After the semi-arid scrub jungle of Yala came the tea plantations and cloud forests of the Hill Country. One of Sri Lanka’s many stark shifts in geography and climate. As our car wound up the roads to higher elevations, the temperature plummeted, and the landscape transformed into lush green hillsides ribboned with waterfalls and crowned with mist. Utterly beautiful.
EZ and I hadn’t planned to stay in Ella, but many people recommended we at least check it out. So we took a detour to Ella on our way to Nuwara Eliya, starting with Ravana Falls. This gorgeous sight on the side of the road stopped cars in their tracks. Between the majestic, chattering falls, sculpted greenery, and drifting cloudscape above, there is so much splendor to take in.
Near the falls scampered some monkeys, striking with their mop-top haircuts, freckled faces, and darkly lined Cleopatra eyes. We gave one a banana…I think he liked it!
The mountain town of Ella is small but increasingly popular, especially among backpackers seeking a scenic hike or retreat. New shops, restaurants, and lodgings are popping up to accommodate the interest, but we drove past the town. It was Ella’s nature that we had set our eyes and hearts on.
Little Adam’s Peak
Little Adam’s Peak, not to be confused with Adam’s Peak, is a miniature version of the full Adam’s Peak climb, and a completely different experience—but it still incorporates elements of a pilgrimage, with Buddhist and Hindu shrines at the top.
The Little Adams Peak trail is a mix of stairs, dirt, and rocks that beg to be clambered over. Part of the trail forks off into an area for a ziplining, archery, and air rifle operation.
Along the way, the clouds above broke with rain. EZ and I sought shelter beneath a tree as the beautiful sheets of rain cascaded down, invigorating us with cool freshness. The spurt of rain passed relatively quickly, leaving behind clear, verdant views of tea plantations, farmland, and natural greenery.
The hike itself was moderate—we did see quite a few children taking the trail. After admiring the view from the shrines at the top of the hill, EZ and I noticed that a scraggly dirt trail continued up another steeper, rockier hill. There were definitely no children around that part of the trail. We went for it…and were grateful we did. Because even more arresting panoramas awaited us.
We sat and soaked in the wonder of nature…until nature unleashed another shower. EZ and I quickly turned back at that point; we didn’t want to risk the dirt trail getting too muddy or slippery before our descent. Once securely past the dirt part of the trail, we ducked under a tree for a bit to avoid being thoroughly drenched. This waiting period actually turned out to be quite pleasant. Despite the rain, the air around us was temperate. A little ways down, a group of Tamil locals clustered beneath another tree, singing folksongs in their language.
So we stood, perfectly warm yet refreshed by the rain around us, sheltered by the tree, surrounded by music and beauty.
Nine Arches Bridge
The Nine Arches Bridge, aka the Bridge in the Sky, is a viaduct bridge constructed by a local Sri Lankan builder in consultation with British engineers during the colonial era. And it is a magical sight, set against the flourishing foliage of Ella.
A scenic train ride across the bridge and through the Hill Country had been highly recommended, but alas, EZ and I didn’t have the time for the journey. We figured the next best thing would be to catch a glimpse of the bridge from Ella. And we’d heard that Asanka Café boasted the best view.
So, after the Little Adams Peak hike, our car whisked us off to Asanka Café…or at least it tried to. The road leading there was too narrow. EZ and I ditched the car and walked up the narrow and hilly road, past a colorful Hindu temple.
Finally, a path led us from the road to Asanka Café, a simple outdoor counter that served tea, coffee, and hot local fare. As promised, the view was stunning. I could imagine a steam engine chugging out from the tunnel at any moment, a Sri Lankan Hogwarts Express, perhaps.
We only spent the day in Ella, but EZ and I still felt so nourished by our experiences. And we were excited to see what else the Hill Country had to offer. Next stop, Nuwara Eliya!