Rising majestically out of the dense green forest and tea plantations between Ella and Demodara stations in Sri Lanka is the Nine Arch Bridge. Tuk-tuk drivers will stop you on the road and offer to take you to the bridge, but our advice is to take time to enjoy a rewarding hike through the beautiful landscape which surrounds the bridge. Follow our easy directions below and you will arrive at the Nine Arch Bridge from above, gaining a bird’s eye view which offers perfect photo opportunities as you descend quiet hilltop tracks. After your visit, loop back round to the main road on a different trail and take a break from the heat in the protective shade of the forest.
Visiting the 9 Arch Bridge is popular not only amongst tourists, but locals too. Walking along the tracks of the 91 m long bridge is a social occasion and there is a charming sense of communal excitement and anticipation when the sound of an approaching train fills the air. If you’re on the bridge when a train is imminent, an official will sound a whistle and visitors stand alongside the tracks or gather at each end of the bridge. It really is a sight to behold and a memorable experience!
Nine Arch Bridge History
Standing 24 m high above the tea plantations below, this stone, brick and cement structure is also known as the Bridge in the Sky. Commissioned by the British Government in 1921, the bridge boldly straddles two lush green hill sides and, believe me, it’s a dizzying drop to the floor of the valley below. It’s hardly surprising that an official will stop you from standing on the walls (if you dare!) but it’s perfectly OK to sit on the walls, walk along the railway tracks and venture into the tunnel. No live rail here, so you will be perfectly safe and, don’t worry, you can hear the oncoming train way in advance of its arrival!
How to Get to Nine Arch Bridge from Ella
There are 3 main ways to walk to the Nine Arch Bridge. You can opt to walk along the tracks from Ella railway station or hike from the Passara Road to the bridge. There are two walking routes from the Passara Road to the bridge which form a great loop. Whichever route you choose is about a 30-minute walk from the Passara Road. To cut down on walking time, you can take a tuk tuk from the centre of Ella to the access points on the Passara Road, but the hike is enjoyable and, in our opinion, part of the adventure of finding the 9 Arch Bridge.
This is the route we found and recommend to you for the best bird’s eye views of the bridge:
- Follow the Passara Road Ella to this Hindu Temple
From the main Ella crossroads, you need to walk out of the town along the Passara Road. We stayed at the Ella Heritage hotel on the left which was ideally situated for our visit to the 9 Arch Bridge and Little Adam’s Peak.
After the Ella Heritage hotel, keep following the winding Passara road. After about 10 minutes, you will see a signpost for the bridge on the left, keep walking but this is where you will exit the forest later.
A few minutes down the road, you will spot a hotel on a bend to the right called the Ella Flower Garden Resort which is where the trail starts for Little Adam’s Peak. Keep walking along the Passara Road until you find a brightly coloured temple on your left. Take the road which leads past the temple (Nine Arch Bridge Road).
- Take the Nine Arch Bridge Road Ella to the Bridge
Follow the Nine Arch Bridge Road past the temple and you will pass Lake Front Cottage, after which the road splits in two. Here you will find two signs for the 9 Arch Gap and Nine Arch Bridge. Take the higher road to the right which winds up the hill.
When the road splits again take the lower left-hand fork. This road takes you behind a hotel and restaurant (Tina Nature Villa). After the hotel, the road starts to descend. Look out for your first glimpse of the bridge through the lush vegetation. Keep walking along the road and you will pass some small stalls selling drinks, ice cream cones and King Coconuts.
After a short while, you will see some sandy steps, go down the steps and turn left. Straight ahead, you will see a pink house, turn immediately right and you will spot a sign post for the Nine Arch Bridge and another which tells you to keep going!
Follow the sandy path behind houses perched on the hillside. From here, you get a great bird’s eye view of the curve of the bridge. Gradually, the sandy path turns into steps. Follow the steps down and you will pass the Asanka Café on your left. From the path, you will see the bridge getting nearer and nearer. Keep following the sandy track and eventually you will arrive on the northern (Demodara) side of the bridge.
- Return Route from Nine Arch Bridge to Passara Road
Once you’ve finished your visit, cross the bridge to the southern (Ella) side by heading towards the tunnel. In the trees to your left, you will see a path which winds into the forest.
Follow this trail through the forest and you will reach the Passara road after about 25 minutes. The track is easy to follow but tree trunks have fallen across the path along the route, so you do need to clamber over them!
Towards the end of the track, take the right-hand fork which Iocals advised us is the quickest route back to the main road (but it is quite steep).
We’ve made this useful YouTube video to help you find the Nine Arch Bridge easily.
Best Photo Spots of the Nine Arch Bridge
Our first glimpses of the bridge were bird’s eye views from the road and sandy tracks outlined in our recommended route above. From here, we captured some great shots of the bridge and were lucky enough to see a train crossing.
When you reach the bridge on the northern (Demodara) side, cross the tracks and you can climb down into the tea fields and take some great pictures of the arches from below. Take care with your footing as it is quite steep and be careful not to damage any plants.
Of course, the tracks also offer fun opportunities for taking memorable photos, as does the tunnel on the southern (Ella) side of the bridge. From here, you can also get a great shot of the hills on the northern side capturing the track you descended.
Train Times Over Nine Arch Bridge
During our visit to the Nine Arch Bridge, we were lucky enough to see two trains cross the bridge. According to a poster pinned to a tree, trains cross the Nine Arches Bridge in the morning at 6.15 am, 6.40 am, 9.20 am, 11.50 am and in the afternoon/evening at 1.15 pm, 2.40 pm, 3.30 pm, 6.40 pm and 7.15 pm. When we were there a train arrived at a non-scheduled time, so these times are rough estimates only!
Best Time to Visit the Nine Arch Bridge
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We visited the Nine Arch Bridge on a Sunday in the late morning after climbing Little Adam’s Peak. It was quite busy at this time, but this only added to the atmosphere at the bridge. The Nine Arches Bridge is a popular place with the locals, so it made our experience more memorable by walking along the tracks with them on a Sunday!
If you are looking for perfect photographs with no people in them, it’s probably worth heading to the bridge for sunrise or early in the morning when it’s less busy. If you’re heading out early, make sure you take a torch with you as the paths will be dark and uneven! We use this one and have never been disappointed with it. You can find it on Amazon here