Why a train route is Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist attraction
Sri Lanka’s top tourist highlight is the famous train route from Kandy to Ella. Get your Sri Lanka visa organised to experience this magical ride.
Imagine the following: feeling the wind blowing softly against you as you sit in the open doorway of a train, towering mountains and lush forests offering a view that you won’t find anywhere else. This is the famous train ride from Kandy to Ella, one of Sri Lanka’s biggest tourist attractions. All that you need to experience it for yourself are the right tickets, and a Sri Lanka visa.
From transporting goods to transporting people
What is now a prime way for locals to move through the country once used to be a railway used exclusively to transport trade goods. Namely, tea and coffee to Colombo, where they would then be prepared for export. The train route to and from Colombo was very profitable for the ruling British colonial forces, and saw little to no transport uses for the domestic population.
Following Sri Lanka’s independence and later transition into a republic, the train route saw increasing use as a public transportation tool as Sri Lanka’s population began to rapidly increase. Today, the route is vital for domestic transportation and is one of the cheapest ways to get around the country. This means that tourists should be aware that the train compartments are often full of locals. Be prepared to share the train’s famous open doorways with others, since even the locals can appreciate the stunning vistas. However, the crowdedness is very much worth it for what you get in return.
How to catch a ride
The Kandy–Ella train ride is actually part of a longer route from Colombo to Badulla, but tourists have taken to calling it the Kandy to Ella ride because the scenery between these two places is by far the most stunning. This means that you can take the train at various locations: Colombo, Kandy, Ella or from Badulla. The ride from Kandy to Ella takes approximately seven hours.
While it may sound odd, you might want to consider not getting first class tickets. The uniqueness of the Kandy–Ella train ride is being able to breath in the fresh outdoor air and witness the magical scenery pass you by from an open doorway or window. First class compartments have a lot more luxury, but windows and doors tend to be shut. For many, this goes against the spirit of the ride. The second and third class train compartments are therefore favoured by both tourists and the locals: tourists because of the view, and the locals because of the price.
Once you’ve purchased your tickets and managed to get on board (don’t be afraid to do some pushing if it’s crowded!), you are set to experience what is considered by many the best train ride in the world. From lush forests with waterfalls, to sprawling emerald tea plantations and towering hills, Sri Lanka has it all, and the Kandy to Ella train is by far the best way to get to see it all first hand.
Getting a Sri Lanka visa
There’s another reason why Sri Lanka is such a popular tourist destination for European tourists: its easy-to-navigate visa system. Tourists that plan to stay in Sri Lanka for a maximum of four weeks can make use of the online visa application for Sri Lanka. This bypasses the need to visit the embassy to get your visa there, which can often take weeks. The online Sri Lanka visa is generally issued within 72 hours, and can even be extended once in Sri Lanka, up to a maximum validity length of 90 days. More than enough to not just enjoy the Kandy–Ella train ride, but also experience other highlights that Sri Lanka has to offer.