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Kandy To Ella Train: The Ultimate Sri Lanka Train Journey

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The train journey from Kandy to Ella is considered by many one of the most beautiful train trips in the world. You can’t miss this epic ride while you’re in Sri Lanka! You can expect to travel through luscious green vegetation with views that look out over the tea plantations.

The train will go under old bridges, pass by quaint small villages and glide by the local kids running alongside the carriages and greeting travellers aboard the train from Kandy to Ella. You’ll also see some magnificent views of the mountains as you go, so be sure to take your camera along for the train ride from Kandy to Ella!

No matter what kind of activities you enjoy, be sure to add this to your Sri Lanka itinerary. In this guide I’ve listed everything you need to know about taking the scenic train from Kandy to Ella, including how to buy tickets, the best carriages to sit, what to expect and more.

Riding the iconic train from Kandy to Ella, one of the highlights of my two weeks in Sri Lanka

Riding the iconic train from Kandy to Ella in Sri Lanka

All about Sri Lanka railways

All the way back in 1864, the Sri Lanka railway system was built by the British. It was built in order to transport tea and coffee from the countryside to Colombo, where it was then transported internationally.  

These railways wind their way through the country and provide incredible views for those on the train. It’s also possibly the most comfortable way to travel through Sri Lanka as you can get up and move around. There are sellers that board the train at every station to sell their goods to tourists taking a ride. You can expect to find corn, mango, rice with curry, samosas or crispy papadums. Here’s everything you need to know about the Ella to Kandy train routes in Sri Lanka.

Sweeping views over the Sri Lankan countryside during the Kandy to Ella train journey

Sweeping views over the Sri Lankan countryside during the Kandy to Ella train journey

Sri Lanka train map

If you’re taking Sri Lanka trains, you’ll need to understand where you’re travelling. The best way to do this is to look at a map of the train route in Sri Lanka.

Your Ella to Kandy train trip will take roughly 7 hours, and is worth every minute! Sri Lanka is a fairly small country and it’s easily navigable by train, especially if you opt for overnight options to destinations further away.

Map of the Sri Lanka railway system

Map of the Sri Lanka railway system

Kandy to Ella train times

Now that you know where you’re travelling to, you need to know the times for trains through Sri Lanka, especially the Kandy to Ella route. You can find the times on their official website, however, you may find it a little tricky to decipher. 

You also won’t be able to book a ticket online through their site, but if you’re in Sri Lanka you can purchase a ticket at any of the train stations. These tickets can be purchased a maximum of 30 days in advance at the Kandy train station, or the Ella train station if you’re planning a round trip.

When you’re choosing the time of your train, be sure to book on a weekday as the weekend trains are often fully booked and almost always overbooked. This leads to unpleasant crowding and diminishes the beauty of the experience!

The Kandy to Ella train as it approaches one of the cities along its journey

The Kandy to Ella train as it approaches one of the cities along its journey

Rolling green tea fields that you can see during the Kandy - Ella train journey

Rolling green tea fields that you can see during the Kandy – Ella train journey

Passengers leaning out from the windows of the turquoise train during the Kandy to Ella train

Passengers leaning out from the windows of the Kandy to Ella train

Booking your train tickets in Sri Lanka

If you’ve decided that the Kandy to Ella train trip is one you simply can’t miss during your time in Sri Lanka, then be sure to book well in advance! If you’re wanting to do a Sri Lanka train booking, I recommend you purchase your ticket online here before your trip. You can’t book directly on the Sri Lankan trainline website but you can purchase your tickets on third party platforms like 12go.

Just because the day you want to take the train is sold out online it doesn’t mean that the train is fully booked. If you don’t manage to book a ticket online beforehand you can also purchase tickets on the moment at the train station, and it will also be considerably cheaper (around 1 USD vs the 12 USD you pay online). However bear in mind that these tickets don’t come with a reserved seat, so you will have to rush on the train to get one and might end up standing for the whole 7-hour jourbey.

Click here to purchase your advance ticket for the Kandy to Ella train journey!

Girls leaning out of the train carriage on the journey from Kandy to Ella

Girls leaning out of the train carriage on the journey from Kandy to Ella

In my opinion it’s better to have a reserved third-class ticket than to have a non-reserved second class seat. When you reserve in advance you get your own seat and won’t have people standing and hovering around you, if you’re going to spend 7-hours on public transport you want to ensure your comfort as much as possible!

The third-class carriage is actually a great place to sit on the train. The fact that you’re right at the back gives you incredible views of the open landscape and if you look to the front, you will see the train snaking in front of you.

