A blue train travelling on the Nine Arch Bridge, the Beautiful Creation in Ella, Sri Lanka
Nine Arch Bridge, the Beautiful Creation in Ella, Sri Lanka!

Sri Lanka is simply a travel destination that offers a stack of delights! Ranging from the sun-kissed golden beaches to the mist capped mountains, it holds plenty of amusements. However, Sri Lankan hill country is significant out of all, as it is a paradise with its scenic green yards, adventurous hiking tracks, forest lands, tea estates, cascading waterfalls and many other stupendous views. Further, Ella is a prominent location in Sri Lankan hill country which allures local guests as well as foreign visitors. Besides, just by hearing the town name “Ella” what comes to anyone’s mind is the “Nine Arch Bridge”. And yes, people who visit Sri Lanka, never miss the chance to witness the amazing sight of the Nine Arch Bridge and the astonishing views that surround this marvellous creation.

Still, if you are not much aware of this wonderful attraction, let us assure you that you are at the right place! This read will surely enlighten you about this spectacular marvel and going beyond, this will even be an inspiration for you to visit this splendid location. So, without further exaggerations, let us begin our exploration of this beautiful marvel!

What is Nine Arch Bridge?

Nine Arch Bridge is simply a massive bridge, that stands majestically as the main attraction point of the small-town Ella in Badulla District. A small walk through the jungle for about 2 km will lead the visitors to this wonderful creation, which holds magnificent architecture hidden in a valley. All around the bridge, there are yards of green tea plantations. Further, the Nine Arch Bridge goes up in the sky, showing off its massive structure. Owing to these reasons, the Nine Arch Bridge is also famous as the “Bridge in the Sky”.

The bridge connects two mountains and the Colombo – Badulla railway lies upon the bridge. At one end, it goes towards the Ella railway station and at the other end, it goes towards the Demodara Railway station. A slow walk on the Nine Arch Bridge while looking around the environment and observing how the trains pass by offers a wonderful memory to anyone who visits there.  Moreover, yards of greenery, heaven like blue sky and the proudly standing Nine Arch Bridge behind, create fascinating sceneries to capture.

Where is Nine Arch Bridge?

The Nine Arch Bridge stands amidst the lush greenery and the misty mountainous areas in the highlands of Sri Lanka, in the small-town Ella, in the district of Badulla in Uva province. Further, it is situated at an elevation of around 3500 ft above sea level.

How to Get to Nine Arch Bridge?

There is a distance of around 205 km from Colombo to Ella. In brief, it is possible to reach Ella by bus, train or by taxi. Still, the most desired travel mode to reach Ella is by train. Not only the tourists but also local visitors prefer the train ride over other modes of travel due to the astonishing views and calmness of the route. Thus, anyone would agree with us if we mention that a trip to Ella by train is one of the most beautiful train rides in the world.

However, whatever the travel mode you choose, you will be able to sense climate changes from the beginning to the end of your journey. Initially, it would be warm around Colombo, and then it gets colder little by little when reaching the hill country. The route is fast and the views it offers are picturesque. Also, the route is available on google maps and nothing to fear of travelling without a guide.

Besides, in order to help you choose the transportation mode that suits you the best, we have briefed you about all their pros and cons in the following sections.

Travelling to Ella by Bus

If you are aiming at public transportation modes, of course, you can consider the bus service to reach Ella. Since most people start their ride from Colombo, buses are always available at the Fort main bus station. There are intercity buses as well as normal buses. But the cheapest among the two bus types is the normal bus service.

However, the road to Ella is not super smooth. Thus, the rides can be a little bumpy.  Nevertheless, the profuse views around the roads are simply breathtaking. With decreasing proximity to the hill country, roads tend to be more circuitous since they go around mountains. Bus route number 99 is the most common bus route from Colombo to Badulla. Mostly, at every hour, there are two buses departing from the Fort main bus station, Bastian Mawatha bus terminal.

Total ride takes about 6 hours and 30 minutes approximately, but the time could change due to weather conditions. Besides, in the middle of the journey, the bus would stop at a small-town area for tea.

