East of the Central Highland ridge are the picturesque hills of Uva Province. In contrast to the comparatively recently populated highland region, Uva, which stretches across the plains as far south as Kataragama, is sometimes held to be the original home of the Kandyan civilization, whose people would have used the river valleys draining into the Mahaweli Ganga as a natural migration route into the hills.
South of the provincial capital Badulla, whose festival draws Buddhist pilgrims from across the island, the climate of the triangle formed by Ella, Haputale and Welimada is regarded by many Sri Lankans as the most favourable on the island. This is marvellous walking country, where views, particularly at Ella and Haputale, formed by spectacular ‘gaps’ in its precipitous ridges come without the price tag of Horton Plains.
Ella is a small town in the Badulla District of Uva Province, Sri Lanka governed by an Urban Council. It is approximately 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Colombo and is situated at an elevation of 1,041 metres (3,415 ft) above the sea level. The area has a rich bio-diversity dense with numerous varieties of flora and fauna. Ella is surrounded by hills covered with cloud forests and tea plantations. The town has a cooler climate than its surroundings, due to its elevation. The Ella Gap allows views across the Southern plains of Sri Lanka.
Ella is little more than a handful of shops and guesthouses strung out along the main road, but it has an almost perfect climate and occupies a very scenic vantage point, with views on a fine day stretching right across to the south coast. The town is also a useful base from which to visit some local plantations, waterfalls and rock temples. This is an excellent walking country.
Rawana Ella Cave in the massive Ella Rock can be seen from the Grand Ella Motel to the right of the Ella Gap. It is associated with the Ramayana story, in which the demon king of Lanka, Ravana, imprisoned Rama’s wife Sita. The cave, which is of particular interest to paleontologists, has a small entrance which scarcely lets light in, and then a long drop to the floor. It is filled with water from an underground stream which has hindered exploration but excavations here have unearthed prehistoric remains of human skeletons.
Rawana Ella Falls can be quite dramatic and the 1 ½ hours walk from the Rawana Ella Cave to reach them can be enjoyable, the road isn’t usually too busy and there are some fine views. From the cave, return to the main road, near the bridge, and walk downhill for the falls. The 90m high Rawana Ella Falls are to the right of the road just beyond a bridge. You can climb over the rocks up the falls for quite a way, along with the monkeys who can often been seen scampering up and down the rocks. The falls are 6km south of Ella on the A23. You can get there by bus towards Wellawaya.
There are several other walks which command magnificent views. A short walk east on the Passara/Namunukula road takes you to a track, after the first kilometer post, which you follow to climb Little Adam’s Peak. Some 10km further east, and more strenuous, is the climb through tea plantations to Namunukula, which, at 2036m, is one of Sri Lanka’s highest mountains.