Ella, Sri Lanka
Ella is blessed with some of the most beautiful views, you could find in Sri Lanka.
Only 8 km from Bandarawela, this small town is used as a base for plenty of trekking expeditions to the surrounding countryside.
Table of Contents
- 1 Points of Interest in and around Ella
- 1.1 Ravana Ella Falls
- 1.2 Adisham Bungalow
- 1.3 Dhowa Cave Temple
- 1.4 Bogoda Wooden Bridge
- 1.5 Buduruwagala
- 1.6 Diyaluma falls
- 1.7 Bambarakanda Waterfall
- 2 Activities in and around Ella
- 3 Map of Ella
A taste of the breathtaking scenery of Ella could be had, if you just walk into the Garden of the Grand Ella Motel (Formerly Ella Rest House), where you seem to be standing at the edge of the world, and everything around you seems to disappear at your feet.
Another fine view is from the Ambiente Hotel, where the wide doorway, opens out to the mountains, creating a dramatic cinematic like experience, on entry.
Some of the places you could see in Ella are the Ella Gap, Ravana Ella Falls, Little Adam’s Peak and Bambaragala Peak among the other many varied pleasant walks with stunning scenery.
Points of Interest in and around Ella
Ravana Ella Falls
The Ravana Ella or the Ravana falls is on of the widest falls in Sri Lanka and is one of the most popular attractions. It is connected to the Hindu epic, Ramayana, a historic tale that covers over India and Sri Lanka. The falls is said to have been named after the famous king, King Ravana. The story goes that King Ravana kidnapped Princess Sita from India and hid her in the caves behind the waterfall. It is also said the Sita bathed in a pool of water that was collected with the water that fell from the fall. The caves behind the fall are known as the Ravana Ella Caves.
The Adisham Bungalow (also called Adisham Hall) is a monastery for Benedictine Monks, located about 4km from Haputale, in the Badulla District of Sri Lanka’s Uva Province. This manor house was built in 1931 by Sir Thomas Villiers, an English aristocrat and planter, and is now visited by thousands of tourists, both local and foreign, each year. Travelling to Haputale by train in the Observation Carriage or 1st Class Sleeper is a great way to enjoy the beautiful scenery en route to Adisham.
History of Adisham
Sir Thomas Lister Villiers was born in Adisham, England, in 1869. After his studies he decided to leave England and come to Ceylon as a trainee planter on Elbedde Estate, Bogawantalawa. He married the daughter of a planter as well and the couple had two sons. His wife, Evelyn Hope, was a talented painter and her work is displayed on the walls of Adisham even today. Sir Thomas served as Chairman of George Steuart Co. which was a trading establishment, and it was during his tenure there that he began work on his dream home – Adisham. Haputale with its mist-clad mountains was the chosen location, and the site for this building was a piece of land surrounded by the Tangamalai forest. Thangamalai means Golden Hills. At an elevation of 5,000 feet it was not the most accessible spot, but Sir Thomas saw to it that a road was cleared through the forest and this ten acre property which was part of the forest reserve was prepared for building. Wonderful views are a feature of this place and on a clear day one can see Piduruthalagala, Totapolakanda, the Diyatalawa Army Camp, Namunukula and many other mountains along with the Uda Pussallawa mountain range known as the “Sleeping Warrior”.
The house itself is designed according to the Tudor and Jacobean styles akin to the Leeds Castle in Kent, England, a place dear to the heart of Sir Thomas. The walls were built of locally quarried granite with turret windows that were long and narrow. No expense was spared by Sir Thomas to ensure that he had the country home of his dreams, based on the memories of his beloved home back in England.
The roof of Adisham was covered with flat shingles of Burma teak, while the windows, doors, panels, floors and staircase too were of the same material. Charming fireplaces were included in all the bedrooms, keeping the inhabitants warm in the chilly climes of Haputale. A unique feature were the wind turbines installed on the roof which sent cool wind down the chimneys, heating up the rooms very effectively. The fire irons are still kept in their original gleaming condition and the Regency clock that stood on the mantelpiece all those decades ago is still to be seen, though it no longer ticks away the passing minutes. Visitors can also see portraits of Sir Thomas’ relatives (the Dukes of Bedford and the Clarendons) hanging in a dignified group on the pillared landing of the main staircase.
