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 in our opinion and we love it! ♥

The train trip Ella – Kandy, and Kandy – Ella is very popular, both among tourists and the locals. I highly recommend that you buy tickets well in advance at 12Go, a reliable train ticket agent and the only place you can buy online train tickets for Sri Lanka. You can also buy tickets at any train station in Sri Lanka for the date you want.

Sri Lanka is a rather small island and is an easy country to get around. Read more here about how to get around Sri Lanka – the different modes of transportation and how to book a private driver, train tickets, and bus tickets in Sri Lanka.

The Beautiful Train Trip From Ella To Kandy

Taking the train is the most comfortable way to travel in my opinion. You can walk around whenever you want, go to the toilet, have some food, meet other travelers and locals, read, listen to music, relax and watch the landscape go by peacefully outside.

Train travel in Sri Lanka is both a beautiful and affordable way to see the country, and no trip is more scenic than the train from Ella to Kandy or the reverse train from Kandy to Ella!

The scenery is amazing as you see beautiful green hills covered of tea plantations, steep mountains, old lovely bridges, waterfalls, small villages, and you are greeted by lots of local kids running along the train tracks.

Train trip Ella to Kandy

The 7-hour train trip Ella to Kandy takes you through green and lush tea plantation

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The small and charming Ella Train Station

Taking the train to or from Ella is the most famous stretch of train travel in Sri Lanka, and is nearly a tourist attraction in itself.

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Lots of people waiting for the train at Ella train station

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!! 🙂 So no need to bring much food.

Train trip from Kandy to Ella

Locals walking along the train tracks

The Sri Lankan Railway System

The Railway system in Sri Lanka was initially built by the British in 1864. The main reason was to transport tea and coffee from the Hill Country to Colombo for shipping internationally.

Today there are train tracks between some of the biggest cities in Sri Lanka.

Train schedules/ timetable, and ticket prices when buying tickets at the train station can be found on the Sri Lanka Government Railway Information official web site.

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 wide 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.

On our trip from Polonnaruwa to Colombo, we traveled 2nd class in a government-run train car, and that was also perfectly fine, and incredibly cheap. There was no food or water included.

How To Buy Train Tickets In Sri Lanka

At least on this popular stretch, Ella – Kandy, Kandy – Ella, and Kandy – Nanuoya (Nuwara Eliya), I recommend that you buy tickets in advance as the trains usually get fully booked especially on weekends. So try to avoid the weekends if possible.

The Sri Lanka Railways don’t, unfortunately, have any online booking yet. Tickets for the Ella to Kandy train and the other way around go on sale 30 days in advance. The tickets are, however, usually snapped up by travel agents and tour companies.

There are two ways to book train tickets from Ella to Kandy (and the rest of Sri Lanka):

1. Pre-book Online Train Tickets In Sri Lanka At 12Go

The only place you can buy online tickets for trains in Sri Lanka is at 12Go. You can also book a private driver/ taxi and buy bus tickets here.

The prices at 12Go are a little bit more than you will pay at the station. But it is totally worth it in my opinion as you have secured your tickets on your travel dates and don´t have to worry about it or get any hassle of getting tickets when you arrive in Sri Lanka.

Buy train tickets in Sri Lanka at 12Go here

Choose Flexible Tickets At 12Go

There are two train ticket types at 12Go: Flexible and Not Flexible. You should choose the option Flexible, which will significantly increase the chances of getting a ticket.

If you choose 1st Class Flexible tickets, and if 1st Class is fully booked, they will buy 2nd Class instead and refund the price difference for you. If the 2nd class is also full, they will buy the next available departure on the same day and refund the difference if any. In case all classes on all trains on the same day are fully booked, they will refund to your booking immediately.