Sweeping views over the Sri Lankan countryside during the Kandy to Ella train journey

Sweeping views over the Sri Lankan countryside during the Kandy to Ella train journey

It’s best to choose a flexible ticket on the 12Go website as you’re more likely to get a ticket! If you book a first-class flexible ticket and first class is full, they’ll bump you down to the second class and refund you the difference. This increases your chance of travelling on the day of your choosing, and as I said before, the classes are not a huge deal as long as you’ve reserved a seat.

I don’t recommend getting a seat in first class since in first class there is air-conditioning, therefore the windows and carriage doors have to stay closed. Your train ride will be a little bit cooler but you’ll miss out on the experience of leaning out from the train and really absorbing the view. Plus, you won’t be able to get that Instagrammable shot hanging out of the train doors (and that would be a tragedy, how else will your friends and follower know you took this beautiful train journey?!)

The famous turquoise train on the journey from Kandy to Ella

The famous turquoise train on the journey from Kandy to Ella

Tea plantation views during our Kandy to Ella train journey

Tea plantation views during our Kandy to Ella train journey

Best way to enjoy the train from Ella to Kandy

Regardless of where you are on the train, you’re guaranteed epic views of the gorgeous tea plantations and luscious surrounds. However, I would recommend sitting on the left side of the train when travelling from Ella to Kandy. This is because the views are slightly better on the left, but you really can’t go wrong!

Although the train ride from Ella to Kandy is roughly 6-7 hours, if that seems too long you can always break it up into a 2-day stint by stopping in Nuwara Eliya. 

Spending a few days in this beautiful mountain village is a wonderful idea, and will give you enough time to explore and find some incredible things to do in Nuwara Eliya. The trip from Ella to Nawara Eliya takes about 2.5 hours and cuts your train trip just about in half. This is great for those that don’t like to spend too much time travelling all at once. While the views are stunning and the experience is great, 7 hours on a train are a very long time and by the time we got to Ella we were knackered.

Blonde girl leaning out of the window of the turquoise train and smiling at the camera. There are green tea plants visible, typical of the views during the Kandy to Ella train journey

My friend Hanna, @solarpoweredblonde, enjoying the views during our train journey

During the journey local street food sellers will board the train to sell all sorts of products from fresh fruit to samosas. We had some snacks and water with us but we didn’t plan it right for the length of the journey so ended up getting 4 samosas for 200 LKR and let me tell you, they were amongst the best samosas we had during the whole trip.

We enjoyed sitting in third class also because there was a lot of freedom and interaction with the locals. At any time people were getting up and leaning out of the carriage doors to soak in the view, swapping seats and chatting with strangers. By the end of our 7-hour train journey from Kandy to Ella we were great friends with the Sri Lankan family that was sat next to us on the train.

Fresh fruit sold on the Kandy to Ella train journey in Sri Lanka

Fresh fruit sold on the Kandy to Ella train journey in Sri Lanka

Where to stay in Ella

Once you arrive in Ella you will be knackered from the train journey, so you’ll want somewhere nice to stay. Here’s a few recommendations:

Will Guest Homestay – This wonderful hotel offers a terrace with luscious mountain views in every room. If you appreciate a view, this is the place for you! The guest house has the best-rated location in Ella and it’s easy to see why. Just a short walking distance from many of the main things to do in Ella, and a great base if you plan on hiking Little Adams Peak during your stay!

Hangover Hostel – If you’re looking for a more budget option the Hangover Hostel in Ella is great. We stayed there and loved it so much we changed our bookings for the rest of the trip to stay in other Hangover Hostels (they have a few throughout Sri Lanka). It’s a sociable hostel with big dorms, spacious lockers and very conveniently located close to the centre of Ella.

Click here to see the latest prices and availability for accommodation in Ella

Views over the tea plantations during our Kandy to Ella train journey

Views over the tea plantations during our Kandy to Ella train journey

Another turquoise train approaching us while enroute from Kandy to Ella

Another turquoise train approaching us while enroute from Kandy to Ella

Final thoughts on the Kandy to Ella train

This is one activity you simply can’t miss during your time in Sri Lanka. The beautiful views, meeting interesting people and mingling with the locals just cannot compare to any luxurious experience! The picturesque landscape is perfect for those wanting to take photos, Instagrammers looking for the perfect shot and anyone looking to soak in a pretty view even without standing behind a lens. 7 hours on a train are a very long time and you’ll probably be pretty tired by the end of it, but the views and experience are well worth it!

What are you waiting for? It’s time to start booking your journey through the luscious landscapes of Sri Lanka! I hope you’ve found this guide useful in planning your Kandy to Ella train trip! If you have any questions just leave a comment below!

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Girl leaning out of the turquoise train with green fields in front of her, with text overlay saying "the most beautiful train journey in Sri Lanka"

Girl leaning out of the turquoise train with green fields in front of her, with text overlay saying "the most beautiful train journey in Sri Lanka"

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