I decided to take a train from Nuwara Eliya to Ella after being on a car for 4 days. It’s for the experience of riding the infamous slow train in Sri Lanka. And for the magnificent views, too! It took us 4 hours to arrive at our destination – with a distance of just only 55 kilometers. Imagine how slow that train is! 😀 But, of course, let’s take an hour and a half of that 4-hour journey to the stops that we had to make. The longest stop we had was about 30 minutes. We were stranded in a station, waiting for the fast train to arrive so we could use the rail tracks after it.
Nuweriya Eliya is simply called as “Little England” by the guidebooks. Long time ago, this hill county was the British favourite place to cool down in summer due to its temperature. In fact, if you go around the city, you will still find few well-preserved colonial buildings standing, a reminder of its past.
The Views. The train follows the tracks that snake around hills and dales. We passed by a couple of bridges, tunnels and a few waterfalls, too. We made our way through thick timberlands and sea of green rice fields. But most of all, we traveled through and along countless tea plantations the country is known for.
Local Life. Taking this slow train gave me a different view of what life in rural Sri Lanka is. Along the way, you’ll see people tending their farms and animals. Stopping at train stations is a different story. There were times when passengers have to jump down into the tracks and board the train that stops in the middle of 3 or 4 tracks. It’s astonishing that safety was not even a big issue. Common sense, however, is applied and recommended.
Pattipola. This is Sri Lanka’s highest railway station perched 1,891 meters above sea level.
Train Seating. You have to know that the train is overbooked. That means that there are more people than seats. I was one of those people who got into the train early (the advantage of traveling alone) but I gave it up to a senior citizen. But, instead of standing on the aisle on a crowded train, I made my way onto the main door. While people are still going in and out of the train, I made sure no one would take my spot. As soon as the train started to move, I sat down on the floor, with my legs hanging outside. Yes, it’s dangerous but I’m old enough to take care of myself. 😉 And boy, believe me, every door train has foreigners doing the same thing. 😀
Which Side of the Train has the Best Views? Going on the direction of the train, sit on the right side. The views are so much better than the other side.
Is it the world’s most scenic train ride? Who knows? Most of the train rides I had I was sleeping. 😀 But, no doubt, this is the country’s best scenic train ride.
Train Schedule from Nanu Oya to Ella. Remember this: There’s no train station from Nuweriya Eliya. Nanu Oya Train Station is just 6 kilometres outside Nuweriya. This is where you start your train journey to Ella. Slow train leaves at 9:30 AM (4 hours) and express train leaves at 12:30 (2 hours).
I stayed at. You can’t find a better place than this. It’s overlooking the San Pedro Tea Plantation and the views from your room are incredible – all day. But I like the morning view better – when the fog covers the emerald field and the first rays of sunrise come out. It’s paradise – a view you won’t miss!
It is, of course, possible to go around the country using public transport. But, you’ve got to be adventurous and can stand on the heat. And be patient, too. Trains are slow and most of the roads are winding and narrow, especially when you’re going to the Hill Country. If you have limited time in the country and want to see / experience more, say, 8-10 days, going a tour is more practical. You don’t have to plan for transports and hotel accommodation. Intrepid Travel offers various options for every kind of traveler.