10/11 minutes read – A travel story about the adventurous day trip to the majestic Diyaluma waterfall. Sri Lanka’s second highest waterfall, tucked away in a lush jungle and mountainous setting. Including a super complete travel guide to prepare you for a DIY journey!
Interested in the Diyaluma waterfall travel guide only?! Scroll down to the second part of this blog post.
A crazy bus ride
The driver rushes over the mountain road in high-speed. Sharp curves left and right force me to use both hands to hold on to the iron bar in front of me. I squeeze tight in order not to end up in the walkway. Loud Sri Lankan pop music pumps in my ears. Usually it’s good to take the front seat, to reduce the shaking, but today no single person in the half-empty bus is safe. We shake, break and bend continuously with a speed way faster than desired. A quick glance back tells me that even the locals are holding tight now. Then you know it’s really heavy!
We’re on the way from Ella to the Diyaluma waterfall. With a spectacular drop at 220 meters, Sri Lanka’s second highest waterfall is still surprisingly unknown among tourists. Yet, with multiple falls, several natural pools and hiking opportunities it’s a paradise for both adventure seekers and people looking for a leisurely day out. And with temperatures less hot compared to Trincomalee, but warmer than ever cool Nuwara Eliya, it’s the perfect climate to go out on adventures
In contrast to the high-speed and crazy driving style, the mountain road is beautiful and super scenic. Driving alongside a lush green valley with way more mountains compared to Dambulla and Sigiriya. The views excite me immediately. Eager to explore this paradise land.
Completely shaken we arrive at the Wellawaya bus station, from where we need to transit to a bus in the direction of Naula. But before we even reach the bus stand a poor looking fruit seller offers us his help ‘Where are you going miss?’ he asks with a kind face. ‘To the Diyaluma waterfall’ we reply shortly. He takes a second to think about it and then continues ‘I’m sorry but you just missed the bus. The next one will come after 1.5 hours only! You better take a tuk tuk instead’ his suggestion sounds kind, but somehow it doesn’t feel valid. We thank him for his help while we move on.
Then, barely three seconds later a tuk tuk driver shows up. ‘You are going to the Diyaluma waterfall?’ he says with a big smile. ‘You’ve just missed the bus. You see, the road is very bad so busses don’t go often. To safe you the time and discomfort I can bring you to the waterfall and back for 1500 rupees only. That is including waiting time’ Now, given the distance, time and road conditions it does sound like a good deal. But still it feels kind of fishy. And besides that, we like the freedom of roaming around without anyone guarding our watch. So again we pass, and finally make it to the information booth.
‘Hello! Excuse me Sir’ A middle-aged man looks up from his newspaper. ‘When is the next bus to the Diyaluma waterfall?’ He checks the large clock on the wall and replies ‘The next bus should leave in a couple of minutes’ Pointing at the platform, where a scrappy, worn down bus was already waiting. A short 10 minutes, and countless tuk tuk offers later we’re happy to leave this station behind.
The last stretch; getting there finally!
In a near to empty bus we continue our journey. Again a shaky adventure, but this time following a narrow dirt-road up in the mountains. It leads us along remote homes and villages, most of which completely constructed with wood. Because bus stops are absent here, the bus rings a loud bell every time we pass an isolated home or small village. But except for a person or two, the bus doesn’t need to stop often. Completely surrounded by a green jungle, the bus roars while it pushes through at a speed seemingly faster than it’s built for. Leaving me surprised that these rusty old busses even master roads like this! It takes an adventurous 40 minutes before we finally hop off at the Diyaluma waterfall.
Admittedly, the sight of the falling water was not as impressive as I imagined. Due to the dry season there wasn’t as much water as expected. Yet, the short hike towards the foot of the waterfall proved me that this waterfall has more than meets the eye initially.
Diyaluma waterfall; lower falls
It’s only a small, but intensive hike; crossing a medium small stream, climbing over boulders and following the narrow dirt-trail leading to the base of the lower falls. Moist from the falling water feels both cooling and inviting after the warm bus ride. And as we get even closer there’s a clear shift in climate when we walk from the warm, bright sun into the cool shadows of the fall. Standing afoot of the fall, the 220 meter drop looks sky-high and tingles my senses. And even though I expect the water to be cold, I still feel the urge to plunge into it.
