The History and Mystery of the Nine Arch Bridge

by | Jun 24, 2023 | Asia | 0 comments

The Nine Arch Bridge, sometimes known as the “Bridge in the Sky”, is one of Sri Lanka’s most iconic travel destinations. Commissioned by the British in 1921, this stone bridge is a true testament to the ingenuity of colonial-era railway construction in Sri Lanka. This guide will provide you with all the necessary information you need to plan your visit to this historic and scenic bridge.

History of the Bridge

The Nine Arch Bridge was built in the British colonial period in Sri Lanka, which spanned from 1815 to 1948. It was constructed during the height of the British Empire’s influence in the region, and its design reflects the innovative engineering and architectural techniques of the time. The bridge was designed by a local Sri Lankan builder, P.K. Appuhami, who completed the project without the use of any steel, relying solely on stone, bricks, and cement¹².

The construction of the bridge is generally attributed to Appuhami, in consultation with British engineers². The chief designer and project manager of the ‘upcountry railway line of Ceylon’ project was D. J. Wimalasurendra, a distinguished Ceylonese engineer and inventor. The designer of the viaduct was Harold Cuthbert Marwood of the Railway Construction Department of Ceylon Government Railway².

Popular rumors suggest that when construction work commenced on the bridge, the Great War began between the empires of Europe, and the steel assigned for this site was reallocated to Britain’s War-related projects at the battlefront. As a result, the work came to a standstill, leading the locals to build the bridge with stone bricks and cement, but without steel²³.

About the Bridge

Located between the Ella and Demodara railway stations, the Nine Arch Bridge spans an impressive 300 feet (91 meters) in length. It stands at a height of about 100 feet (30 meters). As its name suggests, the bridge features nine graceful arches skillfully designed to evenly distribute the weight of the trains and the structure itself. This unique design has allowed the bridge to remain functional and withstand the test of time, despite the absence of steel reinforcements.

The bridge is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills and dense jungles, making it a popular tourist destination. Its unique location provides visitors with stunning views of the nearby hillsides as they stroll along the bridge or take in the scenery from above.

Best Time to Visit

The optimal time to visit the Nine Arch Bridge is when a train crosses the bridge. This offers a unique opportunity to capture the moment in photos or video. To ensure you don’t miss this, be sure to check the train schedule ahead of time. It’s also a good idea to talk with a local guide or your hotel management, so you get the timing right and secure a good viewpoint.

The combination of the train’s rhythmic sound as it passes over the bridge and the breathtaking natural surroundings creates a truly memorable experience.

How to Get There

Tuk-Tuk: One of the most convenient ways to reach the Nine Arch Bridge is by taking a tuk-tuk from Ella town. The journey takes about 5-10 minutes on foot after the tuk-tuk drops you off and will cost you just a few hundred rupees. To avoid potential scams, consider speaking with your hotel to arrange a tuk-tuk ride for you.

Walking: If you prefer to explore on foot, you can walk to the bridge from Ella. This walk takes approximately 45 minutes, depending on your location in Ella. To get there, follow the Ella-Passara Road and turn left at the Nine Arch Bridge Jungle road. Locals are always happy to help if you need it.

Train: Another option is to take the train from Ella or Demodara station and get off at the Nine Arch Bridge station. This way, you can enjoy the scenic ride along the railway tracks and experience the thrill of crossing
the bridge yourself.


The Nine Arch Bridge is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Sri Lanka. It offers a glimpse into the history and culture of the island nation, as well as a chance to witness a remarkable feat of engineering and architecture. Whether you choose to admire it from afar or walk across it yourself, you will surely be amazed by the beauty and mystery of the Nine Arch Bridge.

Work Cited:
(1) Nine Arch Bridge | Wonders of Ceylon.
(2) Nine Arch Bridge – Wikipedia.
(3) Nine-arched Bridge – Wikipedia.

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