9 Arch Bridge
The 9 Arch Bridge (or technically 9 Arches Bridge) is near the town of Ella in Sri Lanka and is an iconic photo spot. You can walk over the bridge, and from one side you actually have to walk on the tracks to get there, but it is a live track and trains go over it.
The 9 Arch Bridge is beautiful:
Here’s where it is. Zoom in and have a look.
You can approach the bridge from the north or the south, and once you’re there you can walk across it, as long as you listen out for trains.
The north side is an option if you hop on a tuk tuk at Ella train station and ask to go to the 9 arch car park or ask for “the tunnel side”. The road leads to a car park on the other side of the tunnel you can see in the previous photo, and you walk through the tunnel.
The other options are from the south. If you’re staying at one of the hostels, lodges, or guest houses on that side, or the excellent 98 Acres resort, you can simply walk there.
Not far from the entrance to 98 Acres Resort, you’ll see a little sign for Nine Arch Lodge. You can follow your nose down there and clamber down the hill and soon you’ll see the bridge and figure out a way down.
If instead you go beyond that turning, you’ll get to a little shop and a sign for “The Secret Ella”. Head down there, take the left hand fork towards Senevi 9 Arch Homestay, and soon you’ll see the bridge below you. Up to here, this is the easiest walk, but now you will have to walk some way along the tracks.
Remember that this is an active track and listen out for trains.
Once you get to the bridge you’ll easily be able to see different potential view points. On the south side in particular, there are lots of little shops and cafes selling cold drinks, where you can sit and watch. You just have to walk about and follow some pathways up the hill to find different spots to take photos. It’s all fairly obvious.
If you want a photo with a train on it then you might be tempted to try and figure out from the schedules when is the right time to be there. Trust me, the train schedule is very unreliable, and whether you know the expected time or not you need to plan to stay there for an hour or so if you want to guarantee seeing a train.
The time you’re most likely to see trains is in the morning, and early morning is when the weather is best for photos. From late morning until evening it is either too bright or grey and overcast. Mornings have photo-friendly lighting and the possibility of trains. Sunsets have nice lighting but there will be no trains and you will need a good torch to find your way back up the trails to the road after dark.
In the next photo you can see one of the trails up the hill on the south side, and some of those buildings are cafes or just sell cold drinks. Up that hill takes you back towards Nine Arch Lodge, whereas following the track around to the left takes you back towards The Secret Ella.
Is it safe to walk on the tracks? Yeah, if you’re not an idiot. The tracks aren’t electrified and there are no electric cables. The trains are not very frequent and you can hear them a mile off. The railway is quite wide so even if you were really caught out there is plenty of space to get out of the way.
The bigger risk is messing about on the bridge. Just seeing someone sitting on the wall with their legs dangling over the side made me nervous. It is very high, and the top of the wall slopes downwards towards a fall t your death. but sitting on the wall was just the start of it.
I saw people walking along the wall without a care in the world. The a guy put his 8 year old kid on the wall and held her hand while she walked along it. Then another guy sat on the wall and lifted his 6 year old up to sit next to him, feet over the edge, and din’t hold her.
I couldn’t look. And then someone climbed up on the wall and started posing for here boyfriend to take photos. Before long she was standing on one leg and doing little pirouettes, and then a star jump. A sodding star jump on a 40cm wide wall over a 30 metre drop.
I don’t even want to google it, but it would not surprise me at all to hear that someone has died here taking a selfie. If you’re not an idiot, then no, it’s not dangerous at all.
Finally, here some photos that are much better than any of mine came out, taken from the amazing source of free high quality photos, Unsplash.
You can see in some of these photos how busy it can get at the 9 arches bridge during the day, especially when trains are due.