There’s something utterly exciting about entering a waterfall; the first touch of water as the feet enter the natural pool, the first mist, followed by some soft splatter on your skin. The coldness that causes goosebumps both thrilling and tempting. The ever-growing sound as you get closer to the fall. And eventually the strong force when the water truly hits you. Consumed by the fall, by nature’s force.
The Diyaluma waterfall is no exception. Where I mistook her for small and unimpressive before, she now rains her force on me. Showing herself in full strength while I laugh and bend under her pressure. My vision blurred, my ears taken by the sound of the plummeting water and my body so aware of the power she strikes me with. Uncomfortably cold water consumes me, but I’m so exhilarated that I enjoy it to the fullest; I laugh, I roar, I cry and shiver. Standing in a knee-deep, shallow pool I wish I could dive into the water to escape her force every now and then. Instead I get out of the war-zone to warm up a little before challenging it again.
The experience that high waterfalls with small water bodies can have such an impact on the human body reminds me of the fragility we have as humans. I’m enjoying her strength and force to the fullest, yet I’m aware of the temporary presence we have on this planet. And the ease we are damaged with.
Expedition upper falls
After tasting and experiencing the lower fall I’m thrilled to experience the upper falls as well. Back on the main road all the locals around us tell us it impossible to get there unguided. But our adventurous spirit says it must be doable. If we can only find the way.. Attempting to get money from us, the guides don’t share a thing. We’re on our own in this one.
It takes a while before we figure out there’s no straight way up. Instead, we have to approach the waterfall from a trail that starts somewhere down the road. It’s going to take at least 1.5 hours by foot. But that’s something we’re glad to do. Walking in the direction of Ella it’s a small restaurant owner who finally helps us to find the trail. But right before we take off someone shouts at us from the road;
‘Excuse me?! Are you hiking to the upper Diyaluma waterfall by yourselves?’ a tuktuk driver on his way to Ella stops us. ‘Yes, we think it’s very well possible. Besides that, we like some adventure’ we reply broad smiling. ‘But now is a really bad time to go on your own… It’s already late in the afternoon and there are elephants and dangerous snakes active at this time of day. Also, because the trail is difficult you’re likely to get lost and strand in the jungle without any daylight. Please don’t go now! If you want to do it alone, come back tomorrow morning’
Not having time on our side either today or tomorrow we take a moment to consider his words. When exactly at that moment a couple of returning tourists confirm that the road is really difficult we decide not to take chances and go with their guide instead.
Upper Diyaluma waterfall; over the edge
Leading us along a small village and green, paradise-like mountains it takes a steep 40 minutes to reach the first natural pools of the upper falls. But as daylight is indeed slipping away, we decide to continue straight to the spectacular drop of the fall. Following a narrow dirt trail between the mountains and the river it takes another 20 minutes by foot. Breathtaking sights welcome us along the way; mini falls, small pools and views on endless jungle-covered mountains as far as the eyes can see. The combination of height, water and jungle is astounding and more than I could’ve asked for.
We step on the 220 meter steep plateau and shuffle our way towards the edge. Nerves and tension rush through my body as we approach the cliff. A overly present sensation that warns me for danger is screaming to walk back to safe grounds again. ‘It’s better to sit here’ I say to Amir. Lowering myself towards the ground. The wind, together with the height and the tension make me feel weak. Shaky in a way.
‘Just one year ago two French tourists died here.’ Our guide mentions it casually, but with a serious face. ‘They lost balance and fell off the cliff. Sadly.’ I hear his words and immediately it’s the human fragility that enters my mind again; humans are so fragile and easily damaged. Our presence on this planet is only temporarily. Being able to enjoy our lives, to life them well and in appreciation of what we have is so important. It should never be ignored.
Safe grounds again
On hands and feet I crawl back to safe ground again. Now that the rush cools down a bit I can all of a sudden enjoy all the beauty around me; the endless views, the lively colors, the majestic nature and the height on a safe distance. I feel the wind, I see the water and the endless depth. But this time I’m fearless. I’m free.
Looking for more inspiring Sri Lanka travel stories? Be sure to check this page with some amazing stories, photos, tips and inspiration.
