When you picture Sri Lanka, soft golden beaches probably pop up before your eyes. But this beautiful island can also offer an entirely different side, one of the misty green lush landscapes. Here you can find blankets of green tea bushes as far as your eyes can see, divided by waterfalls and small mountain villages.

It’s a place where you can go hiking above 2000 m, walk to the end of the world, or in the footsteps of Adam. Welcome to the Hill Country! This is perhaps the best place to go hiking in Sri Lanka. We went on three hiking trips from our base in the sleepy town Ella. On two of them, we went with a guide.

1. Above Ella Town

Senadhi, the owner of Ravana Heights Hotel where we stayed, used to be a mountain guide in Ella and suggested that we could go with a guide to some of his favorite tracking routes. Our guide and his son, who was a tuk-tuk driver, picked us up at our hotel after breakfast. We then drove on small roads through a Tamil village, up in the mountain above Little Adam’s Peak.

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Our guide with his tuk-tuk driving son.

Along the way, we had spectacular views over the valley Ella Gap. The landscape was incredibly green and lush!

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Our guide was walking barefoot!

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Fantastic views!

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Beautiful blue sky.

We mainly walked along a clear track in between tea bushes. If you are curious about how your morning tea makes it from these hills to your breakfast table, you can read all about Sri Lankan tea and it`s tea industry in our blog post: Would You Like A Cup of Sri Lankan Tea?

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We walked among thousands of tea bushes.

But in some places the path was almost impossible to see, completely covered with jungle. Good thing we had a guide with us, helping us find the way, or we would have been pretty lost!

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Our guide finding the path through the jungle.

Us hiking in Ella sri Lanka

And we walked, and we walked……

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The landscape was so green and lush even at this height!

We also met some, more or less friendly animals, like this cow.

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Friendly cow.

Our guide was excellent! He was 83 years old, with only one tooth, walked bare feet, and was wearing a sari! He was born in Ella and has lived there all his life with his wife and seven children. He learned English as an adult, working as a driver for a tea company, and spoke perfect English. He used to work as Sendahi’s (the owner of our hotel) driver in Colombo but retired a few years ago. Now he takes tourists on walks, and his son is his driver. Such a real gentleman!

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Our smiling and super fit guide of 83 years old.

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Our guide wearing a sarong, carrying his umbrella and fleece jacket. Always prepared for rain. But luckily the rain never came.

All around us were thousands of tea bushes, like a sea of green!

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Thousands of tea bushes all around us.

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Our guide with his lunch in a plastic bag.

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A short stop to look at the view!

The path got a bit steep towards the end, returning to the road where the tuk-tuk was waiting for us.

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A bit steep at the end towards the waiting tuk-tuk.

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Admiring the lovely view.

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So glad to see our tuk-tuk driver waiting for us as at the end of the trip.

2. St. Catherines Division at Nyabedde Estate

We enjoyed our first hiking trip, and decided to take another one a couple of days later with our excellent guide! This time, we drove for a couple of hours in the Tuk-tuk before we reached our destination. The road took endless turns winding itself up the mountain. Higher and higher it went until our guide informed us we were more than 2000m above the sea.

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On our way up the mountain. Passing 1959m elevation 🙂

This hike had, if possible, even more, spectacular views than the first hike! This trip had more variation, taking us through magnificent tea plantations and a small mountain village. The air was also cooler, which was nice when walking.

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Tea plantations as far as our eyes could see.

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Thousands of tea bushes were making everything so green and lush.

We walked through the tea plantations.

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Most places we walked on a path through the tea plantations.

In some places there was a sandy  path to walk on…..

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Nice solid path to walk on.

But not everywhere…… And in some places even our guide was a little uncertain where to go.

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In some spots even our guide got lost.

Bit luckily he always managed to find the right way!

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The landscape opened up at the top, with great colors!

Everywhere, as far as our eyes could see, we were surrounded by bright green tea bushes. They were all planted in rows, making beautiful patterns in the hillsides.

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The tea bushes are making a beautiful pattern on the hillsides.

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Small hills with lovely tea pattern.

Along our walk we met some people clearing the grounds for grass, and planting more tea bushes. As if it was not enough tea already!

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Some men clearing the grown and planting more tea bushes.

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A man is clearing the ground.

After a couple of hours walking, we came to a small village in the middle of the tea plantations. Here is where the tea pickers, mainly Tamils, live.

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A mountain village where the tea pickers live.

The village people also grow their own vegetables and rice.

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Rice and other vegetables at the village.

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Walking through the Tamil mountain village.

The people in the community was very friendly! They came out of their houses saying hello to us and shaking our hands, as we walked through the narrow streets.

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We met friendly smiling people in the village.

Our guide even met an old childhood friend from his schooldays in the village, whom he hadn’t seen for years! Seeing their smiles when they realized who the other person was, was a great moment!

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Our guide met a childhood friend whom he had not seen for many years.

Especially the village’s children were curious and friendly, waving and running next to us as we walked. They wanted to talk to us, but “Hello” was the only English word they spoke, so unfortunately not much of a conversation. Some even wanted us to take a picture of them, and enjoyed seeing themselves on the camera’s monitor afterward! Great fun for both us and them!

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Waving Tamil children at the village.

