Train Sri Lanka Information and travel destinations Tips
Sri Lanka is a beautiful travel destination, safe, friendly and remarkably hassle-free. Taking the train is a great & inexpensive way to get around the country.
The Train Sri Lanka journeys are real cultural experiences and the most scenic routes will be highlights of your visit. ( Colombo Nightlife)
In particular the wonderful journey from Colombo commercial capital to Kandy second largest City and up into Tea hill Country.
And the coastal train ride from Colombo to Dutch colonial Galle Northwest to South West of the Island.
Most of the British visitors will find the stations, signal boxes and old red semaphore signals very familiar to one in Great Britain.
On this page, you’ll find a beginner’s guide to taking the train around Sri Lanka.
Train Sri Lanka can be slow and fun way travel around this beautiful Island of Sri Lanka.
Train Travel Sri Lanka, I am definitely a strongly open-minded, straightforward and positive human being.
When traveling, apart from cultural and historical highlights, I’m also always looking for various food experiences and hidden places you cannot find in regular travel guides.
Different flavours and those „behind the must do “delights are the small puzzle pieces which create the overall impression of a country you are visiting.
Always looking for more! Apart from travelling I also enjoy writing (surprisingly, huh?, photography and last but not least (to balance my passion for food) I love constantly staying on the move!
Why Travelling by Train Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka is the pearl of Indian Ocean, a smaller island catching up its size with so many picturesque places and attractions are has to offer.
A „little sunshiny “ as some people may also refer to this little paradise as is the land of endless tea gardens, wonderful beaches, stunning nature and warm and always smiling people with open arms.
It clearly couldn‘t be missing on my bucket list of destinations I’ve always wanted to visit. The same way as it definitely should not be missing on yours.
I was aware of the monsoon presence during certain times of the year and the fact that travelling gets so much more enjoyable with the beautiful weather above your head, so I tried to avoid the rainy season.
Therefore, considering the destinations I intended to visit, I was aiming for the time after the New Year when planning my trip because that is when the dry season there takes over.
Though it is a high tourist season there during this time, the sunshine was definitely worth it! I checked my vaccination card because as we all know – safety first, packed my backpack and headed to the airport towards the faraway land that smells like exotic spices!
Travelling by Train Sri Lanka, From Colombo to Kandy
Among many other places there, one of my favourite parts of the trip was definitely the train adventure from the capital city Colombo to Kandy.
One of the largest cities in the central parts of the island surrounded by mountains, charming tea plantations, and wild rainforest and then further on all the way down to Ella.
Can this sound more like an adventure? I don’t think so.
The train journey to Kandy takes slightly less than three hours.
Three hours you will probably spend gazing out of the window with the open mouth being constantly amazed at how stunning nature out there actually is. Sri Lanka’s railway system is in my eyes a world marvel itself.
Train Sri Lanka Tour – The History
The main reason for its construction was to enable the transport of coffee and tea from the highlands to the capital.
Dating back to mid 19th century built initially by the British and where the delicate and out-dated still meets all the needs of everyday transportation demand around the island, the train journey provides priceless experience to every foreign traveller.
When buying the tickets to this scenic route, you will get the whole package.
Train Sri Lanka – The Nature of Trains System
Package including not only a cheap and convenient way of transport from point A to point B but also the delight of pleasant discomfort, AC provided by the window crack, numerous wow moments which your eyes will remember for a lifetime and eventually feeling that perfection simply does exist.
That is the only couple of arguments about why I choose to take a train.
The constant breathtaking scenery behind the window along the way does not get boring even for a second.
Tea plantations are covering the surrounding landscape like a smooth green carpet, picturing the daily hard work of tea pickers dressed in their lovely colourful saris, the traditional garments.
You will be tempted to pop your head out of the window to take some flawless pictures when the train swishes over one of the old bridges exposing bushy gorge underneath.
And when you do so, I assure you that you will not be the only one.
I could not stop watching the conductor pawing his way through the aisle back and forth.
The way he proudly wears his white uniform topped with black tie and is somehow arresting.
Restless little kids are running around as the rusty train rattles and jangles on its way (possible train sickness alert!) towards the mountains, as we get closer to Kandy.
That is where the vegetation gets even more compact and the man-made tunnels start to swallow the train in shorter and shorter intervals.
If somehow didn’t want this ride to end but Kandy was welcoming me with stunning sunset and all I could think of was comfortable bed and pillow I could lay my head on.
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Travelling by Train Sri Lanka, Kandy to Ella
Kandy is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Centres.
This peaceful city with a huge religious value is surrounded by delicate looking mountain ranges providing significantly cooler climate (as we are in about 1600 m above the sea) with numbers of amazing walks for hikers amongst the wooded mountain peaks ready to be discovered.
