The typical image of Sri Lanka depicts tropical beaches and ancient cities. But in the heart of the island there is an area with a completely different landscape, including mountain peaks, tea plantations and waterfalls. This is Hill Country!
In this article I will tell you about my experience in the Hill Country, we will see what it is like to travel on one of the most fascinating trains in the world and we will discover a small but surprising town, Ella.
Train journey from Ella to Kandy
The journey on the scenic train that crosses the Hill country it is a must of Sri Lanka, especially the stretch Ella - Nuwara Eliya. A unique route, among the most spectacular in the world, through tea plantations and waterfalls.
Forget the super fast trains, here you travel in slow motion, enjoying even more an indescribable panorama.
I had heard that it was an experience not to be missed, and so it was, all the way I could not tear myself away from the window, lush nature, mountain paths, people walking on the rails and women busy picking tea leaves.
Waterfalls seen from the Ella - Kandy scenic train
Tea plantations seen from the train
Tea picker in the plantations - view from the train
The train has several classes, first, second and third, tickets can be purchased at any station on the island, but it is not possible to get them online from Spain. Keep in mind that in high season the risk of not finding seats is very high.
For the same train, however, it is possible to book seats on a private carriage online on the following sites: www.rajadhani.lk and www.exporail.lk.
I chose theexporail, we booked a first class with air conditioning, a meal and a snack, for the route Ella - Kandy, at a price of around € 10 per person
The trip lasted about 7 hours and I recommend it to everyone also because there is a panoramic terrace where you can admire the spectacular landscape even better.
2017 update: unfortunately this year the government has not renewed the contract for private carriages, so it is currently not possible to use this service.
Another way to appreciate the Hill Country landscape even more is by taking the trail from Ella to Nuwara Eliya by train and then continue to Kandy with a driver, stopping to visit the plantations and waterfalls.
The station Nuwara Eliya is Nanuoya.
If you can't find the train to Kandy, try to see the train station Peradeniya, which is a few kilometers from Kandy.
Remember that on the site www.exporail.lk you can book from about 2 months before the chosen date.Council: do you need more information to organize your trip to Sri Lanka? Take a look at my ebook Guide Sri Lanka Do it yourself, you will find all the tips to make your island tour perfect.
Before leaving I had many doubts about where to stay in the Hill Country, I finally decided to stay 2 nights in Ella and I must say it was a good choice.
The small town of Ella turned out to be a very pleasant surprise, there is the possibility of taking walks in nature, but also of enjoying a little relaxation, which never hurts on holiday.
In particular in Ella I enjoyed the climb to the top of Little Adam’s Peak, a walk through the tea plantations simple and accessible to all, only the last stretch is a bit more tiring. Once you reach the top, the view will repay you for the effort.
The route takes about an hour and a half, between ascent and descent. On the way down, you can also stop and visit a tea factory.
Also not to be missed in Ella Nine Arch Bridge, there are some paths that lead to panoramic points where you can take photos and wait for the train.
Or you can arrive directly on the bridge through a walk on the tracks, starting from Ella station.
Nine Arch Bridge
On the road that leads to the southeast coast (we came from Tissamaharama) there are the waterfalls Ravana Ella Falls, if you pass this way I suggest you stop to take some pictures of the landscape and the many monkeys you will find on the street.
Finally, in Ella, a visit to a tea factory is almost a must, a truly interesting experience.
Tea Leaves - Ella Tea Factory
Where to Stay in Ella
In Ella we found one of the best guest houses of the whole trip to Sri Lanka, The Chillout Ella, located less than 1 km from the village, next to the path that leads to Little Adam’s Peak.
The location is excellent, starting point for pleasant walks, there are some restaurants nearby and in 15 minutes on foot you arrive in the center.
The hotel has spacious and clean rooms, the breakfast is very good and plentiful, served on the veranda with an exceptional view.
But the strength of the Chill out is the owner Danushka, an exquisite person, a former taxi driver who a few years ago opened this cute guest house, which currently has only 2 rooms.
Danushka is fantastic, always available to organize trips, plan excursions and recommend good restaurants.
Well functioning wi-fi connection.
The only flaw is that being close to the main road, between the passage of cars and some dogs, there is a bit of confusion at night.
In general it is a place that I recommend also for the excellent value for money, 40 € a double with breakfast!View Price of The Chillout on Booking
View from our Chillout room
Where to eat in Ella
I must say that Ella really surprised me, also with regard to the restaurants, excellent cuisine and very cool cafes that I did not think I would find in this mountain village.
Among these is the Cafe Chill, a particular place with a nice atmosphere, a wide choice of both typical local and western dishes, great for dining but also just for a drink.
But if you are looking for true Sri Lankan cuisine, near the Cafe Chili, there are some typical restaurants, where you can enjoy excellent roti.
Another really nice restaurant is l’Art Cafe Umbrella, is located near the hotel Chillout, we had lunch there, great for a stop after the ascent to Little Adam.