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People swing their feet from doors wide open, cheerful laughter echoes in the surrounding hills from kids waving excitedly at the passing train, and open eyes gaze at the most unbelievable natural beauty. Welcome to the Kandy to Ella train route, an experience unlike any other.

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Kandy to Ella Train All You Need To Know 

More than just a way to travel between two important cities, the famous blue train is known as one of the most beautiful scenic train rides in the world. Mesmerizing views, friendly locals, and a sense of freedom awaits on this journey, which no Sri Lanka itinerary is complete without.

In this travel guide we will tell you everything you need to know to make the most of your Kandy to Ella train adventure.

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Kandy to Ella Train Duration

For some reason, one doesn’t seem to associate a scenic ride with a long journey. Well, the Kandy to Ella train ride will make you start associating😅.

This journey, from Kandy train station, covers approximately 147 kilometers, in a total of about 8 hours (if luck is on your side), until you arrive in Ella train station. Delays are frequent, mainly if the weather is bad, so be patient.

Mountains in Ella in Sri Lanka

When To Do this Scenic Train Route

The best time to embark on the journey from Kandy to Ella by train is during the dry season, from December to March. This period offers the most favorable weather conditions with minimal rainfall, ensuring clear skies and excellent visibility to fully appreciate the landscapes. Also, there are fewer disruptions due to weather related issues. With that said, you can also do it during the monsoon season, May to September, if you are ok with the rain adding its charm to the scenery.

What is important is that you catch the morning train. Due to the length of the trip, if you catch the afternoon one you will have most of the length of your trip during the night, not allowing you to fully enjoy the beautiful views that make this Sri Lanka train ride famous.

tea plantations near the station where to start the Kandy to Ella train ride

Expect cooler temperatures as you ascend into the hills. A light jacket will guarantee you stay comfortable even with the windows down when cruising from Nuwara Eliya to Ella.

Food on Board

If the sound of your stomach roaring the entire time on Sri Lanka's famous train is not the experience you're aiming for, we strongly suggest bringing some nice snacks for the trip. Keep in mind that this train journey can be longer than planned, and even though some of the trains have a dining car or an occasional vendor popping in, options are often limited and overpriced.

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man looking at the nine arch bridge waiting at the Kandy to Ella train to pass

Which Class to Choose

On the Kandy to Ella train ride, there are three different classes to choose from. We can tell you right away none of them is an absolute no-go, as they all have something in their favor. Here is a breakdown of the three classes to help you decide which one better suits your travel style and preferences:

  • First class: More legroom and overall space, air conditioning, but the windows and doors do not open.

  • Second class: In our opinion, it provides the best value for the price. You can take beautiful photos from the wide-open windows and doors, or sit comfortably and enjoy the view.

  • Third class: This was the class we went on due to availability, and had no complaints. We had our space, the seats were comfortable enough, and we enjoyed the experience with open windows and doors as we had envisioned.  However, this class tends to fill up, with people standing between main stations. If you are looking for a more raw experience, where you can mingle with locals, this is it.

kandy to ella blue train third class
wood timetable for sri lanka trains

Train Ticket Types

Oh! Were you under the impression that it was just about deciding on a class and starting your Sri Lanka train ticket booking marathon? Nope! Sorry. There is still one tiny piece of information that will come in handy. There are two types of tickets to experience the Kandy to Ella scenic train ride: Reserved and Unreserved.

These alternatives provide a great way for travelers, regardless of their budget, to enjoy this beautiful experience during their time in Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, they can be a bit confusing, so let us explain them to you:

Reserved Ticket

A reserved ticket guarantees you have a seat to enjoy the journey comfortably from beginning to end. Reserved tickets are available for all classes, but the second class usually sells out 1 to 2 months in advance. So make sure to plan ahead.

binoculars illustration

Unreserved Ticket

Unreserved tickets are a great option if you are on a budget or if all the tickets were sold out by the time you got to that part of your planning. These are only available for second and third class, at the train station on the day of travel, they are the cheapest option but don’t guarantee you a seat, so you may have to stand for the entire duration of the trip.

Arrive at the train station at least 30 minutes before the departure time, be prepared to queue up. Tell the clerk you want an unreserved ticket and they will tell you which carriage to board. If there are empty seats they are up for grabs. Usually during the first stations it is quite crowded, but it will gradually have less people after each station.

blue Sri Lanka train crossing over a waterfall

For the best views and photo opps find yourself a seat on the right side of the train in the direction Kandy to Ella, from where you can enjoy views of the Knuckles Mountain Range, the Ravana Falls, and the Nine Arches Bridge (about 10 minutes before it reaches Ella Railway Station).

nine arch bridge in Ella Sri Lanka
waterfall near Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka

Where to Stay in Ella

Ella is a small town surrounded by the most amazing landscapes and some of the most iconic landmarks of Sri Lanka. In Ella you will find accommodation options for all preferences and budgets. Check our recommended accommodations:

V@ella Guesthouse best budget hotel in Ella
Ella Retreat Cottage best hotel in Ella town
Hide Ella Hotel & Resort best luxury hotel in Ella
train departure in Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya to Ella Train Alternative

Everybody talks about the “famous Sri Lanka train from Kandy to Ella”, but what if we tell you not to stick with that classic route, as there is a better alternative? Now you think: “so what was the point of reading all this?”. Don’t worry, all the information we shared above still applies, but we suggest you consider starting your Sri Lanka scenic train ride in the village of Nuwara Eliya, more precisely at the Nanu Oya station, instead of Kandy railway station. Here is why:

The Drive From Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

If you are getting around Sri Lanka by car or tuk tuk, the road from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya is a fantastic route you don’t want to miss. It winds through lush green landscapes, never ending tea plantations, and beautiful waterfalls. Along the way, you can stop at several local villages to experience Sri Lankan culture in an area not often frequented by tourists.

Use our code “Gambozinos” for a cool discount when renting a tuk tuk in Sri Lanka*😊

a tuk tuk the best transportation in Sri Lanka
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Nuwara Eliya

Rearrange your Sri Lanka travel itinerary and add a day to explore Nuwara Eliya. This peaceful village is a fantastic place to enjoy the company of the friendly locals during a picnic in the park, or chase waterfalls all day long. Chances are, you will be the only tourist there!

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Nanu-oya train station in sri lanka
most beautiful post office in Sri Lanka
red and white colonial style post office in nuwara eliya, Sri Lanka

Sit Down and Enjoy The Nanu Oya to Ella Train

The good news keep on coming! Remember that we mentioned that by getting an unreserved ticket you would probably have to enjoy the ride standing, until a seat becomes available? Another great reason to catch your train at Nanu Oya Station instead of Kandy is that you can skip the part of the journey when the train is more crowded.

Many passengers disembark in the train stations between Kandy and Nanu Oya, so there is a higher chance that more seats will be available at this point of the journey, allowing you to sit down immediately or shortly after you board (this is of course not a promise, but it is usually the case).

The cherry on top is that you will have fewer hours on the train journey ahead of you without missing any of the iconic landscapes or magical sights you have been dreaming about.

Sri Lanka women sitting in train station waiting on a late train
woman in Sri Lanka train

Planning Time

If you are ready to start planning your next trip, here you have all the usefull links you need to make it happen! By using them you are supporting our work as we might get a small fee from it. But hey! You pay the same (or might even get a discount), so is a win-win situation!

This applies to all the links in this website marked with a *

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