Kandy to Ella Train Ride in Sri Lanka – Full Guide 2024

Kandy to Ella Train Ride in Sri Lanka

The famous Kandy to Ella train ride is known for its scenic beauty while slowly moving through Sri Lanka’s Highlands.

This train ride is not just a mode of transportation but an adventure in itself. It’s a must-do experience in Sri Lanka to witness the most beautiful landscapes and to immerse yourself in local Sri Lankan life.

This complete guide will help you have the best time on a journey through the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country.

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Best Time to Do the Kandy to Ella Train Ride

Sri Lanka Blue Train Ride

Sri Lanka has two distinct monsoon seasons: the southwest and the northeast monsoon, affecting different regions of the country.

The best time to do the Kandy to Ella train ride is during the dry season in Southwest Sri Lanka from December to March. Pleasant weather can also be found during the shoulder seasons in April to May and October to November, with fewer crowds.

Where can I take the Train to Ella?

Colombo Train Railways

Most people start the journey from Kandy, taking 7 hours to reach Ella. However, you can also take the train to Ella from the capital, Colombo, or choose a shorter journey to Ella from one of the two picturesque hill towns, Nuwara Eliya, and Haputale.

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Sri Lankan Railway Network on the Map

Sri Lanka Old Lady Train

Check the entire railway network in Sri Lanka. This will help you have an overview of where you can catch a train.

History of Sri Lanka’s Trains

Kandy Ella Train Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s railway system has its roots in the British colonial era in 1864 when it played a crucial role in transporting tea from plantations to Colombo for international export.

Today, the trains serve as transportation for locals, facilitating travel for work and family visits. Due to high demand, seats sell out quickly. Beyond its functional role, the train journey has become a highlight for travelers, offering a scenic adventure through the diverse and stunning landscapes of Sri Lanka.

Train Classes in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Train Journey

Trains in Sri Lanka generally have three classes: first class, second class, and third class. All classes have restrooms available and provide unforgettable scenic views of Sri Lanka’s picturesque landscapes. The difference lies in comfort, crowding, cost, and the possibility of having open doors and windows.

First Class:

  • Windows and doors cannot be opened for pictures
  • Air-conditioned
  • Well-cushioned seats
  • Less-crowded experience

Second Class:

  • Open windows and doors
  • Fan
  • Comfy seats
  • Budget-friendly prices

Third Class (recommended):

  • Open windows and doors
  • Authentic experience, travel with locals
  • Wooden seats
  • Budget-friendly prices

Train Schedule & Duration from Kandy to Ella

Sri Lanka Train Adventure
Sri Lanka Train Journey

Different Kandy to Ella trains are available daily. There were three options when we visited. The journey can take 6-10 hours, as trains in Sri Lanka can run late. We recommend taking the morning train for daylight during the entire journey.

Train schedules may vary, so it’s important to check the latest timetable, for example, at the train station or with your accommodation in Kandy. For more info, check the Sri Lanka Government Railway Official Website.

Train Tickets Purchase in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Train Station Crowds

Ticket prices vary based on the class you choose, starting from 100 LKR (0.30 USD) for 3rd class. If you want to buy reserved seats, we recommend booking online in advance on 12go.

Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak tourist seasons, as the trains can get very crowded and seats sold out fast.

For unreserved tickets, you can buy them at the station. On the same day, you can only purchase unreserved tickets for second and third class.

Nuwara Eliya Tea Farmer
Nuwara Eliya Tea Fields

If you have the time, we highly recommend stopping on the Kandy to Ella train journey, allowing you to explore different parts of the region and breaking down the otherwise long journey.

Hatton is the gateway to the famous Adam’s Peak, a mountain with stunning views from the summit. Check hotel options in Hatton.

Nuwara Eliya (the train stops nearby at Nanu Oya), often referred to as the “Little England” of Sri Lanka, is a picturesque hill town known for its colonial architecture and tea plantations. Check hotel options in Nuwara Eliya.

Haputale is a train stop located 2 hours before Ella, and it has a beautiful viewpoint overlooking what overlooking the stunning landscapes. Check hotel options in Haputale.

