The Route Up Ella Rock: A Photo Guide

Ella Rock from the railway.

Ella is a beautiful little town deep in Sri Lanka’s hill country. Thanks to its picturesque surroundings, hiking opportunities and location near the end of one of the world’s most beautiful train rides, it’s become something of a backpacker hub.

Most travellers who come to Ella attempt two popular day hikes: firstly, the easy climb up Mini Adam’s Peak, and secondly, the climb up Ella Rock.

Mini Adam’s Peak

Mini Adam’s Peak – named because it shares the conical shape of the famous mountain – is very straightforward; you follow the path up, climb a few steps, and are treated to views like this:

View from Mini Adam’s Peak

It takes about half an hour to climb up, can be done in sandals, and is suitable for children. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can also wander along to the neighbouring summits on the ridge. The paths to these are steeper but you get a great view back of the conical peak itself.

Mini Adam’s Peak from a neighbouring summit

Ella Rock

Ella Rock, however, is a little more challenging, both in terms of hiking and in terms of navigation. If you opt to climb it, you will probably be given a map that looks something like this by your guesthouse.

The map I was given by my guesthouse. Nearly every other traveller – wherever they’d stayed – had the same one.

I did not find this map particularly helpful after Kithalella – it seemed to direct me mostly into people’s gardens. There are also no signs whatsoever, meaning that I got hideously lost. I ended up teaming up with some other equally lost travellers, and we got – you guessed it – more lost. Eventually a local showed us the correct route, but it really was not obvious.

If you are looking to climb Ella Rock from Ella, here’s a route guide in pictures. I took the pictures on the way down when I retraced the local’s route.

Ella Rock from Ella

1 .Starting from Ella Railway Station, walk down the train tracks for about 2km until you just pass Kithalella Station. This is fine and everybody does it – you’re not going to get electrocuted!

The starting point
View from the train tracks
Approaching Kithalella Railway

2. After Kithalella, you will see the 66 1/4 marker post. A little before this post, but within sight of it, there is a turn off to the left. Just after the turn off, you should cross a bridge over a small stream, with water running over boulders. If there’s no stream, it’s the wrong turning.

You will cross this small stream over a bridge.

3. After you cross the bridge, you will come to a fork. The map tells you to turn left through tea plantations. I did this, and ended up wandering through people’s gardens. Turn right at this fork.

Turn right here, not left.

4. Follow this path – which is obvious – for a few minutes. It will skirt to the left above agricultural fields. Follow it until you reach a house. Walk up to the house rather than straight on.

The path runs to the left above farmers’ fields, and curves around.
The path will climb slightly and you will reach this house. Turn left just before the house.

5. At the house, turn left up a small path. We went wrong here on our second go, despite the resident children trying to tell us something in Sinhala. In retrospect, it was almost certainly go up.

The path skirts around above the house. Follow it upwards 

6. You will see a fork at some steps. Do not go up the steps. Follow the path to the right. After a few minutes, you will pass a small house that looks to be abandoned.

Turn right here. Don’t go up the steps.
See this? You’re going the right way.

7. The path will get a little scrubby and harder to see as it rises and cuts through grass. When you see this fork, go right and follow the path round.

Take the right turning when you come to this fork.

8. Soon afterwards there is a turn off to the left that goes uphill. Follow it.

Take the left turn off here.

9. From here the route is fairly obvious. Continue uphill – the path will widen and become steeper. You soon get a beautiful overlook over Ella with the summit of Ella Rock to your right.

Overlook – the summit of the rock is to your right.
I actually liked the view from here even more than at the summit.

10. The path upwards will now be obvious. From here to the top is a fairly steep climb; take some water, gird your loins, and make your way to the summit, where you will be rewarded with beautiful views. There is also a local selling water and tea  if you are in need of refreshment.

Summit of Ella Rock

11. Follow the same route down.

Stuck?

The tricky bit is the maze of paths just above the house. If you get stuck here, ask a local – they are very willing to put you on the right track.  Happy hiking!

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