The main attractions for tourist are the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic that is a famous pilgrimage site, the Kandy Lake dominating the heart of the town or the Ceylon Tea Museum for instance.
Train Sri Lanka – Attractions
After a short overnight stay in Kandy, I headed again to the train station to begin the second half of my train journey, which would get me to the next destination – Ella.
Looking out of the window and watching the green surface created by billions of tea leaves there is no doubt in my mind why Sri Lanka belongs among the four biggest tea producing nations in the world.
Nowadays, the Ceylon (Sri Lanka’s former known name) Tea export of about 300 000 tonnes a year represents one of the island’s most significant industries employing more than million people.
You can even buy a tea plant from the passing by child peddler in a train.
One interesting fact is that a couple of hundred years ago (one and half century to be exact), Sri Lanka used to be the world’s biggest coffee exporter.
But that was all before the vast coffee plantations were all hit by the leaf blight, which led to the huge devastation of all crops amongst the island but also some others areas in Asia.
That was when the Ceylon tea alternative was brought to the world.
During this part of my journey, the thick milky mist has enshrouded the scenery in front of my eyes.
This particular part of the train stretch between Kandy and Ella indisputably belongs to one of the most popular and most famous railway routes on the island and it’s claimed to be one of the most spectacular trips in the whole world.
The outside world is lined with small towns full of colourful houses and shops, as well as cricket fields showing how much this sport has developed its popularity here.
Local people are passing by the rails on their tuk-tuks and children are simply waving to attract a small attention of white strangers in a train.
You can see those people working in their vegetable gardens, continuing in their hard work through generations and showing the fertility of the soil.
We are repeatedly shrouded by the clouds of mist, clinging on the tops of cliffs bridges revealing several waterfalls or suddenly devoured by the tunnels alongside the way where the train slowly but surely trundles its way through the cave looking hole in the rock.
Nearby the Hatton train station we were passing through the longest tunnel on the track called Singimale tunnel which is exactly 559,75 m long (as official sources indicate).
They say that Sri Lanka’s railway has 44 tunnels in total which makes the whole train ride even more scenic.
Train Travel Sri Lanka: Ella, the perfect gateway!
The little mountain town Ella was my next stop for a couple of days.
The countless walking routes and hiking tracks among tea bushes provide with many spectacular views and this is enough for me to serve as an invitation to another adventure.
I had the feeling like Ella thanks to its friendly environment and attractions has evolved into a small backpacker’s hub.
Due to its location, Ella provides with warm and sunny weather throughout the day but still a moderate temperature as it truly is a hill city. I embed myself in one of the small resorts in the Ella City area.
As the city is truly small, rather than exploring the inside I decided to explore the surroundings.
The next day I set off with my tuk-tuk equipped guide into one of the glorious hiking routes.
For a small amount, I got a wonderful experience to see some most economically important parts of the country through the eyes of my friendly and talkative guide who has actually never left this city in his own life.
With the tuk-tuk, we conquered a couple of small roads through even smaller villages to get up to the mountains where the whole scenery almost opens up right in front of our eyes.
We were walking and walking through the tea plantations around Valley Ella Gap in almost 2000m.
My guide was in his 70-ties and still in better shape than I could ever be, so agile and nimble and walking bare feet the whole way so that I couldn’t put my eyes off him.
Maybe the air here has some positive aspect of your health after all!
The track between beautifully patterned tea bushes was mostly solid even though at some part the green carpet turned more into a jungle.
I have to admit that without my guide, there would be a certain likelihood of me getting completely lost.
Even at this height, the landscape didn’t lose any of its charms.
The bright green tea leaves were shining as far as my eyes could see and the beautiful scenery of green covered misty hillsides sprinkled with colorfully dressed tea pickers was unfolding with every single hill we crossed.
I couldn’t believe that those people are paid around 3$ a day for this hard work throughout the day, they are expected to pick minimum 20 kg of tea leaves per day so that the industry would continue growing. I truly admire their dedication!
After walking up and down under the hot sun I was incredibly happy to see the tuk-tuk waiting for us at the end of the afternoon.
I had an amazing time during my trip, not only thanks to the wonderland my eyes got the chance to see but also thanks to the local people.
Sri Lankans, in general, are incredibly humble, friendly and ungrudging people with a sincere smile on their face, always dedicated and ready to go the extra mile just to help you – from the lady selling tickets at train station to my personal guide through tea plantations, almost each person I came along was simply so warm-hearted and kind.
I sometimes wonder how they can live with the little they got and still keep this positive and energetic attitude.
Sri Lanka is definitely a part of the world where your busy mind will be allowed to rest for a while and once you’re passing by, Ella and the whole train journey from Colombo have my full recommendations!
Train Sri Lanka Written By Veronika Tomeckova
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