Ella train ride: The Most Scenic and Famous train ride in Sri Lanka

Ella Train Ride Sri Lanka

Visit iStock by Getty Images for stunning, high-quality photos from Ceylon, captured by a talented Sri Lankan Photographer…

What is Ella Train ride? It’s History and what’s so special about it...

Kandy to Ella train ride is without a doubt the most scenic train journey in Sri Lanka, and definitely one of the most scenic train rides in the world.

It has managed to be included in the itinerary of almost every tourist who is planning to visit Sri Lanka, because the experience this train ride provides far overweighs the price of the ticket if compared with such a scenic train ride in Europe. 

Although this railroad is now mostly famous for its incredible views, when it was first built by the British, it was mainly used to transport tea from the plantations to Colombo.

From Kandy to Ella, it is about a 7 hours ride, although this time may be increased due to delays.

Since Ella train journey is so popular among tourists for its sceneries, Sri Lanka Railways recently started a special tourist Train called “Ella odyssey” which will stop at the most scenic spots along the journey to Ella, where regular trains will not stop, so that tourists like you can take in the breathtaking views and capture them in your camera lens without rushing.

What you can see?

Photo from AdodeStock

The incomparable scenic route which the train passes throughout its journey is the main reason that makes Ella train ride so unique and why it stands above any other train ride. 

During this wonderful journey your eyes will witness the most amazing nature documentary in 3D in real time! Either you are looking out the window of your carriage or sitting on the doorway and looking outside, the lush tea plantations and misty mountains, vast green valleys and slopes, white angelic waterfalls, tunnels, bridges and streams passing underneath will feel like elixir to your eyes.

You will pass through Civil engineering marvels like Demodara loop and 9 arch bridge which is one of the top highlights of the Ella train ride.

Furthermore, you will pass Pattipola, Sri Lanka’s highest railway station, on the way to the destination.

The Most scenic part of this journey is from Haputhale to Ella and Ella to Badulla. 

Make sure that you are on the Right side of the train if you are traveling from Kandy to Ella direction and vice versa, because that side has the best views along the way.

Train time Table

From Kandy to Ella direction

Time in Bold indicates the Blue colour Train which is faster than the Red colour trains.

Train station


Colombo fort



0945h (doesn’t stop at Kandy)

2000h (Night mail train)




1231h (doesn’t stop at Kandy)

2306h (doesn’t stop at Kandy)





From Ella to Kandy Direction

Train station





1000h(doesn’t stop at Kandy)


1750h (doesn’t stop at Kandy)




1057h (doesn’t stop at Kandy)


1855(doesn’t stop at Kandy)

Check this link for more information.

Visit Sri Lankan railways official site to book your reservations and to know if there are changes in the time table.

Tickets & best seats

The seat that you get and the class to which the seat belongs affect the quality of the Ella Train ride experience.

There are 3 classes of tickets to choose from. Each comes with their pros and cons.

1st class (Reserved seats, but won’t be able to enjoy the authentic experience because of closed carriages)

2nd and 3rd classes are best if you want to enjoy the best views from open doors and windows. I recommend booking a 2nd or 3rd class ticket with a reserved seat, keep your bags on the seats, then just find the best place that suits you to enjoy the scenes.

2nd class offers better seating than 3rd class. 2nd class reserved tickets come with a guaranteed seat.

Photo from AdobeStock

With a 2nd class – Unreserved ticket, getting a seat will be a challenge if you’re traveling in the peak season.

3rd class is the cheapest. So, naturally the most popular choice of the locals. 

With a 3rd class reserved ticket you will get a guaranteed seat for yourself. This is the best option that will allow you to enjoy the full authentic train ride experience. You will have the chance to enjoy the views through open windows and doors, can sit on the doorway and immerse in the beauty of the lush hill country and can sit down on your seat and relax whenever you need a break. 

3rd class – Unreserved  ticket doesn’t come with an allocated seat. So getting a seat can be a challenge. And there’s a high probability that you will have to stand most of the ride. With the luggages, it won’t be comfortable. The best option is to book a 2nd or 3rd class reserved ticket online. These tickets can be bought even 2 months before in the peak season. So it’s always better to plan ahead.

You can book tickets online here.

The special tourist train, Ella odyssey, runs 4 times a week between Colombo and Badulla.

For traveling in Ella Odyssey you will have to reserve 14 days earlier. The ticket booking opens at 10.00am. But in the peak season the seats can be sold out really fast. Maybe even within the first 5 minutes. 

A special article about Ella Odyssey is on the way. When it’s published I’ll add a link here.

Best time to hop on the Ella Train

Photo from AdobeStock

Visit iStock by Getty Images for stunning, high-quality photos from Ceylon, captured by a talented Sri Lankan Photographer…

This Scenic train ride will be in its highest display if you take it at the right time of the year. Sunny weather without rain and clouds will allow you to enjoy the experience to the fullest and to get your best instagrammable picture.

