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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?!)
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.
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.
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.
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!
Besides the scenic train journey, there are loads of fun things to do in Ella, such as hiking Little Adams Peak at sunrise and canyoneering in Diyaluma Falls. 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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