Almost hidden in the highlands of Sri Lanka, Ella is a popular backpacker destination known for its natural beauty and the warmth and hospitality of its people. Along with Unawatuna, Ella is one of the liveliest towns in the country and it seems custom-made for a perfect travel experience: plenty of trendy cafes and bars line the main street and amazing adventures are close by surrounding the town.
One of those is the stunning Ella Rock – a scenic hike that takes you through lush green tea plantations and dense forests to a breathtaking viewpoint. Needless to say that Ella Rock, rocks!
Now in this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know for this hike:
Things to know before you go
This is a 3-5 hours moderately challenging trek (10 km round-trip) and due to the lack of signposting on this trail, we recommend downloading a map from the app AllTrails. We used the downloaded map and had no issue whatsoever finding the right path.
In any case, you should know that there’s talk in town that false signs have been purposely put down to lure hikers into the wrong direction, where a friendly local is waiting to offer their help to guide you to the peak in exchange for money.
We don’t see the need for a guide for this hike, but if you prefer, you can join a guided hike like the ones below:
Important: Since around July 2023, an entrance fee started to be charged at the top of the mountain. 900r or around 2.60 euros for adults and half for children.
You’ll need proper shoes for this trail and make sure to pack some snacks and plenty of water. Insect repellent and sunscreen are also a must (a headlamp for sunrise hikes too!).
Hot tip: Be aware of leeches during the rainy season 🐛 Here are some tips to avoiding them!
Last but not least, it’s always advisable to let a family member or a person of trust know of your hiking plans as well as what emergency numbers to call in case of need. In Sri Lanka, the emergency number is 110 for rescues and ambulances.
Also read: Sri Lanka Travel Cost – Budget Breakdown
1. Departure from Ella Town
The starting point of this trail is alongside the train line, about 4 km from the center of Ella town. From the main road, make your way to Priya’s Cooking School (location here) and take a left to go over the tunnel.
Once on the railway track, you can follow it to the left. You’ll pass Kitha Ella train station on the way and a few hundred meters after that is the start of the path to Ella Rock (location here). This should take around 30-40 minutes.
2. Ella Rock Trailhead
As soon as you get off the tracks into the narrow path, you’ll walk a few meters, cross a small bridge, and enter a tea plantation. Here is when things can get confusing and we recommend using the AllTrails map.
After the bridge, there’s a fork in the road and you should take left. It’s an uphill path through tea bushes which then open to a wider dirt path. You’ll walk this way until you reach the forest – during this part, we recommend always checking the map to make sure you’re sticking to the trail as there are lots of smaller forks that go into local farmhouses.
3. The Way Up
Once you make it to the forest, the rest of the trail is fairly straightforward – as long as you see the trail and it’s going up, you’re on the right path. At the same time, this is probably the most physically challenging part of the hike.
You’ll go uphill until you reach a small plateau and then you can expect one very steep hill before reaching the peak.
4. The Peak
The peak is another plateau, with a small hut and a couple of wood benches to admire the view of the surrounding hills and valleys. Here’s also where you’ll pay the entrance fee.
Sometimes the locals are also up there selling fresh coconuts and water and it’s always kind to support by buying a little something (nothing like a King Coconut after this hike!).
Now we recommend you keep going after the main viewpoint to the second one. Not only is the wooded area absolutely stunning but so is the view from this least-known viewpoint!
Best Time to Visit & Hike Ella Rock
The best time to visit Ella Rock is between December and March when the weather is dry and pleasant. During this time, the skies are clear, and you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding hills and valleys.
The monsoon season in Sri Lanka starts in May and lasts until October, and the trails to Ella Rock can be muddy and slippery during this time. We hiked Ella Rock in July and although the trail was indeed muddy, we managed to finish the trail without any complications.
The best time during the day to visit Ella Rock, in our opinion, is during sunrise. Yes, you might need to wake up at 3:30 and leave Ella town by 4 AM in order to make it on time, but it’s such an amazing adventure!
If you’re not such an early adventure birdie, make sure to start the trail at 2 PM max. so you have enough time to get back before it gets dark. Avoiding the midday heat is also a smart choice.
Also read: Sri Lanka Safari – The Ultimate Guide