Ella is a small highland village with at least as many tourists as locals. Practically every house has been turned into a guesthouse, a lot of new houses (read: guesthouses) are under construction and virtually all the restaurants and shops in town are solely aimed at tourists. Why? I’m not quite sure, to be honest. Ella is beautifully located in the hills of southern Sri Lanka’s highlands; from almost everywhere you have gorgeous views, the climate is great (you can sit outside at any time of the day – it’s never too hot) and there are a few nice hiking trails. But that’s about it.
Hiking in and around Ella
One of the hikes takes you (and many others) on top of Ella Rock. The first part is easy, the second part involves finding the right way up the hill, which can be tricky. Usually, a local guy will miraculously show up (maybe saying something like he’s looking for a cow that has escaped into the tea plantation and that’s why he’s really there, not because he followed you) and show you the right way – for a fee, of course. The third part is just uphill, very steep and exhausting, but after that you’ll be rewarded by a nice view over the valley below.
Another, much shorter, hike goes to the top of Little Adam’s peak. It’s an easy walk along tea plantations. As from Ella Rock, the views are good but unlikely to take your breath away.
Visit a tea factory
If you’re interested in the tea making process, then a visit to Uva Halpewatte tea factory is a worthwhile trip. There you can see the whole process in an operating tea factory, with the sound of the machines around you, get explanations about grades and processes, about Pekoe and Orange Pekoe, smell the tea while it’s fermenting, and see and compare the different sizes and grades of tea. Very interesting!
I wonder for how much longer Ella will drag so many tourists and I fear that someday soon people will stop going there. This would be devastating for the town’s economy which totally relies on tourism. But as I see it, the village has lost all originality, the prices for food are too high (and the service in the restaurants mostly bad), and there’s just not enough to do in and around Ella. The big beautiful photogenic tea plantations are elsewhere and getting to Ella involves either long train journeys, annoying bus rides or a very expensive private taxi. Oh, and there’s not even an ATM in town that accepts foreign cards.