Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

Sri Lanka is an amazing island where you can feed turtles on Hikkaduwa beach, walk through Ceylon plantations, conquer the peaks of Little Adam and Ella Rock Peaks, catch waves at Mirissa spots and enjoy riding trains.

Railways are the most convenient, inexpensive and very picturesque option for traveling around the island. No traffic jams (from Kandy to Colombo there can be terrible traffic jams), You can get to almost any city, but the main thing is the views that open up during the journey. From the open train window you will see the nature of the island with its hills, forests, plantations, beaches and villages where you can observe the life of the locals.

Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

In this article we will tell you how to build a 14-day train itinerary to see the most beautiful places in the country.

The trains have three classes of service. We recommend the 2nd: in the carriages of this class the windows open, there is a fan and you can sit down. Ticket prices vary from $1.5 to $8. In 1st class, there are soft seats and air conditioning, but the windows do not open, and therefore you will not be able to get the maximum pleasure from the trip. It’s better not to get into the 3rd, you’ll drive standing, and they might even rob you.

Train schedules can be viewed on the website of the national carrier.


Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

You arrive in Colombo. We would not recommend spending a lot of time in the capital: the city does not reflect the charm of the island. Go straight to the station and buy a ticket to Kandy. The drive takes about three hours.

This city, once home to kings, is located in the very center of the island and is its cultural and religious heart.

Things to do

  • Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic, which is a whole complex that includes museums and temples. The divine tooth is kept in a golden box. If you plan your trip in August, you can go to Esala Perahera – the festival of the Holy Tooth. Music is playing, everyone is dancing, and dozens of decorated elephants are walking along the streets. The tooth itself is put on public display. Sri Lankans believe that such a ceremony will promote the affairs of the country.
  • Climb the hill to the huge Buddha statue of Bahiravokanda Vihara and admire the panorama of the city.
  • Walk around Kandy Lake. This artificial lake, about a kilometer long, appeared by order of the last king of Kandy, Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe, at the beginning of the 19th century. The ruler’s harem was located on a small island in the middle of the lake. You will also see the monastery and royal baths. Around the pond you can see geese, pelicans and herons.
  • Walk through the Udawattakele Nature Reserve to see Sri Lankan flora and fauna: 300-year-old grapevine, mini rattan palms, orchids, vines, Ceylon macaques, porcupines, mongooses, emerald parrots and doves.

The cost of a train ticket from Colombo to Kandy in second class is $2. To have time to explore the city, we recommend staying one night.

Hotels: a night in a hostel for one person will cost from 132 rubles, in a 3* hotel – from 693 rubles.

Nuwara Eliya

Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

From Kandy, take the train to Badulla and get off at Nanu Oya stop. The drive takes about 4 hours. From here take a bus to Nuwara Eliya. “Little England” in the forest thicket of the center of the island. Cute Victorian houses among plantations and mountain ranges.

Things to do

  • Take a boat ride on Lake Gregory. This lake was designed by the British governor of Nuwara Eliya to supply the city with electricity, but quickly became a recreational area. Now locals and tourists have picnics here, ride swan-shaped boats, kayaks and bicycles, and stroll along picturesque paths.
  • Take photos near one of the highest waterfalls on St. Clair Island, which is called “Little Niagara” due to its cascades of different heights.
  • Take a walk through the highest botanical garden in the world – Hakgala.
  • Sri Lanka is famous for its tea, so it’s worth visiting local plantations, for example, Pedro Estate,  to find out how it is produced.

The cost of a train ticket from Kandy to Nanu Oya in second class is $1.5. If you arrive early in the morning, you can leave in the evening, but it’s better to spend the night so that you can calmly see the garden, lake and waterfall one day, and devote the other to the plantations.

Hotels: a night in a hostel for one person will cost from 349 rubles, in a 3* hotel – from 1444 rubles.


Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

Photo: @florianreichelt/@backpackdiariez/

Back to the station. Today you will see one of the most beautiful roads in your life. 

Take a ticket to Badulla (final station), but get off at Ella. The drive takes about 3 hours, but it’s worth it, the views will be stunning. You can sit with your legs dangling in the doorway. It is better to plan a trip on a weekday, since on weekends there will be more local tourists and finding a comfortable place will not be easy.

Ella is a small town in the mountains, full of life. During the day, everyone disperses to the mountains to admire the panoramas, and in the evening they gather in local cafes and share their impressions.