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The children at the village wanted us to take a picture of them, and look at themselves on the monitor at the back of our camera. Great fun!

As in many cultures, the women has the hardest jobs! Addition to tea leaves picking the whole day, it was their responsibility to collect and carry home the wood for the fire. Sure looks heavy!

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Women were carrying back wood to the village.

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A smiling Tamil women carrying firewood back to her home.

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A tea picker in the green ocean of tea bushes. The tea pickers wages are very low, only around 3 $ each day. It is expected that each person picks a minimum of 20 kg of tea leaves per day.

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A tea picking women.

After a long day walking among tea bushes, we were so glad to see our tuk-tuk driver waiting for us. He was our guide’s son and a great driver!

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Our great tuk-tuk driver. He is also our guide`s son.

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On our way back to Ella.

We really enjoyed our two days of hiking in Ella Sri Lanka, with our lovely guide! We loved Ella so much that we ended up staying seven nights instead of two, which was our original plan. If you ever go to Sri Lanka, we would highly recommend a visit to Ella!

We also did a hike without a guide, to Little Adam`s Peak. If you don`t have that much time in Ella, this hike is the best option! A very nice walk, with stunning views.


Where To Stay In Ella

Ella has mostly small family run guesthouses but also a few higher end boutique hotels. The recent popularity surge means that there is no shortage of accommodation options for any budget. Below are some of the best accommodation options in Ella, including their address and price, starting with the place we called home for 7 nights.

We stayed at Ravana Heights
Accommodation in Ella, Sri LankaBy chance, we ended up at Ravana Heights and while we had originally intended to stay two nights we ended up staying for a full week. We especially enjoyed the new big and comfortable superior rooms with stunning views from the balcony. The location is excellent, you're just a short walk away from the main street of Ella with shops and restaurants.

The food at this hotel is fantastic! The breakfast is served on the terrace, with spectacular views over the Ella valley, mountains, and tea plantations. You are served pancakes, eggs, bread, jams, tea/coffee, juice, fruits, basically everything a good breakfast should have.

And the dinner, oh the dinner is delicious! The best food we have had in Sri Lanka, maybe the whole of Asia! It cost $15 and consists of several different tasty dishes including dessert. The dinner varies from day to day and is a fusion of Thai and Sri Lankan.

The owner Senadhi speaks perfect English (he studied at the London School of Economics). He is a great character and really makes you feel at home at Ravana Heights. He can also organize walks for you, with or without a guide, and will draw maps of hiking routes for you. We did two walks with a guide, and one without a guide. The other staff are also very sweet and couldn't do enough for us.

Boutique hotels
An old converted tea planters bungalow located in a very peaceful and relaxing setting away from town. It's also one of the very few places around Ella that have a swimming pool to enjoy after a day of hiking. They have rooms set in the newly refurbished colonial bungalow as well apartment style rooms in a new building. Rooms are very comfortable and no two are alike. The staff is super friendly and the Sri Lankan style breakfast is very tasty. There is a $15 set dinner menu that changes every evening. It’s great choice if you like a place to relax and enjoy the scenery and don’t mind being 20 minutes drive away from the touristy and busy Ella town.

Zion View Ella
The rooms here have floor to ceiling windows that truly let you admire the awe-inspiring view in all its's majesty. The rooms are cozy, well maintained and clean, with comfortable beds and hot water showers. Every room has a balcony with chairs for relaxing as well as a hammock. Wi-Fi is free and surprisingly fast. Despite being just a six-minute walk from Ella center, it's a quiet and relaxing place. Breakfast is plentiful and very tasty. It's a popular choice with families and there is a childrens play area with toys.

Guesthouses
This is a new small hotel located a ten-minute tuk-tuk ride away from the city center. It has 3 large and spotlessly clean rooms with hot water showers and spectacular views overlooking Ella gap. The service can rival any five-star hotel and the excellent breakfast is served on your balcony. There is free in room Wi-Fi.
If you want a place centrally located and close to the train station then this is an excellent alternative. It’s just a five-minute walk away from the station and two minutes from Ella center with its shops and restaurants. Standard rooms are in the old section and are a little small and worn down but the newly built rooms (2017) are very nice and spacious so it is definitely worth upgrading to a new superior room. It’s family run and the owners are very friendly and helpful.
This family run place is very popular so reserve your room early! The view is spectacular and the rooms are well furnished, clean and comfortable with hot water showers, fridge, cable TV and free Wi-Fi. The three brothers that run it are super friendly, and the mother cooks a delicious breakfast served on the terrace. It’s located on a quiet hill about 10 minutes walk from Ella Town. All in all, its fantastic value for money!
Basic but large and clean rooms with amazing views make this a popular budget homestay option. Breakfast is good and they serve a delicious rice & curry dinner. Location is a 15 minute walk away from the city center.

We used the Lonely Planet`s Sri Lanka book, which was great! However, we heard from other travelers that the maps are better in the Rough Guide. You can buy both books at Amazon:

Lonely_planet_sri_lanka_medium rough_guide_sri_lanka_medium

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Can you picture yourself wandering the mountains around Ella? We’d love to hear your opinion in the comment area below! If you like this blog post and find it useful, please share and like it on social media! Thank you so much! 🙂

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Maria

Maria

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd, who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a masters degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. See our about page for more about Maria.
Maria

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