The World`s Most Beautiful Train Trip? – Ella To Kandy In Sri Lanka

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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. 12Go is 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 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.

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

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/timetables, 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 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.

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 in Sri Lanka:

1. 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.

You can, however, only book train tickets in Sri Lanka at 12Go 37 days or more in advance. Unfortunately, you can not book any train tickets in Sri Lanka closer than 37 days prior to your train travel date at 12Go. 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. But it is worth it, in my opinion, since you have secured your tickets on your travel dates. You don´t have to worry about it or get any hassle of getting tickets when you arrive in Sri Lanka.

The Train Ticket Booking Process At 12Go

  1. Go to the webpage
  2. Search for available train tickets:
    • In the search field at the top, enter your preferred travel destinations in Sri Lanka (for instance from Ella to Kandy) or choose one of the popular destinations from the list
    • Select your preferred train travel date (MUST be 37 days or more in advance (from today’s date)!)
    • Choose “One Way” or enter a return date if you want to take the train both ways
    • Select the number of people that you are booking train tickets for
    • Press the green “Find tickets” button
  3. Find your preferred train departure time in the list
    • Press the green “Book now” button next to your preferred train departure time
  4. Fill in all the fields
    • “Flexible” or “Not Flexible” – I recommend that you choose “Flexible.” Flexible means that the 12Go partner will buy 2nd class tickets if the 1st class/ VIP is fully booked and refund the difference. If the 2nd class is also fully booked on this date, they will buy tickets on the next available departure on the same date. If 2nd class is also fully booked, 12Go will refund your booking immediately. With “Not Flexible,” you will get a refund if your exact tickets are sold out.
    • Ticket pickup and delivery
      You have two options when it comes to getting your actual train tickets:
      I recommend the easiest and most convenient way: Get your train tickets delivered to your hotel in Sri Lanka for a fee of US$10 (select “Colombo hotel delivery” if you are staying in Colombo, or “EMS Sri Lanka delivery” if you are staying elsewhere in Sri Lanka). Enter your hotel name, hotel address, and check-in date in the “Additional Notes” box.
      The cheapest but more time-consuming way: Pick up your train tickets yourself at the 12Go partner’s office in Colombo city. The 12Go partner’s office is located at the Welikada Plaza building (address: Rajagiriya Road). The travel agent is called Stef Lanke, located on the ground floor (near the stairway, office no. 17). See where the office is on Google Maps. Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 09:30 – 18:30 (closed on Sundays and Sri Lankan public holidays). Remember to bring your confirmed PDF voucher.
  5. Once 12Go’s partner in Sri Lanka confirms your tickets, you will receive a PDF ticket voucher by email (usually takes 10 – 30 days before the departure date).

Buy train tickets in Sri Lanka at 12Go here (37 days or more before your traveling date)

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:

The VIP train ViceRoy II by 12Go stops at five train stations (you can board and get off the train at any of these stations):
A = Colombo Fort Station, B = Paradeniya Station in Kandy, C = Nanu Oya Station in Nuwara Eliya, D = Ella Station, E = Badulla Station

The ViceRoy II train runs every Tuesday and Thursday from Colombo to Badulla with these departing and arriving times at each 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

The ViceRoy II train runs the other way around, from Badulla to Colombo, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday:

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 ViceRoy 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.

ViceRoy II 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 are more expensive than government-run trains. It is, however, worth it in my opinion as the train is modern and comfortable, includes a meal, 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.
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 (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.

Is Food Included In The Sri Lanka Railway Ticket?

If you buy tickets on regular Sri Lankan government trains (1st class, 2nd class, or 3rd class), the ticket does not include any food, drinks, or meals. Some trains have a restaurant carriage, but I recommend that you bring your own food and beverages. Local food vendors usually enter the train at some train stations, selling drinks and snacks.

If you book tickets on the ViceRoy II (VIP train run by 12Go), you get a free meal and something to drink (non-alcohol) included in the ticket.

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 hillsides.

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 if you can choose, 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 Lanka’s Hill Country, takes about 6-7 hours in total.

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 (see information further down). There are plenty of fun things to see and do in Nuwara Eliya, so it is 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 no matter 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

The beautiful Ella Railway Station

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

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 between Ella and Kandy to be a bit too much. Then 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 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:

  • 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 no matter what side of the train you sit in.

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.

A Hindu tea picker in a colorful sari
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 Peradeniya 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

The hill country of Sri Lanka is incredibly green and lush
They also grow vegetables and rice in the hill country, additional to tea
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 as 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 a 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 children's play area with toys.
Click here to check the latest prices


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 the Ella gap. The service can rival any five-star hotel and the excellent breakfast is served on your balcony. It 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 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.
Click for latest prices

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! 🙂
Click for latest prices

Sky Pavilion
Wow, what a lovely hotel with spectacular views! Would definitely not mind staying here!
Click for latest prices

Kandyan Crown Hotel
This budget hotel offers good value for money and is beautifully located up on the hillside outside of Kandy!
Click for latest prices

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! 🙂 


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About The Writer Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.


  1. Hey,

    I took the train from Kandy to Ella on 16th October 2014. It was a rainy day which made the ride even more pleasant and made the green of the landscape look even more vivid. We were in 1st class and the ticket cost 1250 rupees per person. I recommend just buying a second class ticket as in first class we were seated next to loud and rude tourists who wouldn’t give you enough room to take nice photos whereas in second class the “locals” are more quiet and in the end of the day the ride is so scenic you won’t spend a minute sitting at your reserved seat. From Hatton to Ella it gets very beautiful indeed. Unbelievable! I wish there were more trains like this. I booked the ticket in advance at Colombo fort station right on the day of arrival in Sri Lanka. I recommend doing the same to whoever reads this.

    • Hi Giorgio!

      Thank you so much for popping by and commenting! Great tips!! We also ended up in 1st class (expo rail) as the 2nd class was fully booked. We did not book the tickets in advanced, only the day before, so good idea to book it as soon as you enter Sri Lanka. We loved this train ride too, the landscape was absolutely breathtaking! Hope to do this train ride again some day. Sri Lanka is a fantastic country! -Maria-

  2. Great tips! I’m currently on my trip around the world with my husband. We are on month 5 an are leaving for Sri Lanka in a couple days. Thanks for these great tips!

  3. Tusen takk for all informasjon om Sri Lanka. Jeg planlegger en tur dit i oktober med golf, sightseeing, leopard-safari og tågtur. 🙂

    • Tusen takk for kommentaren Anne! Så hyggelig å høre at vår blog og info kunne være til hjelp. Ha en super tur til Sri Lanka i oktober! Så spennende at du skal golfe der, visste ikke at Sri Lanka har golfbaner engang. Håper du liker Sri Lanka like mye som vi! 🙂

  4. Really appreciate the information on your website – my wife and I set aside a few days in Ella based on your pictures alone! Quick question about Expo-Rail: were you able to get good views from the carriage? We’ve read reviews online about how the windows were small and smudgy, and how they couldn’t be opened due to the A/C. Would you recommend booking a 2nd class cabin instead? Thanks!

    • Hi Ernie,

      Great to hear that we inspired you to stay in Ella for a extra few days. It really is a very beautiful area for hiking, and we ended up staying much longer than we had originally thought. I am sure you guys will love it!

      About the Expo-Rail, yes the windows are not great. Only a few of the windows can be opened, and the ones that do are small. I would recommend going second class if possible, it is much easier to take photographs through the open windows. But be aware that second class can sell out days in advance, so try to buy the tickets as early as possible. We booked a couple of days ahead, but second class was already sold out.

      Hope this helps. Have a great trip!

  5. We don’t plan to go for the 7-hour journey between Kandy and Ella.
    Which section is the most beautiful section that you would advise ?

    [Kandy – Nanuoya]
    [Nanuoya – Ella]

    Thanks !

    • Hi Loïc,

      Between these two, I would recommend the Nanuoya to Ella section. This is the most spectacular part with amazing view over the green and lush tea plantation landscape.

      Have a great trip! I`m sure you will love it!

      • Things one might not know:-
        1. Between the Ohiya Train Station and Idalgashinne Train station there are 14 Tunnels, No where in the World do you find 14 stations between two Stations.

        2. The Train ride between Ohiya & Ella can be compared to the scenic beauty of the Country Side Switzerland has to offer.

    • ooh Thanks THIS is what I was looking for as weel : 7 hour train ride for us is a bit too much so Nanouya-Ella it will be. Thanks!

  6. I have done a rail hike from nine arch bridges to ella station and of course I’m a local. Nine arches bridge is one of the must see places in Ella.

    Loved your report…

    • Hi Chathura,

      Thanks for commenting, great to hear from a local! Your country is really beautiful! We did unfortunately not do the hike up to Nine Arch Bridge, but saw it from a distance. Such a beautiful bridge.

      We love Sri Lanka, and really hope to come back one day!


    • I am from India.

      Wish to visit Sri Lanka. I have about 10 days in my hands.

      Can somebody provide me the itinerary and help me in booking of travel, hotel arrangements.


      • Hi Vivek,

        You can find our recommended Sri Lanka itinerary here:

        You can contact a travel agent company and get them to do bookings for you. If you are looking for a driver and guide, we had an amazing guide on our last Sri Lanka trip. His name is Sadun, and you can contact and book him here.

        Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka!


  7. Hey thanks for your site! Super useful in planning our trip!

    My wife and I are planning to do the expo rail from colombo to ella. In your trip from Ella to Kandy did the train make stops along the way? If so did it stop long? If not did you mind being closeted in for 7 (in our case 9 straight hours)

    And would you recommend the observation deck (government run) over expo rail for the views?

    • Hi Sri,

      Yes, the train from Ella to Kandy took plenty of stops along the way in many small places/ towns. The stops were only short ones though, where sellers of food and drinks came onboard selling stuff to us passengers, before stepping off at the next stop. We did not step off the train at any point as we did not know how long it would stay at each station.