Scenery & Local Experience on Train Ride to Ella

Sri Lanka Train Tracks
Sri Lanka Train Track

The train journey to Ella is known for its stunning scenery and picturesque landscapes. Expect to see all of this on your journey:

  • Tunnels and bridges
  • Rivers and waterfalls
  • Hill-top Villages
  • Misty mountains
  • Valleys and gorges
  • Lush green tea plantations

One of the best things to do on train journeys in Sri Lanka is to interact with the friendly and always-smiling locals. We loved talking with them, learning about their lives, and answering their curious questions about us.

Best Hotels from Kandy to Ella

Check out top-rated and handpicked accommodations in different price ranges and locations all along the train journey from Kandy to Ella.

Kandy

Hatton

Nuwara Eliya

Haputale

Ella

12 Tips for Train Rides in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Train Culture

Here are 12 tips that will help you get the most out of your train journey in Sri Lanka.

1. Book tickets in advance if you want to have reserved seats, especially during the peak tourist season.

2. Choose the right class for your preferences and budget. There are big differences between first, second, and third class. Be prepared for crowds in second and third class, especially during popular travel times.

3. Make stops on the way if you have time. There are many places where you can jump off, stay overnight, and continue the journey, like the two picturesque hill towns, Nuwara Eliya and Haputale. Visit tea plantations and viewpoints of the highlands. View all popular stops.

4. Book your accommodation in advance so you can directly head to your accommodation when arriving at your destination. If you plan to walk, make sure to download offline maps and save the location you want to reach.

5. Pick the best side of the train to get the best views and photos. People say that coming from Kandy until Nuwara Eliya, the right side is the better one, and after this town, it’s better to be seated on the left side of the train.

6. Bring snacks and water, as the journey can be long. You can’t buy food on the train; however, at each station, local vendors will jump on the train with their snacks. You will hear them coming, shouting, or singing.

7. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a jacket, as the hill country can be cool, especially in the evenings and at higher elevations.

8. Charge your devices fully and bring power banks. Chances are high that you will take many pictures and videos along the entire journey.

9. Keep a close eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas and at stops. While the train ride is generally safe, it’s always wise to be cautious.

10. Be careful when hanging out of the doors and windows. There are tree branches, tunnels, and platforms (a problem when dangling your legs).

11. Be flexible with your plans, as delays can happen. Check the train schedule at the train station, as there can always be changes. Trains can be late, as everything runs a little slower in Sri Lanka, causing some delays. The Kandy to Ella train journey should take 6 hours but could also take you 10 hours. Take the morning train if you travel from Kandy to Ella. This way, you will travel the whole journey in daylight and not miss anything.

12. You can use the train to other parts of Sri Lanka, for example, to or from Colombo. However, the most spectacular views are on the way between Kandy & Ella, which is why this section is so popular. Check here the Sri Lankan Railway Network on the Map.

Our personal experience

Sri Lanka Train Adventure
Sri Lanka Train Journey

We took the long Kandy to Ella train ride and quickly realized how crowded the third class can be, how difficult it is to move on the train with all of your baggage, and how long the train ride is. This is why we decided to arrive in Ella without caring too much about the landscapes and taking pictures.

Two days later, we decided to take the earliest train from Ella to Haputale, one of the best things to do in Ella, and back, which takes 2 hours each way. We loved the early, less crowded, shorter ride, which was perfect for enjoying the scenic landscapes.

We went without any baggage; we had nothing with us besides our phones, making it much easier to walk around the train and take pictures. We stopped in Haputale, where we visited the Haputale viewpoint.

Packing, Tips & Costs for Sri Lanka

We have put together a comprehensive Sri Lanka Travel Guide that includes the ultimate packing list, travel tips, and costs to help you plan your trip.

Conclusion

Sri Lanka Train Tunnel

The famous Kandy to Ella train ride is the most beautiful one in Sri Lanka, or maybe even in the world. Have you ever embarked on a more picturesque journey on a train? Let us know!

Don’t miss this adventurous experience when in Sri Lanka! Tell us your questions.

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