Sri Lankan Railway to the Sky
Train travel in Sri Lanka is one of the best ways to get off road and see parts of the countryside that are inaccessible by car. Our Sri Lanka train journey takes place on one of the most scenic sections of railroad in Asia: the line between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya. Our day starts on the outskirts of Kandy, from where we climb 1,300m into the heart of Sri Lanka’s tea country. Although we travel less than 100km, the four-hour journey takes in some breathtaking scenery that can only be seen from the rails. Riding in second class, we feel the temperature drop with fresh burst of air flowing freely through open windows. The train weaves its way along hillsides covered in tea plantations towards Sri Lanka’s high tea country. On arrival in Nuwra Eliya, guests have the afternoon to explore the small colonial town or organise their own adventure in what we think is one of the most beautiful parts of Sri Lanka.
ESSENTIAL TOUR DAY FACTS AND INCLUSIONS
- Major Destination: Nuwara Eliya, Kandy, the Sri Lankan Railway
- Overall distance travelled: Approximately 95km
- Overnight accommodation: Jetwing St. Andrews (or similar)
- Activity level: Light
Our journey on what we call the Sri Lankan Railway to the Sky begins with a short drive from our hotel to meet the train which began its journey many hours earlier in Colombo. We follow the beautiful Mahaweli river to Peradeniya Junction where we wait for our train journey to commence this morning. The departure time of your journey will be determined a few days before arriving in Kandy as your guide arranges the collection of tickets from the station in Kandy. The station is a turning point for trains along the Kandy to Badulla line and while we wait for our service you may see some local and freight trains pull into sidings awaiting clearance for the line ahead. If you’re not a train spotter before this journey, the nostalga of riding the rails may turn you into one by the time we reach our destination in Nuwra Eliya.
The signaling systems along this line still utislise the technology the British established when the lines were commissioned. At each station the station master holds out a token for the line ahead while their assistant collects the token from the previous track. Only one token can be issued for any section of track, so as long as there is a token available, the line ahead is clear. The station masters and drivers pass tokens while the trains speed through each station using long hoops and quick thinking spins of the hips as they collect the token. It’s an impressive sight to see how this relatively simple technology keeps our train safe as we climb up into the high country on this single line track.
We aim to travel in second class along the journey, although guests can opt to upgrade to first class if they choose (subject to availability and for a nominal fee). We choose second class as unlike those in first, the windows can be wound down, doorways opened and fresh hill country air can flow into the carriages. This allows guests to have a more authentic rail journey, and also allows for much better photographic opportunities during the climb. The carriages have fans and as we climb the air gets cooler so the heat isn’t too bad in these cars and there are still allocated seats for each guest. Our guide ensures you board the train and then leaves you to enjoy the view as they transport your luggage by road, ready to meet you at the station on arrival.
The rail journey commences with relative speed before the grunt of the climb reduces our speed to a very relaxing pace as we make the 4,500ft climb into the high country. The jungle thins out and is replaced by what feels like endless hillsides of tea plantations, each clinging to the edge of steep hills. As the air gets cooler and the train slows local families often open their pre-packed lunches and each off the banana leaves that they were wrapped in. Once eaten, out the window all left overs go! (a habit we don’t encourage you follow).
We pass many stations, some of which we make brief stops as what seems like entire villages come to greet the train. Local merchants walk along the platforms selling snacks and trade to travelers from the train windows before the train continues is climb into the tea country highlands. Each of these stations have their own unique design and feel about them. Some have immaculate gardens while others seem to be fighting for survival. Although our destination is stunning, today is all about the journey as we pass so many villages, towns and amazing landscapes during the journey.
As the tea plantations occupy more and more of the surrounding hills and the once warm breeze turns cooler, we know we are approaching our destination. We depart the train at Nanu Oya, the closest stop to Nuwara Eliya where our guide is waiting for us on the platform and our luggage is safely in our vehicle. We then make the short drive further up the hills into the beautiful hill country city of Nuwara Eliya. The city was built by the British as a retreat for the elite, and although we are deep in Sri Lanka the city feels like something out of the British countryside. After checking into the hotel the remainder of the afternoon and evening is free for guests to relax and explore one of our favourite destinations in Sri Lanka.
DAILY TOUR INCLUSIONS
- Sri Lankan Railway Train Journey in second class (first class available at extra cost subject to confirmation during tour)
- Transfers between hotels and railway stations.
- Overnight accommodation in Nuwara Eliya as per tour program.
Departure dates to tour the Sri Lankan Railways
- This tour departs on selected Saturdays in 2017.
- For full program schedule: Discover Sri Lanka