      7-9 hours straight in a train was no problem for us, the seats are comfortable so we slept a bit, read, listened to music and enjoyed the view and had conversations with other traveler and locals selling food and drinks onboard. But of course, we were happy when we finally reached Kandy. 😀

      We have never tried the observation deck (government run), only the expo rail as the observation deck was fully booked. I think we would have chosen the observation deck had there been available tickets, as the view seems better since you can open the windows so taking photos is easier. We did however take the train from Polonnaruwa to Colombo (8 hours) on a government run train (top class), and the seats were not so comfortable as the expo rails and the toilets not so nice and no food was included. So there are pros and cons with both the expo and government run trains.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka, and enjoy your train trip!


  8. Hey there Maria! Your blog is wonderful and gives good information on Sri Lanka. I’m going to be in Colombo on the 31st and my flight back is on the 3rd June morning. could you recommend where all I could travel during this time and whether i could afford going to ella in terms of time. Thanks!

    • Hi Rushabh,

      Thanks a lot for those nice words, happy to hear that you like our blog! 🙂

      Ella is one of the most beautiful places in the inland of Sri Lanka, but I think you are a bit short on time for such a long trip.

      It takes around 7 hours by car and 9 hours by train each way from Colombo to Ella, so almost two days to get there and back. Since your flight back is in the morning on the 3rd of June, it means you have to head back to the airport area the day before (2nd of June). So if you are able to get from Colombo to Ella on the 31st of May, it means you will only have two nights in Ella, and one full day. It is of course doable, but it does not give you much time to go hiking. An easy hike in Ella is Little Adam`s Peak, which only takes a few hours, so you could do that:

      Kandy and it`s area could be another option for you. Hunas Falls Hotel might be an ideal compromise for you. We have unfortunately not stayed at this hotel ourselves, but have heard recommendations from others about this place. It is in a great location with beautiful views and you can walk through the mountains and tea plantations directly from the hotel. It takes 3-4 hours by car to get here from Colombo, so it`s much closer to Colombo than Ella.

      I would suggest that you spend your last night in Negombo which is very close to the airport. Read our post about Negombo here:

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! We simply love that country, hope you will too! 🙂


  9. Hi I am travelling to kandy fro Colombo and gave booked expo rail train. I am planning to stay over night in Kandy and then next day train to Ella. I will then have two full days in Ella before returning to negombo the next morning. Can you suggest what to do in Ella. Adams Oeak is off season so was thinking nine bridge Lipton s seat can you advise thanks Sally

  10. Hi Maria, I am travelling with a big group and we would like to take the train from Kandy to Ella and stay over one night at Ella.

    After that we want to go to Horton Plains, how should go about?We plan to take train but with a big group, what’s your advice?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Hi Gan Chih Pei,

      We did not go to Horton Plains on our trip to Sri Lanka, but I`ve heard it`s beautiful. As far as I know there are two train stations close to Horton Plains National Park; Ohiya and Ambewela. The train ride from Ella to Ohiya and Ambewela takes about two to three hours, and from Ohiya and Ambewela you can take a tuk-tuk or taxi to Horton Plains.

      Since you are a big group, it might be difficult to get train tickets for everybody. But you should try to get tickets in advance. In my opinion taking the train is much nicer than going by taxi or car, and with a better view. The train ride between Kandy and Ella is fantastic, and something I highly recommend.

      The other option is to hire a mini van taxi, which should be no problem. But I would recommend taking the train if you can get train tickets for this big group. Book the train tickets well in advance.

      Have an awesome trip to Kandy, Ella and Horton Plains! I`m sure you will love it.


  11. It was a nice holiday trip. I always wanted to do things like this. How do you think the ideal time to do the holiday as you do? and is there any other locations in Asia which could be an alternative destination as you travel. very nice. nice post. thanks.

    • Hi Mughis,

      The best time to visit the southern part of Sri Lanka is November to March, when it`s less rain. I would say two to four weeks is the ideal number of days to spend in Sri Lanka in order to fully explore this beautiful country.

      A good alternative to Sri Lanka is Thailand and Indonesia. They are both cheap and very easy countries to travel in, with lovely beaches and nature, friendly people and excellent food.

      Happy travels! Thanks for commenting!


  12. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for sharing so many useful details on this blog. I am planning to maldives for my honeymoon, and thinking to take a stop over at SriLanka for two nights. Can you please suggest which is the best location (other then colombo, as we are avoiding beaches in SriLanka, due to our onward journey to beaches only) to stay over and enjoy a good time.
    Thanks in advance. Cheers!!

    • Hi Vivek,

      Thanks! So glad to hear that you find our blog useful. Wow, honeymoon to Maldives, lucky you. Sounds awesome! 🙂

      Since you want to avoid the beaches in Sri Lanka, I would suggest that you head inland. We visited the city Kandy, where we saw the temple of Buddhas tooth, Sri Lankas botanical garden and Sri Lankas elephant orphanage. You can read more about it here: It takes 3-4 hours by car from Colombo to Kandy.

      Another option is to head to the mountain area of Sri Lanka, like the hill city Nuwara Eliya. We did not visit this city, as we went to Ella town which is similar but further inland from Colombo. We loved the hill country with its beautiful lush and green landscape full of tea plantations. Perfect for hiking and doing walks. It takes 4-5 hours by car to reach Nuwara Eliya from Colombo.

      The safaris in Sri Lanka are great, where you can see wild elephants, leopards, monkeys, water buffaloes etc. There are five large national parks in Sri Lanka: Yala National Park, Kumana, Willpattu, Galoya and Udawalawa wildlife sanctuary. We went to Yala National Park: Loved it!

      Another city that we loved was Galle: Galle is only 2 hours from Colombo by car. So if you don`t want to spend that many hours in a car back and forth Colombo, Galle might be a good option.

      Sri Lanka has it all, so it really depends what you want to see and do. Have a great honeymoon! I`m sure you will love both Sri Lanka and Maldives.


  13. Hi Maria.

    Thank you for such an inspiring blog. I would love to visit this beautiful country, but am unsure how suitable it would be for me as I use an electric wheelchair. I can manage about 100meters walking with a stick and would have a helpful companion. Can you tell me if the pavements/roads are very pot-holed? It’s probably not the best place to get a puncture… 🙂 Also, do you think they would be happy to accomodate my chair on the train? Thanks.

    • Hi Lynn Hanna,

      I`m afraid Sri Lanka is not the best place for neither wheelchair or pedestrians. Most places lack pavements except big cities like Colombo. The roads are pretty narrow and busses, cars and tuk-tuks drive real fast, so I actually feared for my life a few times when we were walking, especially in the small mountain villages like Ella. And there are hardly any street lights, so we brought our head lamps in the evenings when we were out walking.

      I am not sure about accomodating a wheelchair on the train. We went with the Expo Rail car of the train, you should send them an email and ask: It is easy and cheap to rent a car with a driver, we did that a lot in Sri Lanka. The cars are modern and we often got a big van that could easily fit a wheelchair.

      A great travel blog that you should check out is Cory Lee: I`m not sure if he`s been to Sri Lanka though.


      • Hi 🙂 I’m just reading this question about wheelchairs, sitting having a,juice in Galle, and two tourists just went past, one in a wheelchair! I did wonder how hard it is for them though…
        Great blog btw 🙂 x

  14. Hi Maria,

    I just did this train trip 3 weeks ago and I agree with you, What a fantastic trip! I would like to add to your hotels recommendation in Ella the Planter’s Bungalow. It is a bit outside Ella passing the waterfalls. It is such a nice place in the nature, and also the main building is a historic building!!! and we had one of the best dinners in Sri Lanka there. I just stayed there for one night after hiking under the rain to the Little Adam’s peak and it was such a bliss….I regret I could not stay longer.

    Sri Lanka is a very good vacation destination, nature, animals, culture, beaches..and very friendly people!!!and I see your blog reflects it pretty well. Going through it, I just want to be back!!!



    • Hi Emilia,

      We had also planned to stay in Ella for only one night, but quickly changed our minds when we arrived. We ended up staying there a whole week. 🙂 I totally agree, Sri Lanka is one of the best vacation destinations in Asia, maybe the best. I so wish I could be back there right now.


  15. Hi Ella,

    Thank you for the very informative blog. It helped my planning quite a bit. I’ll be in Sri Lanka from 1st May to 8th May.
    Any suggested itineraries/places? As for the train rides, is it safe for 2 ladies to explore?
    Hope to hear from you soon.

    • Hi Nazeera,

      Thank you! So happy our blog could be of help to you when planning your trip to beautiful Sri Lanka.

      We have put together our top places to see in Sri Lanka in our travel guide: Hope this will help.

      Yes, it is definitely safe for two ladies to do train rides in Sri Lanka! Nothing to worry about.

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka! You will love it!

      Best regards,

  16. Hey Maria!
    I just found your blog and i love it! i’m heading to Sri Lanka for two weeks with two friends in September and reading all of this i can’t wait to pack my bags!

    Is this the train from Ella to Kandy? how much did it cost? does it run every day? haha sorry for all the questions

    • Hi Yiannis,

      Thank you! Lucky you who are going to Sri Lanka, you will love this amazing country!

      Yes, this post is about the train trip from Ella to Kandy in the middle of Sri Lanka, through the mountains and tea plantations. We paid 1700 Sri Lankan Rupees = 12 us$ (per person) for Expo luxury class with air condition, including dinner. You can book tickets in advance: Or you can buy them at the train station in Ella as we did.

      You can however also travel first class, second class and third class (these are cheaper). Yes, this train runs every day, maybe even two times a day if I remember correctly. The journey takes 7 hours.

      Have an awesome trip to Sri Lanka!!

      Best regards,

    • Hi Martin,

      The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanuoya. It is located 8 km from Nuwara Eliya centre. Take a tuk-tuk or taxi from Nanuoya train station to your hotel.

      So you can choose to take the train from Kandy to Nanuoya (4 hours) or to Ella (7 hours), but it is still the same train. The end station is Badulla. There are three trains a day.

      The Nuwara Eliya/Ella train does not actually go from Kandy train station (in the middle of Kandy city), but from Peradeniya train station to be exact. This is located only a 15 minutes drive from Kandy city. We took the train from Ella to Peradeniya train station, and then a 15 minutes tuk-tuk drive into Kandy city.

