Our last days in Sri Lanka were just beautiful. We explored more of Ella, the mountain town in Sri Lanka known as “nature’s paradise.” After checking off some of the more popular/touristy sites during our first three days in Ella, we spent these last days exploring new spots that were more off-the-beaten-path. This brought us through unique scenery on the backcountry roads with our motorbikes. I have my usual recap as well as some reflection below.
Day 25: Mahamevnawa Buddhist Temple + tea factory tour
After coming off of a scooter-high the previous days, we were excited for a full day of exploring on our bikes. First, we checked out a Buddhist temple on top of a mountain called Mahamevnawa Temple. We literally found this by spotting it on google maps as this wasn’t on the tourist trail. The pictures looked amazing so we decided to check it out.
The drive up the mountain was phenomenal. We got clear views of Ella that just got better as we drove up the mountain. The road was pretty narrow and rocky and quite the adventure!
Finally, we made it to Mahamevnawa Temple. It was a beautiful sight, as the views were the best part. We were the only tourists among the monks.
The temple itself was still under construction, but there were some finished parts with pristine, golden finishings.
There was a nice garden that was well-maintained by the monks. You know we are suckers for nice gardens. 😉
After the temple, we drove down the mountain and headed to our next activity – a tea factory tour. I already toured a tea factory in Nuwara Eliya but Joe hadn’t gone yet. It was such a fun activity that I was more than happy to see another.
We chose Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory as it was the most popular plantation in Ella. It was also on top of a mountain, so we got great views on the drive and at the factory.
The group tour started off lecture style, where we learned about the production process. To be honest, this part was a snore.
Then the guide took us to the actual factory, where the tour came to life. We got to see each phase of the tea production process. Funny story – our guide took handfuls of tea throughout the different steps, letting us touch it and smell it. Then he would throw the tea right back into the machines…I guess sanitary standards in Sri Lanka are more relaxed. 🙂
The tour ended with a tea tasting. We tried 4 different teas that quite honestly tasted very similar. 😛
After our visit, we headed back into town. For lunch, we ate at UFO restaurant. The food was SO tasty, especially the brownie sundae which we shared. We ended up revisiting every day for lunch.
Day 26: Ella Rock hike + secret waterfall swim
The next day started early. We had an early breakfast and headed out at 7:30 am for our most challenging hike of this trip: Ella Rock. Our hotel had views of this massive mountain, and staring at it each day shook up our nerves! We mentally prepared for this hike for days and finally felt ready to tackle it.
We read online that the hike could be difficult to navigate, so we hired a guide for ~$12 USD. Worth every penny, as we could just focus on enjoying the climb.
The trail started on something unique – the train tracks! We walked a little along the tracks to reach the trailhead – good thing our guide knew the train schedule. 🙂 Then, we turned onto the trail, where we entered the serene forest. There were lush plants, wildlife, and waterfalls.
The views along the way were lovely – we got a close-up of the tea fields and spotted women working on them.
Then, we reached the main climb that went for a straight 2 km. It was physically challenging – we took lots of breaks and kept our eyes on the prize.
Finally, made it to the top of Ella Rock! Worth every step. We saw the best views of this whole trip, and we spent some time enjoying our reward.
Then, we headed down the mountain which was considerably easier than the way up. 🙂 We took a short break at our hotel, and then we headed right back out for a second adventure. We were looking to cool off after our hike, and so we found on google maps a small waterfall where we could swim, called Kombukhara Nature Pool.
The drive to the waterfall was super fun! We winded through the tea hills, which were some of the best views of tea country this entire trip. We were in a remote area and had the roads to ourselves – and it was a blast weaving through the mountain. We also passed some small local villages without another tourist in sight.
We made it to the waterfall, and it was gorgeous. We took a dip in the water – it was cold but so refreshing. Ella has several waterfalls, but this one was more off-the-beaten-path as it seemed more like a local secret.
After a full day of exploring, we relaxed the rest of the day and ate at our favorite spots in town.
Day 27: chill day + Buddhist temple
Our last full day in Ella! Joe and I wanted nothing more than to relax, especially before a long travel day tomorrow. We did venture out for a short joy-ride to another Buddhist temple we found on the map – Dowa Rajamaha Viharaya. The temple itself was very modest – with just a few locals there to worship.
My favorite part was this massive Buddha carved on the side of this rock.
The rest of the day, we were in major chill mode. The daily rain came early, so we enjoyed watching the downpour from our cozy hotel room.
Day 28: travel day + reflection
Our last day was spent traveling to Colombo, followed by our last hours together and goodbyes. I was sad to see Joe leave, but I feel beyond grateful for our precious time together. ❤
It’s hard to believe my month in Sri Lanka is through! What an amazing month packed with diverse experiences. These last two weeks especially were the happiest two weeks of my whole trip because of Joe. The biggest thing I gained from Sri Lanka was getting an “intro” to South Asian culture. I gained so much more appreciation for this part of the world, and I’m excited to continue exploring it.
While I loved my experiences in Sri Lanka so much, just as a place itself, I’d say it wasn’t my favorite country in the world. I love Southeast Asia so much, and the subtle differences of South Asia did not resonate with me. Unlike Southeast Asia which feels more laid-back, there was more hustle in Sri Lanka – even the remote nature towns felt stressful with air pollution, aggressive drivers, etc.
We also visited during the country’s current economic crisis. Seeing the impact of this crisis on the daily life of Sri Lankans was eye-opening; my heart goes out to the people who must endure all the challenges (daily power cuts, fuel/food shortages, etc). From the tourist side, there was noticeable anxiety from locals around finances, which made day-to-day business dealings more stressful (i.e. people often asked for more money even after we made a deal). Of course, I can’t complain because I get to go back to first-world amenities, whereas the Sri Lankan people don’t have an end in sight to this crisis.
Moreover, I’ve been transparent on this blog about my struggles with harassment. Overall, Sri Lanka was worse than Southeast Asia in this area, and there were days when my anger towards men was all-consuming. Fortunately, when Joe was here, the harassment came to a halt. I was able to relax and better appreciate the people/culture. It’s amazing how pleasant men were when they gave me some privacy. 🙂
Nevertheless, I have nothing but love for this country. The experiences I had here (especially with Joe) I’ll remember until I grow old. I think our minds have an amazing ability to remember the good, and that’s what I am taking away.
Next up, I’m heading to India! I’m currently blogging from my flight to Delhi. 🙂 I’m excited to turn another page, but truthfully, I have a lot of anxiety too. Northern India is notorious for being difficult for solo female travelers. So much so, that in the backpacker community, accomplishing India gives you major street cred.
Despite my anxiety, I know there is so much potential in India, which is why I’m inching to go. I have been mentally preparing for weeks now. I’m going in with less of a vacation-mode mindset, but rather a mindset that India will be difficult, but through it, I will learn and grow. I feel prepared enough, strong enough, and brave enough to do this.