Sri Lanka’s Kandy to Ella train ride is undoubtedly one of the world’s most scenic. Epic train journeys in not only just Sri Lanka but the world. The train trip from Ella to Kandy in Sri Lanka, or the other way around, is considered to be one of the most beautiful train trips in the world. This train ride is seven hours long and takes you through stunning landscapes of green and lush tea plantations and mountain views. The train trip between Kandy and Ella is one of the highlights of Sri Lanka. Here is guide which contains from tickets and timetables to what to expect and photography tips.
The train trip Ella – Kandy, and Kandy – Ella is very popular, both among tourists and the locals. Start your journey early morning, get prepared with food and clothes. The journey takes around 7 hours – assuming there are no delays or breakdowns on the route! The train times are as follows;
FROM COLOMBO/KANDY TOWARDS ELLA/BADULLA
- From Colombo Fort | 05:55am*, 08:30am*, 09:45am, 20:00pm (doesn’t stop Kandy)
- From Peradeniya Junction | 08:32am*, 10:55am*, 12:31pm, 23:06pm (doesn’t stop Kandy)
- From Kandy | 08:47am*, 11:10am*, 17:00pm, 03:30am.
- From Ella (to Badulla) | 13:36pm,15:15pm*, 17:28pm*, 06:06am
Overall, train travel in Sri Lanka is extremely affordable, though there are some big differences in pricing dependent on which class ticket you’re after. From Kandy to Ella (or Ella to Kandy), prices are as follows:
- First class | LKR 1500 / £6.56 / USD $8.59 pp
- Second class | LKR 310pp / £1.36 / USD $1.77 pp
- Third class | LKR 175 / £0.77 / USD $1.00 pp
Most trains have different government-run classes/ carriages that you can choose from:
- 1st class observation car is available on certain daytime trains, mostly on the Main Line like the trains between Kandy and Ella, and is very popular among tourists. The observation car provides a full view of the scenery and is usually at the rear of the train but occasionally behind the locomotive.
- 1st class air-conditioned seats are available on occasional inter-city express trains.
- 1st class sleeper carries sleeping-berths and is available on a few overnight trains.
- 2nd class seats are provided on all inter-city trains and are available as either unreserved seats or reserved seats. 2nd class has fans, and you can open the windows.
- 3rd class seats are available on most trains. This class can get very crowded and carries only basic facilities.
You can, however, not open the windows at 1st class since it is air-conditioned. So if you want to take those famous and spectacular (and a bit dangerous….) photos out of the windows, you should buy 2nd class tickets. There are two ways to book train tickets in Sri Lanka: Book online or buy train tickets at a train station in Sri Lanka. The only place you can buy online tickets for trains in Sri Lanka is at 12Go. You can not book any train tickets in Sri Lanka closer than 37 days prior to your train travel date at 12Go ( Go to the webpage 12Go.asia ). If no train tickets pop up when you search at 12Go for a specific train distance, check the date and make sure that you search for a date that is 37 days or longer from today’s date.The prices at 12Go are a little bit more expensive than you will pay at the train station. You can also, buy train tickets as soon as possible when arriving in Sri Lanka. You can buy train tickets for any route at any train station in Sri Lanka. Tickets for government-run trains in Sri Lanka can be issued only 10-30 days (or shorter) before departure date depending on the route. For the route, Ella to Kandy, and the other way around, the train tickets are put out for sale 30 days ahead. You can buy tickets at the train station right up until departure unless the train is fully booked.
TAKING YOUR LUGGAGE ONBOARD TRAINS IN SRI LANKA
There is no luggage size or kilograms limit on Sri Lankan trains. You can take your bag on board the train no matter how big or heavy it is.However, bags are usually placed on the overhead racks above your seat, so it helps if you can lift it. Otherwise, if your luggage is too big and heavy to lift, you can place it on the floor or ask the staff to help you, and they will place it in another carriage.
BRING YOUR OWN FOOD & SNACKS
The train journey is long and tiring, so be sure you’ve got plenty of food and water with you. At each train station on the way, the train cabins get filled with sellers hustling treats like freshly cut pineapple and mango with cinnamon, corn with salty butter, freshly made rice and curry, chili fritters, and crispy papadums. Yummy!! If you aren’t a person to eat street food, prepare your own meal organize some food the night before.
This is one of, if not the most important tips: it is best to sit on the left side of the train from Ella to Kandy as the views are slightly better on that side. The right side, however, has some spectacular views. If you think this train journey is too long, you can break it up and do a stopover in Nuwara Eliya along the way. Spend a couple of days in this beautiful mountain and tea plantation village. The train trip from Ella to Nuwara Eliya takes about 2,5 hours. There are plenty of fun things to see and do in Nuwara Eliya, like visiting beautiful places like waterfalls, gardens and more, so it is worth a stop.
SRI LANKA TRAIN FROM NUWARA ELIYA TO ELLA
The train journey from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station, 8 km outside of Nuwara Eliya) to Ella takes about 2-3 hours and goes through a beautiful landscape of tea plantations. You should sit on the left side of the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella as this side is the most scenic. It is, however, beautiful views no matter where on the train you sit.
