Your travel guide for Sri Lanka

Nil Diya Pokuna is an underground natural pool in Ella, Sri Lanka. It's the final destination in a thrilling trek through an underground cave system. However, this arduous underground journey is not for everyone, and you may either love it or hate it. But you'll surely love the final destination. In this travel guide, we'll take a closer look at this hidden gem and help you figure out if it's your kind of adventure.

What is Nil Diya Pokuna?

Nil Diya Pokuna, which translates to "Blue Water Pond" in Sinhalese, is a captivating natural site located deep within a cave system near Ella in Sri Lanka. Situated 80 meters underground in the mountainous area of Karandagolla, this pond gets its name from the unique blue hue of its waters.

The Nil Diya Pokuna Pool in Ella, Sri Lanka with its rocky shores and clear blue water
The Nil Diya Pokuna Pool

The Cave System

The journey to Nil Diya Pokuna is an adventurous trek through a network of tunnels and passageways within the cave. The entry to this underground world is through a hole in the ground, leading to an extensive network of narrow and sometimes precarious pathways. This cave system, with parts still unexplored, adds an element of mystery and excitement to the adventure.

The Pool

At the heart of this journey is the Nil Diya Pokuna itself. The pool is famed for its crystal-clear water, which exhibits a mesmerizing blue glow due to the cave’s geological formations and the purity of the underground springs. This enchanting phenomenon creates an ethereal atmosphere, making the pond a serene and almost otherworldly destination.

The Experience

Visitors to Nil Diya Pokuna are treated to an experience that is as much about the journey as it is the destination. The trek to the pond is challenging yet incredibly rewarding, offering an opportunity to immerse in a distinctive and pristine natural environment. The combination of the cave’s natural beauty and the allure of the blue pond makes Nil Diya Pokuna a unique and must-visit location for nature enthusiasts and adventurers.

History and Folklore

Nil Diya Pokuna was discovered in 2003 by a local explorer who now serves as a guide. While a recent addition to Sri Lanka's natural attractions, this site quickly became enveloped in the tapestry of local folklore.

The pond became intertwined with Sri Lankan mythology, particularly with stories surrounding King Ravana from the Ramayana epic. According to these tales, King Ravana is said to have used this cave system. The folklore says that these caves were part of Ravana’s extensive network of tunnels and hideouts, possibly used for strategic purposes during his reign. Some locals think that Ravana hid an army of several thousand in the underground cave system during a war.

The discovery of Nil Diya Pokuna has added a layer of intrigue and has become a focal point for historians and researchers exploring the intersection of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and its past. 

Exploring the Cave System

The journey to Nil Diya Pokuna is an experience that embodies adventure and a sense of exploration into the natural wonders of Sri Lanka. It starts with a walk through a small jungle, immersing visitors in the greenery that paves the way to the cave’s entrance.

Upon arriving at the cave entrance, adventurers are greeted with a seemingly small opening, a gateway to the underground marvels. This is where the real adventure begins. Equipped with helmets and headlights for safety, visitors begin their descent. The first part of this descent is navigated using ropes.

A hole in the ground that serves as the entrance to Nil Diya Pokuna in Ella, Sri Lanka
The entrance to Nil Diya Pokuna, with ropes for climbing down.

The journey continues with a climb down through another, smaller hole, this time aided by a ladder. This descent marks the entry into a world unlike any other - an underground realm of darkness and mystery. Inside, the cave transforms into a network of narrow tunnels where the paths are often dark and confined. In certain sections, the cave’s limited space challenges visitors to stoop or even crawl, making the journey physically engaging and adventurous.

The secondary entrance to Nil Diya Pokuna, with a ladder for climbing down
The second hole that goes deeper into the cave system, with a ladder for aid.

As the journey progresses deeper into the cave, the environment becomes more challenging. The path can be muddy and slippery, a reminder of the untamed nature of this underground world. The absence of safety railings along the path emphasizes the need for cautious navigation. Visitors need to be mindful of their steps, especially in areas where the cave features jagged rocks and dangerous drops.

Despite these challenges, the journey is filled with awe. At one point, the path opens into a massive cave chamber with a high ceiling, revealing stunning rock formations. Aside from its natural beauty, this part of the cave brings to life the folklore of King Ravana’s army, adding a layer of mythical intrigue.

The unusual rock ceiling of the Nil Diya Pokuna caves in Ella, Sri Lanka
The stunning rock formations inside the cave system.

The final destination, Nil Diya Pokuna, is a serene blue pond deep inside the cave.

The Nil Diya Pokuna Pool

People swimming at the Nil Diya Pokuna Pool in Ella, Sri Lanka
Swimming at the Nil Diya Pokuna Pool

The journey culminates at the Nil Diya Pokuna Pool. After navigating the challenging, dark pathways of the cave, arriving at the pool feels like discovering a hidden treasure. It's a moment that marks the achievement of the arduous trek.

