Tea estates, green hills, waterfalls, and tunnels – this is Kandy to Ella train journey.
Many people say that it is the most scenic train journeys in the world. I strongly agree! Read further to know why through my pictures. Also, I hope to share a lot of in depth information about not just Kandy to Ella train journey but also general information about Sri Lanka’s trains.
Sri Lanka doesn’t have a shortage of natural beauty. In fact, the entire country feels like one big national park. You will surely see a lot of jungles and sometimes even wild elephants crossing the road. If you go to the middle part (the Hill Country), you will see a lot of rivers, waterfalls and monkeys jumping from one tree to another.
If you’re a nature lover, you may think that going to a National Park for an elephant safari is enough. Wrong! In my opinion, one of the best ways to enjoy the natural beauty of Sri Lanka is by experiencing a typical Sri Lankan train ride.
The best train route in Sri Lanka is from Kandy to Ella. I loved it so much that I did it again when I went back to Sri Lanka the second time.
Sri Lanka Train Video
Go grab an easy chair, turn up the volume and enjoy this epic video of our train journey in Sri Lanka. It has the views, food, people, train coaches, stations and so much more.
Colombo to Kandy to Ella to Badulla – List of Train Stops
Good news – the train that goes from Kandy to Ella doesn’t start in Kandy. In fact, it starts in Colombo Fort train station. So yes, you can start your train journey directly from Colombo after arriving.
Please note, that when your airplane lands in Colombo, you’re actually landing closer to Negombo and not Colombo (even though your ticket will say Colombo). Negombo is not a part of Colombo – it is an entirely different destination and much better than Colombo. If you’re staying in Negombo, then you need to plan beforehand how you’re going to reach Colombo Fort station from Negombo because the train leaves early. Scroll further down to read about the time tables.
Below are the prominent train stops on Colombo to Badulla train route:
- Colombo Fort
- Nanu Oya – (for Nuwara Eliya)
There are many more stops on this line and I haven’t mentioned them all. If you need information about every single stop, check this Wikipedia page.
The best thing about this train route is that you can do this Kandy to Ella train journey in many ways. It totally depends on your itinerary for Sri Lanka and how much time you can spare.
First, you can do the entire Kandy to Ella stretch all together in one go. This option is for those who don’t have a lot of time in their Sri Lanka itinerary.
I recommend the second – you can break up your journey and stop in places like Hatton, Nuwara Eliya and Haputale. There is a lot to see and do in these places and you can read my detailed itinerary for Sri Lanka with information about what to do there.
Third, if you have limited time then you can maybe consider doing just a part of this journey – maybe Kandy to Nuwara Eliya or Nuwara Eliya to Ella. People say that the part from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is the best, but I disagree. It is just the most popular one, but the best part is from Nuwara Eliya to Ella.
Fourth, it is obvious but you can do any of the above mentioned routes in reverse. 😉
Scroll down to read more details about each stop and things to do there.
Colombo to Kandy to Nuwara Eliya to Ella train schedule
There are a number of trains that run on this route, but I will only share information about the slightly better ones. These are Chinese-built blue colored trains that are pretty cute. The train numbers are 1005 and 1015.
|Train Number 1005
|Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya)
If you’re doing this journey in reverse, you need to board train numbers 1016 or 1006. Here’s the timetable for both these trains
|Train Number 1016
|Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya)
The train stops for just a minute or two on most of the stations except Kandy, which is a big junction.
Peradeniya is just 6 KMs away from Kandy and it may end up being closer to your hotel. Check this in advance so you can avoid Kandy train station’s crowds.
There are a few more trains on this route which I have not mentioned. There is a night train too that runs back and forth and it has sleeper berths. I have not traveled on it so I can’t recommend it. It may not be the best idea to take the night train because you will miss the best part of the journey. After all, this is supposed to be one of the best train rides in the world because of the view! I have only mentioned the “blue train” with slightly better Chinese built coaches but there is are a few older, red trains also that run on this route.
Nuwara Eliya train station is actually Nanu Oya, which is slightly outside the town.
Don’t just assume that the bigger Kandy or Nuwara Eliya or Ella are better than other smaller stops on this route. If you have time, then give the smaller towns a little chance too. We had the most amazing experience in Haputale.
Kandy to Ella Train Travel Time
The travel time between Kandy to Ella is a little more than 6 hours by train. Again, as mentioned before – you can split this journey by staying in Nuwara Eliya or Haputale or Hatton or all of them.
Trust me – this journey is so scenic that you will not even notice how quickly the time passes.
Best Sri Lanka Train Stops + What to do there
Kandy and Peradeniya
Peradeniya is a smaller suburb of Kandy. Kandy and Peradeniya are just 5 – 10 minutes away, so I’m not putting up a separate point for things to see in both the locations. Logically, the things to see and do are the same, hence the same point!
Kandy is Sri Lanka’s cultural heart and perhaps the most visited destination after Sigiriya. You can see the famous Temple of the Tooth relic (Buddha tooth), Kandy lake, the Royal Botanical Gardens and the colorful cultural dance show. Or if you’re like me, then you’d like to simply get lost on the streets and enjoy the local food.
I visited a super small local restaurant that was in the main market. It was a Tamil restaurant where they only had different kinds of Dosas and Idlees. I had an amazing meal here.
Being a sucker for nature and viewpoints, Kandy wasn’t exactly my favorite stop on this famous train route in Sri Lanka, even though it is the most popular and visited one.
Hatton (for Adam’s Peak)
Hatton is the closest train station to the famous Adam’s Peak in Ratnapur. It is 2243 meters high mountain and the view from the top is said to be heavenly. There is a sacred footprint rock formation near the top, called “Sri Pada”.