Also, it is important to note that taking a bus is faster than travelling by train. The approximate cost for the total bus ride is about 1000 LKR. Most of the buses are operated by the “Sri Lanka Transport Board” and the seat reserving facility is available.

Further, the start of the journey can be slightly hard since finding the correct bus terminal is difficult for the ones who are not familiar with the Fort bus station. But, you have nothing to worry about! Sri Lankan people are always helpful, and they will surely help you find the correct bus in no time.

Travelling to Ella by Train

As highlighted earlier, the most desired, most beautiful travel experience is to take a train ride to reach Ella. Indeed, this ride is considered to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world. The train moves around huge mountains and small villages bypassing lush green tea estates and beautiful water streams. Wind passing by is surprisingly relaxing and the views outside are simply outstanding.

Several trains are there to reach Ella from the Colombo Fort railway station. Train tickets are very cheap. Further, pre-booking tickets or buying tickets on-site is available. Still, it is always better to buy tickets a few weeks before the trip to avoid any rushes.

Tickets are available in 3 classes. A third-class ticket costs about 450 LKR and other class tickets cost a little too higher than this amount. However, the first-class tickets tend to finish earlier than other tickets. Still, you have nothing to worry about the ticket type you purchase. The views outside the train will excite everyone equally. Further, all the trains have canteens and sanitary facilities. Moreover, there are domestic vendors providing snacks and drinks to passengers.

A ride on this train by standing at the entrance door would give the perfect place to spot the beauty beside the railway. At a moment, the train would pass by a vast area of greenery and then at the next moment, it would pass through a dense forest or moving on a mountain. Yes, this train ride is fascinating up to that extent!

However, the train ride is slower than bus or taxi rides. It will take about 10 hours to reach Ella. Yet, the view it offers is worth the extra time spent!

Since Nine Arch Bridge is located in between Demodara railway station and the Ella railway station, passengers cannot get off from the train exactly at the Nine Arch bridge. The best option is to get off from Ella station and walk back to Nine Arch Bridge on the same track. But better to be attentive and careful while walking on the railway track.

Travelling to Ella by Taxi

The facilities to book a taxi to reach Ella or to keep the taxi until the end of the trip for few days are available in Sri Lanka.  In fact, there are taxi services that provide the vehicle with a driver and there are other taxi services that provide the vehicle alone. The cost varies depending on the distance and the number of days of the trip. The taxi route is the same as the bus route. But there is an alternative path from Colombo through the southern expressway. This path takes about 4 hours to reach Ella but the distance is quite higher than any other mode of travel. Further, the approximate distance is around 310 km to Ella through this path.

Taxi services are available for the whole trip but the cost is pretty much high. Values range from 18000 LKR – 25000 LKR depending on the vehicle type.

However, if someone prefers a low budget trip, the option is to reach Badulla by taking a bus and then taking a taxi from there to Ella. That short trip has a distance of about 25 km and it will not cost more than 3000 LKR.  Also, tuk-tuk rides are available to Nine Arch Bridge from Ella town. The cost does not exceed 500 LKR.

In addition to all these methods, after reaching Ella town, a small walk is all that you need to reach the bridge. The walking path to the Nine Arch Bridge is hidden in the forest area of Ella and takes about 30 minutes to pass the forest to the bridge. Anyhow, the walk in the forest adds a wonderful experience to the travel.

History of Nine Arch Bridge

The history of the Nine Arch Bridge runs towards the early 20th century.  In fact, the railway construction through Demodara upon a bridge is commonly known as a contribution of both British and Sri Lankan people. However, the commitment, at last, has come out as the magnificent Nine Arch Bridge in Demodara.

Who built the Nine Arch Bridge?

When finding out who built this massive structure, the history reveals a beautiful story about a Sri Lankan man. It is about P. K. Appuhami, and he had been a villager in the same area.

As per the legends, Appuhami is a folk drummer and a devil dancer. Later, after meeting the British constructors by accident, he has become a good friend of them. Accordingly, he assisted the constructors by providing the local workforce for the railway project. However, there had been certain complications since the engineers’ plan had been to make a solid anchor on a quagmire valley in order to build a bridge connecting two hills.

