Train routes throughout Sri Lanka look like they were designed by some dreamer soul with a vision of fairy tale travel through the magical sceneries, from beach through the jungle up to the mountains and tea plantations…or it’s just the whole island that is simply magical in all it’s beauty and a little train was set to run through it for transportation purposes… It’s up to each one`s interpretation. In any case, Sri Lanka by train should definitely be your next big plan, and we will further explain why.
Traveling by train is almost always fun especially if it runs through the beautiful landscapes in a nice sunny day.
In Sri Lanka most of the days are sunny so all you need is a train ticket that will, by the way, cost certainly not enough to cover all the unforgettable moments that you are about to experience.
Assuming that you start your Sri Lanka trip from the capital, after getting to know it a bit, a good idea is to head south all the way down the coastline. No particular preparation is needed, just some mental visualisation of what might sound like a simple, ordinary train ride.
Well, trains and train routes in Sri Lanka are special. COASTAL LINE is a major railway line in Sri Lanka, running between Colombo and Matara.
Leaving the busy capital the train turns south towards beautiful sandy beaches and warmer sun running all along the coastline offering you a wonderful sceneries along the way.
The scenery is almost surreal so you will find yourself in one of those moments when you are unsure if the things are actually happening out of your head or it`s just your very vivid imagination.
Some of the nice beach towns to keep in mind are Bentota, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa.
The train runs several times per day so you can easily travel from one beach town to another. They are all wonderful and you will find a lot of fun – fancy beach in Bentota, coral reef in Hikkaduwa beach, hit of western party atmosphere in Mirissa, whale watching boat trips and, if you are lucky enough, you will meet some turtles while swimming around in any of these places.
Another beautiful city worth a visit is Galle with it`s Dutch fort, lighthouse and beautiful coastline.
Galle is the biggest city in the region so you can do plenty of activities there as well: you can visit the fortress and old part of the town, see some of the impressive temples and try some delicious Sri Lankan food in some of the local restaurants.
Distance between all this towns is short and you can easily travel from one to another by train and get to know them all.
We highly recommend taking early morning train from Colombo with a 2nd or 3rd class ticket. Why not 1st class? Well, not because it is so expensive (it is not) but for some other, more romantic reasons.
1st class has air-conditioning (in case this is not a mandatory condition for you – go for the 2nd or 3rd class) which will make you unable to feel that warm blowing salty air that will be touching your face if you would lean yourself through the 3rd class window. You don´t want to miss that experience, trust me!
After some days, weeks or months of exploring the southern Sri Lanka, nice way to get to know the rest of the island`s railway routes is going from the beaches up to the mountains.
Yes, Sri Lanka has it all – beautiful wavy beaches and fresh mountain air up north with the tea plantations covering hills.
Nice point between the sea and the mountain is Uwadalawe National Park where is possible to see elephants and some other animals in their natural habitat.
It is not possible to just go to the park by yourself since some dangerous animals live there in absolute freedom.
Safari tours are offered and they are organized usually by the accommodation owners so you can almost always book it all together.
Arriving to Uwadalawe is not possible by train, but this short distance can be easily reached by car or bus, even tuk-tuk.
Moving more up to another interesting town called Ella is easily achievable the same way – bus/tuk-tuk or taxi and, from there, you can continue your amazing journey through Sri Lanka by train.
Ella is a beautiful little mountain town ideal for hiking and long walks through the famous Sri Lankan tea plantations.
In Ella you can do some of the trekking routes, see waterfalls and caves, get yourself lost in the forest and meet some monkeys. The town is owned by monkeys, they are all around, but they are well behaved and they will not disturb you (unless they see you with banana).
From Ella runs another amazing railway route to the city called Kandy.
Route Ella-Kandy is well known as ONE OF THE MOST SCENIC TRAIN RIDES IN THE WORLD.
The train goes up north from Ella reaching highs of the Sri Lankan mountains moving slowly, just so you can have enough time to enjoy the view of the beautiful landscapes.
Running high on the curvy railway, the train passes through the hills of tea plantations where you can see Sri Lankan woman in colorful sarees picking tea leaves – picture that you could only possibly see in some film.
If you take early morning train from Ella to Kandy, you will enjoy fresh mountain breeze and spectacular view of the awakening mountains with the foggy hilltops in the background.
3rd class is a top choice again since the windows position is better so it’s like you have bigger screen for watching these spectacular images passing right before your eyes.
The ride Ella – Kandy lasts around 6 hours. Although seems like lot, the ride is really amazing, giving you breathtaking views all along and enough time for all the photos you want to take.
Passing through the places so unique, natural and unspoiled will make you think maybe…about life, nature… or about some other important life topics. Or maybe you will just be making selfies. In any case, none of these will be waste of time.
The ride is long enough to give you the luxury of getting lost in your own thoughts and contemplations or to master taking photos out of the moving object. Any of these is good.
Taking off the train in Kandy will bring you back to reality so you can evaluate, reflect, make conclusions and, if nothing, you will have so much to tell once you are back.
The city of Kandy has another interesting things to offer to a visitor – Sri-Lankan most significant Buddhist temple – Temple of the Sacred Tooth relic, several other important Buddhist temples, museums, beautiful lake, food market…
From Kandy, you can decide to take the train back to Colombo or to continue your journey toward ancient towns in northern areas.
In case you are finishing your trip in the capital, then Kandy – Colombo is a logical choice. Once again, the ride will be scenic and fun – definitely the best way to finish your expedition through Sri Lanka by train.
In any case, wherever you travel in Sri Lanka, in whichever direction you decide to go, when possible, always go by train and you will, for sure, enjoy a real fantasy ride.
Parts of the route that are not connected by the railways (Coastal towns -Uwadalawe – Ella – Ancient towns) can easily be passed by bus, tuk-tuk or a taxi. No need for any planning – easy going locals will offer you the alternative ways to arrive to your destination.
Sri Lankan people are generally friendly and they will almost always be happy to help you. Even before you ask, they will approach and offer you a ride in their tuk-tuk or a car.
Busses in Sri Lanka are also definitely something you should try – they are colorful, with funny interior design and really loud music. Not to mention that drivers of the buses in Sri Lanka are also special in their own way – they drive fast & furious (it’s scary and funny at the same time), they play their favorite music really loud and they decorate the bus as per their own taste.
Sri Lanka is one of the truly wonderful places on Earth, offering so much with so little effort, natural, modest, simple and yet so overwhelming and fulfilling… a lot to be proud of having such a beautiful land raising from the ocean.
Do not miss discovering Sri Lanka by train!
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