      So you will actually take the train from Peradeniya train station (Kandy) to Nanuoya train station (Nuwara Eliya).

      You can find train times here: (search from Kandy to Nanuoya).

      Hope this helped clear things up a bit. Have a great train trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya!


  17. Oh wow! this looks beyond beautiful. That green almost hurts your eyes. I’ve always been fascinated with luxury train travel. Orient Express, Royal Scotsmans…I so want to ride one one day!
    Never knew there was one in Sri Lanka as well..but now that I do..well..i HAVE to visit! thx for the share!

    • Hi Fran,

      Thank you for you nice comment! So happy you like our photos! It is an easy country to photograph with a scenery like this. 😉

      You should definitely try this train trip in Sri Lanka, just don`t be in a hurry, as it is a slow train……

      Ah, I would love to go on the Orient Express myself one day, I love trains. We don`t have trains up in northern Norway where I am from, so taking trains are very exciting for me. I took my first train trip when I was 19.

      Thanks for commenting!


  18. Hi! I’m currently planning a trip to Sri Lanka and one of these train rides is on my to-do list! Do you remember if there was a stop between Polonnaruwna and Colombo?

  19. Hi there Maria, thanks so much for your very informative website. My wife and 2 little kids and I are thinking of taking this train from Kandy to Ella. However we are concerned about how long it is, the kids are very young and will go crazy after a few hours. Is there somewhere that we could stop off halfway and spend a few days? Not sure if there is a nice town you can recommend that we can do this. We are vaguely interested in climbing Adam’s Peak, and I think this might be somewhere near the halfway mark of the train trip between Kandy and Ella… any suggestions of how we can do this?


    • Hi Ben,

      A very popular place to stop on the way from Kandy to Ella is Nuwara Eliya (a 4 hour train trip). The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanuoya. It is located 8 km from Nuwara Eliya centre. Take a tuk-tuk or taxi from Nanuoya train station to your hotel.

      The train from Kandy to Nanuoya (4 hours) is the same that goes to Ella. There are three trains a day. Search for train schedules here:

      Nuwara Eliya is green and lush, and great for hiking and walking among tea plantations. Horton Plains National Park is located close to Nuwara Eliya, great for bird watching and walking.

      Hmm, I am not sure Adam`s Peak is recommended for little kids. It is a very challenging climb, even for grown-ups. It is 2243 meter of steps to climb! 🙂

      If you do go to Ella, I recommend taking your children to climb Little Adam`s Peak:

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love it!


  20. Maria, I am local and very impressed with your knowledge about Sri Lanka. The advise you offer to would be visitors is authentic and helpful. If I have the power, I will appoint you as a Travel Consultant to the Tourism Authority – haha. Keep up the good work. We owe you.

    • Hi Panduka,

      Thank you so much! Your comment made my day! 🙂

      Hope our articles and photos from Sri Lanka will bring a lot of visitors to your beautiful country. Hope to visit Sri Lanka again soon.


      • Thanks Maria,

        I am glad that my comment ‘tickled’ you. Seriously, your knowledge and insights are as good (or better) as any local. Thank you for helping so many people to visit our beautiful island.

        If you come across any ‘knotty’ situations where you need more information, please ask me and I will be glad to help in any way I can. After reading your blog, I am contemplating on starting one myself to offer useful tips to would be travellers to Sri Lanka.

        Thank you once again and keep me informed when you plan to visit Sri Lanka again.


  21. Dear MAria,

    What is the fastest trian journey that i can do from colombo, which is beautiful?
    I dont have much time, as im in Lanka only 3 days unfortunately.

    I want something which takes less time but is beautiful

    • Hi Ramkumar,

      A beautiful and scenic train ride from Colombo is to take the train to the south of Sri Lanka. The train goes along the coast line with stunning view over the sea and beaches.

      We took the train from Colombo to Galle, a very beautiful train ride and highly recommended. This train ride takes about 2,5 hours (express train).

      You can find train times here: (search Colombo Fort to Galle).

      Have a great time in Sri Lanka!


  22. Hello Maria,

    I have read your informative website with interest and it has helped inspire my wife and I to take train during our trip to sri Lanka this coming November

    Could you please advise on a couple of points if possible

    1 we would like to take train from colombo to ella and head south for a beach stay and then take the train back up to colombo. I note there is no train connection so Is it affordable to travel from ella to south coast by taxi and how long do you think this might take? Or would you recommend bus?

    2 Any re commendations for beaches in south. Quiet and secluded is preferable if possible at an ayurveda resort



    • Hi Colin,

      Thank you, so glad to hear that our articles about Sri Lanka are an inspiration to you.

      1. It is easiest to rent a car with a driver to go from Ella to the south coast of Sri Lanka, as there are no trains going there. We did this, and it is absolutely affordable. It is very easy to hire a car with a driver in Sri Lanka, just ask at the hotel where you are staying in Ella.

      We did not take the bus in Sri Lanka at all, as it takes a long time and the buses are in bad shape. It didn`t feel safe.

      It takes about 2-3 hours by car from Ella to the south-coast, depending on where on the coast you want to go.

      2. We loved Tangalle! It is quiet and secluded, and the beach is stunning! The only downside is that it is not safe for swimming due to the underwater current. It takes about 3 hours by car from Ella to Tangalle.

      You can read and see our photos from Tangalle here:

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! You will love it!


  23. Hello Maria,

    Thanks for sharing information on the tourist spots of island country. I visited Sri Lanka last year but I didn’t traveled by train from Ella to Kandy.

    After reading your post, I plan my journey to Sri Lanka once again and this time I will travel by train from Ella to Kandy.

    • Hi Nagarjuna,

      Thanks for commenting! You should definitely take this train ride on your next trip to Sri Lanka. It is long (7 hours), but absolutely worth it as the views are awesome. It`s also fun to watch the locals and buy local food and snacks from the vendors jumping on and off the train at each station.


  24. Hi Maria,

    Such a great read, and wealth of information. We’re traveling from South Africa to Sri Lanka in December. Going to do Colombo – Ella – Tangalle – Mirissa – Hikkaduwa.

    Can you perhaps advise on:
    1) What is the difference between Exporail and Sri Lanka Railways, with regards to experience, speed and scenery (view from the train).
    2) We want to travel from Colombo early morning to Ella in one day. Is this do-able?
    3) Did you spend any time in Hikkaduwa? Or can you offer any info about it?


    • Hi Chris,

      Thank you so much! Glad to be of help!

      1) Exporail/ Sri Lanka Railways is actually the same train, just different train carriages. Exporail is a privately owned company, while the Sri Lanka Railways carriages are government-run. So the speed and scenery are exactly the same, you are just sitting in different carriages.

      The Exporail carriages are more modern and upper class with air condition and food/water/tea/coffee included in the ticket price. The Exporail tickets are more expensive than the government-run Sri Lanka Railways tickets, but still very cheap compared to European prices especially when you count in that you get food and drinks included in the price.

      Read more about Exporail and check timetables here:

      Check timetables for the government-run Sri Lankan Railways here:

      2) Yes, you can easily get from Colombo to Ella in one day. The train trip takes about 9 hours. It seems like there are three government-run Sri Lankan Railways express trains each day:
      – Colombo Fort – Elle 05:55 – 15:14
      – Colombo Fort – Elle 08:30 – 17:27
      – Colombo Fort – Elle 09:45 – 18:22

      As for ExpoRail, it seems like there are only one each day, departing from Colombo at 09:45 and arriving in Ella at 18:23. Exporail tickets/ place in the Exporail carrage cost 2400 Sri Lankan Rupees one way (84 us$), with morning snack, lunch, evening snack, tea & coffee included. The government-run tickets are probably much cheaper.

      You can also hire a car with a driver (we did that mostly to get around). The drive from Clombo to Ella takes about 5-6 hours depending on the traffic.

      3) We did not visit Hikkaduwa, so I have no recommendations for this place, sorry.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country!


  25. Hello Maria! Congrats for such a great blog! Super impressed 🙂

    Just 3 small questions:

    – Despite I would love to ride the observation car (state-owned) or the 2nd class I’m afraid I’ll have to go for the ExpoRail. They advertise Wifi and electric plugs. Do the Wifi and electric plugs work?

    – I read somewhere that some ExpoRail cars also have a “open deck” from where you can take pictures. Do you know anything about it?

    – From Ella to Colombo (I’ll do the full trip in one day :S ) which one is the most scenic side to sit on the train? 🙂 Right or Left?

    Take care! Joao

    • Hi Joao,

      Thank you so much! Really happy to hear that you like our blog! 🙂

      We did not try the wifi and electric plugs onboard the ExpoRail carriage, so don`t know much about that, sorry. The TV worked, but we would rather look at the view than the TV. 🙂

      There were no “open deck” on the ExpoRail carrigage we took from Ella to Kandy, so I don`t know anything about that, sorry.

      As to which side of the train you should sit at, my impression was that it was just as beautiful on both sides. We sat on the right hand side.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka, and enjoy the train ride!


      • Hi Maria,

        Just returned after a weekend trip from Colombo to Ella by Expo Rail.
        They did have open decks on my trip which was fantastic. The carriage
        on the Colombo-Ella journey had 2 open deck sections while on the return just one. Spent most of the journey in the open deck which was great for photography and just enjoying the scenery and fresh mountain air.

        Keep up the good work with your blog.


        • Hi Rodney,

          Ah, cool! The open deck sounds great! Thanks for reporting back with this information, as there are many readers that wonder about this.

          Thanks again! Happy travels!


  26. I am very much excited for my trip to srilanka after reading this blog. I am going to be there from December 24th to January 3rd with my wife and two kids (7 and 3 years old). We would like to do the train trip and spend some time on the beach. Any suggestion on how we should plan our itinerary in a way where kids do not feel tired or bored?

    Thank you

    • Hi Dani,

      Lucky you who are spending Christmas in Sri Lanka!

