An Instagrammer’s Guide to Nine Arch Bridge


Have you ever seen a place on Instagram and immediately fell in love? And you knew you had to go there one day? And so you begin to envision it: you look up flights, you get discouraged cuz they’re expensive. There aren’t many good routes from where you live, so you silently tuck those dreams away. But then after some time passes, one day you decide to finally pull the trigger: that place for me was Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, Sri Lanka.

After two flights totaling to nine hours, a six hour layover, a seven hour train ride, fifteen minute scooter drive and a mini hike to top things off, my dream finally came true (although to be honest, it felt like I was still dreaming)!!!



Nine Arch Bridge

What Exactly is the Nine Arch Bridge?

Tucked away in the mountainous village of Ella, Nine Arch Bridge is located in the lush green hills between the Ella and Demodara railway stations. The name is derrived from its nine arched spans; it is also nicknamed the Bridge in the Sky since it is 80ft/25M tall. The Nine Arch Bridge is a total of 300ft/91M in length. Built by the Brits using a combination of stones, bricks, and cement, this Ella staple is a prime example of colonial-era railway construction. Due to its grand architecture and unique characteristics, Nine Arch Bridge has been growing increasingly in popularity as a tourist attraction; it is in fact one of the most photographed places in all of Sri Lanka. Despite its beauty, it is still a completely functional bridge. You can, and should, walk on the bridge; in fact it is used multiple times daily and is a part of the world famous Ella train route (this segment is between the Ella and Demodara railway stations). You can even time your visit so that you are here when the train passes through; more on that below!

When to Visit

  • Time of Year

Ella is considered to be a year round destination. But coming here during Ella’s monsoon season would make it difficult to trek through to get to Nine Arch Bridge. For that reason, I would try to avoid coming between April-October. Instead, opt to come during Summer (March to June) or Winter (December to February), which is uncoincidentally the peak travel seasons in Sri Lanka. It is worth it though to perfect the timing because the last thing you would want is to have trekked all the way here and not get to properly see or photograph Ella!

  • Time of Day

There is not really a bad time to visit besides in the dark. If I could spend all day here, I would! Without exaggeration, walking away from the Nine Arch Bridge was one of the hardest things I had to do during my entire Sri Lanka trip; this is perhaps second only to painfully witnessing elephant riding in Sigiriya–more on that in this blog post.

With that said, the best time to visit is, you guessed it, at sunrise!! Early bird gets the worm; especially here where you get tons of amazing light. If the 6am wake up call is a bit aggressive for you, I would still try to go as early as possible. I had planned to catch sunrise at the Nine Arch Bridge but I later found out that the sun rises right outside of my room at Ella Alpine Resort so I decided to stay for that and go to the bridge after. This turned out to be a magnificent decision; more on that later!

When I got there at around 6:45am, there were already a few others there but it wasn’t anything unmanagable. I would absolutely try to go by 8am since herds will start to funnel in at around 9/10am when the day trip tours begin. I’m sure it will still be stunning but in my opinion, part of what makes the Nine Arch Bridge experience so alluring is the pure serenity of its surroundings and the melodic sounds of nature. However, I am not sure how that all will translate after crowds start to gather. I am not a morning person but this is definitely an experience worth waking up for! If anything, I would suggest waking up for sunrise and then taking a nap later. My boyfriend ended up doing that at the Ella Rock peak and it ended up being a great choice!

I’m hoping you don’t need more convincing at this point but in case you do: if you go bright and early, the morning mist really contributes to the dreamy atmosphere, especially if you’re after that moody or mystical vibe. The sun beams coming in combinred with the mist hugging the bridge produces a golden halo effect that echoes around the enchanting jungle.

  • Train Sightings

Another factor to consider is the train schedule. Since the bridge is fully functional, you may consider timing your visit to coincide with when the famous train is passing through.  The trains will passby the Nine Arch Bridge everyday at around: 6:16A, 6:30A, 9:14A, 10:47A, 11:56A, 1:36P, 3:25P, 5:38P, 6:33P, and 6:45P.  The 6:30A, 9:14A, 3:25P and 5:38P trains are the new blue ones while the other six are the classic red trains; something to keep in mind if you wanted to have a specific colored train in your photographs! The Sri Lankan railway does change their operating schedule every once in a while so be sure to check their offial website for the most current train times. Since this is Sri Lanka, you can also expect some delays so budget your time loosely!

