Ella is probably the most touristy town in the highlands of Sri Lanka but this is not particularly a bad thing. The main benefit are its outstanding restaurants, from which we can particularly recommend the Ak Ristoro. The reason why it is so touristy is the train track that passes through it and this brings us directly to the two best things to do in Ella.
Train surf through the endless tea fields
The train ride from Nuwara Elyia is said to be the most scenic in the world and it is absolutely stunning. You ride through a marvelous landscape of green hills, trees, waterfalls and endless tea plantations. But the best part is the train surfing. Because this is legal in Sri Lanka you can hang outside of the train and fly through this unique landscape. But keep your eyes open for obstacles as only because it is legal doesn’t mean that it is without risk.
As we were driving ourselves through Sri Lanka we couldn’t hop on the train in Nuwara Elyia and off in Ella. Instead we took the train from Ella to Idalgashinna and another one back to Ella. In Idalgashinna we realized once more how sweet and friendly the people from Sri Lanka are. We got chatted up by a local and when we asked for a tea house he went home and brought tea for us. He didn’t ask for money but simply wanted to tell us his story. On the way back it started to rain like almost every afternoon in the highlands but this didn’t bother us as the experience had been so good.
Try to take a good photo with the Nine Arch Bridge
When on the train from Nuwara Elyia to Ella you pass many bridges but not the iconic Nine Arch Bridge. You would only pass it when you continue your train ride to Badulla. But it can also be reached from the center of Ella in about 45min by walk or with a Tuk Tuk and a steep 15min walk. The bridge itself is already beautiful but the surrounding with the forest and the tea plantations makes it to such a stunning landmark. But taking a good photo is not that easy.
When we went there at seven in the morning the bridge was already crowded with Selfie tourists. It was absolutely impossible to get a good photo without any other people in it. So we tried to take a photo from below. The climb down was already quite challenging, especially as we tried not to slip and not to catch too much water from the tea bushes. But when we finally made it down and started to install ourselves, we started to feel bites at our feet. Our personal nightmare was happening. We got attacked by leaches who were sucking our blood. We first tried to continue our shooting but then decided to run as there were simply too many of those bloodsuckers eating us alive.