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.


  • Stylish accommodation, great staff, lovely pool, a true oasis just outside of Kandy.
  • Prices start from $223 / £154 for a double room with breakfast.


  • 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:


  • 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.


  • 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.

Powered by 12Go Asia system
Sebastien with his train ticket
Sebastien with his train ticket at Kandy station posing with a map of Sri Lanka

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!

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

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

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, an activity or your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission. There is never an extra cost to you for using these links and it helps us keep the site going.

Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of 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.

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

  1. I’m bit confused. You mention you booked your tickets in advance (which is even more expensive than regular train ticket prices), but then you wrote you had a free ride in 2nd class. Really don’t understand how it works and what is advisable.

    • Apologies we didn’t express it correctly and have updated the article. We didn’t book our tickets in advance. We got lucky and got them free: as you can only buy 1st class tickets on the day, travellers who want this but still want to guarantee to leave that day will buy their second class non-refundable tickets so they’re at least certain they have a place on the train. Then on the day, they get their first-class seats but their pre-booked 2nd class tickets are redundant, so they give it away. This only works, of course, if you’re flexible with your dates.

  2. 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 ??

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?


    • 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?

  6. 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?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

We’re on Instagram!

Holler Box

Gay travel newsletter

Our best gay travel tips, latest stories and exclusive deals sent straight to your inbox

Holler Box