The central highlands of Sri Lanka are mainly famous for one thing: tea. The frequent rainfall provides the perfect climate for production and the stunning green hills have started to draw the attention of travelers, particularly hikers and backpackers.
We began our journey through tea country in Kandy. Our original plan was to take the scenic train ride from Kandy down to Ella, but once we learned it would entail over eight hours on a packed train, we decided to change our plans. Instead, we hired a driver to take us to Nuwara Eliya and then hopped on the train for the last three hours of the epic train route.
Though it is more expensive to hire a driver than it is to go by train (about $30 vs. $1), it was well worth the extra cash for us to have a comfortable amount of space and the ability to stop along the way. Our first stop was at a tea factory, where we were able to sea how all of the different kinds of tea are sorted and processed. Then, we were able to do a taste testing of the teas, and of course, buy some tea to take home. Our favorite was the strong brew of the Broken Orange Pekoe (especially with a little milk and sugar!). We also made several stops to stroll through various tea fields and to see some waterfalls.
We arrived at the Nuwara Eliya train station just in time for the 3 PM train; it was everything we’d hoped for. We lucked out and were able to sit by one of the doorways…certainly not the safest spot, but definitely the most picturesque! The pictures will never do it justice. Every curve along the rail revealed a breathtaking new scene.
When I was first doing my research for this trip, so many people talked up the long Kandy to Ella train. Personally, I couldn’t imagine myself enjoying something like that for eight or nine hours, unless I’d booked way in advance and gotten a good seat and brought along a healthy supply of books (and snacks!). If you want to experience the great views, but don’t want to spend all day on a slow, crowded train, definitely consider the Nuwara Eliya to Ella route.