In short, YES! It is totally worth it.
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):
What we cover in this guide
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.
Where 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 homestay are so kind and caring.
- The food is excellent.
- Prices start from $29 / £20 for a double bed with breakfast.
Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Kandy
It is illegal to be gay in Sri Lanka! The country very much retains its anti-gay colonial laws. Having said that, it is rarely enforced and especially not towards foreigners. Whilst Sri Lankan society is very conservative and hostile towards its LGBTQ community, as foreigners we found they were more curious and welcoming towards us. Kandy is quite touristy, so the larger hotel chains are quite accustomed to dealing with LGBTQ travellers. However, if booking a local family-owned guesthouse, it may be worth checking beforehand if they're ok to host a gay couple.
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.
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 to buy your tickets in advance to avoid any disappointment on the day and make sure you have the seats you want. We preferred to book our tickets online because we wanted to make sure we could get on the train on a specific day. This is the best way to avoid stress or disappointment on the day.
First or second class tickets?
The main difference between 1st and 2nd class is that 1st has air conditioning. The other difference is that the 1st class tickets are only made available to buy on the day of departure.
When we turned up, we didn't know any of this. However, we got lucky and instead got free tickets:
As the 1st class tickets are only available to buy on the day of departure and not in advance, travellers will strategically buy non-refundable 2nd class seats (around £4/$6) in advance to at least guarantee their seat on that train. Then, on the day of departure, they buy their 1st class seats (a further £10/$15 ish) as soon as they are made available.
This makes their pre-booked 2nd class non-refundable tickets redundant and useless…so they just give it away to anyone who'll take them!
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:
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.
Happy travels are safe travels
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