Most people who climb Adam’s Peak try to reach on top before the sunrise. Interestingly, it casts a triangular shadow on the surrounding areas at a particular angle when the at sunrise. The shadow moves away as the sun rises further.
In order to climb Adam’s Peak, you will have to start the trail from Dalhousie, which is 3 hours drive away from Hatton.
Nanu Oya (for Nuwara Eliya)
Nuwara Eliya is also called “Little England” because of the weather. It can rain anytime here. Yes, the weather in Nuwara Eliya is cold and wet! It is a charming destination but a little too crowded and developed for our liking.
The best way to enjoy Nuwara Eliya is by finding a place to stay that’s a little outside the main city. There are not many interesting “natural” places to visit in Nuwara Eliya but the main beauty of this town is actually outside. Once you get out, you can visit one of the many Nuwara Eliya’s waterfalls, tea estates and viewpoints.
I visited Nuwara Eliya twice and ended up visiting the same tea factory here for the second time because they offer an amazing free tour of the tea factory. More than that, the surrounding area is really lovely.
In my two visits to Nuwara Eliya, I sadly didn’t end up visiting the famous Horton’s Plains National Park which is nearby. There is a spot here called “the World’s End”, which is supposed to be a very good viewpoint. Horton’s Plains National Park also has Baker Falls, that are 20 meters high.
Nuwara Eliya Hotels
St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya – Jetwings
St Andrew Hotel in Nuwara Eliya is a part of Jetwing brand – which is perhaps the best hotel brand in Sri Lanka. This is where I stayed when I visited Nuwara Eliya for the second time and loved it. It is an colonial style building with old school English rooms that are adorable. This hotel is a little away from the busy part of the city and is peaceful.
St Andrews Hotel Nuwara Eliya has a stunning sitting area with glass windows. You can enjoy the lovely view while you sip tea.
Click here to read reviews about St Andrew Hotel in Nuwara Eliya on TripAdvisor.
Haputale is a very relaxed little town where not many travelers go. The costs are lower here because of this.
Haputale is so small that you can literally get out of your hotel and then walk for a few minutes and you will reach outside the town. You can walk around and discover some viewpoints on your own instead of going for the more famous ones.
Many people make a day trip to Haputale to visit the famous Lipton’s Seat, which is a famous viewpoint. As per Lonely Planet, the train route from Haputale to Ella is the best part of this journey.
Ella town has mostly been made famous by backpackers and instagrammers. The good thing is that it is smaller than Kandy or Nuwara Eliya and therefore not as crowded. But again, you will have to get out of Ella to enjoy the most beautiful sights that it is known for.
If you missed climbing the Adam’s Peak, then you will be happy to know that Ella has it’s own “mini Adam’s peak” that you can climb and also Ella Rock. They’re both good. Apart from this, you can also visit the Ravana Ella waterfall, Ravana cave, see the Nine Arches Bridge or head to one of Ella Gap viewpoints.
One of the most famous waterfalls in Sri Lanka is just 5 kms near Badulla – Dunhinda Falls. The height of this misty waterfall is 64 meters and is created by Badula Oya river.
Badulla has colonial style town with old British buildings. After Nuwara Eliya, Badulla is the biggest tea producing districts. You can use this stop to get to Sri Lanka’s East Coast to visit Arugam Bay.
Colombo to Kandy to Ella Train Map
To give you a visual sense of this train route, I have created a map on Google Maps for you. This map shows you the train route from where it starts – Fort Colombo train station and to where it ends – Badulla train station.
Check this website for more information about trains in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka Train System, Train Tickets and Tips
Cost of Sri Lanka Train Tickets [for Colombo to Badulla route]
Colombo to Kandy train tickets are for 500 rupees ($5) for first class observation car, 280 rupees ($3) for second class, and 180 ($2) for third class.
Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya) or Colombo to Ella or Colombo to Badulla tickets are for the same price – 1250 rupees to 1000 rupees ($11 – $8) for first class observation car, 600 rupees ($5) for second class, and 400 ($3) for third class.
Where to Buy the Sri Lanka Train Tickets
The train tickets can only be bought advance for the observation class, first class, or second class. These can be bought from Colombo Fort train station at counter 17. It is possible to book these from an agent and so that they can send someone to the station and book them for you.
Tickets for the third class can’t need to be bought in advance. You can just pick them up from the station right before your journey. Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is a very busy route and it is likely that at the train station they will say that the train is booked out. It is so because they are just assuming that you’d want book first or second class because you’re not a local. The third class tickets are without a fixed seat and aren’t sold out.
Note: don’t throw away your ticket after the journey because in my case, the ticket was checked both before and after the journey at the train station. I couldn’t find mine so I showed the ticket checked the above picture that I had clicked of the ticket.
First Class Train Coach is not Necessarily Better
Having traveled on this route more than once, I say this with full confidence that the third class is also very good. When I travel in India, I hardly ever visit the third class because it is dirty.
The trains in Sri Lanka are clean and I actually prefer the third class over the first class because you can open the windows. Moreover, you can also sit by the door and watch the view. Most of the locals travel by third class and it is a very fun way for you to get a glimpse of their lives.
In comparison, the first class is fully closed because of the AC. You will mostly see other international travelers around you in this coach instead of locals.
Food and Drinks
Many food and drinks vendor will board the train and walk around. You can find water, sodas, samosas, chai, roasted peanuts, and other snacks. If your stomach can’t handle the local food, then carry something.
Toilets inside Sri Lankan Trains
The toilets inside the trains in Sri Lanka are not the best. The ones in first class are better than the third class ones.
What to Expect at the Train Stations
I never saw an electronic train departure and arrival chart but it was easy to ask locals and find the platform. The Kandy to Ella route has well maintained stations, even though they are small. Most of these train stations have a special waiting lounge with a slightly cleaner toilet for international travelers.