Sri Lanka’s most Scenic Train Ride – Kandy to Ella
This 7 hours long train ride is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Visiting Sri Lanka and not taking this train would be a real pity as it’s one major highlights of the trip. The train rides at a low pace of 20 to 30km/h though various landscapes: tea plantations, mountains, forests and overlooks villages and farms. The scenery changes so quickly, that despite the fact that the journey is long, you don’t get tired and just continue staring out the window. If you wish to experience this great voyage to the mountains of Sri Lanka, read on to learn everything about epic train ride from Kandy to Ella.
Start your Journey in Kandy
Getting tickets is quite easy and you can purchase them on the day of your departure at Kandy’s train station. Check the timetable in advance and take the morning train. You don’t want to miss out on the views with an evening ride.
The ticket for 2nd and 3rd class costs about 1,5 EUR (yes it really is that cheap) and thats the option you want to go for to get the pictures and thrill of sitting in the open door.
↬ TIP : Now you can also book your tickets online here.
Avoid weekends and holidays as locals ride this train to work and back home. On special occasions the train might be more packed and you will have a harder time getting good spots by the door or windows.
We tried buying our tickets the night before. But were told at the station in Kandy that the tickets will be sold only the following morning, before the train departs to Ella.
Onto the Ride to the Mountains & Ella
Hours of standing without any view…
What we didn’t know is that this train was on strike for over a week… And started working again only on the morning we decided to take it. As a result there were hundreds of people on the platform- tourists and locals, and train was extremely packed. We got tickets for 2nd class, but ended up in 3rd as it was the only carriage we could squeeze in. There was not even a centimetre of free space, not saying a sitting spot. We barely even made it on the train and lots of people stayed behind. Few locals were even hanging out of the train just to ride few stops.
We really did not mind the train being overpacked. But what almost brought me to tears was the fact that we were stuck in the middle of the carriage. As we are tall we couldn’t even look out of the window and enjoy the views at all ?. The locals were extremely nice and one family squeezed in, making a bit of room for me to sit with them. Imagine: there were 3 adults and 2 kids sitting on 2 sits. And they still squeezed making some room for me. But as I was pretty much hanging out of the sit, I thanked them and stood up again.
What made it even harder to stay in the middle, were the train vendors walking back and forth selling snacks and drinks. There was so little space we had to move aside, crouch, bend… every time they were passing.
… and then, there was a View!
I couldn’t believe I would not see the incredible ride I heard so much about and was extremely upset. I continued repeating that I don’t mind the squeeze, but I just want to look out the window. And then an amazing thing happened. A couple that had 2 spots by the window, tapped us on the shoulders waving at us to come over. The guy then stood behind his girlfriend letting me take his spot by the window. Hamilton stood behind me and we finally were able to see the incredible scenery outside. The next 4 hours of the ride passed like few minutes. I was feeling so happy and excited and extremely grateful to those wonderful fellow backpackers from Spain.
I am sure that most of the time, the train rides smoothly and is not too packed. Make sure you ask your hotel in Kandy few days before the trip if the train is working and if there wasn’t any disruptions in its rides.
↬ TIP : Hanging out of the train gives you the best views and experience as well as great photos. The train rides 20 to 30kmh so it’s not scary at all. Remember to be careful not to lean out of the train without checking first as there are trees and bushes close to the train. The train also passes through some tunnels. Don’t be alarmed if the kids start screaming- like they do anywhere else in the world inside of the tunnels ?.
Kandy to Ella or Ella to Kandy?
It really makes no difference in which way you decide to take the train. Both sides are absolutely breathtaking! And there are windows and doors you can hang out from on both sides of the train. The best views are over tea plantations, and the misty mountains towards the end of the ride reaching Ella.
This train ride is definitely a journey of a life time even with all the discomfort we encountered. I am extremely happy we made it.
↬ TIP : Make sure to have a sweater at hand as once you reach the second half of the journey in the higher mountains, it gets pretty cold; especially if you want to continue hanging out of the train.
Make a stop in Nuwara Eliya
If the weather is nice, stop half way through your train ride between Kandy and Ella, in Nuwara Eliya. You can then wander around tea plantations with breathtaking views and visit tea factories.
We really wanted to make this stop, but as it was raining and pretty cold we decided to head straight to Ella.