      There are plenty of nice beaches on the south-west coast of Sri Lanka. We really liked Mirissa Beach and Tangalle Beach. Mirissa is more lively and has more people, while Tangalle is more pristine with not many people. You can not go swimming in Tangalle, however, due to heavy underwater currents. So probably Mirissa area is better for your children if they`d like to go swimming:

      We loved the safari in Yala National Park, and if your children like animals you should definitely do a day-trip here: You can, for instance, do Yala National Park on your way to Ella (rent a car with a driver, ask the hotel you are staying at in for instance Mirissa to arrange for a car for you). There are two times a day to get into Yala National Park, early morning and afternoon. The safari itself takes 2-3 hours.

      If you want to take this train trip from Ella, you can end up in Kandy like we did. There is an Elephant Orphanage in Kandy that your children might like:

      On your way to the beach (from the airport), you should stop at Galle, a great little city that I`m sure you and your children will love: (they have some delicious ice cream in Galle!)

      So an itinerary for you and your family might be:

      – 24. – 28. Dec: Get from the airport to Mirissa. Stay here four nights (or spend some of these nights in Tangalle)
      – Day-trip to Galle from Mirissa one of these days
      – 28. Dec: Day-trip to Yala National Park (in the early morning), then drive to Sigiriya in the afternoon and go up the stairs to Lion Rock: Your children will love the view from the top and be excited over the story of the king that used to live up there in his castle. Drive to Ella in the evening.
      – 28. – 30. Dec: Ella. Do the short walk up to Little Adam`s Peak in Ella:
      – 30. Dec: Take the train from Ella to Kandy
      – 30. Dec – 1. Jan: Kandy. Visit the Tooth Temple and the Elephant Orphanage, and maybe the Botanical Garden:
      – 1. – 3. Jan: Spend your last couple of days relaxing at Negombo Beach, close to the airport:

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka!

      Best regards,

      • Dear Maria
        I am an elderly sri lankan living in a city close to Sri Jayawardhanapura, our administrative capital which houses the parliament as well. After seeing your blog in pinterest about your travel experience in my beautiful small country i thought of writing few words to express my gratitude for giving the true picture to a would be holiday traveller in the future. Some may bloat things going out of propotions but in your postings i see they are very much real with true facts. I am not a travel agent or a promoter in tourism for my country but as a citizen who has seen the beauty of this country i think you are spot on with your blogs. Thank you and wish you more success in your travel blogs.

        • Hi S.Dias,

          Thank you so much for your nice comment! It means a lot coming from a local Srilankan. You are so lucky who live in this beautiful country!

          Sri Lanka has the best beaches, nature, wildlife, culture, and food, but last but not least the Srilankan people are fantastic! We have never experienced friendliness and hospitality like we did in Sri Lanka anywhere else in the world. Can`t wait to come back one day!

          Thank you again for commenting, really appreciate it!

          Peace & Love

  27. I would like to add that the scenery on the trip Kandy-Hatton is much nicer than the rest of the way to Ella. And Even Ella is very disappointing in itself. I did a lot of hikes but the town is just a crowded street full of hotels and restaurants and the hikes and landscape is not so spectacular. With regards to nice tea plantations and so on, it is much better to take the bus from Hatton all the way to Adam’s peak – that is absolutely spectacular!!! I really dont understand why everybody and all guidebooks refer to Ella, that was the worst of my amazing trip to Sri Lanka! Of course, this is my opinion!

    • Hi Margarida,

      I agree, Ella town itself is very small but it is interesting to see small local Sri Lankan towns as well and not just glossy touristy places like Unawatuna.

      We had some great hikes around Ella.

      Of course, everybody has different views on places and different experiences on their travels, so I totally respect your opinion on Ella, although I don`t agree. We planned to stay in Ella only two nights but ended up spending a week there as we liked it so much.

      Thanks for commenting! Happy travels! 🙂


  28. Hi Maria,
    Thanks for a great read and some amazing pictures. Could I ask you what time of year you went? Also, what camera did you use for your pictures?

    Many thanks,

    • Hi Anette,

      Thank you so much!

      We visited Sri Lanka in February/ March. The best time to visit west and south coast of Sri Lanka and the hill country is December – March.

      We used an old Nikon D90 camera since our new Nikon camera got stolen in Bangkok just before we went to Sri Lanka. We now have a Sony A7s which we love.

      Happy travels!


  29. I took the train from Hatton to Ella last Oct and was just doing some research for my train video that I was just about to post and came across your blog! Very use info and beautiful photos!

    • Thank you so much, Doria! We are actually back in Sri Lanka right now. Last week we did the train trip from Colombo and up to Kandy, which was stunning too. The landscape here in Sri Lanka is so beautiful, so green and lush. We also visited Nuwara Eliya for the first time, which was freezing cold, below 0 at nights.

      Happy travels! 🙂


  30. hi Maria,
    me, my husband and our 5yrs old daughter are going to sri lanka next month. were going to nuwara eliya from colombo and after that go to Kandy and the cultural triangle. May i know how to go from Kandy to Dambulla? by bus, train or taxi? thanks 🙂

  31. Hi Christine,

    We just did this trip a couple of weeks ago together with my parents (their first time in Sri Lanka). In general, I would say that you should skip the bus, both regarding the security (the buses are pretty old and drive like crazy) and it can be a bit too packed with people for a little child as you will not get seat reservations on the bus.

    There are no train tracks from Kandy to Dambulla, so you have to go here by taxi (we did that). This car trip takes about 2,5 hours. You should also visit Sigiriya, which is close to Dambulla, it is fantastic:

    It is most common to do Colombo to Kandy first, then the cultural triangle (Dambulla cave temple, Sigiriya rock, and maybe the ancient Polonnaruwa) and then down to Nuwara Eliya:

    1. Colombo – Kandy (2,5 hours by train). This train trip is one of Sri Lanka’s most scenic train trips as the train goes up into the mountains from the Colombo coast. We did this and it was great! It is also highlighted in the Lonely Planet book as Sri Lanka’s nicest train trip. You can also do this by taxi, this takes about 3 hours.

    2. Kandy – Dambulla – Sigiriya by taxi (takes about 3 hours one way from Kandy)

    3. Kandy – Nuwara Eliya either by train or taxi. The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanuoya (it is located a 10 minutes drive from Nuwara Eliya center). This train trip takes about 3,5 hours. The taxi trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya also takes about 3,5 hours.

    You can search for train schedules here:

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! I`m sure you will love this beautiful country!


  32. Great pictures and helpful information. My husband and I are taking our Sri Lankan friend and her daughter back to see her family whom she hasn’t been with in nearly 17 years. We will tour the country together first as she had never been out of her small village except when leaving. It all feels rather epic and we feel privileged to be part of the story. We will be there for the moment when she is folded into her mothers arms. Her mother who doesn’t know when she’s coming. Wow! Thus my nebulousness about where I’m from, etc.
    The planning has been meticulous, exciting and a bit fraught with trepidation but we’re ready now and I’ve read 6 books about the country – that helps! We will be going to the north too so it will be super hot there and we expect rains in tea country. There are so many climates on the island it seems so it’s hard to choose THE perfect time to go if one wants to traverse it all.
    Thanks for all your tips, pictures and encouragement!

    • Hi Ellie,

      Wow, sounds like you are going to have a very special trip to Sri Lanka with your Sri Lankan friend who is returning to her home country! Sri Lanka has changed a lot in 17 years, so she might not recognise her home village. I`m sure it will be a life-changing experience both for her, her daughter, and maybe you too.

      I wish you a great trip to Sri Lanka, and hope that your friend and her daughter will be well united with their Sri Lankan family! I`m sure it will be the best trip ever!


  33. Hi Maria,

    First of all i wanted to say thank you for such a detailed and inspiring travel blog. Definitely makes others (myself included) even more excited about visiting this region.

    I have a bit of a tricky one and was hoping i could get your expertise. My friend and I are travelling to Northern Pakistan for 3 weeks and for our final week before returning back to Australia we decided to choose a random destination, so Sri Lanka it was. We bought a ticket going into Colombo and we only have 4-5 days. (After going through your blog, i realised that 4-5 days isnt long at all….)

    We’re already prepared that we wont be able to see everything we want to but i would like to do jump on a train and see the tea plantations, see some wild elephants and relax at a beach.

    Given the short time frame, would there be any regions you would recommend? We were planning on getting off the plane with no plan and go from there, but given 4-5 days i figured we should at least have a rough idea to make the most of it.

    p.s I noticed that you are from Tromso, my mate and i visited the Lofoten Islands, then drove from Trondheim to Oslo then to Bergen last year. Such a beautiful country

    • Hi Kelvin,

      Thank you so much!

      Ah, too bad you only have 4-5 days in Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka is a smallish island, there are so much to see and do and the country is breathtaking! Hmm, with such short time, I would say that you should hire a car and a driver as the train is really slow.

      Your itinerary might do something like this:

      Day 1. Colombo – Kandy by train (2,5 hours). Beautiful scenery from the train. 1 night in Kandy
      Day 2. Visit the Tooth Temple in Kandy. Rent a car and a driver in Kandy. Kandy – Nuwara Eliya by car (2 hours). 1 night in Nuwara Eliya (tea plantations)
      Day 3. Long day: Drive Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Uda Walawe National Park or Yala National Park (wild elephants, the safari here takes 2-3 hours) – Tangalla Beach in the evening. 1-2 nights in Tangalla
      Day 4. Drive up along the west coast (beautiful ocean view) and stop a few hours in Galle. If you have one night left, spend it in Negombo (only 20 min drive from the airport)
      Day 5. Relax at Negombo Beach until you have to go to the airport in the evening by taxi

      Or you can, of course, do it the other way around, and start with the beaches along the west and south coast. 🙂

      Wow, cool that you have been to Norway! Ah, I love the Lofoten Islands too! We are actually heading there this summer, can`t wait to be back there. Too bad you didn`t visit Tromso, next time maybe. 🙂

      We actually studied Computer Science in Brisbane. Really miss Australia, amazing country, hope to be back one day!

      Have an awesome trip to Northern Pakistan and Sri Lanka!


