After Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle my next stop was Kandy to take the famous train from Kandy to Ella. Kandy is the second biggest city on the Island. It is a small colonial town surrounded by hills. Even though the scenery is nice, there is not that much to see in Kandy.
However, Kandy is a great place for those that love food. I spent most of my day in Kandy at the market where there are several opportunities to try some of Sri Lanka’s delicacies such as whoppers, dosa’ss and curry’s.
Another interesting experience was my capsule sleeper in Clock inn Hostel. They installed several capsules on their rooftop for backpackers on a budget. I felt like a hobbit and was a bit scared I would be claustrofobic, but was surprised by how comfortable it actually was.
The train from Kandy to Ella
The next day I took the famous train from Kandy to Ella. It’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. I love travelling by train and this train journey was one of the reasons I came to Sri Lanka. The scenery is quite spectacular indeed, with green hills covered in tea plantations.
At last we had a beautiful sunset as extra bonus. The only problem is that I should have arrived in Ella before dark. The 7 hour journey became a 10 hour train ride. Our train broke down. According to our conductor it was “a big, big problem”. The problem lasted 3 hours to fix and it was 9 pm when we finally arrived in Ella.
My late arrival didn’t stop me from waking up early to see the sun rise at Adam’s peak. A beautiful hike through the tea plantations and a small climb up the hill overlooking the small town of Ella.
The rest of the day I enjoyed the scenery and visited one of the tea factories. There are several factories creating different types of tea. Most offer tourists a tour to show how their tea is made, of course in the hope you will buy some at the end. It is interesting that tea is actually not that popular in Sri Lanka. I was looking forward to some nice cup of aromatic Indian tea that I thought would be available everywhere. Unfortunately this turned out to be very difficult to find and it seems almost all of the tea is being exported.
The tour through the tea factory was quite interesting with the lady employees being quite curious about us. When the tour manager did not look one of the ladies came up to us and sneakily asked if we had some chewing gum. She managed to get some and quickly put it in her pocket before anyone could see.
Homestay Cooking Lessons
So far my Sri Lankan food adventures were a bit hit and miss. Sri lankan food is mostly rice with several curries that often look mouthwatering delicious. However, in the local restaurants the curries are sometimes so spicy that it is more like a burning sensation than anything else. I felt I really missed out on Sri Lankan food and what it could offer.
Therefore, I decided to join the free daily cooking class by Nimali in my hostel. She used less chilies for us and for one of the first times I could actually get a real taste of Sri Lankan food. She made a range of different curries (aubergine, mango, cucumber, radish, potato, pumpkin, coconut) that were all quite unique and tasty.
Logistics: Train from Kandy to Ella
Transport to Kandy: From Colombo you can either take a train to Kandy (2-3 hours) or travel by bus. The train from Colombo is nice, but not as scenic as the train from Kandy to Ella. I travelled by bus from Dambulla to Kandy (2-3 hours).
Accomodation Kandy: Clock Inn Kandy. I really loved this hostel. It is very clean and they provide a nice breakfast. The capsules look a bit claustrophobic, but once inside it is not so bad. I managed to get a good night sleep here. They have dorms and rooms too.
Arranging the tickets for the train from Kandy to Ella: There are several trains a day leaving either from Kandy or nearby Peradeniya, but you will not be guaranteed a seat. The train from Ella to Kandy is often full, so it is better to make a reservation. Either by booking your ticket at the railway station in Colombo as soon as you arrive or online through a travel agency.
If you were not able to get a ticket you can always opt for the unreserved class. To increase your chances of getting a seat it is better to take the train from Peradeniya station (10 minutes by tuk tuk) rather than Kandy. There are about 5 trains daily. You can check the most recent timetable at The Man in Seat 61.
Accomodation Ella: Beauty Mount Tourist Inn Ella. It’s a lovely place for a great price, especially considering the rates of other places in Ella. Unfortunately making a reservation through the several online booking systems they partake in does not guarantee you a room. The owner is friendly, but doesnt really understand the systems. She still operates on a first come first serve basis.
Ellis is a travelblogger from the Netherlands with over 20 years of experience as an independent budget traveller in more than 50 countries. She has a Master degree in Cultural Anthropology and Global Health with a specialization in South Asian cultures and the Caucasus.