ELLA, SRI LANKA
In recent years, Ella’s popularity has soared and although the town’s attractiveness has been somewhat compromised by some multi-storey concrete eyesores, it is still breathtaking and beautiful enough to ease off the travel accelerator with a few leisurely days resting in your choice of some of the country’s best guesthouses. The views through Ella Gap are stunning, and on a clear night you can even spy the subtle glow of the Great Basses lighthouse on Sri Lanka’s south coast. Ella doubles up as one of the ultimate adventure destinations in the island, with easygoing walks and hikes through tea plantations to temples, waterfalls and viewpoints. With hot cup of tea and warm Sri Lankan food cooked with love waiting for you, you will undoubtedly work up a great appetite post-hike!
Rising at dawn is the best way to see this region of Sri Lanka burst into life, as the rising sun spills across lush and sweeping amphitheaters of green, and views stretch to the horizon, undimmed by early mists and the clouds that roll in mid-morning, obscuring famous vistas.
On the southern slopes of the hill country, the towns of Haputale, Bandarawela and Ella are surrounded by a blanket of vast, eye-pleasing tea estates, where swirls of planted tea bushes are stamped onto the landscape like colossal green fingerprints. It’s truly delightful hiking territory, criss-crossed by trails that serve up some of Sri Lanka’s best views.
The Ella rock hike is one of the most sought after adrenaline-rush activities you could find in the country. Reaching the exposed crag jutting out from the west side of Ella Gap involves a steep and challenging walk, starting on the railway tracks toward Bandarawela. After about 2.5 km, a dirt trail turns sharply left – it’s beyond the metal bridge and Kithalella train station but before the 166.25 km marker (a faded blue arrow painted on a boulder shows the way). After leaving the railway, it’s just uninterrupted nature all the way to the top of the rock. The final stretch is the steepest, but the views are their own reward. For an easier excursion, a two-hour roundtrip from Ella will take you as far as Little Adam’s Peak, a lower promontory to the east.