Traveling on train From Colombo to Ella: A Photo Story

Colombo Ella Kandy NatnZin

In 2015, we both together went on our first Kandy-Ella train journey which marked as our first travel together. Smelly cramped passenger compartments in a small goods train. Having zero sleep the night before, catching up with friends at Clock Inn Kandy and sipping chai. Soon, the tedious journey turned into one with so much fun, majestic sunrise over the central highlands, meeting strangers and sharing tipitip with a wee kid. The train ride still is one of our favorite ever journeys. (Also read: Why train is the best way to travel)

And two years later, we headed to Ella again. Reserved our seats in a 2nd class compartment in ‘Podi Menike‘ train, the clichéd ‘Blue Dragon.‘ Before we got off the train to head to Amba Estate, we sat at the door, put our feet out, laughing, often, snappin’ photos as the cold breeze embraced us both.

Kadugannawa NatnZin Railways
Passing Kadugannawa. A Railway Station in full bloom, an example of how Sri Lankan Railway Stations normally look.  Also home to a railway museum we dearly love.
Nil Manel Sri Lanka
A five minute stopover at Kandy! A glimpse of home (for Zin). The central highlands in far corner awaken the memories of her school days. Her sixth grade classroom on 4th floor. Bunking PTS (she still does not know what PTS is), learning new words she’s never heard of and finally, making a bestfriend. Nathan runs to grab some short-eats (shorties) from the station canteen as an uncle sell Nil Manel, Sri Lanka’s national flower at the station.
Railway Station Sri Lanka
About 3 and a half hours done! Once a Pakistani friend on Twitter told us Sri Lankan letters looked like jalebi. This station nameboard is proof that they actually are.
River Sri Lanka Kandy
Passing one of the many rivers streams. As soon as the train reaches Ulapane, Nathan turns to Zin and says “our station” as if Ulapane was his home for twenty years (not Saudi Arabia). The pink bougainvillea in full bloom is no more. Yet Ulapane remains the same. Silent. Serene. Beautiful. And Ulapane, will you please be “our station” forever?
Old Train Sri Lanka
A vintage train having her last laugh, abandoned, yet adored by many.
Tea Plantation NatnZin
Passing endless tea plantations. Aunties, from small hill-country villages, busy at work.
Hatton Sri Lanka NatnZin
“10 years from now, I want to live here,” says Nathan.
Railways Sri Lanka
Another stop! From Kandy onwards, Podi Menike takes a wee break at every station till its destination, Badulla, giving you a few more minutes to soak up the beauty (and making your up-country journey a tad longer).
Cattles Sri Lanka
A lazy morning in the hills. Also our meal break. We both share a few beetroot sandwiches Nathan’s dada made the previous night! Thanks dad, they were yum!
Kandy Ella NatnZin
Zin sits at the door, wearing her fave harem pants and murmuring a few words of Dua Lipa’s Be The One. A young foreign couple snaps about 2000 photos of themselves, only themselves, in different angles, sexier poses, hanging out of the train door and often being a hassle to other passengers. A few weeks later, their photo reaches about 2000 likes on Instagram, shared by many other recognized Instagram accounts.
Great Western NatnZin
The majestic Great Western mountains. Have you camped here?


Train Sri Lanka NatnZin
The blue dragon meets another blue dragon!
Mountains Sri Lanka NatnZin
Mist-clad mountains. Serene, peaceful and a tad mysterious the same time.
Kandy Ella NatnZin
Passing one tunnel, entering another. Tunnel Number 18 belongs to both Central Province (wet zone) and Uva Province (dry zone). Even when you are traveling by train, you could experience the climate difference in both ends of the tunnel. You leave Pattipola with your windows closed and the sweaters on. You go past the tunnel as a ray of sunshine softly kisses your cheeks.
Nuwara Eliya NatnZin
A few more snaps from the wet zone before we enter dry zone.

Kandy Ella Sri Lanka

Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka
Mid-day drizzles, mist-laden hills and mountainous roads. Reminds us of the recent Sinhala movie ’28’
NatnZin Sri Lanka Train
Here’s a previously existed fact about us: We both never smiled for photos until we met each other. Somehow, people we met and hung out with have successfully convinced us that crooked teeth make your smile look bad. Then we met. And now we are embracing our crooked teeth. PS: See the uncle behind us (yep, only his pants are visible). He was the sweetest grandpa one could ask for. He, his wife, his daughter and his three grandkids traveled to Ella in the same compartment. It was darn cute how they shared their meals together and every time some mountain, a station or a waterfall popped up, this old fella knew a lot about it.

Ohiya NatnZin Sri Lanka

Idalgashinna Sri Lanka NatnZin
Idalgashinna. One of the much photographed Railway Stations in Sri Lanka. We have a friend who works here. Mohan, who used to work at Clock Inn Colombo, later became friends with us. He left Colombo to teach Tamil to little kids in small hill-country villages while reading for his BA in Tamil (more power to him). He’s indeed chosen a nice place to live. Hasn’t he?
Maharath Mal. You’d often come across these beautiful trees in montane forests in Sri Lanka in Pattipola and Ohiya areas.