Don’t worry about having to wait around for the train, time will pass anyway! Plus there are endless nooks to explore and photograph here. I go into details below about what you can do at the Nine Arch Bridge while you wait for the train. You could even bring a book to enjoy amongst this lush greenery, although I would personally find it hard to keep my eyes on the text rather than the scenery.

One of the biggest regrets of my visit was not being patient enough to wait for the train to pass. If you have that same American/East Coast city mindset, be sure to ditch it before arriving to Sri Lanka cuz that is no place for it!! I promise it will make your time here so much more enjoyable.

How to Get Here From Ella

Once you’ve arrived in Ella, there are many ways to get to the Nine Arch Bridge. There are three entry points and the main difference between each route is in the duration of the walk and what type of walk you want. The bridge itself is located pretty close to the heart of Ella town; I recommend checking out Little Adam’s Peak afterwards since it’s super close to here.

  1. The most straightforward way is to walk along the railway track from Ella station. It is a flat walk and it’ll take around 30mins. All you have to do is keep walking until you hit a tunnel; the Nine Arch Bridge will appear right after!!
  2. A time saving alternative is to have a tuk tuk drop you off right at the tunnel and then you can just walk the rest of the brief way. This short ride from town should only cost ~300LKR/$1.75USD.
  3. Take a tuktuk or use Google Maps to walk to 98 Acres Resort. From there, turn left at the small colored temple; this road will take you directly to the southern side of the bridge. Beware though, it may be a bit tough if you are taking this route before sunrise!
  4. For a more rugged route through the jungle, put in “Nine Arches Bridge Path” into Google Maps. Walk through the parking area and follow the path for 10mins. This will give you a more unique vantage point of the bridge. I highly recommend this route!!

Tip #1: If any portion of your commute involves a tuk tuk, be sure to agree on a price beforehand! This prevents you from getting ripped off and from taking too many “scenic routes”.

Tip #2: Do not rely solely on Google Maps! There are paths that aren’t shown on the map and the directions they give you to the bridge in the app are not so great. It will take you up and down through people’s gardens and backyards. You will get lost so just skip this attempt!! I know someone who opted for this option… this person may or may not have been me *looks around unsuspiciously hehe*

Tip #3: Do not take a tuk tuk directly to the bridge. Any driver that offers this will be taking you on the most scenic of routes! The only possible way to get on the bridge is by driving through Baudulla which will take 30+ mins and cost you at least 1000LKR/$5.65USD!!

Tip #4: If you plan on doing a sunrise mission, make sure to book a tuk tuk in advance. It might be tough to hail one at 5am; the last thing you want is to be stranded in the dark and missing out on a perfect photo opportunity!

Tip #5: An alternative to taking a tuk tuk would be to rent a scooter for your time in Ella. I highly recommend this option if you know how to drive one since it allows for flexibility and is very affordable (1500-2000LKR/$8.50-$11.30USD per day + ~300LKR/$1.75USD for Petrol).

