Ella is a backpacker haven known for its many nearby hikes and chill bars to recover in afterwards. The real highlight of Ella, for this train nerd at least, is visiting the Nine Arch Bridge. This blog post is about just that.
Read on for my tips and experience visiting the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella.
Getting to Ella by Train
After a seven-hour slog from Kandy to Ella, you think I would be over trains. Not at all. As noted in my post about the Deccan Odyssey in India, although it was an incredible way to see the country, I didn’t actually see anything from the train. The ride between Kandy and Ella provided this fix and then some. Car doors are open and allow you to take in the Sri Lankan countryside in an incredible way. Visiting the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella is a bonus and a great excuse to stretch those legs after that long journey.READ MORE: Tips on Taking the Train from Kandy to Ella
That said, stretching those legs immediately after my train trip wasn’t in the cards for me. I was visiting Sri Lanka at the tail end of the monsoon season. For the most part, we would avoid rain in Sri Lanka, at least during the day. Nothing but blue sky and heatstroke at Sigiriya Rock. What rain we didn’t have, we found in Ella. As if on cue and minutes after stepping off the train, the skies opened up and we were caught in the heaviest downpour I have ever experienced. This is saying a lot coming from someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest.
A quick look at the forecast showed nothing but the same for the entire time we were visiting Ella. This put my chances visiting the Nine Arch Bridge in soggy jeopardy.
While our shoes and soaked through rain jackets made a sad attempt to sober up, the clouds parted and offered us a short window of sunshine. This led to my biggest tip while visiting Ella. Similar to visiting Table Mountain in Cape Town, if the clouds part get outside – at least in monsoon season. The remainder of our time, Ella was socked in.
Getting to the Nine Arch Bridge
You have two options when visiting the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, walk or tuk-tuk. Although it is a short 40-minute stroll from town, we took a tuk-tuk to arrive in time for a passing train. This also maximized our good weather window.
After casually consulting another blog that said a ride should cost between 200 and 300 rupees (~$3) I was surprised to be told it would cost 1000. After being fed up with tuk-tuks in Colombo we declined and looked for another driver. Even though I spent 99% of my time in Colombo saying no to tuk-tuks passing by when you need one they are nowhere to be found.
With our window closing, we settled on 900 rupees and off we went.
I failed to tell the driver we wanted to be dropped off by the tunnel so he took us, certainly on purpose, to the near side of the bridge. From there it is a 10-15 minute walk through the woods. This does offer great views of the bridge as you descend.
A note for those strolling through the lush forest – beware of leeches. Turns out they are a very common thing and I met one on my short stroll.
For a less leach filled experience you can walk the along the tracks from town to the bridge. Also, you won’t get lost.Need a guide? Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travellers have to say at TripAdvisor
About the Nine Arch Bridge
As I frantically tried to remove the leech from my ankle, I failed to notice we had arrived. Looking up I was presented with a perfect view of what all the fuss is about. Nestled in a green valley of tea leaves and coconut trees, the Nine Arch Bridge curves its way across an 80-foot ravine. Made of cement, rock, and bricks, it is said that this 1921 completed marvel of engineering does not have steel as materials were diverted to Britain to support World War I efforts.
And yes, the bridge has nine archers. I counted.
Visiting the Nine Arch Bridge Around Train Times
Visiting the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella should align with a passing train. Thankfully, this happens roughly six times a day. That said, trains are often delayed making it somewhat unpredictable. Although you can find a rough table online, consult with your hotel or guest house for the latest schedule.
Despite the rush and a bit of a run around with our tuk-tuk driver, my time visiting the Nine Arch Bridge in Ella perfectly aligned with a passing train. Inside, a packed group of tourists taking pictures of excited tourists taking pictures of them. It had a weird Escher painting feel to it but cool nonetheless.Compare airlines, dates and prices on flights to Sri Lanka all in one place with Skyscanner
Don’t be a Statistic. Be Safe
With the excitement of the train gone, we strolled the bridge and took plenty of pictures. None of which were of us sitting over the edge or standing on the ledge. “Look at those stupid people“ a local commented as we snapped pictures from a distance. “I saw someone fall just last year“
This seemed to be a theme while in Sri Lanka. With haunting stories of selfies gone wrong, please proceed with caution. Upon closer look, the edges slant out. I can only imagine how slippery they get when wet. Considering Ella sees two monsoon seasons a year, this happens often. Don’t be a stupid statistic when you are visiting, especially when trains pass by.
Heading Back to Ella
With the weather holding, we opted to avoid haggling with the waiting tuk-tuks and followed the tracks through the tunnel back to Ella station. This trip takes 30 to 40 minutes and ends, obviously, at Ella station. From there it’s a short walk across the street to Mandala Cafe and Bar for a celebratory banana chocolate roti.
It may seem odd to call my time visiting the Nine Arch Bridge as my highlight of Ella, especially after a seven-hour train ride, but the site is something special. Plus, with our monsoon timing, this was the only touristy thing (besides drinking and eating) that we took in. Still, I highly recommend it, leeches and all.
Where to Stay in Ella
In Ella, we stayed at the Okreech Cottages. It was the perfect place to listen to the rainfall, read a book, and relax. It is also super close to the main strip so accessible to everything!
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