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!

We took the train on two transport stretches; EllaKandy and PolonnaruwaColombo. They were both pretty long journeys, around 7 hours each. The nicest was Ella to Kandy, due to the incredible scenery along the way!

The Beautiful Train Trip From Ella To Kandy

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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 were 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!!

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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.

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Train information, timetables, and ticket prices can be found on the Sri Lanka Government Railway Information web side.

Most trains have different government-run classes/ carriages that you can choose from:

  • 1st class sleeper carries sleeping-berths and is available on a few overnight trains.
  • 1st class observation car is available on certain daytime trains, mostly on the Main Line, 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.
  • 2nd class seats are provided on all inter-city trains and are available as either unreserved seats or reserved seats.
  • 3rd class seats are available on most trains. This class can get very crowded and carries only basic facilities.

There are also two privately run services addition to the above government-run; Rajadhani Express and Expo Rail, which operate on the most famous stretches. Their carriages are part of the same train as the government-run ones. It is basically the same train just different carriages.

We took the Expo Rail carriage between Ella and Kandy, because the government-run 1st class observation car was fully booked. We paid 1700 Srilankan rupees (78 Nkr, 13 us$) per person for luxury class, and bought the Expo Rail tickets at Ella train station a couple of days in advanced. This is very expensive by Sri Lankan standards, but it was the only tickets available.

You can also book a reservation on the Expo Rail carriage on their webpage.

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.

At least on this popular stretch, to and from Ella, it is recommended to buy the ticket in advance. There are three trains a day on the stretch Ella – Kandy. Check for departure times here.

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Maria buying train tickets at Ella train station

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The ExpoRail car was a VERY nice train cabin, with comfortable seats, air condition and flat screen TV showing movies. We also got dinner, water and tea/coffee included in the price. Great deal for only 13 us$! 🙂 We bought the ExpoRail train tickets at Ella train station a couple of days in advanced.

Some ExpoRail carriages have one or two open deck on their carriages. There was, unfortunately, no open deck on our train from Ella to Kandy. The open deck sounds great, however, for photography and just enjoying the scenery and get some fresh mountain air.

The Ella train station is a peaceful, sleepy and beautiful station!

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The beautiful Ella train station

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

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Cricket game outside of Ella train station

Awesome View From The Train

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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Tea picker in a colorful sari

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Tea pickers in the hill-side

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Our two train trips in Sri Lanka were great, especially the trip from Ella to Kandy was spectacular! I would say it is among the world`s most beautiful train trips. Both journeys were a bit long though, 7 hours, but as long as one has a good book and some music downloaded to the iPhone, one can survive a sore bum :).

Information

  • How long is the train trip: 7 hours
  • How much did it cost: We booked the ExpoRail car which cost 13 us$. Included in that price are dinner, water, and tea/coffee. Great deal!
  • How to book train tickets: For the government-run train cars you have to buy the tickets at any train station in Sri Lanka, as they do not have an online booking system yet. For ExpoRail tickets, you can buy tickets online in advanced. We did however buy the ExpoRail tickets at Ella train station a couple of days in advanced.

 Where To Stay In Ella

Ella offers a wide selection of accommodation for all budgets, and you will have plenty of choice when it comes to finding the right place to stay.

Below are some of the best accommodation options in Ella including the address and price, starting with the place we called home for seven nights.

1. We stayed at Ravana Heights

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Breathtaking views from our room balcony!

Ravana Heights is the perfect place to stay in Ella! The view is absolutely breathtaking and the rooms cozy, big and comfortable. From Ravana Heights you have easy access to the main street of Ella and walking tours.

The food at this hotel is divine! The breakfast is served on the terrace, with spectacular views over the Ella valley, mountains and tea plantations. It consists of pancakes, eggs, bread, jams, tea/coffee, juice, fruits, basically everything a good breakfast should include. And the dinner, oh the dinner is delicious! The best food we have had in Sri Lanka, maybe the whole of Asia! It only 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 Lanka.

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 guide, and will draw you maps of excellent walks. We did two walks with guide, and one without guide. The other staff is also very sweet and couldn’t do enough for us.

2. 98 Acres Resort

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Beautiful bungalows at 68 Acres Resort.

On our way down from the Little Adam´s Peak mountain we had lunch at 98 Acres Resort. The resort is stunning, with breathtaking views! It consists of five huts/ small houses with rooms. It also has a lovely swimming pool. The restaurant was lovely with delicious food and drinks.[clear_floats]

  • Address: Passara Rd / Namunukula Rd, Uva Greenland Estate, Ella, Sri Lanka
  • Price Range: From 180 us$

3. Feelin`Good Resort

  • This looks very nice and seems like a good value for the price. It is however located a but outside of Ella Town, so you will probably have to take a tuk-tuk if you want to go into town.
  • Address: 10th Mile Post(Kilometer16), Ella 90091, Sri Lanka (40 km from Ella Town)
  • Price Range: 60 us$
  • Click here for the latest prices.

4. Ella Edge Resort

We walked past this resort several times, and it looks very good! Nice location with great views.

4. Country Homes

If you are looking for a cheaper place to stay, this looks pretty nice! It has excellent reviews, and the guests seem very happy with it.

Where To Stay In Kandy

Also Kandy offers a wide selection of accommodation for all budgets, and here you will have even more choices when it comes to finding the right place to stay than in Ella. Kandy is a bigger city with more accommodations and the competition seems to be tougher so you can find some very good deals.

Below are some of the best accommodation options in Kandy including the address and price, starting with the place we called home for 2 nights.

 1. We stayed at: Sharon Inn

The Sharon Inn is located up in the hill-side above the Kandy Lake (a bit steep road up to the hotel). It is owned and run by a family where the wife is German. It is an OK hotel, and we were happy with the accommodation and the service, although it is a bit run down. We loved the dinner buffet in the garden however. 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 very good, 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, but with private bathrooms. It is a bit over-prized for this kind of room standard. It is listed in the Lonely Planet Sri Lanka book so that might be why they can charge so much and still be almost fully booked every night.

2. Elegant Hotel

This hotel looks fantastic, with great location!! Best of all, it has a huge swimming pool! Will rather stay here than at Sharon Inn if we ever visit Kandy again! 🙂

 3. Sky Pavilion

Wow, what a lovely hotel with spectacular views! Would definitely not mind staying here!

4. Kandyan Crown Hotel

This hotel looks like a great value for money, beautifully located upon the hill-side outside of Kandy!

Guide Books

We used the Lonely Planet`s Sri Lanka book, which was great! We heard from other travelers that the maps are better in the Rough Guide, however. You can buy both books at Amazon:

Lonely_planet_sri_lanka_medium      rough_guide_sri_lanka_medium


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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! 🙂 

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Maria

Maria

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd, who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a masters degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. See our about page for more about Maria.
Maria

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