Things to Do Here

  • #1 Walk on the bridge!
    • At 80ft/25M high, this was definitely a bit scarier than it may seem! It’s definitely a fun activity to try while here, even if it isn’t for the ‘Gram. I have some funny footage of my attempt over in my IG Story Highlights (viewing is not compatible on computers).
  • #2 Photograph the living heck out of it! This was the most scenic place I went to in Sri Lanka and favorite to photograph by far. There are endless nooks and angles; take some time to get creative! Here is a list of some ideas to get you inspired–I put grouped them in the order of how you should seize each opportunity from a logistical point of view:
    • Train track: I would opt to get some shots directly on the train tracks/ledge first since it will become much harder to shoot here once people start to trickle in.
    • Tunnel: try standing in front of the opening or shooting from inside! This is a great option especifally if green isn’t really your thing.
    • Southern part (tunnel side): best spot for sunrise! The rays peek up from the hilly treeline behind the slight curve of the bridge. To get to the outlook, take the path to the left of the tunnel and trek upwards for a few minutes. There will be a big clearing and likely a few others.
    • Northern part: perhaps the most famous shot–hike down into the bushels of tea fields with a good chunk of the first pillar included in the frame too to show the vast height. This can be a little tricky to get down to so be careful; it’s definitely worth it for the shot though!!
    • Asanka Cafe: more info on how to get here below!
    • From a distance: have the photographer stand really far away. And I mean really far! Also try different heights: from below and above the bridge. When the camera is further away and there are others in the shot, it won’t be as noticable or distracting, and also easier to edit out if you choose to do so.
    • I highly encourage you to be creative; this is the place to do it! Try all of these spots and maybe even discover your own. Whatever you do, do not fly a drone! All drone flying in Sri Lanka requires prior approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka. They take this regulation very seriously and often arrest visitors who violate this rule!
  • #3 Eat/sip + train/people watch at Asanka Cafe
    • Great opportunity to refuel if you hiked awhile to arrive or just to get your caffeine fix. You can watch the train pass by from here or watch other visitors do their thing–I always find it amusing to observe humans taking photographs. If you do stop here to enjoy the view, make sure to buy something or just make a small donation to support the local business!
    • This is only one of many cafe options in the Nine Arch Bridge area. It’s my preferred one though since it offers such a great view!
  • #4 Play with all the dogs!!
    • Ella is full of stray pups! I did not meet a single one that didn’t want to be played with. They are all super friendly and social, don’t be scared to pet them even though they are strays!
  • #5 SOAK IT ALL IN.
    • I’m not sure if this tip sounds a little unnecessary but I honestly feel like it might not be that obvious to some people! So I figure I’d include it anyway because if it can help just one person,  it’d be worth it! I can definitely see my old self, and even sometimes current self, being one of those people who would arrive at a destination, power through a huge checklist, and then move on with the schedule. Living in a digital era where we’re robotically trained to chase the next activity can really cause us to forget to hit pause.  After you’ve gotten all your shots and done all your exploring, make sure to actually be present and let your senses run wild. This was probably one of the top five most peaceful experiences of my entire life and I just want to make sure everyone can make the most out of their time here.
      • Here is my challenge to you: Find a spot where you can gaze out endlessly and get lost in the mesmerizing beauty that is the Nine Arch Bridge and Ella. Give it a shot even if it’s just for a few minutes! Think of it as a visual mediation. This of course is probably way more enjoyable if it’s quiet and less busy but try to make the most out of it anyway!!  I promise it will elevate your time here and help you experience here and leave you feeling a  If you do this, please let me know in the comments below!! It would absolutely make my day!! (:

What to Do Next in Ella

Although it’ll be hard to beat the Nine Arch Bridge, here is a brief list of some other must-do’s in the area. I’ll be elaborating on these activities in my Ella blog post but for now:

  • Little Adam’s Peak: I would time this short but rewarding hike (can finish in 30mins) with your bridge visit since it is super closeby, easy to access, and very managable.
  • Ella Rock: will require some more time and planning. The hikes takes 2-4 hours depending on your speed. The views are similar to Little Adam’s Peak; both are highky recommended!!
  • Ravana Falls: epic place to cool off; you can go for a dip here!
  • Ella Spice Garden: learn to cook local dishes here! During my trip, I absolutely fell in love with Sri Lankan cuisine. This is a super popular activity in the area so be sure to make reservations in advance if this is your activitiy of choise!!
  • Halpewatte Tea Factory: they offer guided tours through their tea factory for an interactive and educational experience. They have epic panoramic views of Ella here! If you don’t go here, be sure to check out a tea factory or plantation at some point during your trip. Aferall, Sri Lanka is home to Lipton and is a tea capital of the world!

Where to Stay

For our Ella trip, we chose to stay at Ella Alpine Resort. I’ll be elaborating more on my incredible stay in my Official Guide to Ella but for now, I can’t resist sharing bits of my amazing experience on here!!

Alpine Resort is located on the hillier side of Ella, a 5-10min drive to Ella town, close to an access point for Ella Rock. It’s very high up which means the views are truly second to none.  When reflecting on my Sri Lanka trip, one of my top 3 favorite moments was seeing Ella from the balcony of Alpine Resort for the first time. I was in complete shock and at a loss for words!! The scenery was simply so serene and beautiful. And when I thought it couldn’t get better, we were informed that the sun actually rises right from this view point. So the next morning at 6ish AM, we were truly blown away by what we were seeing. This was the only reason why we were able to give up watching the sun rise from Nine Arch Bridge.

We stayed in the bronze room (the smaller of three rooms) and it was perfectly enough space for couples. The wall facing the views are glass so you could lookout to the beautiful scenery right from your bed. Even the bathroom has a huge curtained glass panel that gives you that insane view of Ella. Truly thoughtful designs! If you are planning a trip to Ella, you have to stay at Alpine Resort!



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