Elevational diversity gradients are typically studied without considering the complex small-scale topography of large mountains, which generates habitats of strongly different environmental conditions within the same elevational zones. Here we analyzed the importance of small-scale topography for elevational diversity patterns of hyperdiverse tropical leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). We compared patterns of elevational diversity and species composition of beetles in two types of forests (on mountain ridges and in valleys) and analyzed whether differences in the rate of species turnover among forest habitats lead to shifts in patterns of elevational diversity when scaling up from the local study site to the elevational belt level. We sampled beetle assemblages at 36 sites in the Podocarpus National Park, Ecuador, which were equally distributed over two forest habitats and three elevational levels. DNA barcoding and Poisson tree processes modelling were used to delimitate putative species. On average, local leaf beetle diversity showed a clear hump-shaped pattern. However, only diversity in forests on mountain ridges peaked at mid-elevation, while beetle diversity in valleys was similarly high at low- and mid-elevation and only declined at highest elevations. A higher turnover of species assemblages at lower than at mid-elevations caused a shift from a hump-shaped diversity pattern found at the local level to a low-elevation plateau pattern (with similar species numbers at low and mid-elevation) at the elevational belt level. Our study reveals an important role of small-scale topography and spatial scale for the inference on gradients of elevational species diversity.