The Kandy to Ella train ride is without a doubt the most scenic and beautiful train journey in Sri Lanka, and honestly, one of the most stunning in the world. You'll be treated to breathtaking views of the Sri Lankan highlands, with rolling hills, lush jungles, and tea plantations as far as the eye can see.

This beautiful train ride is an absolute must-do when you're visiting Sri Lanka. It's the perfect way to immerse yourself in the country's nature and culture, and you'll get to meet some of the friendliest locals I've encountered on my travels.

Now, here's the thing – you don't need a lot of planning for this train journey, but if you want the absolute best experience, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Lucky for you, I've recently done this entire journey myself, so I've got all the insider tips to ensure you have the most amazing experience possible.

The Kandy to Ella train

The Kandy to Ella train is an incredible journey that takes you through the heart of Sri Lanka's hill country. It's a single-track railway spanning 156 kilometers, starting from Kandy train station and ending at Ella train station.

The train might only move at an average pace of 30 miles per hour, but time will absolutely fly by when you take in views from the train's large windows and open doors.

kandy to ella train journey

The Kandy to Ella train ride is a must-do for any tourist visiting Sri Lanka, and it's easy to see why. It offers a unique experience of the country's natural beauty, taking you through local villages, tea plantations, and the picturesque rolling hills of the highlands.

With its wooden interiors and vintage seats, the train itself still has its old-fashioned charm from when it was built by the British in the 1800s. Originally designed to transport tea, it now serves as a famous tourist attraction and a popular means of public transport for locals.

Now, when I first thought about a 7-hour train ride in Sri Lanka, I expected it to be cramped and uncomfortable. However, I was surprised to find that the train was in great condition and not a bad way of traveling at all. Even in second and third class, you'll have a comfortable seat with plenty of legroom. They also sell snacks and drinks onboard, and the washrooms are well-maintained.

Note: There are two types of trains that operate on this route – the express trains and the local trains. The express train takes about 6 hours while the local train can take up to 9 hours. I highly recommend taking the express train for a smoother and faster journey.

How to get your Kandy to Ella train tickets

Getting your Kandy to Ella train tickets is actually pretty easy as there are a few options to choose from.

You have the flexibility to buy them in advance online or on the day of your journey. However, if you're traveling during the peak season, it's best to book your tickets at least a few days, maybe even weeks in advance as they tend to sell out quickly.

kandy to ella train tickets

Here are three convenient ways to get your train ticket:

  • At the railway station: You can simply purchase your ticket directly at the train station on the day of your journey. However, I would recommend this only if you're traveling during the low season, as tickets can sell out quickly. Also, when you travel from Ella to Kandy, you'll have better chances of getting tickets at the stations because this journey is less popular than vice versa.

  • Online: You can easily book your train ticket online through Sri Lanka Railways' official website or other user-friendly platforms like, which I prefer and often has cheap deals. It's super convenient as you can also make online payments. Just remember to print out the ticket in your hotel or hostel, as the ticket inspector won't accept anything but a printed ticket.

  • Through another source: Lastly, if you're booking a tour or using a travel agent, they can also take care of your train ticket reservations. This option is not very common, but it can be helpful if you are unable to book online. However, be cautious as some local travel agencies may buy tickets to resell them at a higher price. Sometimes this could be your only option to get a last-minute ticket.

What type of ticket you should book

When it comes to booking your ticket, you'll have a few different options to choose from. It also depends on whether you're planning to buy your ticket in advance or directly at the train station.

kandy to ella train ticket type

You can only buy tickets that include a reserved seat online in advance. A normal second or third-class ticket can only be bought at the train station on the day of travel.

  • First-class: This is the most luxurious option, with a reserved seat in an air-conditioned cabin. It's typically more expensive compared to other classes, but you'll have a spacious and comfortable seat with large windows to fully enjoy the stunning views. There also won't be any other people in your carriage, so you'll have a much quieter journey. However, I wouldn't recommend this option because in first class, neither windows nor doors can be opened, making it impossible for you to take any good pictures.

  • Second class reserved seat: This class is similar to first class but without air conditioning. You'll have a carriage only for people with a reserved seat, so no one else will be standing in the aisle. What makes this class even better than the first class is that you can open windows and doors to enjoy the views fully.

  • Second class: This class is the same as the second class reserved, but the seats are not reserved. It's a cheaper option, and you might have to stand or find a seat in an already crowded cabin. This option can be totally fine, especially when you're traveling early in the morning and not in the peak season, but it's always a bit of a gamble.

  • Third class reserved seat: This class is similar to second class reserved, but it's even cheaper. The carriages in this class may not look as nice, and the seats may not be as comfortable, but since it's all about the views, this is also a great choice.

  • Third class: Third class unreserved is the cheapest option, and it's not one I would necessarily recommend. Here, you'll be sharing the third class carriages with a lot of other people, as you most likely won't be able to get a seat. It can get really cramped and hot, and you might not even be able to enjoy the views because you won't be able to move around a lot. Choose this option as a last resort.

