Hiking Ella Rock in Sri Lanka: A Guide to doing it without a Guide

Ella is a tiny place with a railway station and one main road that is flanked by hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. It is a gorgeous, intimate town with stunning countryside and views. Ella is said to be the closest thing to an English countryside and once you head for the hills you’ll truly experience the Ella that is described in the guidebooks. Grand vistas stretch as far as the eye can see and nowhere is more impressive than from the hike and summit of Ella Rock.

When you look up information about the hike in guidebooks and online, you will find hundreds of different opinions and hiking routes. A lot of people say that it is really easy to get lost and you should trek with a guide, whilst others say you can get a simple map from your hotel and it can be done easily! Different articles we read said that it would take a whole day, whereas others said it would take just a three or four hour return trip. We spoke to our cooking class instructor, read our lonely planet guide and also a number of blog posts to gather as much information as could. Dan took screenshots of everything on his phone and had faith that we could do it on our own and that is exactly what we did! We didn’t get lost and whilst the hike was very strenuous we managed it in less than four hours.

View of Ella Rock Sri Lanka

The walk begins at Ella Town where you head to the train station. From the train station turn left and start walking along the train tracks. Trains do come along every few hours so be sure to keep an ear out and move as far out of the way when they come past.

Walking along train tracks Sri Lanka Dog on train tracks Sri Lanka

We walked for approximately 40 minutes (including crossing over a black bridge) until we arrived at Kithalella railway station. We continued walking along the tracks past the station and even though there are a number of different exits along the tracks, don’t follow them!!

Couple on train tracks Sri LankaGirl Walking along train tracks Sri Lanka

About ten minutes after you pass through the train station you get to a section of the track which is surrounded on both sides by tall rocks covered in vegetation (we walked really quickly through here in case a train came).

Directly after this rock pass ends, there is a hairpin left turn. I believe this is the main spot where most people go wrong and seem to miss. With all of the vegetation it can be hard to spot as it is such a tight left turn. You need to take this hairpin turn.

Girl with Ella Rock directions

About a minute after you take the hairpin turn you will come across a bridge. After this bridge you can only follow the path to the right.

Ella Rock hike bridge River and sign to Ella Rock Ella Rock hike sign Waterfall Ella Rock hike

The path takes you through a tea plantation farm and the path will take you to a yellow house. At the yellow house turn left up the hill and at the top take the right path (don’t take the steps as they just end up in someone’s yard).

Girl walking along tea plantationsTea Plantations Ella Sri Lankan tea plantations Girl with yellow house Ella Rock Path along Ella Rock

You will then come across an outdoor toilet to your left, and if you keep walking you will pass through tall grass into the trees.

Toilet along way of Ella Rock HikePath through tea plantations to Ella Rock Tall grass Ella Rock hike

You then follow the treeline up the slanting hill with the valley to the right and hill top to your left.

Male with view on Ella Rock Ella Rock terrain Ella Rock hike

Eventually the path will slope up ahead and there will be a ridge with a view. This is where we got our best views along the hike.

Male overlooking Ella View on Ella Rock hike Couple on Ella Rock hike

From here it is a very steep, slippery and tough walk up to the top of Ella Rock. There’s only one way up and so you cannot get lost on this part of the hike!

Path to Ella Rock Path Ella Rock

I ended up sooking so much Dan ended up taking my bag too (although this is how the majority of our hikes end up)…
Hiking Ella Rock
Male hiking Ella Rock

Unfortunately at the top the fog had rolled in but it was still a great sense of achievement to reach the top, and we were sweaty, puffed and very muddy. We’ve seen photos of the view on a clear day and they are absolutely spectacular! We were still incredibly impressed with the views we’d seen before the fog rolled in.

Fog at top of Ella Rock Girl with dog at top of Ella Rock

The way down was obviously a lot easier and you can’t really go wrong with which path you take. On our way back we had the excitement of a train chugging along the train tracks with people hanging out the doors and windows waving enthusiastically whilst we stood as far back in the bushes as we could.

People waving from train Sri LankaTrain Sri Lanka

The scenery you’ll experience along the hike is beautiful and as we visited at the end of monsoon season everything was green and vibrant!

View to Ella Tea plantations and countryside Countryside around Ella Boy looking over Ella from Ella rock

We read articles that told you to take certain turns off the path and referenced markings such as blue paint on rocks and a bench as a landmark. We didn’t see the bench at all and also didn’t come across any blue paint on any rocks so I believe they may have faded since these articles and guides were written. As we didn’t know how long the hike would take, we left straight after breakfast at 7:30am. I wouldn’t leave any later as it was ridiculously hot by the time we were walking back and a lot of the walk is completely in the sun. The path is quite slippery and muddy in places and not the flattest of paths so I recommend wearing good walking shoes. We had normal joggers on and they were suitable. Ensure you pack plenty of water, snacks and suncream to get you through the walk and keep an eye out for leeches.

We managed to do the hike without a guide and hope this article may help you to do the same. You may feel more comfortable with a guide and there is no problem with that but it is certainly possible without a guide. Ella was one of our favourite places in Sri Lanka and we highly recommend hiking Ella Rock during your visit here!

Couple on train tracks Sri Lanka

What are some of your favourite hikes from your travels?

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