Rather know how to organize this trip yourself? Keep on reading the complete Diyaluma waterfall DIY travel guide below. Including several routes as well as unique tips for preparation and safety, it has everything you need to plan this awesome day trip yourself!
Diyaluma Waterfall; A Do It Yourself Guide to the Upper Falls
Although many local guides will tell you it’s not possible to hike to the Diyaluma waterfall yourself it’s actually very well doable if you know the way. And as it turns out; there are several ways to get to the top. At least three, as we learned on the spot. Below I’ll list all of them shortly, with an extended description for the one we choose eventually.
1. Get there with Google
Google maps shows one route from the foot of the lower Diyaluma waterfall to the upper falls, but when we went there that path was so slippery and dangerous that we didn’t consider it possible at that time. However, if the ground is dry it might be very well doable. My advice; check it on the spot. And if it doesn’t seem doable, choose any of the other options 🙂
2. Take a vehicle up
Either take a tuk tuk or private vehicle up to Koslanda. And from there take a sharp turn right to this road. Continue the way for about fifteen minutes until you make a second right and park at the ‘Upper Diyaluma Trek’ starting point. From here I haven’t actually walked the trail so unless it’s clear you can follow the trail down in about 30 minutes. If it’s unclear or if you hear reports of wild elephants walking around in the area it’s better to get yourself a guide on the spot.
3. Get there by foot yourself
So we heard that there was another option to reach the upper falls by foot, without renting a vehicle. Only the locals didn’t want to give us any information on how to get there. As they clearly wanted us to take their guided service. Determined to find the way ourselves we started wandering. We knew we had to walk back on the road for a while to find a trail up. Just we didn’t know exactly where to find it. It took us a while, but then the friendly staff of the only eatery around finally helped us to find our way.
As written in the travel story above, we were just about to start discovering the route when a tuk tuk driver warned us that is was too late to venture solo. And that the area is known to have wild elephants and dangerous snakes at this time of day. A bit fearful of getting stranded without daylight we decided to take a guided tour anyway. Only to discover that the road indeed can be done without one. For all of you who wonder how, keep on reading for a detailed description
Things to know before you go to the Diyaluma waterfall
- It’s a long walk to reach the top, and some light hiking is involved. But everybody with a reasonable level of fitness can do it.
- Be aware that most of the trail isn’t a paved road, but a dirt-path. Although it’s not the most straightforward trail I’m sure that you’ll be able to find the way by following the instructions below, as well as keeping an eye on the trail.
- The walk from the lower falls bridge to the upper falls takes around 1.5 hours (one way) to complete.
- Go in the morning or early afternoon to have enough time to enjoy the place in full extend and to be back before darkness sets in. Going early also allows you to get lost a little instead of rushing to the top.
- Be aware of the fact that the area is known to have dangerous snakes and elephants. In this regard it’s always best to ask about the current situation before you go and to keep an eye on the trail at all times.
- Go on a sunny/ cloudy day. But not in the rain, as the rocks will be slippery. Causing a potentially great danger.
Things to bring on this day trip
- As you can’t buy anything along the way; carry enough food, snacks, water and supplies to finish both ways. And to get through the day if you plan to stay the afternoon here.
- Bring plenty of sunblock if it’s super sunny. You’re out in the sun for a long time. And getting super red-burned is just something simple to avoid.
- Make sure you don’t forget your swimwear and towel for this one. Who wouldn’t like to enjoy a rewarding dip in the water after a climb like that?!
- Depending on the whether it might be cold and windy, be sure to pack a vest or something just in case.
- Bring your fully charged camera, cause you’ll sure want to make loads of photo’s!
Directions to the upper Diyaluma waterfall. The road we took
After visiting the lower falls go back to the road and walk back into the direction of Ella. After about 10-15 minutes you’ll come across a concrete road on your left side right around here. There’s really only one concrete road so you won’t be able to miss it. From that road;
- Follow the road up. You’ll notice that somewhere along the way the concrete road turns into a dirt-road. Don’t worry about it. Just continue walking. Also, at one point you’ll encounter a split where you’ll need to continue/ follow the road on your left hand.