Everything from fine period furniture, china, linen, silver and glassware was imported from England by Sir Thomas, and the cream of society enjoyed his generous hospitality. Lady Villiers too was said to have been a gracious and charming hostess.
The gardens at Adisham are British in their landscaping as well, with an orchard, colourful flowerbeds and terraced lawns. Several varieties of roses bloomed and apples, strawberries and Victoria plums were ripe and juicy, ready for plucking in the orchard.
Sir Thomas championed several worthy causes while living in Ceylon and was also a Trustee for the Church of England and a parishioner and benefactor of St. Michael’s Church, Polwatte. At the age of 82 he returned to England and his much loved Adisham Bungalow was sold to Sedawatte Mills in 1949. Thereafter the Roman Catholic Church purchased and converted it into a Monastery.
Peace and tranquility pervade the Adisham Bungalow today, with the interior and gardens meticulously maintained by the Benedictine monks residing there. The fine pieces of furniture and china will no doubt, succeed in taking you back to that opulent era, making you feel like a truly welcome guest.
The novices and monks begin the day early and follow a schedule of prayer, meditation and manual work in the house, gardens and orchards. It is interesting to note that when the house was purchased, Seville oranges, half-wild strawberries and guavas were found, and this prompted the priests to develop the range of home-made Adisham products the Monastery has become famous for. Their Orange Marmalade, Strawberry Jam and Fresh Fruit Cordials are but a few of the delicious goods that are produced on the premises.
Something to look out for is the natural bird sanctuary at Adisham. Swooping down to partake of the apples and plums in the orchard, one can expect to see a riot of colour in the form of orange mini-verts, paradise flycatchers, blue magpies, golden oreoles, hornbills and many others.
The Adisham Bungalow offers accommodation for upto 12 guests, although it is by no means a commercial lodging house. The rooms are large with breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and the meals simple and wholesome. What is significant, however, is the supremely spiritual experience one can expect there, with the beauty, solitude and peace merging into one everlasting memory.
Dhowa Cave Temple
Located in the village of Dhowa on the Badulla – Bandarawela main road, the Dowa Rock Temple is famous for the beautiful paintings and sculptures that adorn its rock walls. Located at the bottom of a hill and close to a picturesque stream, it is one of the major attractions in the Badulla area. The distance from Colombo is about 210 km to the east and approximately 120 km to the south of Kandy.
History of Dhowa
According to archaeological analysts the Temple may be over 2,000 years old, which means its history extends ‘Before Christ’. In those days it was known as the Kumbaltissa Ariyagala Vehera, named after the chief priest who is supposed to have given refuge to King Walagamba in the cave. It is believed that some of the paintings were the work of King Walagamba himself during his time of hiding in the caves to avoid foreign invasions. In fact, one of the statues is incomplete, and the general belief is that the King left these caves before he could conclude his work on it.
Temple, cave and statue
One is greeted at the Temple by a large ornamental gateway, which has become one of its distinguishing features. Passing through it one sees a Stupa which appears to be quite a recent construction. A Bo tree towers above the premises in front of the ‘Gal Vihara Geya’ and there is a pond of natural water close to it. The ‘Gal Vihara Geya’ (Image House) is inside a rock cave, the interior of which rises to a height of about 12 feet.
Another special feature of the Dowa Rock Temple is the 38 foot Buddha statue. This image, though incomplete, is hewn out of a rock cliff and is an example of Mahayana iconography.
The Dhowa Temple’s shrine room is full of beautiful paintings influenced by Kandyan art. Several ‘Jathaka Stories’ (Folk Tales) illustrating instances from past lives of the Buddha have been depicted here. The canopy of the cave is also a beautiful sight to behold as it abounds with painting of Lotus and other flowers together with symbols of the astrological chart. Also featured along with the flowers is a graphic example of a battle between a tusker and a bull known as the “Ath-Gon Satana”.
