Ella was not at all what I expected. It has clearly boomed as a tourist town and over recent years development has responded to its popularity. The main road is crowded with bars, cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops, which are also expanding up Passara Road towards Little Adam’s Peak. It felt very much like a backpacker town. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, I really enjoyed Ella: it’s a great hub from which to do walks and visit tea plantations and you’d never be short of somewhere to eat and drink.
We took a walk up to Ella Rock on day 1. This takes you along the railway track from the train station – a treat for the child in all of us – through a tea plantation and up a steep climb through the forest to an astonishing view point. We went without a guide and got adopted by a local who took us on on a roundabout route, for a tip of course. But no hard feelings.
Most of the walk to Ella Rock is flat and easy, but the final part of the walk could be challenging for those without much fitness. That said, we saw all shapes and sizes struggling up, so it’s possible if you have the determination! You can do it without a guide and if you take up the offer of a ‘friendly’ local, be ready to pay!
It’s a one way route, so you have to return via the same path. As we hadn’t had quite enough walking, on the return we continued back past Ella Station along the tracks to Demodora Nine Arch Bridge. We enjoyed the walk more than the sight, although it may have been more impressive had a train been passing. Note that there’s a drink stop on the way. You can walk back from Nine Arch Bridge a different way i.e. not along the train tracks; the path starts on the other side of the bridge on the right – it’s narrow at the start and you may think you’re going the wrong way, but keep following it through the forest and you’ll end up at the top of Ella town.
Day 2 was the obligatory and very enjoyable tea factory visit. We opted to go to Halpe as it had good reviews and it comes highly recommended for anyone interested in the factory process. I was expecting to get a tour of the plantation as well, but that wasn’t included which was a bit of a disappointment. The lively tuk tuk ride there and back made up for it though – once we managed to find two tuk tuks and negotiate on price (not as easy as it should have been)! It is possible to walk to Halpe tea plantation if you are feeling energetic: it’s quite steep but not too far. Friends went to a smaller tea operation at Alma and very much enjoyed that as well.
On our final day, we walked up Little Adam Peak. Despite reading lots of information in advance, we still had trouble finding the start of the walk so NOTE: it is through the hotel! It was a short but steep walk – very manageable – with great views. Definitely worth it, especially if you stop at Adam’s Breeze for breakfast on the way back!
Where we stayed
As with everywhere we stayed, I spent a long time doing research. It’s difficult until you get to a place to really appreciate the lay of the land in terms of distances, hills and attractions. Ella was particularly tricky as it’s so spread out and hilly. So, although the welcome wasn’t as warm as expected, I was relieved by Ella Rock House – thankfully! Rooms weren’t huge but were big enough, with a balcony and a modern bathroom. The breakfast buffet on the roof terrace had a reasonable choice and was a pleasant setting. It was uphill from the main drag, but only a short walk, and that kept it away from the noise.
Where we ate
The Remo’s Restaurant was a cheap and cheerful place serving local food. At the other end of the scale, we visited AK Ristoro, an Italian / tapas style restaurant near our hotel. The environment was lovely, but the food disappointing and not deserving of the other good reviews in our opinion.
Adam’s Breeze, on the other hand, was a great little place. Simple but tasty food on the way to Little Adam’s Peak (or the way back from the bridge via the non-track route – see above) – the best on our trip. The place we spent the most time, however, was Dream Cafe, mostly enjoying a few beers while people-watching, although we also ate the Fish and Chips. We were disappointed by Oak Ray La Ella Breeze (should have worked that out from the name!).
What I’d do differently
Get better directions to Little Adam’s Peak. Not eat at Oak Ray.