Ella is a small town located in the central part of Sri Lanka. Located in the middle of the jungle and surrounded by tea plantations, the town is a must to visit while in Sri Lanka. To get to the town, you should take the train from Kandy to Ella – said to be the most beautiful train ride in the world.
The train from Kandy to Ella
The train from Kandy to Ella (or opposite) is on most travelers bucket list. I had high expectations and was curious if the rumors were true – could this really be the most beautiful train ride in the world? The scenic route takes 6 hours (or in our case – 7,5 hours because of delays) and takes you through a stunning landscape of green hills. The train climbs up the mountains (very slowly) and the highest point is more than 2000 meters above sea level.
We didn’t get seats for the first three hours of the trip, but luckily we were able to put our backpacks in the luggage shelves. We ended up standing near the door to get a bit of the view and partly sitting on the floor in the beginning, before we got to sit in the door opening for a while (which was so much fun!!). For the last four hours, we got seats (people are going on and off along the route, so if you are quick you might get seats even earlier) and enjoyed the rest of the trip through the open windows.
How to buy the tickets for the train between Kandy and Ella?
I did a lot of research to figure out how to get the train tickets. Some said they could be booked online, others said you could buy them at any station days before departure. I opted for the latter one and decided to buy tickets when arriving in Kandy, the night before departure. That was not an option when we got there, so we ended up getting up early the next morning to get tickets. Usually there is one train at 08.45 and one around 11-12, but during the weekends (we were there on a Saturday) it seems like there is an extra train at 7.45. Being at the station at 7, we hoped for the 07.45-train, but got tickets for the one leaving 08.45. We only got 2nd class tickets without reserved seats, but man I’m so happy about that now as it was a great experience to sit on the train with windows and doors open, among a mix of locals and tourists. If you want to be guaranteed seats, book 1st class tickets through a travel agency.
Our amazing hotel in Ella – Ornate View Hotel
We arrived in Ella about 4pm after a long day on the train, and was thrilled when we saw our hotel, Ornate View Hotel. The view of the surroundings can’t be described – take a look at the pictures! Both the sunset and sunrise are amazing from the hotel. The hotel only has three rooms, and we got a huge room with a balcony (make sure to book one of the two rooms with balcony!). The service is great, and the owner is really nice – he even picked us up at the train station for free. The hotel is located a 10-minute drive from Ella town (where many restaurants can be found), and the hotel’s driver takes you there for 500 rupees. I recommend ordering breakfast on your balcony at sunrise one morning – it was an experience I’ll never forget. Our stay in Ella wouldn’t have been the same without this hotel – I highly recommend it.
Exploring Ella and the surroundings
We rented a driver from our hotel to do a sightseeing tour in Ella (I think we paid around 2000 rupees including tips). We started at the stunning Demodora Nine Arch Bridge (take a look at the pictures below – how beautiful isn’t this place?!). Next stop was also all about trains – «the loop» is a nice spot to see the train arriving between the green hills. The also stopped by Ravana Waterfalls, which was nice, but not exactly the most impressive waterfall I’ve seen. Ella and the surrounding areas are huge tea producers, so we also stopped by a huge, old tea factory. Sadly the tours had finished by the time we arrived, but we got to walk around and explore the factory a bit ourselves. The factory also had a good store to buy tea to bring home.
One attraction that everyone recommends to do in Ella is the hike up to Adam’s Little Peak. Sadly we didn’t make it there because my travel buddy got sick, so we chose to go straight to Hikkaduwa beach. Another recommended hike is Lion Rock.
Ella is a lovely little town, and the train ride getting there is absolutely stunning. Both must be done when visiting Sri Lanka! One day and two nights is the perfect amount of time to spend in the little town (unless you want to do more than one hike – then you need more time). After Ella, we rented a car with driver for 15.000 rupees and took the 6 hour-long drive to Hikkaduwa Beach.
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