Ella Rock Hike: the complete step-by-step guide

Sebastien Chaneac

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!

A word about 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.

Trekking ella rock Map of Ella in Sri Lanka
Ella is located in the Southern part of Sri Lanka, in the country hills.

How long is the hike?

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.

Do you need a guide?

We don't think a guide is necessary to do the hike. If you follow the steps below, you will find it quite easy. If having a guide makes you feel more comfirtable, you can pay for a local to show you the way (around 1,500 rupees / £8 / $12 per person).

Stefan jumping at Ella Rock after managing the hike without a guide!

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.

Leech in sri lnaka on a leaf
If you see one of these, ruuuuuuuuuuuun!

The hike to Ella Rock step-by-step

Time needed: 4 hours.

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. Go From Ella Town to the railway

    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. Continue to Kithaella train station

    The aim is to keep on walking on the railway southwards, passing over a bridge and past Kithaella train station.

  3. Ignore the turning with Buddhist statues

    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. Ignore the bench too!

    Once you pass Kithaella train station, there is another left turning with a bench: ignore this one too! Not the turning with the bench

  5. Take the 2nd turning after Kithaella train station

    There will be a 2nd left turning after Kithaella train station. Take this one and cross the bridge over the river.
    Turning left immediately after the bridge over the small river was good for us. At all times when walking on the train lines, mind the oncoming trains!

  6. Take the path going upwards

    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. Hike through the forest of Eucalyptus trees

    You eventually reach the main ascent up to Ella Rock through the forest of Eucalyptus trees. Any path here going up will take you to the top.

  8. Enjoy the stunning views from Ella Rock!

    Sebastien admiring the view from Ella Rock

  9. Go back down!

    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. Admiring the view from Ella Rock

Where to stay in Ella?

There are a number of great places to stay scattered around town, with amazing views and for all budgets. These are the places we tried and made us feel welcome as a gay couple; getting a double bed was never an issue at any of these places.

Travel advice for LGTBQ community

Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Ella

Whilst Sri Lanka has an anti-gay law in place, it is rarely enforced. This does, however, mean that society is very conservative with regards to homosexuality, so we advise against any public displays of affection. Ella is a small town away from the big capital city. The locals are more relaxed and chilled here. Whilst this doesn't make it an LGBTQ haven in any way, we did, however, find that guesthouses were very obliging and kind towards us and had no qualms with allowing two men to share a double bed. Read more in our interview with Kaluu from Colombo about gay life in Sri Lanka.


  • 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.


  • Stunning views, lovely hosts and one of the best views in Ella.
  • Prices start from $33 / £23 with breakfast incuded.
Stefan at the peak of Ella Rock
Stefan admiring the view from the peak of Ella Rock.

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!).

Sebastien at Ella Rock
Sebastien considering the way down from Ella Rock

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.

Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, an activity or your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission. There is never an extra cost to you for using these links and it helps us keep the site going.

Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of nomadicboys.com. He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

58 thoughts on “Ella Rock Hike: the complete step-by-step guide”

  1. Thanks boys for the instructions. Was very helpful. Didn’t see any Buddhist stautes or bench. Did see a small shop on the left. The left turn was soon after this shop.

  2. Thx for the post, it was helpful especially the photos of where not to turn, however a photo of where you SHOULD turn with some geographical reference would probably help people even more! In saying that, with your post and a map our accommodation provider gave us, we had no issues. Was super busy up there, estimate 100 people would have trekked it during the day!

  3. thank you guys for your tips. we just climbed it (may 2018) and your tips were great. We have discussed over ed that there is plenty of falso signs on the way but we ignored them and followed your directions! cheers dee

  4. We followed the blog post 2 weeks ago, still useful – thanks for contributing this. There are now red arrows drawn on the rail sleepers to turn left by the large rock. Turning left immediately after the bridge over the small river was good for us. No paid guide needed.

  5. Hi nomadic boys
    its very nicely written guide to ella rock and also good you avoid the locals earning a 500 rupees for their rice any way you have write
    (Sebastien in the rubber trees forest at the foot of Ella Rock where you start your climb up)
    this is not a rubber trees this is Eucalyptus forest

  6. Great post, all I can say it, I wish I found this before I did this trek – we took some wrong turns and got lost. Great pics. Cheers Guys!

  7. Very good thanks, a guide is not needed, if in doubt follow everyone else.

    By the way, I am female and was travelling with my female friend, the people in the orange houses tried to guide us, one of them took us up a secluded path and left us there, then there was a rustling in the bushes, and another man with his trousers around his ankles was pleasuring himself and laughing. We ran away, quite a terrifying experience.

  8. Wonderful post guys…! You guys are amazing.. Enjoying your trip to the core.. The pictures too look electrifying. Thanks for sharing. Also well detailed and informative post.