Train ViceRoy II by 12Go

12Go Asia now has its own train called “ViceRoy II by 12Go” for the popular route Colombo – Kandy – Ella stopping at these five train stations:


Map showing the train trip with the VIP train Vice Roy II by 12 Go:
A = Colombo Fort Station, B = Paradeniya Station outside Kandy, C = Nanu Oya Station outside Nuwara Eliya, D = Ella Station, E = Badulla Station

A. Colombo Fort Station 09:45
B. Peradeniya Station (a 10-min taxi or tuk-tuk outside of Kandy city) 12:35
C. Nanu Oya Station (a 10-min taxi or tuk-tuk ride outside of Nuwara Eliya city) 15:55
D. Ella Station 18:27
E. Badulla Station 19:30

And the other way around:

E. Badulla Station 10:00
D. Ella Station 11:57
C. Nanu Oya Station/ Nuwara Eliya 13:50
B. Peradeniya Station/ Kandy 18:15
A. Colombo Fort Station 21:10

The whole train trip with Vice Roy II takes about 9-10 hours, but you can book whatever stretch you want and you don´t have to do the whole train route.

You get instant ticket confirmation and PDF-ticket when you book tickets on the ViceRoy II by 12Go so it is very convenient. This saves you all the hassle of wondering if you are getting tickets or not.

This is a VIP train with all the luxury and comfort of modern trains today, including air-condition, food (lunch/ dinner), toilets, and wifi. The tickets on the ViceRoy II by 12Go are more expensive than government-run trains, but it is worth it in my opinion as the train is modern and comfortable and the booking is hassle-free.

Buy train tickets on the Vice Roy II 12Go here

2. Buy Train Tickets At A Train Station In Sri Lanka

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. So if you plan on visiting Colombo first, you can, for instance, buy train tickets from Ella to Kandy at Colombo Fort Train Station.
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The officer is checking our train tickets when entering Ella Train Station

Tickets for government-run trains in Sri Lanka can be issued only 10-30 days 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.

Sri Lanka Train From Ella To Kandy

The best way to get to Kandy is by train. The scenery along the way is breathtaking as you glide through the green and lush tea plantations that cover the hill sides.


Map: The beautiful train trip from Ella (A) to Kandy (B) takes about 6-7 hours

You will have amazing views no matter which side of the train you sit, but 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. We sat on the right side, however, and we still had some spectacular views.

The train journey from Ella to Kandy, through Sri Lankas Hill Country, takes about 6-7 hours in total.

But if you think this train journey is too long, you can break it up and do a stop over in Nuwara Eliya a long the way and 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 (see information further down). There are plenty of fun things to see and do in Nuwara Eliya so it is totally worth a stop.

There are two government-run express trains a day from Ella to Kandy, and one VIP train run by 12Go:

  • Departure from Ella: 06:40 – Arrives in Kandy: 12:38 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Ella: 09:24 – Arrives in Kandy: 15:51 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Ella: 11:57 – Arrives in Kandy (Peradeniya Station): 18:15 (VIP train ViceRoy II by 12Go)

Check availability and book train tickets from Ella to Kandy here

Ella to Kandy train

Me waiting for the train from Ella to Kandy

Sri Lanka Train From Kandy To Ella

The best way to travel to Kandy is by train, either from Colombo (a 3 hour train journey) or from Ella. The train from Kandy to Ella takes 6-7 hours. The distance between Kandy and Ella is about 65 km, while the road/train track distance is about 150 km.

You get beautiful scenery nomatter where in the train you sit, but it is best to sit on the right side of the train from Kandy to Ella as the view is even more breathtaking on the right side.

There are two government-run express trains a day from Kandy to Ella, and one VIP train run by 12Go:

  • Departure from Kandy: 08:47 – Arrives in Ella: 15:14 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Kandy: 11:10 – Arrives in Ella: 17:16 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Kandy/ Peradeniya Station: 12:35 – Arrives in Ella: 18:27 (VIP train ViceRoy II by 12Go)

Check availability and book train tickets from Kandy to Ella here

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The beautiful Ella train station

Next to Ella Train Station is a cricket court! Great entertainment while waiting!

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Cricket game outside of Ella train station

Sri Lanka Train From Ella to Nuwara Eliya

If you, however, find seven hours on a bumpy train all the way between Ella and Kandy to be a bit too much, you can always opt for the half-way train ride from Ella to Nuwara Eliya, or the other way around of course.


Map: The stunning 2,5 hour train trip from Ella Railway Station (A) to Nanu Oya Railway Station (B), just outside of Nuwara Eliya

The train trip from Ella to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Train Station) takes about 2,5 hours. The distance from Nuwara Eliya to Ella is about 65 km, but the train tracks are old and slow and the train has to cross several mountains.

