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A guide to Hiking Ella Rock, Sri Lanka

Ella Rock, Sri Lanka

At the top of Ella Rock, Sri Lanka

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Ella is a beautiful little town in Sri Lanka's hill country, popular with backpackers and hiking enthusiasts and hiking Ella Rock is one of the best things to do in Ella. Here's a guide for how to get to Ella Rock on your own.

Want to know what else there is to do in Ella? Check out my top things to do in Ella and why you should visit!

A guide to Hiking Ella Rock, Sri Lanka

The hike to Ella Rock is more strenuous than the hike to Little Adam's Peak, which is suitable for most fitness levels, however I would still rate the hike to Ella Rock as moderate. It starts off relatively easy and mostly flat, but it does begin to climb towards the end.

I would recommend sturdy, comfortable shoes, definitely no flip flops as there are leeches lurking in the long grass, particularly after it’s been raining. The round trip to Ella’s rock will take approximately 4 hours, depending on how quick you walk and how much time you spend at the top. Make sure that you pack plenty of water and snacks, a hat and suncream and you’ll need mosquito spray!

When I was researching into the route, I came across lots of conflicting information. Some people said that you needed a guide to reach the top, whereas others had managed to get there on their own. After researching further into the route, we decided we would go it alone and I’m so glad that we didn’t pay for a guide as you really don’t need it – as long as you research your route beforehand and take a downloaded version with you, then you should be fine.

There are many blogs which show the route to Ella rock, some of which have handy photos to help with the explanation. I would strongly recommend downloading a couple of route guides to your phone and taking them with you.

Unfortunately I didn’t stop to take specific photos of the route on the way up as I was too busy taking it all in(!), but I did make a note of the route we took…

Here is the step by step guide for the route we hiked to Ella Rock, Sri Lanka:

1. Starting at the main street in Ella town, take the road up the hill towards the train station. At the station, turn left at the platform and start walking along the train tracks. (We were a bit nervous about doing this at first – you would never dream of doing this in the UK! But it is completely normal in Sri Lanka and you will see many tourists and locals using the train lines as a path – the trains here are very loud and slow, so don’t worry you will hear them coming and will have plenty of time to move out of the way).

The start of the route to Ella Rock takes you along the train line, Ella, Sri Lanka
The start of the route to Ella Rock takes you along the train line, Ella, Sri Lanka

The start of the route to Ella Rock takes you along the train line

2. Continue walking along the train track until you reach Kithalella Railway Station, which is basically a small cream building with a sign on the side. Continue past the train station, after approximately 10 minutes you will come to a narrowing of the path, with tall rocks covered in vegetation either side of the track. Be careful when passing through this section as there's not much room either side of the train track to get out of the way if a train comes – we walked quickly through this bit! Immediately after this section, you need to take the path on the left, which leads to a small footbridge over a little stream. Careful not to miss it as the path bends round almost in a U.

Tip: Beware, there are several small paths which lead off the train tracks before and after Kithalella Railway station. I had read that some locals will sometimes try to tell you that these paths are the way to Ella Rock and that you are going the wrong way. They will then ask hikers for money in return for taking you along the correct route. We did not experience this at all, the locals we saw along route were friendly and just waved or said hello, but just something to be aware of.

Hiking to Ella Rock, Ella, Sri Lanka

Be sure to listen out for trains on the narrower parts of the track to Ella Rock

3. Once you have crossed the small footbridge, take the path to your right, which leads around the edge of the farm towards a yellow house.

4. Once you reach the yellow house, turn left up the hill and follow the path through the trees. At the top, turn right – do not take the stairs as this leads onto private land. Continue following the path, guided by the tree line. The path can easily get lost here, but don’t worry you will soon come to the top, and if you look right, you will see a ridge.

5. Follow the ridge on the right, you will now start to get views over the landscape and of the side of Ella Rock. Take a moment to catch your breath before your start the last ascent.

Following the path to Ella Rock through the eucalyptus forest

Following the path to Ella Rock through the eucalyptus forest

6. The last ascent begins with a section of steep steps, before arriving at a eucalyptus forest. Follow the winding path through the forest, until you reach the clearing at the top of Ella Rock. Here you will be rewarded with stunning views.

Views from Ella Rock, Ella, Sri Lanka
Views from Ella Rock, Ella, Sri Lanka
Views from Ella Rock, Ella, Sri Lanka

Gorgeous Views at the top of Ella Rock, Ella

The last section of the hike to Ella Rock is the most strenuous and the forest is very hot and humid, but we passed so many locals and tourists, all smiling and encouraging one another, and as it was Christmas day when we did this hike, everyone was wishing each other a ‘Merry Christmas’ – it was a lovely atmosphere!

Enjoying fresh fruit smoothies at the top of Ella Rock

Enjoying fresh fruit smoothies at the top of Ella Rock

At the top of Ella Rock, we rewarded ourselves with a fresh fruit smoothie, prepared by a local vendor! Definitely a Christmas day to remember! To get back down, simply follow the route in reverse. I hope you found this guide useful, to make sure you have a happy hike, here are some top tips:

Tips for hiking Ella Rock, Ella

  1. Make sure you research up to date route instructions and guides before you set off and download them onto your phone so you can view them offline. My favourite hiking app is All Trails - I use it to find and follow hikes worldwide and if you have the Pro version you can download offline maps too.

  2. Download an offline version of google maps - this won't show you the hiking trail, but it will show you your location if you get lost.

  3. I would recommend setting off early in the morning to avoid the heat of midday, make sure you take suncream and a hat, and put on mosquito spray

  4. Pack plenty of water as there's no where to top up along the route. I always travel with an insulated re-usable bottle to keep my water cold and to save on single use plastic. Make sure you also pack some snacks - ask your hotel or guesthouse if they can do a packed breakfast or lunch for you. The hike is roughly 10km will take approximately 4 hours depending on your fitness level and how long you stop for

  5. Listen for trains! As I mentioned, they are loud and slow, so you should be able to hear them well enough, but maybe don't wear headphones during these sections!

  6. I would recommend trainers or hiking shoes as you will be walking on uneven terrain and in long grasses

If you enjoy being out in the hill country, another great option is Nuwara Eliya, a small town surrounded by tea plantations, waterfalls and hiking spots.

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