The pool itself is a natural wonder. Its waters, sourced from underground springs, are incredibly clear and pure. The pool's remarkable blue glow creates a stunning visual effect that's both serene and mesmerizing. The light reflecting off the water enhances this effect, making the pool not just a sight to behold but a truly enchanting experience.

This serene spot offers a much-needed rest from the adventurous journey. Visitors find themselves in a tranquil haven, a stark contrast to the confining darkness of the cave tunnels. The pool provides a peaceful setting where one can relax, soak in the beauty of nature, and perhaps take a refreshing swim.

Additionally, the pool's unique appearance makes it an ideal spot for capturing memories. It's not just a destination but a picturesque backdrop perfect for photographs. The combination of the blue water, the natural rock formations, and the overall ambiance of the cave creates a surreal setting that is both captivating and photogenic.

Should You Visit Nil Diya Pokuna?

Visiting Nil Diya Pokuna is not an adventure that is suitable for everyone. The journey to this remarkable natural wonder is as challenging as it is breathtaking. It involves traversing through the depths of a dark, confined cave. The paths inside the cave are narrow, uneven, and can be treacherous, with slippery sections, sharp drops, and jagged rocks, all without the aid of safety railings. This makes the trek particularly risky and demands good physical fitness and careful footing. It should also be noted that this is not regulated by the Sri Lanka Tourism Board or any such governing body.

It's crucial to understand the physical demands and risks associated with this trek. Due to its challenging nature, we advise against it for seniors or children. The physical exertion required, coupled with the potential hazards along the way, makes it unsuitable for those who may not have the agility or stamina to navigate the cave safely.

Also, the cave's cramped and muddy conditions might be uncomfortable for those who are claustrophobic or prefer to stay clean and dry. The journey, while exhilarating for some, could be unpleasant for others who are not accustomed to such rugged environments.

However, if you are aware of the potential risks and take precautions, you may find this journey exhilarating and a novel experience. For some, it is a unique and exhilarating experience. Also, the pool at the end of the journey is a remarkable reward. 

Location and How to Get There

Nil Diya Pokuna is located near Ella. You can hire a tuk-tuk and go along the Wellawaya-Ella-Kumbalwela Highway to the trailhead near Karandagolla. After that, a guide will lead the way to the entrance of the cave.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit is during the dry season, which typically runs from December to March. This period is characterized by lesser rainfall and clearer paths, making the caves more accessible. 

Additionally, the best time of day for this adventure is in the morning. Morning visits offer cooler temperatures and an early start, which helps avoid the crowds, allowing for a more serene and personal experience at the pool. ​

Guidelines and Safety Tips

  • Listen to Your Guide: Pay close attention to your guide’s instructions for a safe and informative journey.
  • Understand the Risks: Be mindful of the inherent dangers, such as sharp drops, jagged rocks, and slippery surfaces.
  • Be Prepared for Confined Spaces: Be prepared to trek through a dark and confined space for about 1km.
  • Inform Someone Before The Journey: Always let someone know that you are visiting Nil Diya Pokuna and when you expect to return.
  • Pack Light: Bring only essentials in a compact backpack to ease movement in tight spaces.
  • Stay Alert and Cautious: Always be aware of your surroundings and move with care to avoid accidents.
  • Photography Precautions: Use camera equipment carefully in the muddy and wet conditions of the cave.
  • Expect a Muddy Adventure: Be ready to get dirty, as the cave floor can be a bit muddy.
  • Plan for Slow Pacing: The challenging terrain means progress is slower than usual, so don’t rush.
  • Allocate Adequate Time: Set aside a time slot of about 3-4 hours for the entire journey to Nil Diya Pokuna. 

Nearby Attractions and Activities

  1. Ella Rock: A popular hiking destination offering panoramic views and a rewarding trekking experience.
  2. Little Adam's Peak: Known for its breathtaking vistas, this peak is a less strenuous hike suitable for all ages.
  3. Nine Arch Bridge: A colonial-era railway bridge famous for its stunning architecture and picturesque setting.
  4. Kithal Ella: A lesser-known but beautiful waterfall offering a serene and less crowded alternative for nature lovers.
  5. Dowa Rock Temple: An ancient Buddhist temple known for its impressive rock carvings and historical significance.

There are many interesting things to do in Ella town. Find out more about the best things to do in Ella.

Nil Diya Pokuna provides a blend of thrilling adventure and natural beauty, making it a unique off-the-beaten-path experience in Sri Lanka. While the journey is challenging, it leads to an experience that transcends the ordinary, immersing explorers in a mystical and unforgettable environment. Exploring this hidden gem is a journey into the heart of nature’s untamed beauty, leaving adventurers with a profound sense of awe of the country's diverse landscape.

A group of travelers at Nil Diya Pokuna in Karandagolla, Ella, Sri Lanka
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