The closest train station to Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya (or Nanuoya), located approximately 8 km outside of Nuwara Eliya, or a 10-min taxi or tuk-tuk drive.

There is one daily government-run express train from Ella to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Train Station) and one VIP train run by 12GO:

  • Departure from Ella: 09:24 – Arrives at Nanu Oya Train Station: 12:02 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Ella: 11:57 – Arrives at Nanu Oya Train Station: 14:35 (VIP train ViceRoy II by 12Go)

Check availability and book train tickets from Ella to Nuwara Eliya here

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 nomatter where in 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:

  • 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)

Check availability and book train tickets from Nuwara Eliya to Ella here

Sri Lanka Train From Kandy To Nuwara Eliya

The train trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Train Station) takes about 4 hours.


Map: The beautiful train trip between Kandy (A) and Nuwara Eliya/ Nanu Oya Railway Station (B) takes about 4 hours. 

You should sit on the right side of the train from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya as the scenery is best on this side of the train. But you will get amazing views nomatter what side of the train you sit.

There are two government-run express trains each day from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Train Station), and one VIP train run by 12Go:

  • Departure from Kandy: 08:47 – Arrives at Nanu Oya Train Station: 12:40 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Kandy: 11:10 – Arrives at Nanu Oya Train Station: 14:45 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Kandy/ Peradeniya Station (10 min taxi or tuk-tuk drive from Kandy): 12:35 – Arrives at Nanu Oya Train Station: 15:55 (VIP train ViceRoy II by 12Go)

Check availability and book train tickets from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya here

The scenery from the train is breathtaking! Like a green carpet of tea bushes rolling by, with colorful sari-dressed tea pickers popping out of the sea of green.

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A Hindu tea picker in a colorful sari

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Tea pickers in the hill-side

Sri Lanka Train From Nuwara Eliya To Kandy

The train journey from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station, 8 km or a 10-min taxi ride outside of Nuwara Eliya) to Kandy takes about 4 hours.

It is best to sit on the left side of the train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy, if you can choose, although you get beautiful views from both sides of the train.

There are three daily government-run express trains from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station) to Kandy, and one VIP train run by 12GO:

  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 05:30 – Arrives at Kandy Station: 09:51 – Express Train (2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 09:22 – Arrives at Kandy Station: 12:38 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 12:02 – Arrives at Kandy Station: 15:51 – Express Train (1st, 2nd, and 3rd class)
  • Departure from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya Station): 14:35 – Arrives at Peradenya Station (10-min from Kandy by taxi/ tuk-tuk): 18:15 (VIP train ViceRoy II by 12Go)

Check availability and book train tickets from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy here

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The hill country of Sri Lanka is incredibly green and lush

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They also grow vegetables and rice in the hill country, additional to tea

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The train runs through huge areas of tea plantations


The train trip from Ella to Kandy is spectacular! I would say it is among the world`s most beautiful train trips. The journey is a bit long though, 7 hours, but as long as you have a good book and some music downloaded to your phone to listen to, you can survive a sore bum :).

Make sure to buy train tickets as soon as possible when you get to Sri Lanka as the trains, especially between Kandy and Ella, often get fully booked.

⇒ Check out our recommended list of things to do in Kandy

⇒ Check out what not to be missed in Ella


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, starting with the place we called home for 7 nights.

We stayed at Ravana Heights
Accommodation in Ella, Sri LankaBy chance, we ended up at Ravana Heights and while we had originally intended to stay two nights we ended up staying for a full week. We especially enjoyed the 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.

And the dinner, oh the dinner is delicious! The best food we have had in Sri Lanka, maybe the whole of Asia! 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.

