The Sri Lanka Travel Specialists
Nine Arch Bridge in the Sri Lanka highlands town of Ella regularly takes centre stage in one of the most iconic pictures in the hill country. It is part working railway viaduct, part tourist photo opportunity. This setting, beloved by thousands of Instagram accounts, somehow conveys the relaxed vibe that makes Sri Lanka one of the most treasured holiday destinations in the world.
Nine Arch Bridge does not just have great views, it has a neat back story. It was first envisaged by the British shortly before the outbreak of World War 1, but when the war came all the steel was needed for the military effort. By the time, the bridge was completed in 1921, it had been completed entirely in stone and cement, a remarkable feat of engineering by largely Sri Lankan engineers.
This 30-metre high, 90-metre long viaduct with dramatic high arches is a beautiful piece of architecture that enhances its setting as it crosses a narrow gorge between Ella and Demodara railway stations. Close by, the Demodara loop is also quite something, as the train coming from up-country enters a tunnel underneath Demodara rail station and then spirals around to cope with the vertical distance between two adjacent hills.
Not many trains share the tracks with enthusiastic photographers but that is the occasional fate of the Sri Lanka highlands train (blue for passengers, red for freight) as it passes over Nine Arch Bridge. Keen photographers can arrive soon after dawn before the throng arrives for a shot of sunlight flooding through the bridge and down the steep, tea-clad slopes gorge below. On a misty day when cloud hangs low in the valley it can be just as beautiful.
Favourite vantage spots are shared over coffee and beer back in Ella, one of Sri Lanka’s most youthful and laid-back tourist towns. The Asanka Café, at the northern end of the bridge, is quite enough to delight many. Wherever you choose, the waves and smiles encapsulate the happiness of Sri Lanka itself.
You can travel all the way to the bridge from Ella, but you can expect to go via Badulla, a half-hour trip, so genning up on one of the walking alternatives is a more tempting alternative.
If you are feeling really energetic, Nine Arch Bridge can be part of a three-section, 15km trek that also includes Ella Rock and Little Adam’s Peak.
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