Things to do

  • Ella is a hiking town. There are several routes here. The shortest one is to the Ravana Cave, glorified in the ancient Indian epic “Ramayana”. According to legend, the king of India had a beautiful wife, Sita, and the king of Sri Lanka, Ravana, kidnapped her and hid her in this cave. From the top there are beautiful views of the mountains.
  • Slowly walk to Little Adam’s Peak. It will take 45 minutes and another 15-20 minutes to climb.
  • If Small Peak is a child’s play for you and you prefer hiking over longer distances, then Ella Rock will be a more serious mountain.  Firstly, the distance is greater. Secondly, the trail is quieter and more unspoilt, unlike the well-maintained trail to Little Adam’s Peak. The ascent and descent will take 4 hours, you can take a guide.
  • Take a walk to one of the main attractions of the island – the Nine Arch Bridge, the longest in Sri Lanka. In addition, it was built without the use of steel, only using bricks, volcanic rocks and cement. The 92 meter high bridge is hidden among a lush forest. Hundreds of tourists gather around it every day to take great photos.
  • Ravana waterfall is located 10 minutes from the city. If it’s hot outside, it will help you cool down.

The cost of a train ticket from Nanu Oya to Ella in second class is $1.5. To enjoy the city, we recommend spending two nights there.

Hotels: a night in a hostel for one person will cost from 251 rubles, in a 3* hotel – from 990 rubles.


Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

After Ella there will be a difficult journey to the coast. Unfortunately, there is no train to the coast from here, and making a return detour via Colombo is a waste of precious time. You can use Uber or take city bus No. 31 (Bandarawela-Matara), feel the atmosphere.

Things to do

  • Walk around Cape Dondra, on which stands the temple of the god Vishnu. It is both a Hindu sanctuary and a working seaport with a majestic white lighthouse.
  • Sail to Crow Island. Take a walk among the wild nature; if you are with children, go to the Crow Island Beach Park amusement park.
  • Visit the Veherahena Temple. Residents built it underground to pray in secret from the colonialists, and later they placed a large Buddha statue outside.
  • Walk along the calm, unlike many others on the island, Matara beach.

The cost of a ticket for bus 31 from Ella to Matara is $2. It is better to leave early in the morning, as the travel time is five hours. An Uber ride will cost about $90, you can find travel companions and split the amount. It is better to leave early in the morning to be in Matara during the day, spend the rest of the day in the city and go to Mirissa late in the evening.


Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

From the “climber-traveler” mode in this city, it’s worth switching to “surfer-sunbather”. From Matara there are buses to Colombo or Galle. Warn the driver to stop in Mirissa.

Sri Lanka is known for its ideal waves for surfers, so if somewhere in your dreams you have been cutting across the sea, now is the time to make your dreams come true.

After sunset, beach establishments lay out their fresh catch on ice. Your task is only to choose between crabs, a variety of fish and seafood. 

Train to Mirissa from $1. It’s better to live here for a couple of days.

Hotels: a night in a hostel for one person will cost from 330 rubles, in a 3* hotel – from 825 rubles.


Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

You can get there by bus going to Halle.

An ideal place to sunbathe, drink a king coconut, take “I’m on a gorgeous beach” photos and try Sri Lankan cuisine. If you have never stood on the surf, then this is the most suitable spot, since the waves are quite small. You can also go diving.

Bus to the city from $0.5. You can stay for a couple of days.

Hotels: a night in a hostel for one person will cost from 231 rubles, in a 3* hotel – from 359 rubles.


Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

The walled city of Galle is famous for its fort, built by the Dutch and included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Things to do

  • Walk along the fortress wall, take a photo of the lighthouse and clock tower against the backdrop of the raging sea.
  • Look at Dutch architecture, wandering through the narrow streets inside the fort, looking into the souvenir shops.
  • Visit the National Maritime Museum.
  • Compare All Saints Church, Dutch Church, Meera Mosque.

Bus cost to Galle is $0.5. You will have time to see the city in a day, and in the evening you can go to the next city.


Charming Sri Lanka: around the island by train

If the prospect of lying on the board waiting for the perfect wave is not very exciting, we recommend going to Hikkaduwa. This is a Sri Lankan village favored by Russians. There is a clean beach, clear water and palm trees bending over the water. Only pareo vendors and masseuses can disturb the atmosphere. It’s better to go to a salon for a massage.

If you go to the beach, you can see large turtles swimming for food. They know that tourists are waiting for them here with prepared food and cameras, so they chose this place. For dinner, go to one of the restaurants and taste the freshest crabs.

If you have time, we recommend visiting one of the sacred cities of Sri Lanka, Anuradhapura, the Sigiriya museum complex and Yala National Park.

The cost of a train ticket from Galle to Hikkaduwa in second class is $0.5. How long you stay here depends on your thirst for relaxation and vacation days.

Hotels: a night in a hostel for one person will cost from 396 rubles, in a 3* hotel – from 914 rubles.

*Accommodation prices are indicated at the time of writing. The cost indicated in the material and the final price may differ.

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