There are four daily government-run trains from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station) to Ella, and one VIP train run by 12GO (12Go.asia) :
- Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 09:18 – Arrives at Ella Station: 12:31 – Mixed Trains (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
- Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 12:45 – Arrives at Ella Station: 15:14 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
- Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 14:50 – Arrives at Ella Station: 17:16 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
- Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 15:51 – Arrives at Ella Station: 18:22 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
- Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 15:55 – Arrives at Ella Station: 18:27 (VIP train ViceRoy II by 12Go)
WHERE TO STAY IN ELLA
Ella has mostly small family run guesthouses but also a few higher end boutique hotels. The recent popularity surge means that there is no shortage of accommodation options for any budget. Below are some of the best accommodation options in Ella, including their address and price.
- Ravana Heights – New big and comfortable superior rooms with stunning views from the balcony. The location is excellent, you’re just a short walk away from the main street of Ella with shops and restaurants. The food at this hotel is fantastic! The breakfast is served on the terrace, with spectacular views over the Ella valley, mountains, and tea plantations. You are served pancakes, eggs, bread, jams, tea/coffee, juice, fruits, basically everything a good breakfast should have. It cost $15 and consists of several different tasty dishes including dessert. The dinner varies from day to day and is a fusion of Thai and Sri Lankan.
- Planters Bungalow Ella – It’s also one of the very few places around Ella that have a swimming pool to enjoy after a day of hiking. They have rooms set in the newly refurbished colonial bungalow as well apartment style rooms in a new building. Rooms are very comfortable and no two are alike. The staff is super friendly and the Sri Lankan style breakfast is very tasty. There is a $15 set dinner menu that changes every evening. It’s great choice if you like a place to relax and enjoy the scenery and don’t mind being 20 minutes drive away from the touristy and busy Ella town.
- La Montagna Resort – This is a new small hotel located a ten-minute tuk-tuk ride away from the city center. It has 3 large and spotlessly clean rooms with hot water showers and spectacular views overlooking Ella gap. The service can rival any five-star hotel and the excellent breakfast is served on your balcony. There is free in room Wi-Fi.
- Chamodya Home Stay – Basic but large and clean rooms with amazing views make this a popular budget homestay option. Breakfast is good and they serve a delicious rice & curry dinner. Location is a 15 minute walk away from the city center.
- Ella Guest Inn – If you want a place centrally located and close to the train station then this is an excellent alternative. It’s just a five-minute walk away from the station and two minutes from Ella center with its shops and restaurants. Standard rooms are in the old section and are a little small and worn down but the newly built rooms (2017) are very nice and spacious so it is definitely worth upgrading to a new superior room. It’s family run and the owners are very friendly and helpful.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR THE KANDY TO ELLA TRAIN
The entire journey is a super unique and authentic cultural experience, and one that’s absolutely worthy of being documented – respectfully – too. Hanging your arm out a door or window and trying to take a photo whilst the train is lurching from side to side is a pretty impossible mission, particularly if your shutter speed is too low. Set your shutter to a minimum speed of a 250th, set your focus to auto, turn on burst mode, and fire away. It can get pretty moody and foggy through the mountain areas, so bump up your ISO to add more light to your shot without sacrificing on that super speedy shutter setting from above. have some fun and dangle a limb here or there, hang your feet of the edge, lean out to feel the freedom of the road. But please, be acutely aware of your surroundings and don’t go endangering your life for a photo for social media.
SIGHTSEEING ALONG THE KANDY TO ELLA TRAIN
Kandy – Many travellers overlook Kandy as merely the gateway to the famous blue train and their hill country adventures , but the City of Kings is also Sri Lanka’s undisputed cultural capital, and worthy of at least one night’s stay. There are plenty of significant historic and religious sites, such as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, the Botanic Gardens, and the Kandy Lake, and it’s a great place to get better acquainted with the cultural side of Sri Lanka.
Nanu Ouya is the station for Nuwara Eliya; the gateway to the tea plantations and ‘Little England’. Once the favoured getaway for English and Scottish tea-growers seeking cooler climes, the area is dotted with old colonial villas and bungalows, as well as the most obvious relic of that time; the green tapestry of tea fields and vegetable gardens.
Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya) – The Nanu Ouya to Haputale leg of the train ride is also by far the most scenic, through misty mountains and dense forest. If you only have time for a short train journey, prioritise this section right here.
Haputale – Haputale town itself isn’t a huge drawcard; a dusty, busy little town that seems to always be enveloped in traffic despite its size – but what Haputale lacks in urban delight it has in droves when it comes to natural surroundings. Perched upon a craggy mountain ridge, this is the gateway to both Horton Plains National Park and the infamous Lipton Seat (where Sir Lipton sipped his tea and pondered his vast estates).
Hatton Adams Peak – Hatton is the gateway for most travellers en route to Adam’s Peak, one of Sri Lanka’s most stunning natural vistas as well as an important pilgrimage site. Adam’s Peak is revered by both Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians alike, and most Sri Lankans will undertake the pilgrimage to the top at least once in their lives.
Nine Arch bridge – Probably the second-most famous train-related activity in Sri Lanka, the Nine Arch bridge is a colonial-era train bridge spanning a lush green valley just outside of Ella town. This moody, instagram-famous bridge is built entirely out of stone and is a pretty spectacular architectural feat – and a stunning one at that!
Train travel in Sri Lanka is a beautiful and affordable way to see the country. No trip is more scenic than the train from Ella to Kandy or the reverse train from Kandy to Ella! The scenery is fantastic! You will see beautiful green hills covered with tea plantations, mountains, lovely old bridges, waterfalls, small villages, and you are greeted by lots of local kids running along the train tracks. Happy journey wanderer !!