The Nine Arch Bridge in Ella is one of, if not, the most beautiful train bridge I have ever seen. The unique tourist hotspot that has shot to insta fame is on the Demodara loop and spans 91 meters. Surrounded by dense jungle and tea plantations, the stone bridge, with its nine iconic arches stand proudly at a height of 24 meters over a tropical green gorge just outside of Ella.
There are simply no words to describe this beautiful piece of architecture hidden in Sri Lanka’s jungle. You are allowed to walk on the bridge which, for any traveller, has become quite the thing to do. As well as walking on the tracks, taking the famous blue train from Kandy to Ella or vice versa is a bucket list experience. This train ride through Sri Lanka’s highlands has been named one of the most beautiful train rides n the world. But I will tell you about that another time…
For now, let me tell you everything you need to know about the infamous Nine Arch Bridge in Ella.
HOW TO GET TO NINE ARCH BRIDGE
There are multiple ways to reach Nine Arch Bridge, it just depends on your budget, your time and your mobility. If you’re travelling without a driver you can actually find the bridge and directions on Google Maps.
Tuk Tuk from Ella Town: Taking a tuk tuk from Ella Town is the easiest way to reach the bridge. The tuk tuk will be able to take you most of the way and then to save time, it is best to trek the remaining 5-10 minutes on foot. The tuk tuk should cost around 300LKR (£1.40). Tip – make sure you agree on a price before the tuk tuk ride as some drivers like to take a longer detour resulting in you being charged more.
If you’d rather not walk that last part, you can actually take a tuk tuk right down to the bridge itself. However again, this puts you at risk of being scammed by a driver that may take you on an extra long detour to get there.
By Foot: The quickest route by foot is to walk along the tracks from Ella Town until you reach a tunnel. Once you’re through the tunnel, you’ll be right on Nine Arch Bridge.
You can also reach the bridge by foot via a quieter, more peaceful trek through the dense jungle. You just need to turn left into the jungle at the parking spots after Art Cafe Umbrella. From here, follow the jungle path for approx 10 minutes. Going this way, you’ll stumble across a unique view over the bridge.
We were lucky that our lovely driver Danushka from Sri Lanka Brothers Tour agreed to wake up before day light and take us down to the bridge for sunrise. Danushka drove us as far as possible and then led the way on foot. We were walking in darkness with our phone lights lighting the path and the local stray dogs in tow. The trek was a little uneven and slippery so do be careful but it is so worth it once you have reached the bridge and have the place to yourselves.
NINE ARCH BRIDGE TRAIN TIMES
The famous train passes over Nine Arch Bridge around 6 times a day. There are no exact times given that the trains in Sri Lanka never really run to a schedule. It is however worth noting that roughly a train passes through every two hours or so.
It’s not like it’s a hassle to wait around all day though for a train to pass. You’d be able to spend hours just photographing the nine arches and surrounding agricultural setting alone. There is also small cafes at the south and north end of the bridge where you can purchase refreshments.
Danushka, our driver knew the first train was due to cross at around 5.45am, which is why we insisted on trekking to the bridge in darkness. Farley and I sat and waited on the bridge’s edge, completely alone and waiting for the famous blue train. It was unreal. I will mentioned that I did forget to check our drone’s storage and at the vital moment when I went to hit record, bam – storage full. Don’t even ask. We were lucky to have Danuska taking photos so that we can remember the moment! Tip – check your camera storage before a bucket list moment.
NINE ARCH BRIDGE AND THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
SUNRISE. Absolutely no question about it. Nine Arch Bridge at sunrise is a magical time. You’ll be able to enjoy the first golden rays lighting the tracks and surrounding hills without another soul in sight. It was a truly memorable experience, just Farley and I alone in the jungle, listening to the sound of nothing.
Sunrise at Nine Arch Bridge is the perfect moment to snap those all important shots without having the worry of someone being in the background. We all know how that feels. Crowds start to form after 7am, so I strongly recommend getting there for 6am or even earlier. After 9am, prepare for the madness.
Tip – drone flyers get there early. You’re not actually suppose to fly drones here and it is policed during the day but if you go early the police haven’t arrived for work just yet! The reason is that drones can disturb the rather large bee hives under each arch so just respect them when you’re flying.
There is one other key time to visit Nine Arch Bridge, and that is of course when the train crosses. As I touched upon previously, the train crosses around 6 times a day approximately every couple of hours. My recommendation would be to arrive in time for the first train of the day. This is usually around 5.45am but with Sri Lanka’s notoriously unreliable trains, allow some time either side just to be sure. Get to the bridge for then and you’ll be the only soul there.
OVERNIGHT AT NINE ARCH BRIDGE
Imagine waking up to the view of Nine Arch bridge in the early hours of a misty morning. Well, stop imagining because it is now possible and over the last few years, more and more guesthouses have opened up with views overlooking the stone bridge. It is a little out of the town of Ella, so you’ll need to arrange transportation if you want to head into town for dinner. But if you’re visiting for just one night, why not seclude yourself to the jungle, away from civilisation and enjoy the magic and peacefulness of Nine Arch Bridge.
Here are the recommend hotels and guest houses close to Nine Arch Bridge:
Nine Arch View Ella (approx £19 per night, based on 2 adults sharing)
Nine Arch Gap (approx £36 per night, based on 2 adults sharing)
The Chillout Ella (approx £40 per night, based on 2 adults sharing)
The Secret Ella (approx £110 per night, based on 2 adults sharing)