We’ve both been really looking forward to our first train journey in Sri Lanka because we have heard such amazing things about the scenery. The stretch from Kandy up into the tea plantations and hills of Nuwara Eliya is said to be incredibly beautiful and majestic and we were super keen.
That said, we’ve also read many blogs and forums detailing the difficulties in reserving seats and boarding impossibly full carriages. There are 3 classes of train carriages, a plush air conditioned first class with observation windows, second class with double seats and fans and third class with benches.
All attempts to book a seat in advance on first or second class, both online and via our B&B were unsuccessful. Having done a bit of research we heard about a sneaky hack to drive to the station before Kandy and board the train there then you have more chance of grabbing a seat when the masses of locals get off in the city. We thought it was worth a try so drove to Peradeniya to purchase unreserved tickets. Being cautious Colins, we arrived at 7.30am, an hour before the trains departure, anticipating hordes of other tourists doing the same thing. Surprisingly the platform was empty. The train was standing room only but getting on in advance really paid off, as when we approached Kandy, many people stood up to leave and we quickly snuck in before the masses of tourists and backpackers waiting at Kandy platform piled on. Knowing it’s a 4 hour train ride, we were super grateful (and a tad smug) that our wiley plan paid off.
The train journey was everything we’d hoped for, delivering incredible views as we escaped the smoggy towns and climbed up through green and verdant hillsides. The train trundled along the tracks at a pace slow enough to savour the scenery, heaving from side to side in a hypnotic motion. Tea plantations carpeted the steep slopes as far as the eye could see.
We got off the train and got a taxi to our hilltop B&B with a really lovely and knowledgeable guy. We decided to go on a private tour for the afternoon which was incredible. He gave us so much information about the surrounding area and Sri Lankan way of life which was super interesting. Nuwara Eliya is known as ‘little England’ and has colonial buildings and traditions including high tea!
First stop on the tour was the Labookellie tea estate where we had a full tour of the 8 stages of production, from plucking to drying and fermentation and finally blending and tasting.
The terrace that we enjoyed our tea and cake on was bathed in gorgeous sunlight and overlooked incredible views.
We then went to Ramboda waterfalls which were very impressive. We climbed for about 20mins in the heat up super steep steps to reach a viewing platform over the falls which made the slog worth while.
We had the whole place to ourselves. It really feels as though Sri Lanka is relatively untouched by tourism in comparison to Thailand or other Asian destinations. The beauty of the hilltop areas has really surprised us and the isolation and calmness, paired with great weather and beaming sunshine has been great.
We had a sneaky beer in a wonderful bar overlooking another waterfall before heading home very happy and very knackered.