Described by rail enthusiasts as one of the world’s greatest train experiences, the hill country line is a winding, ascending railroad; slow and lovely. The soft rhythms of the train will lull you through the verdant hills, tiny rural stations, forest and precipitous views. Feel your senses stirring as you climb up through the highlands, surrounded by lush tea plantations and stunning scenery in every direction.
The slightly ramshackle looking tea train click-clacking through the flourishing countryside of central Tea Country is iconic Sri Lankan imagery. Though popular with many travellers, it’s certainly no tourist trap (don’t worry, we’d be the first to let you know if it ever became one). The scenery is captivating and varied. Wild green hills make way for forests clinging to steep hillsides, deep, cool tunnels and working tea fields. Trundle through tiny rural stations that look like the opening scene of an arthouse film. Vendors wait on certain platforms, ready to sell bags of fresh fruit and tubs of tempting snacks to passengers leaning through the windows. It’s something really special.
Much more than just a fun way to get from A to B, this is a glorious glimpse into a different type of travel; one that both hints at the grand journeys of yesteryear and demonstrates the everyday travel realities of modern Sri Lankan communities. 2nd or 3rd class tickets are the best way to enjoy the journey as they get you seats in the heart of the train alongside the locals. The journey from Kandy to Badulla takes about 7 hours in total, but you can disembark at any stop that fits your wider journey along the way. The route consistently presents great photo opportunities, particularly as the train curves and ascends its way around the undulating landscape. Just make sure you remember to put the camera down occasionally and give yourself fully to the experience, as the fresh tropical air brushes your face and the scent of the tea fields floats through the open windows.
Combine the island’s top wildlife crowd pleasers with some magnificent hidden gems and cultural highlights before spending some time on the beach.