The hike to Ella Rock Sri Lanka
WHERE IS ELLA ROCK ?
Ella Rock Sri Lanka sits high on the hills just 2.5 kilometers above Ella Town. The close proximity to town makes it a perfect hike for those staying in Ella.
However, to reach the Ella Rock viewpoint, you will need to navigate through narrow streets, down a railroad, and passed rural villages. It’s certainly tricky to find the trail up to Ella Rock without a guide or any other means of navigation, so if you’re already lost, don’t feel too bad.
1. Walk from Ella Town to the railway station
Starting in Ella town, take the road that leads up to Ella railway station. As you enter the station, head left and go to the end of the platform…and continue walking on down the railway track! Don’t worry, everyone does this despite the ‘No Entry!’ signs and no one will stop you.
Then continue walking on down that railway line for a few kilometers.
2. Continue straight to Kithaella train station
Continue walking along the railway track lines heading south, aiming to reach the Kithaella train station
Along the way, you’ll pass over a bridge before you reach Kithaella train station.
Along the way, you may see fake signs up – ignore these. We got distracted by a few of them. Also, a few less-friendly local men may try to insist you’re heading the wrong way as a tactic to then show you the correct way for a small fee. Just keep on heading down that railway line till you reach Kithaella station! A few other helpful notes as you head to Kithaella:
3) Ignore the turning with Buddhist statues
Just before you reach Kithaella train station there is a left turning with some small Buddhist statues where you can turn off to cross the river and go to Ella Rock. We accidentally took this route because we read online that it’s meant to cut your journey by 15 minutes, however, we advise against this. It’s super complicated and easy to get lost. We ended up returning to the railway lines to continue heading south to Kithaella.
4) Ignore the bench too!
Another little distraction on route to Kithaella train station to bear in mind is another left turning with a bench…ignore this one too!
Continue walking on down to Kithaella and you’ll be just fine.
5. Take the 2nd turning after Kithaella train station
Once you pass Kithaella train station, continue walking for around 10 minutes and take what should be the 2nd left turning. It should have “Ella Rock” with an arrow marked out in blue on a rock.
Continue straight along this pass and cross the footbridge over the river. After crossing the bridge there is a forked path. Here take the immediate left turning and continue walking down it.
6. Take the path going upwards
Take the path going upwards (not right and not left yet). The path takes you into a tea plantation and then into a field of long grass. Just continue straight on up. You may see faint blue arrows pointing the right way. Follow these if you see them! Over time we’ve been told a lot of these blue signs have faded away.
Whatever you do, continue straight along this path, past the long grass, past the large bushy plants, don’t worry it’s the correct way! The path will eventually open up and will start to head to the right.
5. Hike through the forest of Eucalyptus trees
The path starts to ascend quite quickly, giving you some gorgeous views of the valley. Eventually, you’ll reach a forest of Eucalyptus trees. From here, just head up – any path going up will take you to Ella Rock.
We loved this part of the hike. It was like we were lost in another world in amongst the Eucalyptus tree forest
6. Enjoy the views!
Once you’ve reached the top, congrats, this is your reward! The views are stunning, one of the best places to get fun jumping photos and impressive landscape pics etc to fill up your Instagram feed.
One thing we’d say is aim to come early in the day to avoid the midday heat. And remember to bring plenty of sunblock cream and water to drink!
7. Go back down!
The way back down is a lot easier than coming up. We found all paths going back down led to the same point and had no problems reaching Ella Town.
You may get unlucky and get rained on during your trek. For this reason, we strongly advise bringing a waterproof jacket and sturdy trekking boots. We read about leeches on the paths. Whilst we didn’t encounter any on our trek, we recommend wearing light loose trousers and applying a DEET based insect repellent, particularly to exposed skin areas.
Safety tips for trekking to Ella Rock Sri Lanka
We’ve put a few little nuggets of advice above from our experience trekking to Ella Rock, but here is a summary of our all our safety tips and what we did to prepare:
- Local SIM card: we always get one when we arrive in a new place. It lets you have access to Google Maps if you get lost, allows you to access (ahem!) valuable online resources and Google Translate is a godsend with language barriers.