The British engineers struggled with this issue. Consequently, the project stood still. Meanwhile, Appuhami engaged in solving this by creating a solid rock bed on the valley. Little by little, he built the columns of the bridge with bricks and cement. It says that the required steal for the project was not sent to Sri Lanka from Europe due to the Great War. Anyhow, Appuhami’s work reduced most of the estimated cost by the British engineers and designers. And little by little, the constructions have happened, and that is how the initial stage of the massive creation has taken place.

However, this bridge is a part of the project “Upcountry Railway Line of Ceylon”. Mr D. J. Wimalasurendra acted as the project manager and its Chief Designer. Also, Mr Harold Cuthbert acted as the designer of the Nine Arch Bridge. Even though British engineers gave the consultations, Nine Arch Bridge emerged as a marvellous creation of Sri Lankan skills and designers. And the best thing is that this construction still remains strong, making it a great masterpiece from the past.

When was the Nine Arch Bridge Built?

Constructions of the Nine Arch Bridge project began in the year 1913. Besides, the records reveal that the constructions went till 1921. However, at last, the project contributed a beautiful creation to the splendid island of Sri Lanka. 

The Architecture of the Bridge

Nine Arch Bridge is a perfect example that shows off the architecture of the colonial era. It follows the viaduct bridge type and goes up to 30 m in height. The width of the bridge is about 8 m. The deck of the bridge is 91 m long and contains 9 spans. Moreover, the weight of the bridge is equally distributed to each arch and it is restrained by the abutments of the bridge.

Further, the structure of this bridge is completely built with stones, bricks and cement. The main purpose of the bridge is to connect the two mountains, so it would avoid the complications of making the railway through the valley.

The Best View Points at Nine Arch Bridge

The Nine Arch Bridge gives beautiful viewpoints which offer the perfect panorama sceneries of tea estates, dense jungles, forest hills, blue sky and green villages along with the captivating sunrise and sunset. The main highlight of Ella is this viaduct bridge and the viewpoints act as natural backdrops for iconic photoshoots. However, the most popular viewpoints around Nine Arch Bridge are as follows.

  1. Southern End of the Nine Arch Bridge
  2. Nine Arch Bridge
  3. Tea Fields towards Demodara
  4. Hills behind the Bridge

Excited to know more about these viewpoints? The following briefs will help you with it!

1. Southern End of the Nine Arch Bridge

The southern end of the Nine Arch Bridge is a perfect viewpoint to gaze at the surroundings. This viewpoint lies just by the tunnel and by walking up a little it gives a fascinating view of the valley lighting up with the sunrise coming behind the mountains. The absolute curve of the bridge is visible from this southern end of the bridge.

2. The Nine Arch Bridge

The Nine Arch Bridge itself is one of the most popular viewpoints among visitors. One can get a wonderful vista of the valley down the bridge by sitting on the railing of the bridge. Moreover, the blue colour or maroon colour trains passing by behind a person sitting on the railing of the bridge would make vivid photos of the location. Trains pass by to both sides through the bridge and it is possible to capture a train once every two hours.

At one side of the bridge, there are yards of tea plantations. At another end of the bridge, there are hills covered with trees. And yes, a drone from the sky could capture these bundles of views easily and perfectly. However, the tunnel near the bridge is also a famous photo backdrop that has easy access from the bridge. It is best to go on to the bridge to get this view in the morning because, with time, the bridge will be very crowded.

3. Tea Fields towards Demodara

The tea field towards Demodara is another viewpoint at Nine Arch Bridge. Access to the tea field is at the northern end of the bridge which is located away from the tunnel. But these lands are mostly private. Hence, it is better to ask permission from the workers around before entering the fields. From the tea fields down to the valley, travellers could capture scenic pictures of the huge Nine Arch Bridge and the sky above it beautifully. The land is a bit muddy and steep, but the path draws towards the base of the bridge.