It is also interesting to note that the Cobra has been given much prominence amongst the images to be seen at Dhowa. In addition to appearing in the paintings the Cobra image is also found on the jug that is used for serving water to the Buddha.
The legendary secret tunnel of the Dowa Temple still remains a mystery. It was supposed to have been used by King Walagamba as a means of escape, but this story is yet to be proved true. Even to this day no one is permitted to enter this tunnel.
Bogoda Wooden Bridge
Built during the 16th Century, the Bogoda Wooden Bridge is located around 13km south of Badulla city in Sri Lanka’s Uva Province. Significantly it is reported to be the world’s oldest existing wooden bridge.
History of the Roofed Bridge
Over 400 years old, the Bogoda Bridge is made entirely of wood, including the nails, so that there are no metal parts to be found. Reportedly built by a father and son who were expert timber craftsmen, this bridge crosses the Gallanda Oya (a branch of the Uma Oya).
The length of the Bogoda Bridge is 50 feet with a width of 6 feet, and the planks of which it is made are said to have come from a single tree. One of its unique features is its 8 foot high tiled roof which was constructed for the purpose of protecting the bridge as well as the people walking along it from the rain. Over the years it was also used as an ‘Ambalama’ or resting place. This was before the advent of vehicles and a single journey took several days of walking.
Jack (Artocarpus heterophyllus) and Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) logs have been used to construct the bridge and the structure rests on a massive tree trunk that stands 35 feet tall. For the railing and decorative work the craftsmen have used Kaluwara (Diospyros ebenum) timber and Milla timber. These wooden railings that run the length of the bridge on either side are decorated with intricate ornamental work influenced by the Kandyan Kingdom.
The Bogoda Bridge is unique in many ways, and has seen the decades turn into centuries without losing any of its strength and solidity. This has no doubt, instilled a sense of attachment in the villagers who use the bridge daily and a monk, Ven Rahula, in the nearby Bogoda Vihara has been known to reminisce about the year 1984. During this year the waters of the Oya had risen, causing the bridge to tilt to one side. Rendered powerless without the assistance of officials, Ven. Rahula had appealed to a British planter on one of the surrounding estates. Cables were brought and the bridge was secured until the Department of Archaeology stepped in to concrete its base.
The Bogoda Vihara is located beside the Bogoda Wooden Bridge. It is even older than the bridge and had been commissioned by King Walagamba in the 1st Century BC, which was the Anuradhapura era. According to the Brahmin scripture inscribed in stone near the Temple, it was donated to a Buddhist monk by a provincial leader in Badulla by the name of Tissa.
The interior walls of the Temple are made of a cotton wool and Bee honey paste mixed with extracted and purified white clay. These walls are adorned with beautiful paintings and sculptures of the Kandyan era. The priest’s abode too, though crumbling now, features design elements of that period, including a ‘Meda Midula’ (indoor garden) and pillared verandahs.
Buduruwagala is a historic Buddhist Rock Temple located on the Tanamalwila Road, about 5km from Wellawaya. The road takes you past a dammed lake to this serene site which sits in a plot of dry-zone forest inhabited by beautiful butterflies and birds. The meaning of the name Buduruwagala is “rock of Buddhist sculptures” and archaeologists have determined that these works of art are of the 9th or 10th Century AD.
Even though experts have been able to determine the period during which the images at Buduruwagala were created, very little background information has ever been found. Even the name by which it was originally known has not come to light. However it is believed to have been a hermitage for monks of the Mahayana sect, which is probably why there are many Bodhisattva images of this tradition.
The Rock of Sculptures
Buduruwagala means “rock of Buddhist sculptures” and is aptly named as there are seven figures carved on the rock. The largest of these is a Buddha statue standing at an impressive 51 feet in a stance known as the “Abhaya Mudra”. The rock on which these images have been carved has an interesting shape – almost like a kneeling Elephant with its head bent towards the earth and is about 300 feet wide and 7 feet high.