  34. Hi,

    Great blog guys and very informative. My husband and I are planning to visit Sri Lanka in August this year for 4 days (unfortunately cannot increase the number of days!), but cant wait to see the beautiful country. We are planning to visit Nuwara Eliya, Ella or Kandy. Since we are there only for 4 days cant decide which place to skip. Pls help us decide if Nuwara Eliya is better or Ella. Or should we go to both the places and skip Kandy. We are keen on taking the train journey too. Pls suggest.

  35. Hi Sumita,

    Thank you so much!

    Hmmm, with only 4 days in Sri Lanka, you should rent a driver to drive you around as the trains are slow and take a lot of time.

    There are more to see in Nuwara Eliya city than in Ella city. Ella is more like a small village. But Ella is better for hiking. But with only a day there you will not have time for longer hikes, you might have time to walk Little Adams Peak:

    One itinerary for you could be:

    Day 1. Rent a driver from Colombo International airport that takes you to Kandy (2,5 hours). Spend the night in Kandy. If possible see the Tooth Temple in the evening.
    Day 2. If you did not have time to see the Tooth Temple in the evening on day 1, see the Tooth Temple in the morning. Have the driver driving you to Nuwara Eliya (2 hours). Stop at a tea factory along the way. Explore Nuwara Eliya and spend the night there.
    Day 3. Take the train from Nuwara Eliya (the train station is called Nanu Oya) to Ella. This is the most spectacular part with an amazing view over the green and lush tea plantation landscape.
    Day 4. Head back to the airport with a driver/ car.

    Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and the hill country!


  36. Great blog!! really impressed with the information on your blog. Thanks for taking so much time to provide the feedback. Need your kind advice, we are planning to visit Kandy , We will be arriving at 11 am in Colombo on 1st of August from Bangkok. As I have heard of nice train trips, so we plan to take train from Colombo to kandy. Kindly advise, if we will be able to book a train on the same day when we arrive? And we plan to stay three nights in Kandy, as we have a pre booking at a hotel. Is it worth staying in Kandy or shall we keep touring around during the day, while keep stationed in Kandy during nights.

    • Hi Naina,

      Thank you so much!

      You can search for train departure times HERE

      It looks like there are four trains from Colombo Fort to Kandy on the 1st of August, after 11 a.m.:
      – 12:40 Colombo – 16:04 Kandy
      – 15:35 Colombo – 18:06 Kandy
      – 16:35 Colombo – 19:36 Kandy
      – 17:45 Colombo – 20:58 Kandy

      Since you arrive at Colombo International Airport at 11 am, you will probably not be able to catch the 12:40 train, as the driving time from the airport to the train station is about 1 hour. But the 15:35, 16:35 or 17:45 trains are doable.

      Yes, you can buy train tickets at the Colombo Fort Train Station on the same day that you arrive.

      Since you have three nights in Kandy, you should spend one whole day exploring Kandy and it`s nearby surroundings (Kandy Lake, Buddhas Tooth Temple, Elephant Orphanage, Kandy Botanical Garden). The second day you can do a day-trip to for instance Dambulla Cave Temple (a 2 hour drive from Kandy) or Sigiriya (a 2,5 hour drive from Kandy), or both on the same day.

      Polonnaruwa is another option, but then you should probably spend a night there as the drive takes about 4 hours from Kandy each way.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!


  37. Hi Maria thank you for being so informative!

    We really want to travel the Ella to Peradeniya train in the observation car. Do you think this is the best way to travel? The timings are good so that’s a main reason for us.

    Can you take photos out of the windows do you know? Do you know if the windows can open at all?

    Also do you have a rough idea of how many LKR this journey should cost?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Sarah,

      We really wanted to book seats in the observation car, but it was unfortunately fully booked so we ended up in the 1st class Expro rail car. I do think, however, that the observation car is best as in the Expo car we could not open the windows.

      Yes, the side windows in the observation car can be opened, perfect for taking photos. The seats are faced backwards where there is a huge window which cannot open, giving you a great panoramic view of the landscape. So you see the scenery from the back of the train. It looks really cool!

      The ticket for the 1st class observation car cost approximately 500 LRK = 4 us$. Sri Lankan Railways don’t offer online booking, unfortunately, so you have to buy tickets at a train station once you get to Sri Lanka. The observation car does, however, not have air condition nor any catering so bring your own food and water.

      In the Expo rail car, we had both aircon, wifi, power supplies, and got free lunch and drinks. The Expo rail car sometimes has a small open-air viewing platform where you can go and take pictures. But it is not always there, unfortunately, sometimes they use an older Expo car without this viewing platform like they did when we took the Expo Rail from Ella to Peradeniya.

      Another option is Raj, Rajadhani Express air-conditioned 1st class car with wifi, which is also a private-owned rail car like Expo. You can book tickets in the Raj car here:

      Have a great train trip from Ella to Peradeniya!!


    • Hi sarah

      It is a best way, but you need to booked ticket before a month.
      observation Coach ticket price is colombo to Badulla LKR 1000.00

      thank you

  38. Which one do you suggest Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa or Tangalle We are a couple visitng Sri Lanka on 11th Aug Also want your advise should we visit Ella from Unawatuna and then go to Kandy by train? Do Dambulla first so that we can take the train back from Kandy to Colombo We have a week in hand to explore.

    • Hi Rajyasree,

      We really like Tangalle Beach, as we like more relaxed and not so busy beaches. Unawatuna is smaller and more crowded with tourists. We have not been to Hikkaduwa beach, unfortunately. Tangalle Beach is not ideal for swimming, however, so in that case, Unawatuna is better.

      You can, for instance, do:
      – Colombo – Kandy (3 hours by train or rent a car with a driver)
      – Kandy – Dambulla (3 hours by car one way)
      – Kandy – Ella (7 hours by train)
      – Ella – Tangalla (3 hours by car), or Hikkaduwa/ Unawatuna

      Or the other way around, first the beach and then head inland.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!


  39. Hi Maria,

    We area family of 7 with small children and will be staying near Kandy for the first week of our stay, we really want to do the train ride but not for 6 hours. Is there anywhere you would recommend to get off 1,2 or 3 hours from Kandy for a look around and then go back to Kandy again? Thank you Lyn

    • Hi Lyn,

      The train trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is great and could be an option. This train trip takes about 3,5 hours. Take the train from Kandy to Nanuoya, and take a tuk-tuk or taxi from Nanuoya train station to Nuwara Eliya town (20 min). The train goes through green and lush tea plantations. Nuwara Eliya is also a nice little town.

      You can check train times here. Looks like there are two trains from Kandy to Nanuoya each day: 08:47 and 11:10. It looks, however, like the last express train back to Kandy from Nanuoya is as early as 12:02 so you might have to take a taxi back to Kandy.

      The train trip from Colombo to Kandy (or the other way around) is also beautiful and very scenic and takes 2,5 hours. Also, the train trip from Colombo to Galle is awesome and goes right along the coast.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!


  40. Hellow Maria,
    Fantastic article with mind blowing photographs. As a srilankan I shoud thank you. Me too from Kandy. Thanks for the awsome article and discovering Srilanka.

    • Hi Rafi,

      Thank you so much! It means a lot getting such a nice feedback from a Sri Lankan! Really appreciate it! Your country is so beautiful. We have fallen in love with Sri Lanka and can`t wait to come back.

      Thank you for your nice comment!


  41. Hi There

    Lots of good information here, just update that Expo and Rajani carriages are no longer in service, but government run railway has upgraded some of the carriages. As per man in seat 61 there is third party agent where you book your train tickets in Sri Lanka before you get there.

    hope this will be helpful

    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you for this information! Yes, I have heard that ExpoRail and Rajani carriages are suspended at the moment.


  42. hey Maria, your blog is beautiful and love your took me straight there
    I am going sri Lanka in February 2018
    can you suggest me good season to go?? when did you visited it?

    • Hi Mayuri,

      Thank you so much! We visited Sri Lanka in February too. February is a great time to visit this beautiful island! December – March is the best season to visit Sri Lanka, as it is nice weather and no rain on the west- and south coast as well as the Hill Country.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in February!


  43. First of all, thanks so much to you guys. Your Sri Lankan blogs helped so much in inspiring our recent trip.

    Secondly, although you’ve mentioned a few of them, some of your readers may find value in our new post on top tips for train travel in Sri Lanka.

    Do you remember the tunnel screaming?! 🙂

    • Hi Nigel and Jane,

      Thank you so much! Glad our articles about Sri Lanka could be of inspiration and help to you when planning your Sri Lankan trip! Hmm, no I can`t remember any tunnel screaming….. 🙂

      Happy travels!


  44. Hi Maria,

    It’s been really helpful to get a head start before my upcoming trip to Sri Lanka (in a couple of days) by getting informed with your valuable/informative travel blog!

    I am curious about the sleeper train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Colombo. Do you recommend this way of traveling in Sri Lanka, safety wise? I am a solo traveler and would like to experience staying the night on train but this hesitation keeps me from it…please advise, thank you in advance!


    • Hi Wynne,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our articles about Sri Lanka could be of help to you!

      We have never taken a night train in Sri Lanka, so unfortunately I can`t give you any advise regarding Sri Lankan night trains and their safety.

      I see that the night train you are talking about (Nuwara Eliya to Colombo) leaves from Nanuoya station at 22:17 and arrives at Colombo Fort station at 05:17 in the morning. It will be dark outside this entire train trip so you will unfortunately not see much of the beautiful landscape and tea plantations in this area. The amazing view is usually the main reason for many people to do this train ride. I am not sure about the comfort of this night train, you should check if it is 1st class and if you get a bed or have to sit upright the whole trip. Personally, I would rather do this train trip during the day to be able to admire the view.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy the train trip! 🙂


  45. I never visited there but want to go once in life. So very soon i will be there. Your blog is so beautiful and i liked the way you have explained about Srilanka.
    Amazing pictures you have captured.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  46. Hi Maria! Wonderful blog! I have one question for you haha! This agency where you can buy the train tickets is secure? I think i will buy my tickets from them, but i don’t know if they are good!?Did you buy tickets with them or know someone that did it?

