Towering eucalyptus forests, never-ending views of rolling hills and the experience of walking along an active train track; at four hours round trip, the Ella Rock hike is one on the most famous in Sri Lanka’s own paradise in the hills – Ella. And the good news is, it’s not only possible to hike Ella Rock without a guide, but it’s really easy.
One of the biggest questions I had before we arrived in Ella was:
Can I hike Ella Rock without a Guide?
And the answer is YES. We did, and you can too! In this short and sweet post, I’m going to explain to you exactly how to take a self-guided hike to Ella Rock.
Avoid the scams
I’ve heard report after report from other travellers being told they are going the wrong way and then lead by – what appears to be – a local farmer all the way to the end of the hike. Before being demanded to pay them money. In fact we even witnessed a local telling a couple to veer off the train track and go a different way when we were on our way back.
For the seasoned traveller, or anyone who has heard these stories on the travel grapevine, a scam can be smelled a mile off. Unfortunately the news won’t have reached most people. In terms of scams, it’s definitely not the worst I’ve experienced or heard of… But it’s certainly disappointing if you weren’t budgeting to pay for a guide.
If like us, you love the sense of achievement of following a map and making your own way on a hiking adventure then you’ll want to hike Ella Rock without a guide.
An easy hike made hard
The locals make it hard for you, covering up markers, pointing signs in the wrong direction and purposely keeping grass long in areas to cover paths so you get lost (only to run into a strategically placed local farmer). I’m all for boosting the local economy but when it’s done in such a dishonest way, I would recommend spending your hard-earned cash elsewhere.
Some travellers who ended up with a guide report you definitely do need a guide because you go through long grass and take lots of turns. But I can tell you, the track is SO easy. The problem is locals messing with your mind telling you you’re headed the wrong way.
The good news
It IS possible to hike Ella Rock without a guide. In fact it’s actually really flippin’ easy! Here are the 4 simple steps you need to follow.
#1 Buy a local SIM card
Do this at the airport when you arrive in Sri Lanka or from any local convenience store or phone shop. It will cost around 1000 Rupees per month (that’s about £4)
#2 Download the map from the Atlas & Boots blog
It’s an incredibly straightforward hike and route, you just need to follow along on your GPS.
#3 Enjoy the views
Without having to worry about whether you’re headed the right way, you can enjoy the views leisurely in your own time.
#4 Stock up on adventure fuel
Spend the money you would have spent on a guide having a delicious breakfast and iced coffee in Ella Town.
Set off early
This is an adventure enjoyed best in the cool morning air. As soon as the sun gets high, it gets hot. We set off at 6am, but you could potentially start at first light pre-sunrise.
Bring snacks & water
As with any hike, you’ll need snacks to keep energy levels high and water to stay hydrated. You’ll sweat… A lot.
Politely decline help from local farmers
If you are following the map linked to in this blog and anyone tries to tell you you’re going the wrong way, just politely decline their help and carry on with your hike.
Wear comfortable closed toe shoes (hiking boots or trainers)
The trail is steep and rocky in parts. Although you might see the locals taking on the hike in flip-flops, closed toe shoes are recommended.
Ok I’m going to sound like your mum but hear me out. I’ve seen numerous women hiking in tight little shorts and sports bras and men with their shirts off – girls and guys you are headed past several religious monuments on this hike. It’s inappropriate to strip off or show so much skin. Sure, it’s hot, but try to cover at least your shoulders and belly where possible to show a little respect.
If you DO want a guide
Then book one first in Ella Town for an agreed price. And then record the way you go on a GPS and share it with us, because we are so intrigued to see the confusing way that people are being taken on this otherwise straightforward hike!
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