During Summer – From June to August (End of summer will be ideal)

During Winter – December to February will also be ideal time to take this ride

Avoid taking this train during major holidays like The Sinhala & Tamil New year celebrations which falls on the mid April every year and also during the Christmas time. There will be a lot of people using public transport making it a challenge to get into the train and at times might even be impossible.

Weekdays (where there are no public holidays) are the best to travel, since the locals plan their getaways during the weekends and holidays. So, obviously, there will be less crowd during the weekdays giving you more freedom to enjoy this scenic ride through the misty mountains.

Midday trains are busier than the morning and evening trains. 

It’s better to jump onboard the early morning or late in the day trains to avoid unnecessary crowds. 

Also, photographers will agree with me here, the best photos are taken in the mornings and evenings because the best natural lighting is available at that time of the day.

If your schedule is tight, by all means take the train that your schedule allows you to.

Ella train ride is a feast to your eyes at any time of the day.

Don’t forget to taste Wade, Chai and Mango pickle

While your thoughts are lost in the magnificent sceneries, a local vendor’s voice shouting “Wade, Wade” will bring you back to the present moment. Don’t be annoyed because this will be the  opportunity to enjoy some delicious Sri Lankan snacks that will enrich your memory of this wonderful journey. You will get the chance to get high on the divine panorama while chumming on a spicy, tasty wade and maybe sipping a cup of hot Ceylon Tea.

If you’re not in the mood for a deep fried snack, you can enjoy a freshly made mango or pineapple pickle which is both healthy and tasty. 

But, make sure you have a water bottle with you because the pickle can be a bit spicy if you’re not used to eating spicy food.

Tea plantation
Photo from AdobeStock

Safety first..

Yes! The train is not going super fast and the doors are open all the time. The scenery is so seductive. It’s all true. But I must caution you to resist the impulse to dangle from the railway door’s safety bars to get a better view or to take the perfect photograph to post in your social media.

Be careful not to put your life at risk just to get that “Perfect shot”. 

It is dangerous to hang from the train’s door because in some places the train passes through narrow passages and if you’re dangling from the door you can be knocked away by a tree branch, a bush or any kind of obstacle of such kind.

Girl on a Sri Lankan Train-Ella Train ride - Transport options in Sri Lanka
Photo by Yves Alarie on Unsplash

At times, the trip might be a little noisy.

When combined, the noise of the passing train over the wooden sleepers, the sounds of a group of enthusiastic youngsters singing and playing bongos, the occasional voice of a vendor selling vade, and the chatter of the passengers may be a little overwhelming. 

It will definitely be a different experience from the one you would get from a train ride in Europe or anywhere else in the world. 

I think that’s what makes the Ella train ride an unique experience. 

You get the chance to witness amazing scenery outside the train and an authentic local train ride experience inside the train. Both at the same time.

The nine-arch bridge along the Ella railway tract rises above the high-grown tea plantations.
Photo from AdobeStock

Key points to Keep in mind:

  • Book tickets early on. It’s better to reserve a seat beforehand. If you buy a ticket on the day of the trip, getting a seat can’t be guaranteed. 
  • Don’t get into the train with an empty tummy. If you do, bring some snacks and drinks with you. 
  • The train ride is long. Except for the vendors that walk in the carriages occasionally, you won’t get a chance to buy food once you get on the train.
  • Avoid weekends and holidays. The train will be more crowded during these times.
  • Make sure that you are on the Right side of the train if you are traveling from Kandy to Ella direction and vice versa because that side has the best views along the way.
  • The train will be delayed a little more than scheduled, and the journey sometimes takes longer than planned. (Unlike Sri Lankan airports, Sri Lankan railways are not keen on being punctual.)
  • The Most scenic part of this journey is from Haputhale to Ella and Ella to Badulla. 

Ella odyssey (The Journey of a Lifetime)

Photo by Yves Alarie on Unsplash

Visit iStock by Getty Images for stunning, high-quality photos from Ceylon, captured by a talented Sri Lankan Photographer…

Due to the high popularity of the Ella train journey, Sri Lanka Railways has started a special Tourist train called Ella Odyssey.

The speciality of this train is it stops a few minutes in major tourist attractions on the way from Kandy to Badulla.

This gives you the chance to get down  from the carriages and enjoy the view and capture the mesmerizing view into your camera lenses.

The train provides improved quality seating, an on board buffet and so much more compared to the normal trains that run on this track.

It is always a good sign to see that the authorities are trying to improve the experience of tourists by taking progressive measures like this.

I will tell you more about Ella odyssey in my next article.

With that note, I will say goodbye to you for this week. Will meet you with a new and interesting article next week. 

Let me know in the comments what you thought about this article. What you would like to read about Sri Lanka in the future. I always appreciate your input.

නැවත හමුවෙමු😉 (Newatha hamuwemu = Let’s meet again)

P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Newsletter to know news about new articles from us.  

2 thoughts on “Ella train ride: The Most Scenic and Famous train ride in Sri Lanka”

  1. Thithira Alahakoon

    Well researched,, 👌🏼 I don’t think anyone can find all these information in one place like this anywhere else. It’s gonna save people a lot of time. Good job! 🔥

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *