Of all the places we visited in Sri Lanka, Ella was the strangest combination of the most tourist concentrated and the most peaceful place we visited. When I initially started to plan our trip, Ella was one of the locations that struck me as one of the most incredible and untouched landscapes I had ever seen, and I knew I had to visit it.
After several days of safari in Yala National Park, we took the local bus from Tissamaharama to Ella. If you intend on visiting Sri Lanka, I cannot recommend the local bus enough as a mode of transport. The buses span the entire country, something you will be incredibly surprised by when you see both the sheer size and age of them. The buses are an experience; five seats per row and everyone packed in to them. The bus barely stops for people to jump on and off, ignore all rules of the road and are a non-stop white knuckle ride. It took around 2 hours and cost us 300 rupees (£1.50) for both tickets. There was a store underneath for our backpacks, despite many articles we read stating tourists were rejected boarding for their bag size, we just asked to put our bags underneath and the yeller (man who shouts out the destination and collects fares) happily obliged.
The first hour or so was pretty tedious, but once we started to climb into the mountains the journey took my breath away. The drive was very reminiscent of that to Luang Prabang in Laos; with mountains that seemed to go on forever, lined with every tree imaginable, rice terraces and farmers.
Once we arrived in Ella Town, we were struck by the number of tourist friendly services; easily accessible taxis across Sri Lanka, plenty of bars and restaurants and stores and lots to do and see. We grabbed some lunch in town before heading to our hotel, Ella’s Edge Resort; a relatively new construction with views for miles across the mountains and valleys.
After a week of non stop travel, we were glad to be somewhere more peaceful and in touch with Sri Lanka’s natural beauty. There’s so much to do in Ella – climb Little Adam’s Peak, take cooking classes, visit tea plantations, caves and waterfalls and walk across the famous nine-arch bridge. We visited the latter, but otherwise didn’t do an awful lot because we really just wanted to relax. We spent two nights; the first of which we spent at Cafe Chill, where we ate some of the best food of our entire trip. They played great music, the hosts were really friendly and entertaining and we met some great company.
Visiting the nine arch bridge had to be the highlight of our stay; we were lucky enough to climb downhill to the bridge and have an aerial view of it, then catch a train crossing over at 10.55am, then afterwards walk across the bridge. 24 metres above the ground, it was a little daunting but the views from the bridge were incredible. The hills on either end were lined with rice terraces and trees. There was no noise after the train passed through, with only a few tourists crossing over and photographing the sights, giving us almost complete peace and quiet in this incredible setting.
Ella was the reboot we needed, some good food and beautiful surroundings and a hotel with otherworldly views. If you’re looking for somewhere in Sri Lanka to base yourself, the train and bus links can take you in almost any direction and are said to be some of the most beautiful journeys in the world. The atmosphere is relaxed, laid back and reinvigorating, and sights like Sigiriya Rock and Yala National Park are just a couple of hours away by taxi.