The slow train to Ella, Sri Lanka

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Sri LankaThere is no hurrying a Sri Lankan hill country train, nor would you want to. The joy is in the going, the landscape that glides by, and the fact that you’re sharing the world of the people who live in this special place. You can travel from Kandy to Ella in one go (and vice versa), but we suggest breaking the seven-hour journey and slowing down even more.

In March, Tom and I rode the train from Kandy to Ella, with a stop for a few nights in Nanu Oya at the Langdale by Amaya. This turned out to be a great option, as the road from Nanu Oya to Nuwara Eliya was in the throes of major construction at the time of our visit, and at times, completely blocked.

A journey to remember

Considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful train trip, the route passes lush tea estates, farms and villages. The railway, introduced by the British in the 19th century to transport tea to market, is now a major tourist attraction. Sri Lankans also use the railway extensively, and kids thrill to a ride as much as anyone. Here’s are some of the highlights of our “slow train to Ella”, a trip we will always remember.

Kandy Sri Lanka
The Kandy station is a nostalgic delight, with Victorian architecture and old-fashioned wooden sign board announcing departures.
Kandy Sri Lanka
Switches installed by the British more than 100 years ago are still in operation at Sri Lankan railway stations.
Tea plantation
On the way to Ella from Kandy, the best views can be had on the right-hand side of the train.
Sri Lanka
Cap at a jaunty angle, this fellow is happy to pose for the camera.
Sri Lanka
The scenic beauty you see from your window on the Kandy to Ella train trip stays with you long after the journey ends.
Nanu Oya, Sri Lanka
Travelers breaking their journey with a visit to Nuwara Eliya disembark at the tidy station in Nanu Oya.
Sri Lanka
At each train station on the way, vendors board to sell freshly cut pineapple, cinnamon-dusted mangoes, buttered corn, vadai and other spicy treats. The atmosphere is friendly and lively, charged with good will toward travelers.
Tea plantation
Sri Lanka’s highland tea country is a landscape well worth exploring.
Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, boarding the train can be an informal affair.
Sri Lanka
The Chinese-built “Blue Train” operates on several departures bound for Ella from Kandy. 1st class cars are air-conditioned, but in 2nd class, the windows open, which is more photographer-friendly.
Sri Lanka
The rails are rough and the train never exceeds 20 miles per hour. Locals come out to meet the train as it passes villages along the route.
Sri Lanka
Everyone enjoys a good train ride!
Tea Plantation
Around every bend of the railway, the next shapely hillside unfolds. It’s mesmerizing!
Seven Arches Bridge
The train through Sri Lankan tea country passes through more than 50 man-made tunnels. It reaches its highest point of 1890 meters above sea level, then begins its descent towards Ella. Just outside Ella, the train makes a spectacular crossing of the Seven Arches Bridge.
Seven Arches Bridge
A closer look at the Seven Arches Bridge.
Sunset in Sri lanka
Riders in the rear observation car on the afternoon train from Kandy to Ella are treated to a fabulous sunset.
Sri Lanka
Sri Lankans are blessed with good humor from an early age, with smiles to match!
Ella train station
Welcome to Ella, Sri Lanka!

If you go

The Kandy-to-Ella train journey is one of the world’s most-loved, and very popular with visitors to Sri Lanka. It is also a personal journey, varying according to the weather and time of year, how long you take to make the trip, and how open to meeting other people you are.

Before you travel:

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Thanks to our hosts in Sri Lanka tea country: Langdale by Amaya and Sri Lanka Tourism!

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To see all our travel stories from Sri Lanka, click here.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Sounds like you are having a wonderful time Anita. It’s exactly how I felt when I took the Indian Pacific across Oz. I hardly spent anytime reading I too busy looking out the window. Even if it was just the Nullabor.

  2. Amazing Post Anita..! Really loved it.. Seems like you a had fantastic train ride there.. I too love to travel from kandy to Ella in a Slow train to witness the scenic views in between. Thanks for sharing these wonderful pictures.

  3. Great post..! thanks for sharing this amazing memory… Kandy to Ella train route is one of the best in having scenic views throughout…! The 9 arch bridge is a great example for it.. Local people love to travel on steps of the train…They really get excited in this. The sudden change in the climate also amazing to experience.

    • Thank you Praveen! We loved the contrast of travel by train, the cool air after the heat of the central plain. I think this ride is one of the world’s best.

  4. Hi Anita, Lovely article about World’s most beautiful train ride, And you got a good eye, I noticed some gorgeous pictures. Looks like you had a wonderful time through Kandy to Ella. And try our beach coast for a change. Cheers.

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