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Breathtaking Hikes Above 2000m in Ella

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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 sarong. 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 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 of 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 were 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, women have the hardest jobs! In 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 woman 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.
Click here to check the latest prices

Boutique hotels

Planters Bungalow Ella
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 as 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 a 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.
Click here to check the latest prices

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 children's play area with toys.
Click here to check the latest prices

Guesthouses

La Montagna Resort
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 the Ella gap. The service can rival any five-star hotel and the excellent breakfast is served on your balcony. It is free in-room Wi-Fi.
Click here to check the latest prices

Ella Guest Inn
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.
Click here to check the latest prices

Leisure Dream Inn
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!
Click here to check the latest prices

Chamodya Home Stay
Basic but large and clean rooms with amazing views make this a popular budget homestay option. Breakfast is good and they serve delicious rice & curry dinner. Location is a 15-minute walk away from the city center.
Click here to check the latest prices

Travel Guides

We used the Lonely Planet`s Sri Lanka travel guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):


 


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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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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

42 Comments

  1. I never had Sri Lanka down as a hiker’s paradise either, but that looks spectacular. You photos look absolutely stunning!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Tammy!! 🙂 Yeah, the Hill Country side of Sri Lanka is awesome for hiking! So green and lush with all the tea plantations everywhere. It is accessible for everyone, you can find both easy and more challenging hikes. Happy travels! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Maria, Your photos are stunning! I am not a beach person, so also really enjoyed the jungle and mountainous interior of Sri Lanka. The people were amazing. I would love to talk with the son and his father, what an experience. Awesome!

    Reply
  3. Thanks Corinne for the nice comment! Yeah, Sri Lanka totally blew us away, what a great country! Agree with you, the people were lovely, like our guide and his son! 🙂 Will have a look at your Norway Postcard blog post. I’m sure it will make me homesick :).

    Reply
    • Thanks Charli! Yeah, Sri Lanka was so lush and green. It was amazing! We thought the best part of this island would be the beautiful beaches, but the Hill Country was great too! Had some really nice hiking trips there!

      Reply
  4. Hi, I’m from Sri Lanka. This post kind of make me feel bad about myself because even though I’ve planned to visit Ella, Diyathalawa several times with friends, but couldn’t visit so far. It’s good to see that you had a good time in Sri Lanka.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for your nice comment Anuradha! Your home country Sri Lanka is really beautiful, we love it! Our favourite country in Asia! Great food and amazing people! Hope to come back soon! 🙂

      Reply
  5. we are planing a 2 night stay in Ella and are wanting to do some type of trekking. 1 0r 2 day trek. After having seen your pics and read your comments, i think this will be our best option. Could you kindly advise on how we can get in contact with the locals you delt with in order for us to be able to arrange the logistics of such a trek.
    ( not your first one but the second one you described on this page. )
    Thank you very much.
    hope it works out.

    Reply
  6. Your trip looks lovely Maria! We’re visiting Ella next week and I wanted to ask where exactly you went on the 2nd trip. The photos are simply stunning. Does the tea plantation / area have a name we could tell a driver to take us to? We are so glad we’re coming to ella after seeing you pictures! Thankss much, colin

    Reply
    • Hi Colin!!

      Thanks for commenting! Our 2nd hiking was the most spectacular! We went there with a guide (83 years old!), and his son drove us there in his tuk-tuk, so I am not exactly sure what this place is called where he dropped us off. He picked us up at another spot, after we had walked several hours over the mountain and through the Tamil tea picking village. This trekking was our guide`s “secret tour”, so we met no other tourist on this trek. I see from one of our photos that we have taken an shot of a tea factory called Nayabedda Estate in Bandarawela. So if you get your driver to go there, you will at least be in the same area as we did the hike.

      We stayed at Ravana Heights Hotel while we were in Ella. It is a really nice hotel with a great owner and manager called Senadhi. Senadhi has studied in London and speaks perfect English, and we became very good friends and ended up staying there longer than we intended because it was so nice. It was Senadhi who arranged our hiking trips with this guide. The guide used to be Senadhi`s private driver before he retired, and he now takes a few guided trips now and then together with his son (who is a tuk-tuk driver).

