Ella Train Sri Lanka: Essential Guide for an Epic Journey

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The Ella train that runs between Sri Lanka’s central hill country and the capital city of Colombo offers a scenic and memorable way to travel through this beautiful island nation. The approximately 5-hour-long railway journey transports passengers through lush green tea plantations, forested valleys, and charming local towns. Riding the Ella train is a highlight for many visitors to Sri Lanka.

Ella Train Sri Lanka: Essential Guide for an Epic Journey

The Trains

The Trains

The trains that operate on the Ella line are classic Sri Lankan diesel engines that may be old but add an authentic retro charm to the railway experience. The train cars are simple yet cozy with bench-style seating. It’s important to note that seating space is very limited, so it’s wise to book tickets well in advance, especially during busy tourist seasons. Showing up at the station without an advance reservation may mean not being able to board.

Routes and Stations

Routes and Stations

There are two main routes the Ella trains run between. One goes between Ella station and Colombo Fort station in the capital. The other runs between Ella and the city of Anuradhapura in the north-central region. Key stations along the way on both routes include Kandy, Nanu Oya, Nuwara Eliya, Haputale, and Badulla.

The Ella station itself is a peaceful, attractive spot located about 15 minutes by tuk-tuk from the town of Ella. When debating which leg of the journey to take, consider your starting point, end destination, and interest in stopping in certain towns.

Scenery and Views

Undoubtedly the highlight of any Ella train trip is the absolutely stunning scenery that passengers get to admire along the way. The leg between Ella station and Kandy offers the most spectacular views of cascading waterfalls, vibrant green valleys, rolling tea estates, and local villages. The train makes its way slowly through the Hill Country, allowing ample time to soak in the views.

Some of the most iconic spots for photography are just outside of Ella, between the towns of Demodara and Haputale, and approaching Kandy. Keep your camera, phone, or video device charged and ready to capture photos.

Food and Drink

Throughout the journey, local vendors hop on and off the train at stations selling an assortment of snacks, fruits, bottled drinks, tea, and sometimes even full meals. It’s best to have small bills and coins on hand to easily pay the vendors, as they may not have change for large rupee notes.

You can also bring your own food and non-alcoholic beverages, which is especially recommended if you have dietary restrictions. Just plan ahead and pack drinks and snacks to stay refreshed during the ride.

Schedule and Duration

Ella trains run daily, with start times in the early morning hours. The full-length trip from Kandy to Ella takes approximately 9 hours total. However, most visitors opt to only do a shorter leg, such as Kandy to Nuwara Eliya or Nanu Oya to Ella, rather than spend their whole day on the train.

Decide if you want to devote a full day or half-day to the journey. Traveling between Kandy and Nanu Oya or Kandy and Haputale takes around 3 hours each way. Check timetables online to coordinate your ideal trip length.

Tickets and Classes

Ticket prices range from $1-$10 USD per person depending on which class of seat you select. Second and third class offer a very local, authentic Sri Lankan experience but the cars can be crowded and noisy. First-class cars provide more comfort and guaranteed seating for those wanting more space.

For the best views, try to get a seat on the left side of the train where the windows face outward. Book at least a few weeks ahead online to secure your desired class and seat location.

Photography

Photography

Be sure to have your camera, phone, GoPro or other photography device fully charged and ready to capture plenty of pictures. The most iconic spots for snapping photos of the Ella train are right around the Ella station, between Demodara and Haputale, and when approaching Kandy.

Conclusion

With its scenic vistas, charming old trains, and cultural immersion, a journey on the Ella railway is a Sri Lankan experience not to be missed. Follow these tips to optimize your trip and make the most of your time on this historic railway.

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