The train journey to Nuwara Eliya is said to be one of the most scenic train rides in the world and I couldn’t agree more! It is, in fact, one of the most beautiful train trips I’ve taken so far. The train goes through lush jungles, wild mountains, cute little villages, numerous waterfalls, pristine rivers, and beautiful tea estates. It gets more interesting and eye catching by the second.
What makes the train journey to Nuwara Eliya even more special is the train itself. They are old trains, but they have their place. There are two types of trains leaving from Colombo Fort terminal to Nanu Oya: the blue ones and the red ones. Even if they are very old I like the red ones best, because they give more mood to my photographs.
I would say that no one should leave Sri Lanka without taking the train journey to Nanu Oya; it is a great way to experience the natural beauty of Sri Lanka. Imagine, I’ve taken it five times so far and it never failed to surprise me. And, let me tell you more, I wouldn’t miss a chance to take it again.
The famous train route which has a stop in Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya) is called Colombo-Badulla because the ride starts in Colombo and ends in Badulla.
Nuwara Eliya does not have a railway station, visitors have to take the train to Nanu Oya which is about 10 km from Nuwara Eliya.
All those who have planned a trip to Nanu Oya as a first stop of their Sri Lankan itinerary upon arrival to the Bandaranaike International Airport often head to Colombo in order to start their trip.
I would like to dwell on this point for a moment because I want to give you an insider tip in order to save you at least 3 hours.
Now, it is true that the train journey to Nanu Oya is one of the most scenic train rides in the world, but you should know that train trips in Sri Lanka are very adventurous. The journey from Colombo to Nanu Oya (171KM) takes almost 7 hours and staying in a train that long is an adventure in itself. And, this journey, for one reason or another, can last even longer. At this point believe me, you get irritated a bit. Especially if you have to use the bathroom or if you are travelling to Sri Lanka with children.
What I’m going to say now will help you to save at least 3 hours for your trip to Nanu Oya. Keep this in mind if you have Nanu Oya as your first stop in Sri Lanka.
Are you landing in Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport ?
Even though your flight ticket to Sri Lanka points out Colombo as your destination, international airplanes land in a city called Katunayake which is 32 km north of the Capital Colombo or about an hour drive. So, it really makes no sense driving south to reach Colombo to then go up north again. You are wasting your time unless you have a plan to spend your first night in Colombo. Obviously, what I’m going to say is valid if you are close to Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayake or Negombo.
Insider tip for the train journey to Nanu Oya.
Read Also: Sri Lankan Tea Pickers
If you want to go to Nanu Oya (Nuwara Eliya) from Bandaranaike International Airport in Katunayaka or Negombo catch the train from GAMPAHA and not from Colombo.
Gampaha is about 30 minutes by bus from Katunayaka and 40 minutes by bus from Negombo (bus number 244). It is the less busy road which means, faster.
You can travel up to Gampaha by tuk tuk or by bus. Once you are at the railway station in Gampaha, buy the ticket at the counter and grab the Colombo Badulla route train. The same train which departs from the Colombo Fort Station will stop in Gampaha after two or three hours. It is a stretch of road that you can afford to lose because the train has yet to leave the big cities.
By opting for a Nanu Oya trip which starts in Gampaha we are not talking about saving money because in general, trains are a very affordable mode of transport for exploring Sri Lanka, but we are talking about saving time. 2 or 3 hours of time can change a lot in a journey.
The only problem you may have is that it could be a bit hard to find a seat since the train, having already made many stops from its departure in Colombo, has loaded many people. No need to worry about it though, there are enough replacements so that sooner or later you will find it and you can finally sit. At worst, you will stand for an hour while you travel.
Book Train Ticket to Nuwara Eliya. (Nanu Oya)
The Ministry of Transportation has launched a website and a mobile application for the first time in Sri Lanka to reserve train seats online. So passengers from anywhere in the world can now book train seats in Sri Lanka. Please note that here, you can make an online reservation only, physical ticket needs to be collected from mTicketing service enabled station.
Gampaha railway station.
People here are not used to seeing tourists so all eyes will be on you, but they hardly interact with you.
There are no special ticket counters for tourists in Gampaha therefore you are like a local. Gampaha railway station is not crowded or touristy so don’t expect to find restaurants or trendy bars here. In any case there are some cute places where you can buy some tasty and spicy fast food items.
I like the town centre of Gampaha, small, no rush, with everything close by.
I hope the option of grabbing the train in Gampaha might come in handy since it is a great option to save time for your train journey to Nuwara Eliya. Believe me, it is certainly a good way to make one of the most scenic train journeys in the world even more enjoyable.