Travel Report Train Ride Kandy-Ella
Considered one of the most beautiful and scenic train rides in the world, this is a must-do in Sri Lanka. No matter at what time of the year you go, if it rains or if the sun shines bright, this is a bucket list item! The British built this dream railway complex in 1864 to transport coffee and tea to Colombo from the hill country. Meanwhile, it has turned itself into one of the most and best attractions in Sri Lanka.
Embarking on this train journey from Kandy to Ella, almost felt like we were going on a time travel! After our stay in Kandy, we stood up early and headed to Perenniya station. It could perfectly be a set for one of Indiana Jones’ films: encrypted hieroglyphic signs, people carrying lively chicken in cages, barking dogs, crying kids – the station was alive and we were part of it!
Ride trough the highlands
As soon as the train approached the station with that loud noise coming from far away and spreading dusty smoke all over the place, our levels of excitement raised. We had to engage in this frantic and energetic scenery, which is running along the platform back and forward. As quick as possible, we tried to find our carriage to not miss the train departure! Once inside, we could finally breath but our eyes and senses stayed wide open to every single thing that moved! Like sponges we wanted to absorb every image, every smell, each and every smile that is so characteristic for Sri Lanka.
Shortly behind Kandy the exit doors were already packed with tourist and locals trying to take pictures of the scenery. However, the most beautiful and famous landscapes may only appear after 3 to 4 hours when approaching Nuwara Eliya. After this point it was just WOW! Everywhere you look is another gasping mountain, another amazing tea plantation, another local that passes by with this immense and contagious smile just to say hi and wish you a blessed journey.
We wish we had the power to describe this experience by words, pictures or videos but it’s just impossible. The flashy green hills, the powerful high mountains, the shaped and nit green tea fields contrasting with the red and yellow dresses by the women picking up tea leaves, the vendors at each station invading the train and bring along the fresh smell of cut pineapple and mango with cinnamon, the crispy papadums paired with freshly made rice and curry and corn with salty butter…
When arriving, we didn’t only feel tired but amused and flabbergasted with the day. We entered this train ready to be inspired and amused. But anything we had read or researched before surpassed or made justice to the experience of this ride. We were more motivated than ever to go on and discover Ella.
Travel Info and Tips
Where is it? Highlands of Sri Lanka between Kandy and Ella
How to get there? Start from Kandy, Perenniya or Ella train stations
What is it famous for? Train ride experience, landscape and tea fields
How long does it take? 7 hours from Kandy to Ella; if exiting at Nuwara Ellya instead the journey reduces to 5 to 6 hours.
Monday to Friday there are 3 services per day: at 03:30, at 07:40 and at 11:10 a.m.; Saturdays and Sundays there is an additional train at 08:47 a.m. (departure times from Kandy)When is it running?
What tickets are available? You can chose between 1st, 2nd and 3rd class tickets with prices between LKR120 (2nd class) LKR1000 and LKR3000. Which class to chose depends on your habits and how rough you want to go indeed!
- 1st class: tickets booked in advance, reserved seats and A/C carriages
- 2nd class: tickets can only be purchased on the day of travel, no seat reserved, no A/C
- 2nd class reserved seats: tickets can only be purchased on the day of travel, however there are a selection of seats that can be reserved, no A/C.
- 3rd class: tickets can only be purchased on the day of travel, no seat reserved, no A/C. seats are made of wood and not cushioned, commuters on this carriage include people, chickens, vegetables, dogs, cats and anything else you can think of.
There are several options to book your train tickets:
- At the ticket booth before traveling; however, very often these trains get fully booked so that you might miss the chance of doing this journey
- Pre-booking as of 30 days before departure at the station in case you arrive ahead
- Online via third party website www.visitsrilankatours.co.uk, which is however way much more expensive
- Through your hotel/ guest house, which might book tickets for you for a small fee or even for free Check TurtleExperience for more…
What is good to know? As this will be a very long journey we advise you to pack up some food and drinks for the way. Light and comfy clothes are also advisable as sometimes AC doesn’t work. Useful links for more information about trains in Sri Lanka:
A funny fact? Doors of the trains are always open and due to the slow speed, it is no problem to sit at the edge and let your foot hang out.