Trekking to Ella Rock in Sri Lanka: doing it yourself
Our favourite trekking experience during our travels in Asia was the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. However, the 2 hours trek to Ella Rock from Ella town in Sri Lanka certainly rivals this for scenery. But finding the trail can sometimes be challenging, so here's the ultimate guide to trekking to Ella Rock, easy peasy!
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The town of Ella
Ella is a beautiful small town in the south of Sri Lanka in the Hill country. It is a great base for tourists who want to explore the surrounding hills and enjoy the breathtaking views of Badulla's green valleys. The weather is usually quite humid, with moderate air temperature, sunny mornings, and often rain showers in the afternoon.
Where to stay in Ella
There are a number of great places to stay scattered around town, with amazing views and for all budgets.
THE SECRET ELLA Book online
- Former tea planter's home converted into a small luxury boutique hotel.
- Incredible views including the 9 arches iconic bridge.
- Prices start from $244 / £169 for a room with breakfast.
ZION VIEW Book online
- Beautiful property overlooking the Ravana waterfalls and the hills surrounding it.
- Room is comfortable, clean and nicely furbished.
- Prices start from $114 / £79 with breakfast.
CHAMODYA HOMESTAY Book online
- Stunning views, lovely hosts and one of the best views in Ella.
- Prices start from $33 / £23 with breakfast incuded.
What is Ella Rock
Ella Rock is a famous cliff, located high above Ella's village, roughly a two hours strenuous trek from the centre of town. The rock offers stunning views across the hill country, and the plains below. The trek to Ella Rock is about 8 km long and is quite easy if you follow the track (and our advice!).
Trekking to Ella Rock and back took us around 4 hours from start to finish. We passed through the surrounding countryside, tea plantations, railway lines and then up the hills until we reached the Ella Rock peak.
You can pay for a local guide to show you the way (around 1,500 rupees / £8 / $12 per person), or you can trek it yourself quite easily.
The route to trek to Ella Rock
The route for trekking to Ella Rock can be a little bit complicated and we struggled to find sufficient information about it online. We found some helpful advice on Tripadvisor and eventually managed to find the way aided by a few friendly locals who pointed us in the right direction.
1. From Ella town take the road up to the railway lines (anyone local can point out which road this is) and walk south along the railway lines for a few kilometres.
If you've seen the classic 1980s film, “Stand By Me”, you'll particularly appreciate the walk along the railway lines.
2. The aim is to keep on walking southwards, passing over a bridge and past Kithaella train station;
3. Before 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. This route will make it 15 minutes quicker but is really complicated. We did this initially, got totally lost and needed a few locals to point us the right way.
So just ignore it and keep walking towards Kithaella station.
4. Once you pass Kithaella train station, there is another left turning with a bench: ignore this one too!
5. There will be a 2nd left turning after Kithaella train station. Take this one and cross the bridge over the river.
At all times when walking on the train lines, mind the oncoming trains!
6. Take the path going upwards (not right and not left yet). You will start to see faint blue arrows pointing the right way.
This path will eventually start going left towards Ella Rock, first taking you through some very large high bushy plants: walk through these.
7. You eventually reach the main ascent up to Ella Rock through the forest of rubber trees. Any path here going up will take you to the top.
8. We found all paths going back down led to the same point and found it surprisingly easier to return.
The views from the top of Ella Rock peak are incredible, making the trek completely worthwhile.
General advice for trekking to Ella Rock
Avoid to trek with sandals or flip-flops, especially after it's been raining. The hill country is renowned for its high population of leeches. They hang on to the vegetation by the side of tracks waiting for a nice hot blooded tourist to pass by. Leeches are not dangerous, so do not panic if one has decided to befriend you.
We advise you take some lime with you, and put a drop on the leech. It will not kill it, but it will make the leech quickly leave you without drinking your blood.
Watch our travel video diary of our adventures through Sri Lanka as we ate our way through this tropical island, took some beautiful train journeys and enjoyed excellent safaris spotting leopards at Udawalawe and blue whales at Mirissa.
Sri Lanka travel recommendations
Transportation: First, there is no need to stress about getting taxis around the capital. Uber is heavily used in Colombo airport as well as Colombo city and if you've never used it before, we give you your 1st ride for free using this link. To go to Kandy, Nuwara Elya or Ella, just take the train: the landscapes are stunning, tickets are cheap and it is an amazing adventure.
Travel insurance: Whether you go on a safari in Yala National Park, scuba diving in Unawatuna, hiking in Ella or just lay on the beach all day long in Negombo, you need travel insurance. We use World Nomads because they offer considerable coverage especially for adventure travellers. They also make it easy to make a claim as it’s all done online.
Flights: Flying domestically in Sri Lanka doesn't make much sense, you're better off taking the train. For international flights, flying to Sri Lanka can be expensive, Google flights can help you find cheap fares and Momondo is our favourite website to book airfares. In addition, flights from Sri Lanka to India and The Maldives are cheap so don't miss out on the opportunity.
Hotels: Sri Lanka has a huge diversity of accommodation options. Make sure you check out our Sri Lanka content for hotel recommendations first. Tripadvisor is also a good place to start researching places to stay and activities to do. Going to the hotel in person and negotiating the price face to face will most of the time result in cheaper prices compared to what you would get online. But if like us, you're a bit of a control freak and like planning ahead, we recommend using Booking.com to find the best deals and book your accommodation online.