hungry in Ella! The restaurants are a bit overpriced, especially in comparison to the northern part of the country, but the options are plentiful and there are a variety of world cuisines on offer. I ate at quite a few places during my time in Ella and, luckily, never had a totally negative experience anywhere.

Matey hut

Recommended by Namal, my homestay host, Matey Hut sits at the top of the main road in Ella. The food was served fast, hot, and was absolutely delicious. A great option for good quality Sri Lankan food on a budget. With only a few tables available, you’ll need to arrive early to avoid a wait. Meals start from around 300 rupees, with the chicken kottu being one of our favourite options. I highly recommend getting the four curries meal option. Portions are HEAPING!! I could have made two full meals out of what I ordered, but my accommodation didn’t have a refrigerator.

NOTE: If you’re looking for a cooking class in Ella they are offered here, but spaces are limited so it’s best to book a couple of days in advance.

Café Chill

I found this Café Chill on almost every blog about Ella I read. With vegan options and a variety of cuisine types, I had high hopes for the place. While I enjoyed both of my visits to Chill, I preferred atmospheres. The food is a bit overpriced, even by Ella’s standards. However, I understand its appeal to tourists thanks to its chill {get it?} vibe and it’s Western hipster menu items: chocolate ice cream, vegetarian burgers, and kombucha among others.

THE BARN

This little café and bar serves up delicious coffees, cocktails, snack platters, and full breakfasts. In the evening, it’s a great place to have a chocolate milkshake and people watch, which is exactly what I did. Service was average, but the soundtrack that played throughout the café more than made up for it.

In Reincarnation

Without a question, my favourite meal I had in Ella was at In Reincarnation, a tiny “Mexican” eatery right across the road from Café Chill. Their nachos are to. die. for. I loved the low-lighting and the hole-in-the-wall atmosphere despite it sitting directly on the main road of the town.

Local bakeries

Local bakeries and convenience shops sell rotis, samosas, and other baked goods that are perfect as cheap snacks or a quick lunch. Most are vegetarian, which made it easy for me to find simple food to pack for the many hikes and waterfall treks I went on while in Ella. I grabbed Sri Lankan roti meals at little bakeries around the town for as little as USD $0.15.

A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA

WHAT TO SEE + DO

HIKE ELLA ROCK

If you’re stretched for time and have to choose between Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak, I highly recommend hiking Ella Rock! The views are amazing and, unlike Little Adam’s Peak, it’s an actual hike. Wear good shoes and bring lots of water— you’ll need it!

READ HOW TO HIKE ELLA ROCK WITHOUT A GUIDE HERE.

HIKE LITTLE ADAM’S PEAK

Little Adam’s Peak is a lovely, short walk that only takes up part of your morning. The concrete path and signage makes it easy to navigate to the lookout point. When I arrived at the top, coffee in hand, I was greeted by puppies and sunshine. Unfortunately, despite going up in the early hours of the morning, there were still quite a few people there, especially compared to the very few tourists at Ella Rock. It was more of a stroll than a hike, but I enjoyed it just the same.

cool off at DIYALUMA FALLS

It’s a mission to get to the cool pools at the top of Diyaluma Falls, but it pays off with gorgeous views and refreshing water. The waterfall is the second highest in Sri Lanka and the journey to the top of it is something you’re likely to never forget.

READ MY ENTIRE GUIDE TO HIKING DIYALUMA FALLS HERE.

take a cooking class

Both Spice Garden and Matey Hut have fantastic reputations for their cooking classes. Matey Hut’s classes are very small and off-site from their famed restaurant. Portions cooked in the class are as heaping as those served at the local eatery.

stand in awe of nine arches bridge

Most “Instagram spots” do not live up to the beauty portrayed on those tiny little squares you see on the phone mega app. Nine Arches Bridge, however, does. Actually, it surpassed my hopes for the railway overpass. The grandeur of the bridge set against the background of endless green landscape rendered me speechless.

get misty-eyed at ravana falls

Ravana Falls only takes 10 minutes by motorbike to get to from the center of town. The waterfall sits right on the main road. You’ll see people taking photos, so it’s nearly impossible to miss.

shop til you drop at the wednesday market

On Wednesday mornings, Ella has a small market with vendors selling fruits, spices, clothing, and fresh produce. It’s hard to miss, since the market stalls line Passara Road right near the Western-style supermarket in town.


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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ELLA, SRI LANKA