After a beautiful start to our reunion in Sri Lanka, Joe and I made it to the mountains for the second week of our trip. We are spending one week in Ella, a lively town in the highlands known for its picturesque hills covered with cloud forests, hiking, tea plantations, and hippie vibes.
Day 22: travel day + nationwide curfew + settling into Ella
We picked an interesting day to travel to Ella. During our car ride from Mirissa, we noticed the roads were a ghost town as there were no other cars and all shops were closed. Turns out, the government issued a nationwide curfew over the weekend as the protests over the economic crisis were escalating. Even social media was banned that day. We were only allowed on the road since tourists are treated as VIPs.
It’s been heartbreaking to see this crisis get worse week by week. Basically, Sri Lanka’s government ran out of money, and they cannot pay for key imports like fuel, food stapes, etc. While there is some buffer for tourists, we are certainly experiencing the effects of this crisis with daily power blackouts (4+ hours per day) and fuel/cooking gas shortages. I’m counting my blessings that Sri Lankans are still making a huge effort to welcome tourists as their economy relies on tourism. It makes me better appreciate the hard-working people here who fight for their livelihood each day.
As we rode into the mountains, we stopped at Rawana Falls, one of the waterfall sites of Ella. We snapped a few photos and crossed that off our list. 🙂
Finally, we made it to our hotel, The One. We felt at home right away with our mini-house and sweepings views of the Ella mountains. It felt more like an Airbnb as we made a personal connection with our host who went above and beyond to help us.
After settling in, we headed to town (~15-minute walk). Along the way, we noticed plenty of lively shops and restaurants with a colorful, hippie vibe. Ella felt like a mix of Nuwara Eliya and Mirissa – it had the mountain views/hiking/waterfalls of Nuwara with the hippie touristic vibes of Mirissa. It was the perfect mix of adventure/activity and relaxing in the mountains. This combo ended up making Ella my favorite place in all of Sri Lanka. (I feel like I say that about every place – this trip has just been on an upward trajectory). 🙂
We walked around town and got a snack at Cafe Chill, a popping spot that seemed to draw everyone in town.
The rest of the day looked like this. We chilled at home and enjoyed the mountain views. The rain poured in the afternoon, and we enjoyed watching from our porch.
For dinner, we got a traditional Sri Lankan dinner from our host delivered right to our room. I’ve had many chicken curries on this trip and this one was my favorite one so far!
Day 23: hiking Little Adam’s Peak + relaxing in the rain
The next morning, our host made us breakfast, once again delivered to our room. He really went above and beyond to give us the VIP treatment. Breakfast was SO tasty with a mix of western and Sri Lankan dishes (egg hoppers, coconut pancakes). I looked forward to these breakfasts every day in Ella. 🙂
Then, we set off for our morning activity: hiking Little Adam’s Peak, a popular hike in Ella. Little Adam’s Peak is named after Adam’s Peak, which is a sacred pilgrimage site in Sri Lanka but a MUCH harder climb. I was tempted to do Adam’s Peak during my time here but decided against it because it was hard to get to, so I was excited to climb Little Adam’s Peak instead.
The climb was fairly easy as it was mostly stairs. It took around 30 minutes to get to the top, and we got amazing views along the way (including the famous Ella Rock).
The top of the mountain was breathtaking – a great reward for our effort! It felt like we were in The Sound of Music, walking from peak to peak. We spent some time enjoying the amazing views.
After our morning workout, we headed to town for lunch at Cafe Chill. Nothing like that post-hike meal. 🙂 We also ran some errands like renting motorbikes for the rest of our week and going on a major snack haul.
The afternoon was another rainy one, so we laid low at our hotel. I love rainy days with Joe because he loves rain much more than I do (especially coming from California where we don’t get rain).
For dinner, we walked to a nearby spot called Cafe Eden. It was a homey restaurant with a tasty menu of local/western food. Our favorite was the fried banana roti for dessert. 🙂
Day 24: hike to Nine Arch Bridge + shopping & haircut + spontaneous scooter adventure to Ravana Cave + puppy love
The next day, we headed out for another hike with a unique reward at the end. Our hotel was perfectly located near a bunch of Ella attractions, so we set off by foot to find the trailhead, followed by a short 20-minute hike through the forest.
Some interesting critters along the way. Joe is so good at spotting things.
Finally, we made it to the attraction, Nine Arch Bridge, a beautiful bridge from the colonial-era railway construction in the country. This was a popular site as there were many tourists having photoshoots (including us). 😉
This one gave me a minor heart attack. 😛
After the hike back, I headed into town for some shopping. The shopping in Ella was fantastic – not hectic like other cities and plenty of cute hippie clothes. My shopping haul was a success as I also found one of the outfits I need for an upcoming Indian wedding. 🙂
Then, Joe met me in town and we had lunch together. Afterward, Joe decided to get a haircut. The power was out throughout town, so this local used a generator to power his clippers. I thought he did a great job – way better than any of my quarantine cuts for Joe. 😛
Afterward, we went on a joyride on our scooters. I’ve been putting off riding a scooter in Sri Lanka because 1) they drive on the left side of the road here, and 2) they drive SO crazy here. I’ve ridden scooters in the Philippines and Cambodia, and Sri Lanka has the scariest roads by far. In any case, I’m SO glad we took the plunge and got scooters in Ella. It was the perfect city as there wasn’t much traffic on these windy mountain roads. It also expanded our scope of the city and it provided a sense of freedom that I so love with scooters.
During our ride, we saw signs for Ravana Cave, and we spontaneously decided to check it out. It was quite an adventure getting to the cave – we navigated the signs and even got help from locals through the small roads.
Finally, we made it to the cave entrance. Little did we know there was a hike to get to the cave. There was SO much climbing – later we found out we climbed over 1,000 steps! We had no clue what was on the other end, but we kept pushing and finally made it to the top.
The cave itself was pretty cool! I felt like a little kid exploring this cave with Joe. It felt extra rewarding as it was such an adventure getting here. I loved that there were no other people around, unlike Little Adam’s Peak and Nine Arch Bridge which drew all the tourists. This felt like our little secret, and it was a highlight of our time so far. ❤
After a full day of activity, we headed back home. Our host had a litter of one-month-old puppies, and he let us play with them. ❤ It was so freaking adorable! There’s nothing like holding a puppy.
What an amazing few days in Ella! It feels like the perfect city for me and Joe as it has all the things we love. Excited for more to come in the next few days. ❤