The owner Senadhi speaks perfect English (he studied at the London School of Economics). He is a great character and really makes you feel at home at Ravana Heights. He can also organize walks for you, with or without a guide, and will draw maps of hiking routes for you. We did two walks with a guide, and one without a guide. The other staff are also very sweet and couldn't do enough for us.
Click here to check the latest prices

Boutique hotels

Planters Bungalow Ella
An old converted tea planters bungalow located in a very peaceful and relaxing setting away from town. 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.
Click here to check the latest prices

Zion View Ella
The rooms here have floor to ceiling windows that truly let you admire the awe-inspiring view in all its's majesty. The rooms are cozy, well maintained and clean, with comfortable beds and hot water showers. Every room has a balcony with chairs for relaxing as well as a hammock. Wi-Fi is free and surprisingly fast. Despite being just a six-minute walk from Ella center, it's a quiet and relaxing place. Breakfast is plentiful and very tasty. It's a popular choice with families and there is a childrens play area with toys.
Click here to check the latest prices

Guesthouses

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.
Click here to check the latest prices

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.
Click here to check the latest prices

Leisure Dream Inn
This family run place is very popular so reserve your room early! The view is spectacular and the rooms are well furnished, clean and comfortable with hot water showers, fridge, cable TV and free Wi-Fi. The three brothers that run it are super friendly, and the mother cooks a delicious breakfast served on the terrace. It’s located on a quiet hill about 10 minutes walk from Ella Town. All in all, its fantastic value for money!
Click here to check the latest prices

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.
Click here to check the latest prices

Where To Stay In Kandy

Kandy offers a wide selection of accommodation for all budgets, and here you will have plenty of choices when it comes to finding the right place to stay. Kandy is a big city and the competition seems to be tough so you can find some excellent deals here.

Below are some of the best accommodation options in Kandy, including the address and price.

We stayed at Sharon Inn
Sharon Inn is located up on the hillside above the Kandy Lake. The road up to the hotel is a bit steep but we walked to Kandy Lake several times. Owned and run by a family where the wife is German. It is a decent hotel, and we were happy with the accommodation and the service, although it is a bit run down. It is recommended in the Lonely Planet.

Our favorite part of our stay here was the dinner buffet in the garden. Each evening they serve traditional Sri Lankan rice and curry with lots of different dishes, for only 7 us$. A very good value. The food was excellent, among the best we had in Sri Lanka.

We had one of the top floor rooms and had spectacular views from our balcony. The rooms are however quite basic, albeit with private bathrooms. It is a bit over-priced for this kind of room standard, but the location is great.
Click for latest prices

Viyana Boutique Hotel
This new boutique hotel is located within easy walking distance to the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The rooms are large and modern with comfortable beds and free WiFi. The staff is enthusiastic and helpful. Some of the rooms have views overlooking the lake.
Click for latest prices

Staying Outside the City Center

Kandy can be a busy and noisy city so it is worth considering staying a little outside the city center. Especially with transportation being so cheap and readily available.

Elephant Stables
Elephant Stables is a beautiful little hotel in a colonial style bungalow about 10 minutes drive away from Kandy center. There is a lovely pool and a nice view overlooking the green valley. It's a small intimate hotel where every guest is taken care of and made to feel exceptionally welcome. It is somewhat expensive but if it's within your budget then this comes highly recommended.
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Elegant Hotel
If you want to get away from busy downtown Kandy then this small hotel is a great option! Located about 20 minutes drive from Kandy center it overlooks the valley and offers spectacular views of the area. It has a huge swimming pool and the friendly staff makes you feel right at home. If we ever visit Kandy again, we will for sure have a look at this! 🙂
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Sky Pavilion
Wow, what a lovely hotel with spectacular views! Would definitely not mind staying here!
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Kandyan Crown Hotel
This budget hotel offers good value for money and is beautifully located up on the hillside outside of Kandy!
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Travel Guides

We used the Lonely Planet`s Sri Lanka travel guide on our trip, which we love. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below:

Sri Lanka Lonely Planet      Sri Lanka Rough Guide


PIN IT FOR LATER!
Hover over the picture below, and press the red “Save” button that pops up:

ella to kandy train trip  The World`s Most Beautiful Train Trip - Ella to Kandy, Sri Lanka
What do you think of long train trips? How do you get the time to fly aboard trains? We’d love to hear your train experiences in the comment area below! If you liked this blog post or found it useful, please share and like on social media! Thank you! 🙂 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, and we will earn a small percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at absolutely no extra cost to you! Thank you! ♥

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