    Thanks from Brazil =)

    • Hi Gabriela,

      Thank you so much! We have not booked train tickets through this agency, but we know others that have and they all say this agency is trustworthy. At the time it is also the only agency that provides this service of online booking of train tickets in Sri Lanka. So the other option is to buy train tickets when you get to Sri Lanka as we did. It might be fully booked, however, especially on the most popular route between Kandy and Ella so it might be wise to buy the tickets as soon as you arrive in Sri Lanka and be a bit flexible on the dates. You can buy train tickets at any train station in Sri Lanka.

      Wow, so cool that you are from Brazil! I’ve always wanted to visit Brazil and Rio de Janeiro, walk on Copacabana beach and see the Amazon rainforest! Hopefully my dream will come true one day. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!


  47. Hi! Does the trip only run from Ella to Kandy or can you get on at Kandy and go to Ella for the scenic experience? Thanks!

  48. Hi Maria,

    Wonderful blog! Thank you for the detailed information.

    We are planning to visit Sri Lanka during the coming March and we’d like to do the train trip from Kandy to Ella.

    However, we are not sure whether one can depart from Kandy to Ella in the morning and return back to Kandy in the afternoon / evening.

    Do you have any information / tips in this regard?

    • Hi Dawn,

      Thank you so much!! So happy to hear that you like our blog! 🙂

      There are three trains each day from Kandy to Ella:
      – Kandy – Ella: 03:30 – 13:24, 08:47 – 15:14 and 11:10 – 17:23

      There are also three trains each day from Ella to Kandy:
      – Ella – Kandy: 06:40 – 12:38, 09:24 – 15:51 and 12:06 – 22:45

      So since the earliest train from Kandy arrives in Ella at 13:24, and the latest train back leaves from Ella at 12:06, it is not possible to do Kandy – Ella – Kandy by train in one day. You can, however, take the train in one direction, and hire a car and a driver back to Kandy. Or you can stay the night in Ella and take the train back the next day.

      Another option is to do a shorter train trip from Kandy, for instance, Kandy – Nanuoya, and visit the nice city Nuwara Eliya (the old British city). It is the same train (Kandy-Ella) but you get off at the station Nanuoya, which is a 4-hour train trip (while the one to Ella is 8 hours). You can take the 03:30 train from Kandy and be in Nanuoya at 09:02, or take the 08:47 train and be in Nanuoya at 12:40. And then take the last train back to Kandy, which leaves from Nanuoya at 17:30 and reaches Kandy at 22:45.

      You can read about Nuwara Eliya here: Nuwara Eliya is only a 10-15 min tuk-tuk/ taxi ride from Nanuoya train station.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!!


  49. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for an amazing blog. In a month I will spend 11 days in this lovely country, that has been on my bucket list for a long time.

    Initial plan after Kandy is:
    Day 1: Kandy – Hatton train, ascend to Adam’s Peak
    Day 2-3: morning train to Nuwara Eliya + stay in N. Eliya (World End…).
    Seeing recommendations for N. Eliya–Ella section on Kandy-Ella route makes me reconsidering the plan. Do you have any suggestion? To switch to car or bus, and/or to take N. Eliya–Ella train during the stay in N. Eliya, or to skip N. Eliya and visit Ella instead. On the South we would be just 2 days, but could be shorten for one day in favour of central part.

    Online tickets are 12GBP even for 2nd class. Is it worth to pay multiple tickets? Or better to ensure one (what section) online, and the other one to purchase in SL for lower price?

    Is there possibility to buy train tickets in Negombo (our overnight after landing at 11PM)? Sleeping in Colombo just in order to buy train tickets looks like adding more miles to already ambitious plan. Waiting to reach Kandy to buy tickets would leave us only 2 days prior train journey.

    You have mentioned Rajadhani and Exporail are the same train but different coaches. Are tickets sold on the same place and which one would you recommend?

    Sorry for having so many questions!

    • Hi Boba,

      Thank you so much! Lucky you who are heading to beautiful Sri Lanka next month! I`m sure you will love this country!

      I will try to answer your questions the best I can:

      1. Nuwara Eliya or Ella
      The most beautiful part of the train journey Kandy – Ella is the section from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. So if you want to go to Ella from Nuwara Eliya, you should take the train. But if you are short on time, taking a car and driver is nice too.

      Hmm, Nuwara Eliya or Ella, it really depends on what you want. Nuwara Eliya town has more to offer than Ella town (more to see in the town itself). But Ella has more beautiful and scenic hikes and landscape. Nuwara Eliya and Hortons Plain are packed with tourists and it is pretty expensive to go to Hortons Plain (you have to pay entrance ticket). But you will probably be a bit tired after having hiked the Adams Peak during the night, so maybe you are not up to a big hike the next day? Then it can be nice to just spend the day in Nuwara Eliya city.

      You should definitely spend some time at the coast in the south and west of Sri Lanka as nature and the beaches here are stunning!

      2. Online tickets or not
      Yes, you can buy train tickets for any train journey in Sri Lanka at Negombo Railway Station once you arrive in Sri Lanka. But if you are certain that you will do a particular train journey on an exact date, you should just buy it online to make sure you get the tickets.

      3. Rajadhani and Exporail
      The private train companies Rajadhani and Exporail have both closed down as the government in Sri Lanka did not renew their license. So now you can only buy government train tickets in Sri Lanka, at railway stations.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!!!


  50. Dear Maria, Thank you for the wonderful blog on our country. I just wanted to give an update on a new weekend train started from 03.03.2018 from Kandy to Ella. This is fully Air conditioned train leaving Kandy at 7.40 AM, scheduled to reach Ella by 1.30 PM and return to Kandy leaving Ella at 2.15 PM and reach Kandy back by 8.15 PM. Ticket prices are Rs. 1250 for Kandy- Ella and Rs. 1000 for Kandy- Nanuoya. Since the train starts from Kandy and Ella, the seats are not a problem, but bookings can be made in advance. Please check this out.

    • Hi Chandika,

      Thank you so much for your nice words on our blog! And thank you so much for this great tip about the new weekend train Kandy – Ella! It sounds like a great train and we will definitely check it out and take this train on our next Sri Lankan trip (hopefully in June/ July). I will add this information to our article.

      Thanks again for this tip!


  51. Sorry I could not add to my earlier comment that the 3.30 AM train to Ella and 12.06 PM from Ella is actually a mixed train, with passenger as well as goods wagons and oil tankers. It has an observation car which is not Air Conditioned. This train is very slow, as it has to shunt all wagons and oil tanks all the way at stations. The plus is that it gives more time to spend at stations for the travelers. If the engine gets uncoupled at stations it means some time could be spent strolling around as it takes a little time for the shunting works. This train also gets very crowded with local community as it is the first and the last day time trains on this line.

  52. is it possible to change to a lower class during the train ride ? air con and seat sounds nice to us Europenas of course but if there is no good view then could we change to 2nd class ? I think in Europe it would be possible to go to a cheaper place… but nobody here seems do have done that so I wonder…

    • Hi Gabi,

      Sorry, but I don`t know anything about changing train tickets to a lower class. Sorry that I can`t help you. Maybe you can contact the Sri Lankan railway company directly and ask.


  53. Hi Maria

    At which time did you take the train from Ella to Kandy?

    I have to choose between a train leaving a 6.40 or 9.21 and can’t decide.


  54. We are planning a trip to SriLanka in July18. Can you please let me know regarding hiring of car with driver -rates as well as the place to book it

    • Hi Mukesh,

      We paid around 100 US$ per day for our driver/car. We were four people (adults) and had a big Land Rover car. We just found a driver in Kandy on the street and did not pre-book. This driver´s company did have a webpage, but it is down right now so unfortunately, you can`t book him.

      The other times we have been to Sri Lanka we hired a driver/car through our hotel, as all hotels have lists of drivers that are available and that they trust. It is never a problem finding a driver, seems like everybody either is a driver or knows a driver. 🙂

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka in July!


  55. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for such a great blog! It really helps.

    I was going throught he comments and realised most of the discussion of the train journed is from ella to Kandy. I was wondering if the one form kandy to ella is recommended as much. I’ll be landing in colombo and heading to kandy for the train to ella. Then looking at going to galle.
    I’m there for 6 days and 5 nights, is there anything else you recommend?
    Would like to stay at a beach side stay one night, any recommendations there?

    • Hi Niveda,

      Thank you so much!

      The train trip from Kandy to Ella (the opposite direction of what we did) is just as nice. It is the same route/ tracks.

      Here are our recommended places to visit in Sri Lanka. This itinerary is for two weeks, so you will, of course, have to select the places that are of most interest to you.

      One itinerary for you could be:
      Day 1: Colombo Airport – Kandy (3-4 hours), stay two nights in Kandy
      Day 2: See Kandy
      Day 3: Train trip Kandy – Ella (7-8 hours), stay one night in Ella
      Day 4: Drive from Ella to Mirissa (4-5 hours) or Bentota (5-6 hours)
      Day 5: Day-trip to Galle (or stay one night there before heading to the airport)
      Day 6: Fly back home

      If you have an early flight home on day 6, you can stay your last night in Negombo (has a great beach) which is only a 15-min drive from the airport.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka!! You will love this beautiful country!


  56. I’m a local who is reading this post while living far away from my loving country.
    ‘And the dinner, oh the dinner is delicious! The best food we have had in Sri Lanka, maybe the whole of Asia’ while reading this phrase I almost cried remembering my Mom’s foods.
    Thanks a lot for the wonderful article. You just woke up my memories and thanks to you I’ve decided to reserve a flight ticket to SL ASAP.

    • Hi Sanka,

      Awww, thank you so much for your nice comment! It really means a lot coming from a Srilankan! I totally get that you miss Sri Lanka a lot, even I do and I`m not even from Sri Lanka. 🙂

      So happy to hear that I could inspire you to visit SL again soon. I am actually about to reserve a flight ticket to Sri Lanka myself, in September. Can`t wait to be back and eat all the delicious Sri Lankan food!

      All the best and enjoy your time back in beautiful Sri Lanka!


  57. Hi Maria,

    I’ve loved reading all of your Q&A’s, you are very informative and helpful.