- After around 25 minutes you’ll see a noticeable but small rubber factory that looks like a house. Continue to walk another 100 meter or so, towards the electricity pole and a tree with the number ’36’ marked on it with red paint. You’ll there see a smaller trail on your left side.
- Follow the smaller trail on your left hand and follow it around five minutes until you notice a house on the right side. This is the start of a small village. Follow the trail alongside the house, through the village, and then bend left to cross a small stream. Continue straight on the trail again and cross a second small stream. You have now completely exited the village. From here you’ll follow the trail a long way up. This part is pretty straightforward.
* walking through the village I didn’t take any photo’s as I didn’t wanted to disturb people living their day to day life. If you feel uncertain about the trail or the small streams, simply ask the villagers to put you back on track.
- As you follow the narrow, but straightforward trail uphill you’ll notice that you’ll be climbing a bit. This is the most physically challenging part of the trail. It took us about 30 minutes to reach an open space with tiny green trees, and especially the last 10 minutes were a bit on the tough side, considering you’re walking up only.
- At the open space you’ll notice several ways. Continue the trail that goes straight on the right side (not the one that does up on the right side) You follow the trail down a bit. If you listen here you can already hear the waterfall.
- Again you will see several trails and although this time all trails lead to different parts of the Diyaluma waterfall, I suggest you to ignore the left and middle trail, but to just continue the right trail instead. Leading you basically along the right side of the hill. You’re practically walking towards the sound of the waterfall.
- All together it takes around 10 minutes from the open space before you see the first pools on your left side. Yet, keep continuing the trail on the right. After about five minutes from there you’ll see a huge rock. When you cross that rock you’ll see the first two safe pools for swimming within short reach.
- Although the safe pools make for an excellent swimming place, they are not the stunning pools with the amazing views. In order to get there you’ll need to go back to the large rock and follow the narrow trail between the hill and the down flowing river for about 15-20 minutes in total. Along the way you will come across several other trails that each lead to other parts of the Diyaluma waterfall. Including mini falls, pools and superb views in general. Basically all trails are good from this point, just keep in mind that the most spectacular views are at the end of the river, near the great 220 meter drop.
Good to know
- The first pools on the right side are good to relax and to spend a lot of time bathing and playing with the water.
- But the last pools close to the drop are the ones that offer the spectacular views. Be careful though as the drop is 220 meters high and there are no fences or whatsoever. Going to the edge is dangerous and you really DON’T want to fall off!
- Same goes for the pools at the end; make sure you don’t bathe in the last pool, where the current can easily swipe you all the way down. Really consider your safety here!
Last but not least
- The Diyaluma waterfall is best visited as; a full day trip to see both falls or as a half day trip to see the lower falls only.
- When hiking through the village; please be mindful and respectful as you’re basically walking through their garden!
- If you like to save yourself the trouble of wandering solo there are always guides eager to show you the way. Most of them charge between 1500 and 1000 rupees, which is not at all a high price for a guided walk like this.
- If you want to save yourself from hiking 1.5 hours; go for option two and take a tuktuk up. Followed by a shorter 30 minute walk down-hill this is much less of a workout.
- Don’t miss the lower falls at all! The sights and feeling of the down-falling water is sensational and totally worth going on itself!
Diyaluma waterfall; how to get to the lower falls yourself
Luckily the lower waterfalls don’t nearly need as much preparation and can be easily done without a guide. Just start at the left side of the bridge and more or less climb your way to the Diyaluma waterfall; follow the trail up, cross the river to the right side and climb and bolder your way towards the falls from there. We followed the footsteps of other tourists, but I’m sure you can manage it yourself too.
Diyaluma waterfall; getting there and going away
The Diyaluma waterfall can easily be reached within an hour from Ella by car, tuk tuk or motorcycle.
It’s also possible to travel by bus from Ella; first take a bus to Wellawaya (30 minutes, 90 rupees) and transfer to a Naula bound bus (40 minutes, 40 rupees). Just make sure you don’t return too late. We missed the 08:00PM bus at Wellawaya and were stranded until 09:30 to drive the last stretch back.
Did you visit the Diyaluma waterfall by yourself? Or are you planning to visit? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences through the comment section below!
Interested in more exclusive Sri Lanka travel tips? Be sure to check out this page with interesting stories, tips, photos and inspiration.