      The guide don`t have e-mail or mobile phone, so I think it is best you contact Senadhi and mention that you read about the hike on our blog and that you want to book a hiking trip with the same guide if possible. Here is the contact information for Senadhi:

      E-mail: senadhi@slt.lk
      Telephone: +94(0)572228888 or +94(0)777309542
      Ravana Heights Hotel webpage: http://www.ravanaheights.com

      We really recommend staying at Ravana Heights Hotel if you plan to stay in Ella. It is great, with delicious food!! The best food we had during our entire four week trip in Sri Lanka! You can read more about our stay at Ravana Heights and see pictures here: https://nerdnomads.com/ella-in-sri-lanka

      Ok, hope this helped a little. Have a great trip to Ella! We absolutely loved it, hope you will too! Say hi to Senadhi from us if you contact/ talk with him! 🙂

      -Maria-

      Reply
    • Hi Ray!

      We were in Ella hiking for about ten days in February 2014. It’s a spectacular place for hiking. We had a great time! 🙂

      Reply
  7. Hi Maria, – I read your report and decided to stay at the same hotel, Ravana Heights, to do some hiking tours around Ella, – and I did not regret it. After I arrived to Ella by train from Nanu Oya early in the afternoon I climbed the quite easy path to the nearby Little Adam’s Peak the same day. The nature and the views are simply awesome.

    Next day I did hiking to Ella Rock, – also such a lovely environment and breathtaking view. No need to take a guide for both of the tours. A local was following me for around 30 minutes trying to convince me that I am on the wrong way and will not find the summit without him. I coninued my way hiking up knowing as long as I walk upwards I can’t get lost and easily I reached the summit, – what a nice day trip.

    On day number 3 the owner of Ravana heights organized me that elder man as my guide and the guide’s son as our Tuk-Tuk driver. Looks like we did the same hike which you did on your first day. It was a marvelous experience, spectacular views, – I had great days in Ella and the surrounding and I only can recommend this place to people who love the nature and like hiking.

    Kind regards, Harry

    Reply
    • Hi Harry,

      Wow, so cool to hear that you chose to stay at Ravana Heights Hotel based on our post, and that it did not disappoint. We loved the walk to Little Adam`s Peak too, even though it is easy as you say, the view is spectacular. Your hike to Ella Rock sounds wonderful, we have to go back one day and do that hike too as we missed it this time because of heavy rain.

      Awww, so happy to hear that you went on a guided hike with the same old guide and his son as we did. They are wonderful people! Glad you liked the hike and enjoyed Ella. We hope to get back there some day and do some more hiking. Thanks a million for commenting!

      Best regards,
      Maria

      Reply
  8. Thanks for sharing this with us. Going back home after five years and will go look for the places and people that made this such a memorable trip.:-)

    Reply
    • Have a great trip home Susan! It sure is all the amazing people we meet on our travels that make it memorable. Happy travels!

      Reply
  9. Thanks for sharing your adventure. It looks amazing!

    I was hoping for some advice. We will be in Ella for only 2 days and were planning on doing an afternoon hike to Little Adams’s Peak and the second day hiking near Lipton’s Seat. The two walks you have highlighted above look amazing however, and in your experience, do you think we should forego Little Adams’s Peak and Lipton’s Seat and do the 2 walks you have described above?

    Also how long did these 2 walks take?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Asanthika,

      Little Adam`s Peak is a very short and easy walk, easily done in a couple of hours. We have described this walk here: https://nerdnomads.com/little-adams-peak. We have not done the walk near Lipton`s Seat.

      We did these two walks on separate days, starting early in the morning from our hotel (8 a.m.) on both days and returning back to our hotel in the afternoon. So these two walks are two full days of hiking. Little Adam`s Peak is like you say perfect for a short afternoon walk on your own. If you do have time I would recommend doing one of the walks we did as they are unique and uncrowded. You will hardly meet any other tourists on these walks while Little Adam`s Peak can be busy with tourists. If you want to go on one of these walks we did I would recommend hiring a guide as it is easy to get lost and there are no signs in English.

      Out of these two walks, I would recommend the second one towards Bandarawela. It was absolutely beautiful, the landscape was amazing and we loved the little mountain village. It is a longer drive to get there compared to the first hike, however, around 1 hour each way by tuk-tuk from Ella.

      Have a great trip to Ella! You will have some great walks with beautiful scenery no matter which one you choose.

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  10. Hello,
    I came across your page while looking for local blogs. As a local travel buff and a photographer I am very impressed by your pictures!
    It’s twice as tiring to trek AND take quality photos.

    My two cents

    1) Ella is situated at 1000m. There are no treks over 2000m in that region. Even Nuwera Eliya is located at 1800m with a few peaks that top 2000m!