  9. hey boys, this path does not exist any longer… there have been some railway works done recently and the bench was removed. Also a local field owner doesn’t wish random people go through his fields so you really need a guide or keep asking locals for the right direction… rule no. 1: take 1st turn to the left just before the railway station as the sign says.

  10. Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the directions. We followed the Amar’s directions and had no problems. Great walk.

  11. We took the turn off and bridge crossing before the train station and got a bit lost trying to fillow someone else’s GPX tracks.
    This is the nicest way!! Cross the bridge where the small waterfalls are and head left. After that there were various choices but you want to head for the peak of the hill immediately above you to the left of the ella rock. It seems like you’re going to far left but it’s correct. You should pick up a trail with the DMC markers. At yhe peak you get great views of Ella. Fkllow the path around the left side of the peak, through a tea field and down to a little hut selling drinks. Buy water or whatever then turn left and follow the trail up. You get great views along the way.

  12. Did hike in Oct 2016. The bench seat has been removed, uprights still visible. Definitely turn left (almost straight on and upwards through tea bushes) immediately after the bridge. Carrying straight on along the path (turning to the right after bridge) takes you to a village. Some people deliberately give misleading directions for the route that goes to peak from this village. One has deliberately obscured path with branches which he pulls aside while asking for money. Do not encourage him by giving money.

  13. Thank you. These were very helpful and pretty key to me reaching the top! Some additions…

    3. Walk past Kithaella for about 200m for this turning. DO NOT take the small one that leads into a tea field. Go past this and take the next left beside a big rock (can’t miss it; the rock has chalk on it, too, saying “Ella Rock” or words to that affect). You’ll see the river and bridge shortly after turning down it.

    4. You’ll see three paths: one goes left immediately, then further ahead there’s two; one beats left (“straight”) and one goes right. Bear left. This will take you among tea bushes and then a field on your right. Follow the path round one bend, and then turn left.

    5.You’ll see a green/yellow house on your right. Walk past it toward the long grass. Walk through the long grass until you reach a “cross roads”. TURN RIGHT. This will take you up. You will reach an orange house. Go past it on your left, then stick left toward the rubber trees.

    6. Stick at it, going up. You’ll reach a ridge where you can see some of Ella Gap. Here, turn right and ascend up a steep, rocky path among the rubber trees. Climb all the way until you reach a sandy, rocky road and turn left. Ella Rock will be 100m ahead of you.

    Advice: Mark trees or rocks to help you get back, or if you get lost! If anyone sees any ‘M’s – that’s me! Enjoy.

    6. 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.

  14. Unfortunately, I did not use your tips today and we became ‘victim’ of the local guides tricks. If you take the first turn at the railway as the locals insist, you’ll most likely encounter a guide that tells your you’re totally on the wrong path. Of course they are happy to help and bring you with a little off tour (so you don’t see the other tourists) to the top.

    Everybody who want to do Ella Rock and reads this; DO use the tips in this post 🙂

  15. As others have said – thank you heaps for this, I was alone and knowing this in the back of my head helped so much 🙂

    Note that after you take the path upwards with the remnants of blue arrow markings, it will curve around a bit and flatten out, sometimes even sloping slightly downwards. Don’t worry, just keep following! It will start sloping up again. You’ll eventually cut through a small area with some shrubs and then reach the rubber trees mentioned in the post.

    I would actually suggest coming down via a different path, trying to move generally rightwards – I came to a little hut selling coconuts, and immediately turned right onto a small path which eventually hugs the edge of the hill as it goes down. This path takes far longer, but it’s more than worth it. Got the most amazing views of my hike following this path!

    Adeline x

  16. Thanks guys – just got back from the rock, and am having lunch in town. Your instructions helped a lot. Cheers, Alex

  17. Hey boys,

    Used your directions today to hike to Ella Rock! Just wanted to say thanks for such a detailed and well written explanation of the route! You made it easy and fun! Well done fellas!!

  18. Thank you so much for this! I used your directions today and they were perfect. Not only did I make it to the peak without any problems, but I didn’t even encounter a single ‘guide’ asking me to use them. I feel like this route is the ‘backdoor’ way, as the stuff I’ve read about the trek on the Internet is very, very different. A few points I’d like to add in addition to what you have here:
    1. The blue arrow in your picture above is now half gone. There is still some blue paint and you can tell that at one point it used to be an arrow, but you will easily miss it if you are not looking for it.
    2. At the first left from the railway tracks where you say not to go, I encountered some friendly locals insisting that I should turn left there. I think this is where most people turn and encounter the bad setup with the ‘guides’. For future trekkers, be polite but insist that you want to continue straight.
    3. Towards the end where the ascent is steep, there was really only one main trail going up. No need to even think about which one to take; there is really only one.
    Thanks again, it was a great hike!

    • Thanks Jay. We don’t use filters. We use a setting on our camera (called Impressive Art) which brings out the colours – good for scenic shots.

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