The drive to Ella was a long one and took us through the Southernmost tip of Sri Lanka, through forests, small towns, good and bad roads and finally towards the Central Hill Country of the island nation. The landscape changed dramatically as we gained altitude, coconut trees were replaced by thick foliage and the humidity of the beach slowly gave way to slight nip in the air. We wouldn’t have to keep sweating for a few days, hopefully…
Nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, Ella is a sleepy little town very popular with foreign tourists. At nearly 1000 mt above sea level, it has pleasant weather year-round, slightly colder than Pune and minus the dryness that cakes our lips for a better part of the year. The landscape is a pleasing lush green topped with carpets of tea plantations that abound in this area. A welcome break after the humidity of coastal Sri Lanka, these mountains were a much-needed break and we could already feel our spirits rising!
The legends of the scholar-king Ravana are woven into the fabric of Sri Lanka very closely and often you may come across a relic that is associated with him in one way or another. The falls and cave named after him are two such places.
As per the folklore, Ravana’s wife once bathed in a pool and the accumulated water formed a mighty fall that takes the shape of an areca flower with withering petals during monsoons.
The waterfall is nearly 80 feet high and falls in cascades near the highway. The place seemed to be a popular tourist stop among the locals and was abuzz with hawkers selling fruits all sorts of things. It reminded us of the waterfalls we see along the Western Ghats during the rains that we visit often. After spending around 10 minutes there, we proceeded onwards.
The approach to the Ravana Cave was via a narrow and uphill road that would turn into a roadblock every time a vehicle approached from the opposite direction. There is a small Buddhist temple at the base of the hillock, known as Maha Ravana Vihara and we visited it first. Some ladies from the nearby village were cleaning the premises up in preparation of the upcoming festival and gave us bright smiles as we greeted them. We stayed there till there was someone back to man the ticket counter of the caves so that we could buy the tickets and go up.
The temple at Maha Ravana Vihara
We had an advance warning that the Ravana Cave was going to be a moderate climb. However, we underestimated the power that a harsh sun has over us and to be at least, the climb to the Ravana Caves was a wakeup call, that it was time to look at my fitness levels.
The steps are steep, and one needs to take it slow. There
View of the valley and beyond from the climb. They say that on a clear day, one can even see the ocean from here…
The cave is not very big and to be honest, there is not much to see inside. As the legends go, Ravana kept Devi Sita hidden in this cave for a while after kidnapping her. Located a few km from Ella, this cave is built on a steep cliff that is accessible by the flight of about 700 steps. The cave was said to be linked to the Dowa Rock Temple in Bandarawela via a network of tunnels but if there were any of those remaining, they have been
There is a great underwater pool somewhere below this cave which has been explored by scuba divers. You can see a link here. However, unless you are an expert in cave scuba-diving, do not even think of venturing there.
Inside the Ravana Cave.
Our stay was at a modest guesthouse named Ella Ridge View, a bit further from the main market and involved driving on a narrow lane followed by a short walk as the car would not go till the end. However, what prompted us to book this place was the views it showed in the photographs. We were not the least disappointed when the reached there. From the verandah of our beautiful accommodation, the Ella rock and all the beautiful green scenery around showed itself in all its magnificence.
Ella Rock, looked beautiful while it rained on this very overcast day and when clouds sauntered above afterwards…
There is a good hiking trail that goes till the top the of Ella Rock and gives a panoramic view of the area. A mix of bad weather and travel-induced fatigue prevented any attempts from our side to even try that. We did not even climb the Little Adam’s Peak for the same reasons. If you stay a day or two in Ella, do try any of these two hikes. For us, what we could not do in Ella, was accomplished at the Horton Plains.
The Nine Arch Bridge
Built in the early 20th century, the Nine Arch Bridge is an important (and gorgeous) railway bridge that connects Ella to
A photograph of the Nine Arch bridge was the magnet that had pulled us all the way to Ella. One route to the bridge goes along the railway line from Ella Railway station; however, Loxley knew another route that was a trail from the tea estates and through a hamlet.
The very pretty Ella Railway Station, and a lone red tuk-tuk waiting in the stands.
The train was supposed to arrive around 3:30 PM and we were at the spot half an hour earlier to start the downward hike. For someone not familiar with this area, it will be easy to get confused and be lost. The people were of great help and made sure that we did not lose our way.
The first view of the bridge and the railway line from above was a gem. I will not try to describe it in words, just take a look at the photographs and you will understand what I mean.
The Nine Arch Bridge.
We stayed at the bridge for some time and saw a blue train passing. It was a nice feel, lots of people around and a picnic vibe to it. We were planning to hike down a trail to reach the tea gardens below, but our luck ran out at this moment and a heavy downpour started. We crossed the bridge running and took shelter in one of the gazebos that have been placed there. The deluge continued for half an hour and as it slowed down, hiking up the same trail from where we had come was no longer an option, everything was slushy and slippery. So, we took a tuk-tuk waiting nearby and went back to the place where the car was parked. The Nine Arch Bridge left us wanting more…
Some Chill At The Evening
After a long day, we were up for some relaxation and headed towards the Ella Market. There are many good restaurants there and one of the most well known is ‘Chill’.
The place is really good with great food and drinks options. The top floor seating is quite cosy where you can sprawl over bean bags on the floor and have a good time. Since we were early, we got a place in a corner overlooking the street. As the evening grew, there was a nip in the air, music was good and the Lion beer awesome as usual. We spent the whole evening there doing nothing.
In retrospective, we feel Ella was one of the highest points (literally and figuratively) of our trip, a place that we loved and would definitely want to go back to and explore some more. I hope this quaint little town retains some of its charms till then and does not succumb to rampant commercialization.