The figures, cleverly carved in high relief show two bodhisattva images, each flanked by two attendants. These two groups are positioned on either side of the main central Buddha statue. This figure, which is the tallest of the seven, still bears traces of what are believed to be the original paints of red and yellow. Unfortunately, however, this statue remains in a somewhat unfinished state and the sculptor has not carved very deep into the rock, giving this one and all the other images a rather flat appearance. Near the right foot of this image one notices a hole shaped like the flame of an oil lamp. This is quite a miraculous phenomenon because the inner recesses of it are always found to be wet with a substance that smells like Mustard oil. A plausible reason for this is yet to be discovered. Several square-cut holes in the rock above this image suggest that a canopy may have existed in the early days.
To the left, one can see a carving of a figure that is believed to be a Mahayana deity, Alokiteshvara. To his left is an attendant, while the other image in the group is said to be Tara, consort of Alokiteshvara.
The group of three figures on the right side consists of Vajrapani (the Tibetan Bodhisatva), Maitreya or Natha (the future Buddha) and Vishnu. Vajrapani holds in his hand an hourglass-shaped thunderbolt symbol of Tibetan origin called a Dorje, and this is considered one of the rare examples of Tantric influence in local Buddhist art.
Just about 6km south of the Buduruwagala rock is a detour which leads you to the Handapangala Reservoir. This is a spot which attracts herds of wild Elephants during certain times of the year, mainly the summer months. Visitors can watch these Elephants from across the river or enjoy a boat ride with a local guide and see them at closer range.
This 220m drop of crystal clear fall of water is situated in Koslanda. Proudly known to be Sri Lanka’s second highest waterfall, the Diyaluma falls is the backdrop for a folklore about a tragedy of a young Chieftain and his lover. “Diyaluma” gives the meaning of a “rapid flow of water” in the native language.
At 241 meters, the Bambarakanda waterfall is the highest in Sri Lanka. Located at Kalupahana, access to the falls is not easy and some walking is required. The best times to view the falls are in March and April, however you can see Bambarakanda in all its glory after any heavy rainfall. A challenging trail to Horton Plains starts from Bambarakanda.
Activities in and around Ella
Ella is one of the most scenic venues for a vacation of adventure. Ella offers a choice of sports and activities for the adventurous. From Paragliding, canoeing, hiking and trekking to bird watching, the list is very long. Some of the other activities are camping, rock climbing, fishing, mountain biking, caving, train tours and wildlife safaris. Camping is available in either jungle or riverside locations with BBQ and campfires. Let us know like to have an adrenalin rush, and we can plan some adventure activities in Ella for your tour.
Guided trekking tour
Ella is a wonderful place to trek through, with its breathtaking views and varying landscape. One day treks as well as 2 to 3 days treks are available, depending on your preference. The trails will take you through dense forests, past rivers and cascading waterfalls and into nearby villages, where you can share their lifestyle and culture during your brief sojourn.
You can also ascend to the Ella Rock and traverse the tea plantations, while drinking in the awe-inspiring views all around.
Train Ride & Trek
A train ride commencing at Ella or Bandarawela will take you through the hill country to Haputale and give you a view of soaring mountains and breathtaking scenery. From there you can begin an interesting and enlightening trek to either Idalgashinna or Ohiya. From the many trails winding through the area, we will help you select the one to bring you maximum enjoyment, depending on your preference and fitness. Mountains, valleys, paddy fields and vegetable cultivations – you will pass through it all as you experience the wonders of Mother Nature first hand.
Trek to Idalgashinna
Sit back and enjoy the beautiful scenery as our vehicle takes you from Ella or Bandarawela to Haputale, where you can travel the remaining short distance in a Tuk Tuk. Once you reach your chosen trail, it is straight on to Idalgashinna through valleys, mountains and fields of paddy and vegetables. It is a most satisfying and enjoyable trek, with the bracing air filling your lungs and the passing panorama captivating your soul.
Trek to Lipton’s Seat
Lipton is a world-famous brand of Tea, named after Sir Thomas Lipton who pioneered tea making. This great man’s favourite lookout point was a certain spot located in the Poonagala Hills, now known as Lipton’s seat. To get to this famous location, you will have to trek approximately 4km towards Poonagala to reach Dambatenna, and a further 1km uphill across a lovely Tea plantation. On your way you will be treated to stunning views from all sides making it a most unforgettable experience.