    We are planning to take the Ella to Kandy train trip. The date that we will be doing that trip falls on a Saturday. Do you know if the 9h23am train operates on a Saturday? We were a little bit confused by the time table.


    • Hi Claire,

      Thank you so much! Yes, the 09:23 train from Ella to Kandy operates daily, also on Saturdays. It is an express train where you can choose tickets on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class. You will be in Kandy around 16:00.

      Have a great time in Sri Lanka and enjoy the beautiful train trip Ella – Kandy!


  58. It likes somewhere else in Cambodia and Vietnam where have tea hills, lush-green rice paddies. Everything are covered by bright sunshine. All create a picturesque landscape. Very peaceful!

    • Hi Kara,

      We have been to both Cambodia and Vietnam, but Sri Lanka is still our favorite Asian country. The nature, the wildlife, the people, the culture, the beaches….everything is just better in Sri Lanka. 🙂

      But Asia, in general, is amazing!


  59. Dear Maria,
    I will be in Colombo for business next Friday and have the possibility to spend the weekend in Sri Lanka before returning back on Monday morning.

    What would you recommend for such a short stay?
    reading through your amazing blog I want to do it all: train trips, tea plantations, caves, temples…

    Many thanks for your advice.

    • Hi Mari,

      Ah, so sorry for my late reply! You have probably been to Colombo already?

      For a short weekend trip from Colombo, I recommend that you either head down south along the beautiful southwest coast if you want some relaxing beach time (Bentota Beach, Mirissa Beach, and a day trip to the old colonial city Galle is really nice), or head inland to Kandy for some jungle, temple, botanic garden, and elephant orphanage. You can climb Sigiriya Rock if you have the time, which is awesome (it is a bit further north from Kandy). So it really depends on what your interests are and what you would like to see and do during your weekend.

      Sorry again that I was not able to answer your comment earlier. I got infected with heavy Dengue Fever in Bangkok, so I have been really sick this last month, but I`m getting better day by day. 🙂


  60. Hi Maria,

    Your blog is very beautiful !!
    I need some help in planning my trip to Srilanka. We are in Srilanka for 9 days. We want to do the scenic train route and a beach. We are travelling with our parents and want to have a relaxed trip. Train journey seems too long (7-9 hours one way from Colombo).
    1) Could we split the journey at Kandy/NE ? or maybe do Colombo to NE by car and then NE to Ella by Train. Heard NE to Ella has the most beautiful views.
    2) If we want to do Galle, do we have to do the same train return from Ella to Colombo or can we book a car from Ella to Galle ? Whats the most convenient way ?
    3) Is 5 days sufficient for Kandy, NE and Ella ?
    Sorry for so many questions

    • Hi Neha,

      Thank you so much! I will try and answer your questions the best I can:

      1) Yes, I recommend that you hire a driver/car from Colombo Airport to Kandy (stay there a night or two), and then have a driver/car take you to Nuwara Eliya (stay at least a night there) since you are short on time.

      Then you can take the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella (a 2,5 hours train trip). The train station in Nuwara Eliya is called Nanu Oya (a short tuk-tuk or taxi ride from downtown Nuwara Eliya). You can search for train schedules HERE (search from: Nanuoya, to: Elle).

      2) This scenic train trip does not go from Ella to Colombo, but from Ella to Kandy. You can take the train all the way from Ella to Colombo, but it takes forever as you say, 9-10 hours.

      There is no train from Ella to Galle. You have to change train in Colombo. I recommend that you drive from Ella to Galle in order to save time since you only have nine days. The drive takes about 5 hours.

      There are a lot of awesome beaches close to Galle, so you can for instance drive from Ella to the beach you want to stay at (for instance Bentota or Mirissa), and do a day trip to Galle with a taxi or tuk-tuk.

      3) Yes, I would say that five days is enough to see Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Ella.

      No problem, happy to be of help! Have a wonderful trip to Sri Lanka with your parents!


  61. Incredible post, but you should really take off the link for the booking agent (12Go Asia). I used the link 3 weeks ago to book our train in January, and they just got back to me today saying they had to cancel our booking and refunded us all our money. Now we have no way to get to Kandy from Ella and we’re leaving in two weeks. (unless you have an alternative, i’m all ears!)
    Just letting you know in case some of your other readers run into the same issue as us.

    • Hi Beverley,

      Thank you so much! And thank you for the tip about 12Go Asia! I have contacted 12Go Asia now, and they say that they are having problems with Sri Lanka Railways. Due to the fact that it is high season now, the Sri Lanka Railways has been selling tickets to the civil servants ahead of the queue, resulting in many regular bookings being canceled. I`m so sorry for all of this!!

      12Go Asia has taken a few measures to avoid this in the future:

      – Now there will be 2 ticket types: Flexible and Not Flexible. Everybody should choose the option Flexible, which will significantly increase the chances of getting a ticket.
      – 12Go Asia will open a small office close to the railway station, which will speed up the ticket processing procedure.
      – 12Go Asia has pre-booked a whole wagon Viceroy II for the route Colombo – Peradeniya (Kandy) – Nanu Oya – Ella – Badulla, attached to train 1007/1008. The train leaves every Monday & Wednesday. Instant ticket confirmation and PDF-ticket is available.

      They say that the ticketing demand/supply situation will normalize within a few weeks. I really hope so as this is terrible!

      You can book tickets on the Viceroy II extra wagon that 12Go Asia has bought. Here is the schedule for the Viceroy II:
      The train will depart every Monday and Wednesday.
      December: 24th / 25th, 26th / 27th
      January: 2nd / 3rd, 7th / 8th, 9th / 10th, 14th / 15th, 16th / 17th, 21st / 22nd, 23rd / 24th, 28th / 29th, 30th / 31st.

      Schedule (every Monday and Wednesday):

      Kandy to Ella: From Colombo train 1007
      Colombo Fort – 09:45
      Peradeniya (Kandy) – 12:31
      Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya) – 15:55
      Ella – 18:23
      Badulla – 19:17
      Check availability and book the tickets HERE

      Ella to Kandy: From Badulla train # 1008
      Badulla – 10:00
      Ella – 10:57
      Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya) – 13:50
      Peradenya (Kandy) – 17:58
      Colombo Fort – 20:53
      Check availability and book the tickets HERE

      You can also book only part of the way. For example, only Kandy to Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya). The return way is cheaper.

      Your last option is, of course, to buy tickets at any train station in Sri Lanka once you get to the country. That way you will get the train tickets in hand directly.

      Good luck with buying train tickets! Crossing my fingers that everything will work out for you! And again, I am soooo sorry for all this!

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka!


  62. Hey, update for you guys, we did take the train from Kandy yesterday 30th Jan 2019 to Nanuoya (same route to Ella).

    They dont sell pre-reserved ticket, just come and buy on the same day, i tried to buy in advanced only one day also not available. Then at this season, the second class didnt guarantee a seat anymore due to many tourist and local.

    So if you are ready for 4-7 hours to stand (or be rude to get in faster for a seat), buy the second class ticket. I suggest to buy the first class not much more but better, or even 3rd class which you can have alot of space to stand and more chance to get a seat because many local can drop off during the route stops.

    Nuwara Eliya maybe a little cold (13*C and windy) so should prepare for it.

    Have fun.

    • Hi Long,

      Thank you so much for your great update on the train from Kandy to Nanuoya! Really appreciate!

      Happy travels, and enjoy the rest of your time in Sri Lanka!


  63. Hi Maria,

    Your blog has been really helpful to plan our upcoming Sri Lanka trip.
    A question – As i see from your blog the Kandy to Ella journey is the best. Would we miss out significantly if we only did the train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya and not the entire journey of 7 hours?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Bhavna,

      Thank you so much!

      It is better to do the train trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya than no train ride at all. 🙂 But the most scenic part of this train ride is between Hatton (about one hour before you get to Nuwara Eliya from Kandy) and Haputale (about two hours after Nuwara Eliya and one hour before you get to Ella from Nuwara Eliya). This part has the most mountains and tea plantations.

      So the last hour of the train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is very beautiful. But I would say that the whole trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is nice.

      By the way, from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, it is best to sit on the right side of the train. Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy the train trip!


  64. Hi Maria,

    Thank you for all the information you have compiled for Sri Lanka – you’re blog and information has made our planning so much easier !
    We’re planning 2 weeks in Sri Lanka around oct/nov and planning to go from Ella to Kandy – I’m guessing left side of the train ? We heard it needs to be pre-booked quite early.

    • Hi Diana,

      Thank you so much! Great to hear that you are visiting Sri Lanka in October/ November!

      The train ride from Ella to Kandy is amazing, and even though it is a long one (6-7 hours), it is a highlight of any Sri Lanka trip. 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 (from Ella to Kandy), however, and we still had some spectacular views.

      Yes, you should definitely pre-book your train tickets in advance, especially on this super popular stretch Ella – Kandy. The only place you can pre-book online train tickets in Sri Lanka is at 12Go. They are very reliable and I highly recommend them.

      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, 1st class)
      Check availability and book train tickets from Ella to Kandy at 12Go

      Have a fantastic trip to Sri Lanka this autumn, and enjoy the train trip Ella – Kandy! You will love it!


  65. Hello Maria,

    Thank you for all your awesome recommendations, this blog in fantastic! I am wondering if we only do the Train between Nuwara Eliya and Ella, if we will still see the bridge in the photos? Will we miss out on a lot of views? Or mainly just many tea plantations? Thanks so much

    • Hi Jodie,

      Thanks a million for your nice words about our blog!!! Really appreciate it!

      You probably mean the 30-meter high Demodara Nine Arch Bridge? This bridge is located near Ella, so yes you will see it if you take the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella. But you will not see the bridge that well since the train is running on the bridge.