4. Hills behind the Bridge

Another viewpoint at Nine Arch bridge is the hills behind the bridge. Most of the hills are covered with trees and it looks very green to the observers. In early mornings, mountain peaks are covered with mist and clouds. By walking along the railway track towards Ella and taking a turn to the left by the bridge will lead the path to the hillside. Trekking on this path to the forest hill drives to a clear spot where people can overlook the curve of the Nine Arch Bridge from above.

However, people spend most of the time on these viewpoints and walk back to the bridge to experience the trains passing by them. There is enough and more space on the bridge deck for people to step aside when a train arrives. Besides, trains pass by very slowly on this Nine Arch Bridge. Hence, People have enough time to capture some quality photographs with the trains.

Best Time to Visit Nine Arch Bridge

To get the full package of views from the Nine Arch Bridge, a complete day is needed. The view in the early morning is with the sunrise. And yes, it is different from the view with the sunset. Besides, this visit won’t be completed without a view of a train passing by. To get all these experiences, it is better to have a night stay at Ella.

Moreover, a fresh start in the early morning at the Nine Arch Bridge would avoid crowded hours. Therefore, people can get the best viewing experiences without many difficulties. Specifically, before 8.00 am, it would be less crowded and there will not be any chance to miss the trains passing through the bridge. Anyhow, the illuminating sunlight from the Nine Arch Bridge is visible only if the bridge is reached before 6.30 am. Further, that time is very calm and peaceful to have a good look around the area. And after 10.00 am, the bridge would be highly crowded.

However, if you are wishing to pose for a photo with a train, it is better to know about the times that the trains pass this place. On average, there is a train passing by every two hours of time. Train times could differ due to rapidly changing climates and train cancellations happen very rarely. There are 5 trains which pass the Nine Arch Bridge. Their time schedules are 6.40am, 9.20am, 10.55am, 12.05pm, 13.25pm, 15.15pm, 17.25pm, and 6.55pm. The trains could be either blue colour passenger trains or maroon colour cargo trains. Another amazing fact is that these trains have unique names to identify them. Udarata Manike and Podi Manike are such names of two trains.

Tips for the Visit

A visit to Sri Lanka is indeed a full package of travel experience. And the best part of it is the absolute nature and the beautiful view of the hill country. However, when visiting the Nine Arch Bridge, there are few things that you need to keep in mind in order to grab all the excitements and experiences. Continue reading to get to know about them!

First of all, good camera gear ranging from normal cameras to drones to capture beauty is a must! Also, having a smartphone is important to reserve online tickets and to use google maps. Be careful about the train ticket, and make sure that you do not miss place them. Also, it is always better to have some petty cash on hand to buy snacks and drinks, and some more money to grab a hotel with good accommodation facilities for an overnight stay.

While on the train ride be careful while hanging on the door since it is dangerous to hang there even though the view it gives is amazing. Again, be careful of trains and always be alert on train horns because the bridge is well occupied with trains. Yes, above all, safety comes first.

Further, it is always a good deed to leave only the footpaths and not the rubbish. In fact, Nine Arch Bridge is a main highlight of the Ella town and thus, it is a good habit to take back all the rubbish to maintain the beauty over the place. If so, the place would always remain clean and clear offering a wonderful experience to all the visitors who arrive there.

And at last, but not least, while on the lands of the good quality tea, never miss the chance of tasting a hot cup of Ceylon tea that is available in the cafes around the bridge as well!

The Bottom Line

Nine Arch Bridge being the main spotlight of the Ella town, foreigners, as well as the locals, never miss the chance to grab the beauty all over this place. The embarking architecture and the huge structure of the bridge, along with the profuse green lands and the vast blue sky above make a beautiful paradise on site of the Nine Arch Bridge. Being a famous landmark on the Sri Lankan travel route, Nine Arch Bridge serves all the visitors a magnificent travel experience and the amazing train ride to Ella adds more value to that experience.  Hence, come and visit Nine Arch Bridge in Ella, Sri Lanka to get a picturesque view and some quality memories printed on photographs. Happy and Safe Travelling!