- The earlier the better: we went late morning and got caught up in the midday sun here. It’s no biggie if you’re savvy about wearing sunblock cream and remembering to reapply. However, it does usually rain in the afternoon around Ella Rock, so the earlier you do your trek, the better!
- Sunblock cream: it gets hot here and the sun rays more intense the higher you go. Wear lots of sunblock cream and remember to reapply!
- Insect repellent: you’ll no doubt quickly get used to wearing lots of insect repellent in Sri Lanka to ward off mosquitos, but on this trek, it’s a must to ward off other pesky insects, in particular leeches! We recommend a DEET-based repellent.
- Trekking shoes: do not do this trek with sandals or flip flops. It frequently rains, the paths, therefore, get muddy – a haven for leeches! A sturdy pair of trekking shoes (or boots) is a must.
- Leeches warning: at the end of the day they’re not dangerous if you do get one “stuck” to you! One bit of advice we were given by our guesthouse host in Ella was to take some limes with us on our trek. If you squeeze a few drops of lime on the leech, it’s enough to repel it off you without killing it.
- Waterproofs: it is likely to rain, so make sure you come prepared for this with waterproof long pants and jacket.
- Caution on the railway lines: this is plain common sense. If you see a train approaching, get off the railway lines and let it pass. It’s not dangerous – the trains are sparse and move slowly. Nonetheless, caution and common sense on the railway lines!
Where to stay in Ella?
There are a number of great places to stay scattered around town, each with amazing views and to suit all budgets.
1) THE SECRET ELLA
It’s just so stunning and luxurious! It’s located in what used to be a tea planter’s bungalow that has been converted into an elegant resort with rooms and even private chalets.
Views from the chalets are particularly epic, looking down over the lush green valley. You can even see trains crossing the famous Nine Arches Bridge from the end of the garden.
Of course, one of the real highlights is that amazing infinity pool! There’s something particularly magical about floating in cool waters on a hot day while gazing out over the jungle. You can also simply work on your tan on the sunbeds while watching bees and butterflies that are attracted to the garden flowers. The hotel also has a games room if you prefer indoor pursuits, along with a movie library.
In terms of location, The Secret Ella is located towards the East of Ella’s centre, close to the Nine Arches Bridge and the Little Adam’s Peak trail. For food, we recommend the on-site restaurant, which has a mix of gourmet Sri Lankan and western dishes. And the cherry on top of this super pretty cake: you get your own personalised butler service!
2) ZION VIEW ELLA GREEN RETREAT
Zion View Ella Green retreat is our pick for those on a medium budget. It feels luxurious with some incredible facilities.
For starters, there’s a gorgeous infinity pool with impressive views across Ella Gap – at sunset you’re going to be going Insta-Crazy here!
Over on the rooftop they offer daily yoga classes in the morning with views of Ella Rock…a fantastic way to start the day says we!
Rooms at Zion View are on the basic side but they are massive and super clean. In addition, every room has its own private balcony with hammocks strung up for afternoon naps
The hotel has a decent restaurant that makes delicious curries. The breakfast is also served here which consists of fresh fruit, Sri Lankan hoppers, buffalo curd and honey. Weather permitting, it’s all served outside on the balcony terrace. Finally, the staff are a delight! They welcomed us as a gay couple sharing a room, even placing flowers on our table for dinner.
3) CHAMODYA HOMESTAY
The Chamodya Homestay is perfect for solo travellers and budget travellers.
You stay with the adorable Lilu and her lovely family. They welcomed us with open arms, making us feel like extended family.
Rooms at Chamodya Homestay are simple but clean and comfortable. Some of the rooms even have their own private balcony. We adored having our spectacular breakfast on the terrace each morning, watching the mists rise from the valley as we stuffed ourselves with coconut pancakes, hoppers, roti, fresh fruit, juices, eggs, toast and tea. You can also arrange to have dinner here at night…definitely recommended as Lilu makes a mean Sri Lankan curry!
The communal outdoor terrace is a perfect hangout spot. Whether you strike up a conversation with Lilu’s father or another guest, there’s always someone here to hang out with. And lots not forget those splendid views of Ella Rock from here! For us, staying with a local family in their home was the real highlight of the Chamodya Homestay.