  • Observation deck: Only a few trains also have an observation deck, which is first-class but with bigger windows. If comfort is everything for you, then you will enjoy this option. However, as with normal first-class tickets, windows and doors in the observation deck also won't open.

The best time to take the train: Season & time of day

In my opinion, the best time to hop on the Kandy to Ella train is during Sri Lanka's shoulder season.

That's when the weather starts getting better, with more sunshine and less rain, but before the tourist crowds swarm in. It's a small window of opportunity and a bit of luck is involved, but that's how I had an amazing experience.

I traveled in early November and had sunshine throughout the whole journey. Bonus, I even scored a seat without booking in advance!

kandy to ella train season

Oh, and here's another tip: the time of the day matters too! Especially in the shoulder or off-season, it tends to rain in Sri Lanka, but usually not until the afternoon. So, I recommend catching the first train possible, usually around 7 am. That way, you'll hopefully enjoy good weather all the way through.

I also found that traveling from Ella to Kandy instead of the other way around worked out pretty well. The Kandy to Ella train tends to be busier, but you'll essentially get the same breathtaking views.

So, it's worth considering traveling from Ella to Kandy to make your journey more comfortable and less crowded.

Kandy to Ella Train Timetable

If you're planning to take the train from Kandy to Ella, here is a rough timetable for you:

  • Departure from Kandy: 3.35am, 8.55am, and 11.10am

  • Arrival in Ella: around 1.24pm, 3.38pm and 4.59pm

The other way around, from Ella to Kandy, you can catch the train at:

  • Departure from Ella: 6.42am, 9.21am, and 12.05pm

  • Arrival in Kandy: around 1.03pm, 3.53pm, and 8.37pm

Note: Train schedules can change without notice, so it's best to check the updated timetable on Sri Lanka Railways' official website or ask at the station. Also, be aware that trains in Sri Lanka can often run late, so don't rely too much on the exact timings. Just try to arrive at the train station a bit earlier to secure your seat.

kandy to ella train station

The Kandy to Ella train tickets cost can vary depending on the class you choose and whether it's a regular or express train.

As a reference, a second-class reserved ticket from Kandy to Ella cost me around 2000 Sri Lankan Rupees (approximately US$11). Ticket prices may change over time, so again, it's best to check with the official website for updated prices.

How to get the best views

If you want to catch the best views on your train journey from Kandy to Ella, below are a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly, the weather and seasonality can have a big impact on your experience. Traveling during Sri Lanka's shoulder season (around November and April) can give you better chances of good weather and fewer crowds.

Furthermore, I suggest you avoid weekends and public holidays as there will be more locals on the train on those days.

kandy to ella train best views

Now, let's talk about which side of the train to sit on. When you're traveling from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, make sure to grab a seat on the right side for stunning views of tea plantations and valleys. On the other hand, if you're heading from Nuwara Eliya to Ella, sit on the left side for equally impressive views.

When it's not too crowded on the train, it doesn't really make a difference as you can easily walk from door to door. But when it starts getting packed, you'll want to make sure you're on the correct side for the best views!

I'd also suggest catching an early train as the weather tends to be clearer in the morning. Plus, the morning train is usually less crowded, so you might even snag a seat without making a reservation in advance.

Lastly, a word of caution. While it may be tempting to lean out of the train doors for that thrilling experience and well, Instagram shot, remember to always stay safe. Hold on tight and never lean out too far. Enjoy the views responsibly!

Where to stop on the journey

The Kandy to Ella train journey might seem pretty straightforward at first – hop on in Kandy and hop off in Ella, done. But trust me, there's a better way to do it!

kandy to ella train scenic spots

Taking this train through the stunning Sri Lankan highlands is an opportunity to explore some amazing places along the way. I highly recommend making a few stops during your journey. Just make sure to plan your ticket accordingly or you can always hop off and buy another one at the train station.

These are my favorite little towns on the way from Kandy to Ella:

  • Hatton: If you're into nature and the outdoors, Hatton is an absolute must-stop for you. From here, you can visit the breathtaking and iconic Adam's Peak and the surrounding nature reserves. Get off at Nanu Oya, the station before Hatton, and then take a bus or tuk-tuk to reach Hatton.

  • Nuwara Eliya: One of my favorite spots on this journey, and maybe even in Sri Lanka in general, is Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya is a charming little town in Sri Lanka's tea country, that is gaining more and more popularity among tourists every year. When you're here, a must-do is visiting tea plantations like Labookellie (Damro) Tea Factory and the Bluefield Tea Factory. Another personal little tip for a rainy afternoon is to try the high tea at The Grand Hotel between 3 pm and 6 pm. It's not only super affordable but also absolutely delicious!

