Train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, stunning scenery of Sri Lanka
Train journeys in Sri Lanka were some of our favourite from our travels in Asia.
We stayed in Kandy (500m) for a few days then took the train up through the Sri Lankan hill country to Nuwara Eliya (1,868m):
THE CITY OF KANDY
Kandy is the geographical, cultural and religious heart of Sri Lanka and the last stronghold of the Sinhalese kings, falling to the British in 1815. The town itself is famous for the Temple of the Tooth (housing the alleged tooth relic of Buddha) – a must for anyone Buddhist or into Buddhism.
Kandy has a pretty lake with some cheeky monkeys who stole our mangos as we stopped to admire the surroundings.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN KANDY
Kandy is a beautiful town offering a variety of places to stay. Whether, you are looking for some romantic time, luxury, or good value for money, you will find it in Kandy. We stayed in different hotels and guest houses while in Kandy, below are the places that stood out for us:
THE SECRET KANDY Book online
- 125 years old building renovated in a beautiful 5 rooms boutique hotel. If you are looking for a romantic experience, this is the place to be.
- Great location, close to all main sites.
- Prices start from $158 / £109 a night with breakfast.
ELEPHANT STABLES Book online
- Stylish accommodation, great staff, lovely pool, a true oasis just outside of Kandy.
- Prices start from $223 / £154 for a double room with breakfast.
HANTANA RANGE VIEW Book online
- The couple (Pathi and his wife) running this little home stay are so kind and caring.
- The food is excellent.
- Prices start from $29 / £20 for a double bed with breakfast.
HOW TO GET TRAIN TICKETS IN KANDY?
We were advised to take trains early in the day in Sri Lanka before the midday mist sets in.
It is better not to buy tickets in advance because trains are frequently cancelled if the weather is too extreme (weather in Sri Lanka is extremely unpredictable). So you only know the night before if the train is still scheduled.
We turned up early on the day of departure to buy tickets and had at least 2 different groups of people offering us their pre-ordered tickets in 2nd/3rd class for free!
Obviously we were happy to accept a free ride in 2nd class (the difference with 1st is the presence of air conditioning). It turned out the 1st class tickets (which they wanted) are only available to buy on the day of departure and not in advance.
So people buy (non refundable) 2nd class seats (around £4 / $6) in advance to at least guarantee their seat on that train and then buy 1st class (around £10 / $15) on the day of departure when they are made available.
if you managed to get free tickets like us, let us know, we would be curious to find out!
THE TRAIN RIDE FROM KANDY TO NUWARA ELIYA
Kandy was a base for us to start our scenic train journey through the Sri Lankan tea plantations to Nuwara Eliya (1,868m).
On this train journey we passed a lot of tea plantations and saw the many Tamil workers in the fields close up:
WHERE TO STAY IN NUWARA ELIYA?
Nuware Eliya is a tranquil little town but has a great variety of places to stay. The ones that stood out the most for us were:
HERITANCE TEA FACTORY Book online
- Old colonial tea factory with amazing views over the plantation.
- Very friendly and professional staff.
- Prices start from $285 / £197 for a room with breakfast.
SINCERE WILDERNESS HOMESTAY Book online
- A homestay full of character, on the side of Sri Lanka’s highest mountain, overlooking Nuwara Eliya.
- The host family will care for you with love. Food is amazing!
- Prices start from $83 / £57 with breakfast included.
HEIDI’S HOME Book online
- A three bedrooms guesthouse with very friendly owners and their little daughter Heidi.
- Great budget option in Nuwara Eliya.
- Prices start from $34 / £23 with breakfast included.
Watch our travel video diary of our adventures through Sri Lanka as we ate our way through this tropical island, took some beautiful train journeys and enjoyed excellent safaris spotting leopards at Udawalawe and blue whales at Mirissa.
Sri Lanka travel recommendations
Transportation: first, there is no need to stress about getting taxis around the capital. Uber is heavily used in Colombo Airport and in Colombo. If you've never used it before, we give you your 1st ride for free using this link. To get to Kandy, Nuwara Elya or Ella, we highly recommend you take the train because the landscapes are stunning, tickets are cheap and it is an amazing adventure.
Travel insurance: whether you go on a safari in Yala National Park, scuba diving in Unawatuna, hiking at Ella Rock or just lay on the beach all day long in Hikkaduwa, you need travel insurance. We use World Nomads because they offer considerable coverage especially for adventure travellers. They also make it easy to make a claim as it’s all done online.
Flights: flying domestically in Sri Lanka doesn't make much sense because the train has more comprehensive coverage across the country and is far cheaper. For international flights, flying to Sri Lanka can be expensive. We recommend Google flights to search for the cheapest fares, and Momondo for booking airfares. In addition, flights from Sri Lanka and India to The Maldives are very affordable, so don't miss out on the opportunity!
Hotels: Sri Lanka has a huge diversity of accommodation options. Make sure you check out our Sri Lanka content for hotel recommendations first. TripAdvisor is also a good place to start researching places to stay and find the best activities to do. Going to the hotel in person and negotiating the price face to face will most of the time result in a cheaper price compared to what you find online. But if like us, you're a bit of a control freak and like planning ahead, we recommend using Booking.com to find the best deals and book your accommodation online.