It depends on how you like to travel, but unless it's for a good reason like a cultural landmark, I hate being surrounded by gobs of tourists. It makes the place inauthentic and takes away everything I love about traveling to a new country.
But if you're like me and try to stay away from the crowds, there's a way to go about it in Ella, because it's beauty alone is worth the visit.
DON'T GO INTO THE TOWN
I have a hard time planning things out so much so that decisions are made the morning of. Sometimes that leaves things open for a wonderful adventure and sometimes it leads to frustration. With multiple changes of plans throughout the day to get to Ella, we arrived to the town by train at 7pm without a room booked.
We headed into the town to get some wifi and a cold beer after the long journey and we were immediately turned off. It was a town completely designed for backpackers with funky restaurants, Western music blasting, happy hour drink signs, and half dressed backpackers in the pretty conservative country. This might sound awesome, and in that case, you should definitely go, but if not, book an Airbnb in the hills beforehand and don't go down to the town.
It's much prettier in the hills anyway
FIND THE PERFECT AIRBNB
We could have disliked Ella if we chose the wrong place to stay. It just so happens, though, that we found a perfect spot up in the hills with the most beautiful view. For under $25, we had a clean room, breakfast, and stellar hospitality. Zircon Ella (booked through Airbnb) has only one room, giving us total peace and quite and quality family time. The room has big French doors, a big porch, and an epic view. The family who owned it were so kind and so helpful. They were the cherry on top of an already pretty perfect place to stay.
It's perfect. Book it if it's available. (not an ad, just a fan).
If you haven't tried Airbnb yet, use this code for $40 off your first stay!
Breakfast to ourselves with a view
The train passed in the distance every few hours to make this view even more spectacular
Chilly morning snuggle Seth in the mountains
HEAD TO A DIFFERENT TOWN
If you take the train to Ella, you'll see that there are beautiful villages dotted along the ride and surrounded by fields of tea plants and mountains. Any place you choose is beautiful and there will be accommodation for you. If we didn't like our Airbnb as much as we did, I would probably do this instead of go to Ella.
TAKE THE TRAIN FROM ELLA TO KANDY, NOT THE REVERSE
The first thing that turned us off from Ella was attempting to just get there from Kandy. The train ride from Kandy to Ella is known as one of the most beautiful in the world. So what does that mean? The train is insanely overcrowded. We went to the train station and got tickets, but once the train arrived, we saw people smoosh in like sardines and quickly realized that the ride would be impossible with Zay. We placed out and took a bus to Nuwara Eliya instead, which we were told by many locals that the bus ride to Nuwara Eliya was more beautiful that the train ride ... so, win! We then caught the train to Ella from there and it was a beautiful ride and way less crowded (there were plenty of seats for everyone). So, a bus then the train is a good option, but if you really want to do it right and completely beat the crowds, go in the opposite direction and head from Ella to Kandy. It's WAY less crowded.
Catching the train in Nuwara Eliya
DO LITTLE ADAM'S PEAK AT SUNRISE
Get up and go. This hike gets busy mid morning and it makes it less enjoyable. Start walking as the sun is rising, experience cooler temperatures and have a nice peaceful walk to the top.
*Side note: Be sure to study the way to get to Little Adam's Peak. Unfortunately, locals are so annoyed by their town being overrun by tourists that they give you the wrong directions if you ask for help, then ask for money to get you on the right track.
The view is beautiful at the top, but crowds would muddle it up
So those are our lessons learned and things we wish we knew before we went to Ella. Enjoy your time!
Where was the last place you went that was ruined by too many tourists?