    2) The old dude is wearing a Sarong! A Sari is what’s on the female tea pickers haha

    Reply
    • Hi Leena,

      Thanks for the information on Ella and sarong! 🙂 Lucky you who live in such a beautiful and amazing country. We love Sri Lanka!

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
      • WHY does your headline reads out “Hikes above 2000m”? It is suppose to impress people?
        Pretty misleading. And most locals would find it quite insulting.

        Reply
        • We were told that the top of St. Catherines Division at the Nyabedde Estate where we did our second day of hiking is situated above 2000m. There are also signs on the way up that show the elevation.

          We found it quite amazing that you can go hiking in such a lush and beautiful landscape at such a high altitude. Therefore, we highlighted this in the article and its headline.

          Reply
  11. Thanks for sharing Maria (y) . I was wondering if there are any areas where you can put your own tent there? Like a camping ground where u have to pay very little money to put ur tent for a day or so? any ideas plz? 🙂
    Loves

    Reply
    • Hi Hajar,

      We did not see any camping grounds in or around Ella, where you pay a small fee to put up your own tent and have access to bathroom, eating area and so on. Sorry I can`t be of more help.

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  12. Hey Maria,

    Really pleased I found your blog. I am currently planning a couple of week long treks in Sri Lanka in early 2016. So far I haven’t been able to find much information on camping/hammocking without taking part in a guided tour. I’ve also read that it’s likely that people are likely to steal my equipment.

    Can you offer any advice at all? I am planning to contact Senadhi to see if he can offer some guidance.

    Reply
    • Hi Dave,

      We did not sleep in tent/hammock while we were in Sri Lanka, and we did not see any camping grounds either or anyone camp. So sorry I can`t be of more help. In the Ella area, there are a lot of tea plantations, privately owned, so I don`t think you will be allowed to camp in these areas. I would not recommend leaving your camping gear unattended either.

      Senadhi might know more about camping options, so it`s a good idea to contact him on his email: senadhi@slt.lk

      Have an awesome trip to Sri Lanka!! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Maria

      Reply
  13. Hi!

    I’m flying to Sri Lanka in Septembre and since a few months I have been readings blogs to prepare the trip. But I have never come across a blog like yours! The information is accruate, interesting, it’s well written and the pictures are absolutely stunning. Many thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Christine,

      Awww, thank you soooo much!! Your comment made my day! 🙂

      So happy our posts can be of help to you when planning your Sri Lanka trip.

      Have an awesome trip to beautiful Sri Lanka, you will love this country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  14. Thanks alot for this information, i will go to sri lanka this month and hiking is my favorite thing to do when travel as its not avaliable too much in egypt.
    Do you think sri lanka is safe for solo traveler ( girl)?

    Reply
    • Hi Israa,

      You will find plenty of great hiking opportunities in Sri Lanka! Yes, I would say Sri Lanka is safe for girls traveling solo, you will have a great time!

      Have an awesome trip to Sri Lanka!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  15. Hi Maria,
    The place looks amazing. I am planning to do a hiking trip tomorrow. Just want to know what’s the best place for a hike. I am thinking of little Adams Peak. Any other places worth walking around by the way.

    Reply
  16. Hi Maria,
    I’m A Sri Lankan. I’m So so glad to know that you have enjoyed all of our things. Not only the places but also our people and food. Yes they are very friendly. Thank you for letting the world know about us.

    Reply
    • Hi Chithaka,

      Thank you so much for your nice comment! It means a lot coming from a Sri Lankan! We really fell in love with Sri Lanka, both the nature, food, and of course the people. Sri Lankan are some of the most welcoming people in the world. Can`t wait to go back to your beautiful country!

      -Maria-

      Reply
  17. Hi Maria, I am a Sri Lankan living in SL. Glad that you have had a tremendous influence on your readers with your wonderful memories in Sri Lanka. I too enjoyed your photos and the write-up, also picked up some points to follow when I visit Ella next. You have been a fantastic brand ambassador for both Ella and Sri Lanka. Good luck Stay safe.

    Reply
    • Hi Kamal,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who live in beautiful Sri Lanka! It is my favorite country – the stunning beaches and nature, and the fantastic and friendly Sri Lankan people are the best! I also love Sri Lankan rice and curry.

      I can’t wait to head back to Sri Lanka when we get vaccinated and this pandemic is over. Sri Lanka is first up when we can travel again. This time we plan on exploring the north and east coast of SL.

      Take care, and stay safe! Thanks for commenting!

      All the best,
      Maria

      Reply

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