Train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, is it worth it?

Sebastien Chaneac

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):

Map of Sri Lanka: train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya
Map of Sri Lanka: we took the train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

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.

Cheeky monkeys in Kandy
These cheeky monkeys in Kandy stole our mangos while we stopped to admire the lake

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.
Travel advice for LGTBQ community

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.

The secret Kandy
The secret Kandy is a stunning property, a few minutes away from Kandy downtown.

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.

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Sebastien with his train ticket
Sebastien with his train ticket at Kandy station posing with a map of Sri Lanka

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.

Second class in a Sri Lankan train
Second class in a Sri Lankan train – so comfortable that Sebastien nodded off

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).

The view of the tea plantations near Kandy
The view of the tea plantations from the train going from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya

On this train journey we passed a lot of tea plantations and saw the many Tamil workers in the fields close up:

Tamil worker in the tea plantations
View from the train: Tamil lady working in the tea plantations
Tamil worker in the tea plantations
View from the train: Tamil worker in the tea plantations
The view from the train of the hill country
The beautiful view of the Sri Lankan hill country from our train which will forever stay in our minds

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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Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of nomadicboys.com. He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

13 thoughts on “Train journey from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya, is it worth it?”

  1. Thanks Paul, wow what an amazing journey that must have been to see the sunrise! Luckily only had about 5 mins of rain as we got higher up into tea country but the rest of the journey was great ??

  2. How long was the train journey from Kandy to NUWARA ELIYA? And where did you get the train from? I have read elsewhere that you have to travel from Peradeniya (7km from Kandy) to Nanu Oya (8 km from Nuwara Eliya) so I was surprised to see you went direct. Thanks in advance – great blog!

    • Thanks MB. Every town has a station so you can get on wherever you want. We got on at Kandy and got off at NE. We then got back on at NE and took it to Ella. Journey a few hours, but there are usually days, so budget for half a day.

  3. Sri Lanka is a land I hope to see more of next year. My previous trips were restricted due to the civil war there, so I look forward to seeing more now that peace reigns.

  4. Hi!

    Awesome blog – thanks!! 🙂

    I’m hoping you can help… I want to get the train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy (so, the opposite way to you). I’m guessing the train line & views will be still similar to the journey that you did? How many hours is the journey? Also, I want to get 1st class tickets, do you know if I will only be able to purchase on the day at Nuwara Eliya station?

    Thanks!
    Monika

    • Views will be just as awesome. Journey? It depends, the trains are frequently delayed a lot, so several hours! We could only buy tickets the day before or the day, otherwise a good agency may be able to help?

  5. Thanks for the info on Sri Lanka. It has been very helpful. We’re torn between Kandy to Ella via train or a day in Udawalawe. Looking for your opinions which was more unique to the country and more unforgettable. We’ve only 3 days to get from Galle to Kandy to Ella and back to Colombo. :/
    Seems rushed but we’d greatly appreciate your opinion on the matter. Thanks again and keep traveling

    • Hi Jordan thanks for your message. It’s quite a tough one- both were highlights for us in Sri Lanka. We loved the safari at Udawalawe but those train journeys through the tea plantations and the clouds were stunning. Of the 2 experiences, which would resonate more with you do you think?

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