  • Haputale: If you're all about those breathtaking views, consider making a stop in Haputale. The little railway station here sits at a height of 1455 meters. Just like Nuwara Eliya and Hatton, Haputale offers fantastic hiking opportunities. But the highlight of this place is visiting Lipton's Seat, where Thomas Lipton found one of his first tea plantations.

What to bring on the train ride

kandy to ella train views

Now that you know which train to catch, how to get the best views, and where to stop along the way, let's talk about what to bring on your train journey from Kandy to Ella. Here are a few essentials:

  • Snacks and water: While there are vendors onboard, it's always handy to have your own snacks and water, just in case!

  • Camera/phone: Of course, you should bring your camera to capture all those breathtaking views and beautiful moments!

  • Power bank: There aren't any charging ports on the train, so make sure you have a power bank to keep your devices juiced up.

  • Cash: Keep some smaller bills handy, as none of the vendors on the train or small shops at the train stations will take credit cards.

  • Jacket or Hoodie: As the highlands can get a bit chilly, it's always a good idea to bring a jacket or hoodie, especially when doors and windows are constantly open.

  • Hand sanitizer: As the train ride can get a bit dusty and crowded, it's always a good idea to have some hand sanitizer with you.

  • Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones: In case you need a little peace and quiet from all the hustle and bustle on the train, bring along some earplugs or headphones for a more comfortable journey.

  • Toilet paper: While all trains have toilet facilities, they may not always be stocked with toilet paper. So bring a small roll or some tissue just in case.

Kandy to Ella Train: Tips for comfort and convenience

Here are some extra tips to ensure a hassle-free and comfortable train journey:

Firstly, when planning to disembark from the train, especially at Kandy Railway Station, make sure to position yourself by the door before reaching the station. This way, you can hop off immediately and avoid getting caught in the crowd, especially if you have a big bag.

Another tip: when traveling from Kandy to Ella, board the train at Peradeniya Station, which is the one before the main Kandy Station. This way, you can secure yourself a seat before everyone else.

It's a good idea to catch an early train to avoid larger crowds and bad weather such as afternoon rains.

Kandy To Ella Train

Not all trains are blue like in all the famous Insta shots; only the express ones are. The other trains have a red color, but they are all beautiful in their own way.

And remember, there's always a ticket available, even if you can't book in advance. You might have to stand or be cramped with others, but at least you'll get on board.

What to do in Kandy & Ella

kandy to ella train what to do

Kandy and Ella are both amazing spots that have gained popularity mainly because of the famous train ride connecting them.

However, I highly recommend spending a few days in Kandy before your train journey and a few in Ella after. To make things easier for you, I've gathered some quick tips and a rundown of things to do in both places.

Here are a few things you can't miss in Kandy:

  • Visit the Temple of the Tooth: It's one of Sri Lanka's most sacred Buddhist shrines and is believed to house a relic of Buddha's tooth.

  • Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens: These beautiful gardens have over 4,000 plant species and offer a peaceful escape from the city. They're actually located in Peradeniya, where you can also catch the train.

  • See the Big Buddha: Just outside Kandy, you'll find the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue, one of the biggest statues in Sri Lanka. It is located on a hill and also offers amazing views of the city.

  • Grab some lunch: For all you foodies out there, I highly recommend Cafe Secret Alley. They make delicious sandwiches and have the best carrot cake I've ever had.

And here are some things to do in Ella:

  • Hike Little Adam's Peak: This is a must-do when you're in Ella. The hike takes only about 45 minutes and rewards you with breathtaking views. Trust me, waking up for a sunrise hike is totally worth it.

  • Visit Nine Arches Bridge: One of Sri Lanka's most iconic spots, this bridge is a must-see for its impressive architecture and scenic surroundings. You can easily visit it on your way back from Little Adam's Peak, and if you're lucky, you might catch the first train crossing at 6:30 am.

  • Take a cooking class: Learn how to cook delicious Sri Lankan dishes from a local in Ella and bring home some new recipes. The most popular and best spot for this is Ella Spice Gardens!

  • Hike Ella Rock: This hike is a bit more challenging than Little Adam's Peak, but it's excellent. The hike takes about 2-3 hours and offers amazing views from the top. Just make sure to bring enough water and some snacks.

  • Grab some food: Lastly, for an amazing and super affordable Sri Lankan lunch or dinner, I highly recommend Fish & Chips Restaurant. If you're in the mood for international dishes, you can't go wrong with the Rainbow Cafe.

Kandy to Ella Train – Final Words

The Kandy to Ella train ride was an unforgettable experience that I absolutely didn't want to miss out on! Not only does this scenic train ride offer breathtaking views of Sri Lanka's highlands, but it also allows you to take a peek into the local culture and meet many of the friendly locals on board.

My biggest tip would be to make sure to stop and get off at some of the towns in between, like Nuwara Eliya and Haputale, to fully experience the beauty and charm of Sri Lankan life. 

This is my ultimate guide to the Kandy to Ella train journey. I hope it helps you plan and enjoy your journey just as much as I did.

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