      If you want to see the bridge and take a photo of it (which is impossible while you are on the train) similar to those you see on the web and Instagram, you can do a trip or hike to the bridge from Ella. There are several ways to reach the bridge from Ella:

      – Follow the road towards Little Adam’s Peak and turn left at the small colored temple. Follow Lake Front Cottage.
      – The most scenic way: Walk through the jungle at the parking spots after Art Cafe Umbrella. From here, follow the path for about 10 minutes giving you a spectacular view of the bridge and plenty of photo opportunities.
      – The quickest way: Walk along the train track from Ella Railway Station until you reach a tunnel. After passing the tunnel, you are at the Nine Arch Bridge.
      – The easiest way: Take a tuk-tuk to the Nine Arch Bridge, about a 10 min drive from Ella. Ask them to drop you off near the tunnel and walk to the bridge the last couple of meters. Agree on the price with the tuk-tuk driver beforehand, the tuk-tuk ride should cost around 400 Sri Lankan Rupees = US$2.

      The best views are actually between Nuwara Eliya and Ella, in my opinion, and you will see plenty of hills covered by tea plantations. You will have a wonderful and scenic 2-3-hour train trip from Nuwara Eliya to Ella!

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy the train trip Nuwara Eliya – Ella!


  66. HI Maria

    I see 12GO requires 37 days in advance to book the ticket, I have just missed this and now it wont allow me to reserve/book.

    Do you have any suggestions as where else to buy?


    • Hi Shaun,

      I have just been in contact with 12Go, and you are right. You can only book train tickets on 12Go 37 days or more in advance. It is unfortunately not possible to book tickets closer than 37 days before your travel date.

      The reason for this is that the Sri Lankan Railway, unfortunately, does not have an online ticket booking system yet. So 12Go’s partner (a local travel agent in Colombo) manually buys the train tickets on behalf of 12Go.

      Since it is less than 37 days to your train travel date, your best option is to buy your train tickets at a railway station in Sri Lanka when you arrive in Sri Lanka. You can buy tickets at any railway station, it does not have to be the station where you will depart.

      If you don’t want to go to the train station yourself, you can hire a driver or ask your hotel if they can go to the train station and buy your tickets on your behalf. We did that in Ella, and it worked out fine. We bought our train tickets only two days before our train travel date.

      Good luck with buying train tickets in Sri Lanka! I’m sure it will work out.

      Kind regards,

  67. Maria,
    Good Day.
    We will be in Sri Lanka but 2 days since we arrive by ship. We have been there twice before but this time we would like to take the Viceroy deluxe train. Does it run from Columbo daily? Our ship stops in Galbe the next day where we would need to be there in the afternoon. I assume we would detrain at Elle but where-ever we would need a nice place to sleep and hire a car to the port.
    Any help is appreciated.

    • Hi Gene,

      The deluxe ViceRoy II train runs every Tuesday and Thursday from Colombo 09:45 and ends up in Badulla at 19:30.

      The train stops at five towns: Colombo – Kandy – Nuwara Eliya – Ella – Badulla. You can get off at any of these stations:

      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

      The other way around (from Badulla to Colombo) the ViceRoy II train runs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday:

      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

      Getting Back To Galle

      Since you have to be in Galle in the afternoon the next day to catch your cruise, I recommend that you take a private car/driver back to Galle. The train is too slow and you will most likely not be able to catch your cruise in Galle. You can easily hire a car and driver at 12Go.

      It takes about 5-6 hours to drive from Ella to Galle. It takes almost the same time to drive the distances Kandy – Galle (a 6-hours drive) and Nuwara Eliya – Galle (a 6-7 hours drive).

      So in that sense, it does not really matter whether you get off the train in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya or Ella, and spend the night. But of course, the train ride is shorter from Colombo to Kandy (about 3 hours), and from Colombo to Nuwara Eliya (about 6 hours). The train ride Colombo – Ella is quite long, 8-9 hours. So it depends on how long a train ride you want. We took the train from Polonnaruwa to Colombo, it took 9 hours, and it was a bit too long for us. 🙂

      We did the 3-hour train trip Colombo – Kandy two years ago with my parents, and we all loved it! It is a beautiful train trip through tropical forests, hills, and some tea plantations. If you want to see more tea plantations, you should take the train one more step (three more hours) to Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is pretty cold, with temperatures below zero during the night, so bring warm clothes if you are going to Nuwara Eliya.

      Recommended Hotels in Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Ella

      Kandy has several nice hotels, like these which we recommend:
      Viyana Boutique Hotel (if you want to stay in the center of Kandy, close to the famous Temple of the Tooth)
      Elephant Stables – A small and stunning colonial-style hotel with great swimming pool and nice view
      Elegant Hotel – Spectacular views of the valley and mountains, big swimming pool in a beautiful garden

      Nuwara Eliya has some unique hotels, like:
      Grand Hotel – A spectacular colonial-style hotel with amazing high tea and a fantastic restaurant, in the middle of Nuwara Eliya town. Has a very nice swimming pool.
      Heritance Tea Factory – an old tea factory beautifully renovated into a hotel in the middle of the tea plantations
      Ferncliff – A unique and cozy place, colonial-style bungalows built in 1846


      Ravana Heights – Our favorite hotel in Ella with a fantastic owner and manager. He makes excellent food, the best we had in Sri Lanka.
      98 Acres Resort & Spa – We had lunch here, and the hotel is amazing! The swimming pool overlooking the tea plantation covered mountains and valleys of Ella is awesome.

      Have a fantastic cruise in Sri Lanka and enjoy your train trip with the Viceroy deluxe train!


  68. Hi Maria , well done for a such informations

    We will be arriving Colombo1st of November and our plan to go to Ella and ride the train trip Kandy-Ella , and stays in Ella for 2 night ,
    our arrival in Colombo around 14:30 , is there a train I can catch till kandy spending the night there and tomorrow morning the trip from Kandy-Ella ? or I should hire a car better , i dont want to stay in colombo !


    • Hi Awwadh,

      Thank you so much!

      It takes about one hour to drive from Colombo International Airport to Colombo Fort Railway Station in Colombo city.

      You can search for trains (departure and arrival times) at the official webpage of Sri Lanka Railways.

      The last train on the 1st of November from Colombo Fort Station to Kandy Station leaves Colombo at 17:45 and arrives in Kandy at 20:55. You should be able to catch this train if you land at Colombo International Airport around 14:30. You must buy train tickets Colombo – Kandy at Colombo Fort Station since it is too late to book train tickets at 12Go (must be booked 37 days in advance).

      Another option, which is more convenient and takes a shorter time but is more expensive, is to hire a car and driver online at 12Go. The drive from Colombo International Airport to Kandy takes about three hours and will cost about US$ 63.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka and enjoy your train trip!


  69. Hi Maria,
    I’m so glad I found your site, loads of useful information for our upcoming trip to Sri Lanka in a couple of weeks. I am planning to take the train from Kandy to Ella with a stop off for a night in Nuwara Eliya. I see i have missed to cut off date for advance bookings, so will plan to book once we land in Sri Lanka. I wanted to ask whether you have any views on whether the Sri Lankan railways train or Viceroy II are better for this journey?
    I read that reserved seats on the 1st class Observation carriage are best on Sri lankan but can’t se any opinions on the private 12Go train. I am suspecting that given the short time before we travel we will be happy with whatevers available at the time.
    Another question, I was planning to get a car from Colombo aitport straight to Sigiriya after arriving, but now we will have to probably go the the Colombo Fort station.
    Is Colombo itself worth a day or two stay? we could do this at beginning or end of our holiday.
    many thanks,

    • Hi Jane,

      Thank you so much! So happy to hear that you find our site useful when planning your Sri Lanka trip! It means a lot!

      I’m afraid that you just have to take whatever train tickets are available for the Kandy – Ella trip, at least if you only have one particular date that you prefer to do this train trip. If 1st class Observation Carriage is available, then go for that one as the windows are bigger.

      When you land at Colombo International Airport, you could have your driver drive you straight to Negombo Railway Station and buy your Kandy – Ella train tickets there. It only takes about 15 min to drive from the Airport to Negombo Railway Station. After you have purchased the train tickets, you can then drive directly to Sigiriya and you avoid driving into Colombo City.

      Colombo is not our favorite city in Sri Lanka as it is big and noisy and not really that beautiful or unique. It is basically just a big city.

      Have a great trip to Sri Lanka! Crossing my fingers that you will get train tickets from Kandy to Ella!


  70. I have to report the rudest workers in the agency visit Srilankatours mentioned on your website. I booked, answered to their email requesting aditional details but they were not proactive and it took days to answer so that the availability run out. Their English is not good so I decided to call them and they didn’t even let me speak to try to find a solution (usually it’s not the client trying to back up for alternatives: it’s the agency that should). Anyway they cut the line before I could suggest to change train without saying goodbye nor anything. I hope they will refund but I think it is important for you to know. Name of people from the agency Thimen Silva (who rudely put down the phone without allowing me to explain why I had made an international call) and Niranga Rana very slow in making the bookings.


    • Hi Giulia,

      Thank you for your comment! So sad to hear about your bad experience!

      We have not mentioned or recommended the agency Srilankatours in our article as we have no personal experience with this tour company. Srilankatours only gets mentioned in a comment (from 2017) by one of our readers. I have now removed the link to Srilankatours that he had put in his comment.

      So sorry for your bad experience, hope it all gets sorted out and that it did not ruin your Sri Lanka trip.

      All the best,

  71. Hi Maria, thank you for your sharing! It is certainly worth a ride. May I ask though, how do we do a stopover? Do we buy a single ticket from Ella to kandy, and then decide to get off at haputhale or Nuwara Eliya, and then come back the following day with the same train ticket?

    • Hi John,

      Thank you so much!

      You can only buy single tickets for the train in Sri Lanka. So if you want to do a stopover, you must buy for instance Kandy – Nuwara Eliya (the train station is called Nanu Oya) plus one for the next day: Nuwara Eliya – Ella. If you want to take the train back at the same distance, you have to buy that separately.

      I recommend that you buy train tickets online at 12Go. It is the only place you can buy train tickets online in Sri Lanka. But you have to buy train tickets at 12Go at least 37 days before the date of your train trip. If it now is less than 37 days prior to your planned train trip, your only option is to buy the train tickets at a railway station in Sri Lanka when you arrive in the country.


  72. Planning to visit Ella in Sept ’20 by Train.
    Thanks for great tips by many travellers n clear information given by them.
    Waiting to enjoy the trip to Ella.


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