Maharathmal Ohiya Sri Lanka

Ohiya Montane Forests NatnZin
Continuing our train journey through Sri Lanka’s montane forests.
Train Ella Sri Lanka
Only a few more hours left till we reach our destination.
Kandy Sri Lanka Ella
But first, more mountain views.
Badulla Sri Lanka Ella
Mint Green, Summer Grass Green, Olive Green, Fern Green…and so on. We feel as if the entire green pallette is in one beautiful landscape.
Podi Menike Badulla NatnZin
Podi Menike continuing her journey through the mountains. Kinda envy her that she witnesses this every single day. You lucky train, you…!

Haputale Sri Lanka NatnZin

Idalgashinna Sri Lanka Train

Train Sri Lanka Idalgashinna

Train Journey Sri Lanka
Nathan: “our eyes should have the ability to snap a photo as it blinks, just the way how they see it.”

Mountains Sri Lanka NatnZin

Railway Station NatnZin
Imagine if this was your home, sipping a cup of freshly brewed ginger tea and sitting here on one of these rickety wooden benches overlooking the mountains as you breathe fresh air, oxygen, mingled with the morning fragrance of mellow yellow flowers.
Blue Train Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka. She’s gorgeous. And darling sugar plums, you’d often feel as your life sucks because you couldn’t take a 2 week trip to Barcelona. Or a weekend staycation at island’s one fine luxury hotel. It might be because you lack money. Or time. Or both. Mostly money, isn’t it? We lack both. Mostly money. And time because we work hard to live. But let us tell you one thing, sometimes, taking a small trip to Sri Lanka’s up country or a train ride to South Coast is as fascinating as a 2 week trip to Madrid. Berlin. Paris Or London. It all lies in the journey. And how you embrace it. If your feet is itchy, if travel makes you happy and if you often worry about not having enough money or time to travel big, start small. Take baby steps. Take one weekend off. Plan a small trip to Sigiriya. Batticaloa or Mannar. Learn to travel responsibly. Take public transport. It’s often much more fun than you’d think. One-way ticket to Ella (2nd Class reserved) is only Rs. 600. It’s Rs. 400 in 3rd class and if you don’t reserve and travel in normal passenger compartments (on most weekdays it’s a good option as they don’t get much busy), it’s the price of  our (and probably yours) lunch packet. Our stay here was sponsored by Amba Estate but if we weren’t sponsored, we’d probably have stayed in a small cozy guesthouse in Ella, like we did in Nuwara Eliya. We stayed at The Train View in Nanu Oya for Rs. 1500 per night for two with a cozy bed and hot water showers + complimentary unlimited breakfast. Yes, UNLIMITED. Delicious Sri Lankan brekkie made with love.
Heel-Oya NatnZin Amba
Finally reached our destination and it took us nine hours from Colombo! Heel Oya, a tiny station before Kithal Ella and Ella, and they do their name the coolest cutest way.

Ella Heel Oya Train

What’s the most scenic train journey you’ve been on?


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We are Nathan and Zinara, documenting our experiences and stories for a lifestyle full of love and adventure. Currently based in Sri Lanka.

41 thoughts on “Traveling on train From Colombo to Ella: A Photo Story

  1. These photos are fantastic. Love seeing the countryside from the trains. Unfortunately I haven’t ridden on that many trains, although I’ve taken a few train trips in Ukraine and saw some nice countryside.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! Sri Lanka’s countryside is absolutely beautiful. And we believe train is the best way to see a country. Ukraine seems beautiful, indeed. One of our major goals is to take the Trans Siberian Train. One day…!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d love to travel cross country by train, especially in Sri Lanka! The flowers are beautiful, and the countryside is so green and lush. I also think it’s cute that you smile for pictures now that you’re together. Great article!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I would absolutely do this! Being on the train makes you feel Sri Lankan but also getting to see some of the real Sri Lanka whilst on the train is a massive bonus! Some of your photos are amazing! Great article!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. OMG the views are amazing. I live right next to Sri Lanka and have been wanting to visit it for a very long time. The train ride is reminiscent of a number of train rides in India, but then each country brings about its unique characteristics and again kudos on the photos which are just brilliant.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, we’ve heard about the luxurious trains covering Rajastan. One journey we’d love to take is Kalka to Shimla by the Toy Train. We sure need to plan for that one.


  5. Aww what a beautiful post, with wonderful pictures to match! The two of you seem to be each other’s best companion, and this train journey must have been so much fun! I’ve never been to Sri Lanka, but it sure looks pretty. I do love those old looking classic trains!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great photos. Thanks for taking us the reads on your journey. I felt the coolness of the hills and longed to be there even if it was for a few minutes. Hope you have a great holiday.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Nice pictures! I iloved your photo essay as I went to Sri Lanka last year and had a similar experience. I also loved to sit in the open doorways 😉 I wrote a practical post about train travel in Sri Lanka and highly recommend to take the train to Ella!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oh my goodness! This place looks gorgeous!!! Srilanka is in my list for 2018 and I guess I should get in touch with you before I plan. So picturesque and so much greenery. Reminds me of Nilgiri Mountain Railways in India.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. magnificent publish, very informative. I wonder why the opposite experts of this sector do not understand this.
    You should continue your writing. I’m confident, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!


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