Experiencing The Best Train Ride In Sri Lanka – Nuwara Eliya To Ella

One of the best ways to enjoy the scenic beauty of Sri Lanka is to take a train journey. That’s what I did on my recent visit to this amazing country. I chose the shorter route from Nuwara Eliya to Ella, instead of the longer one from Kandy to Ella (which lasts about 7 to 8 hours), and I was amazed by the stunning views of verdant hills, untouched valleys, splendid waterfalls, charming towns, numerous tunnels, and thick forests. All in one trip! Yes, that’s true! 

On a train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella 

The train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella goes down through Sri Lanka’s southern hill country, passing the tea estates before it climbs up and vanishes into the clouds, twisting in and out of the many mountain tunnels as it finally reaches Ella. 

It is truly magnificent and surely the most beautiful train ride in Sri Lanka, if not in the world! 

Experiencing The Best Train Ride In Sri Lanka – A Journey From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

The Journey From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

Train Journey From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

When I boarded the train from Nanu Oya station (about 8 KM from Nuwara Eliya town), I was excited to see what the ride had to offer! Well, I soon realized that it’s a common way of travel for the locals and it’s definitely the most ideal way to experience Sinhalese life closely. I met smiling locals who were enjoying the ride as much as the foreigners! There were sellers who were offering spicy snacks, and then there were people who would just wave as the train went through their town. 

Even though I had a window seat for myself, I preferred to stand by the doors to feel the wind on my face and also, to take pictures. I ended up making some friends who were also eager to find their spot by the doors, to get some 'gram-worthy shots. It turned out to be quite a fun ride, for sure! 

Train Journey From Nuwara Eliya To EllaView from the window seat

Train Journey From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

Train Journey From Nuwara Eliya To EllaAlso Read: Sri Lanka Opens Doors to Indian Tourists Without Visas

How long is the train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella? 

The train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella lasts about 3.5 to 4 hours. In contrast, it takes about 1.5 hours by car. The train is slower because it has to go over many hills. It also lets you enjoy the magical atmosphere, and appreciate the charm of leisurely travel.

View of Train Journey From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

View of Train Journey From Nuwara Eliya To Ella

How much is the train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella cost and what are the timings? 

The train tickets in Sri Lanka are cheap. I chose the First Class Coach (an air-conditioned compartment with reclining seats, ample luggage space, and huge windows to look around), which cost me around 2000 LKR (~508Rs). The Second Class tickets are for 1000LKR (~254Rs) and Third Class tickets are for 600 LKR (152.59Rs). You can book the Third Class tickets at the station, before getting into the train - but in order to enjoy the ride on a Second or First Class, you must book the tickets in advance. 

There are several trains every day that go from Nuwara Eliya (Nanu Oya) to Ella. The main ones that have First Class reserved seating leave Nanu Oya train station daily at these hours: 09:30 AM, 12:45 PM, 03:00 PM, and 03:55 PM. 

In most cases, the train is a little delayed, so even if you’re 5 minutes late to reach the station, don’t panic!

Train Journey From Nuwara Eliya To Ella - Sri Lanka

Here are 7 things no one tells you about the Nuwara Eliya to Ella train journey:

  1. It matters which side of the train you’re sitting on: Yes, because all the tea plantations, cascading waterfalls, and picturesque valleys are mostly on the left side as you travel towards Ella. I had my seat on the right side, and after a point, it’s just the cliffs that I could see! So I mostly chose to spend my time by the left-side doors.

  2. The doors are crowded, so be prepared to share that space: When I went to the door, a couple was already sitting there with their legs hanging out. However, they were really nice to let me stand and also offered a hand to take my photos. By the time the train crossed Haputale, there were about 7 of us around the door!

  3. Make sure you have tickets for the express train: This takes approx 4 hours from Nanu Oya to Ella. There are some slow trains which take more time and stop at every station.

  1. You don’t need to be very early for the train: I had read some articles that advised you had to be at the station on time, but in fact, the train was late for about half an hour and even the locals traveling with me agreed that usually there’s a delay! However, those who haven’t reserved a ticket in advance should arrive about an hour in advance, to get the Third Class tickets.

  1. You don’t need to be very early for the train: I had read some articles that advised you had to be at the station on time, but in fact, the train was late for about half an hour and even the locals traveling with me agreed that usually there’s a delay! However, those who haven’t reserved a ticket in advance should arrive about an hour in advance, to get the Third Class tickets.

  2. There’s a trick when you get the Second Class tickets: Second Class reserved and Second Class unreserved are not the same, as someone informed me! You cannot get a Second Class reserved seat at the train station on the day of travel. You have to book in advance. The ticket you are getting in second class on the day of travel at the train station is second class unreserved. These tickets do not assure you a seat!

  3. Getting ‘Seat No 61’ is a myth: I had read several articles where people said that 'you’d get the best views from Seat 61, but that’s not true. The route is so gorgeous, that no matter where you sit, you’d end up admiring the views! And as per my experience, people usually end up at the doorways, so your seat number won’t even count!

  4. Bring some snacks if you don’t like spicy food: You’d feel like nibbling something on the way, and all I ended up having was Coke. From mangoes to samosas - everything sold by the sellers in the train was too spicy for my taste.

To be honest, I knew beforehand that train journeys in Sri Lanka are not to be missed - and surely, they meet the expectations! I couldn’t stop myself from recording every single moment that passed by, and that’s exactly what you would want to do on the journey as well.

Also Read: 7 day itinerary to Srilanka on a budget

The train ride from Nuwara Eliya to Ella was indeed a wonderful experience - one that I still can’t forget. Besides the beautiful scenery that you will get to see, the experience itself is one of a kind - something that you just can’t exchange for anything else. Therefore, if you are planning a trip to Sri Lanka, make sure that you add this experience on your travel bucket list without fail!

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