We originally planned to take the iconic train ride from Kandy to Ella, but we were advised that it would take 7 hours with the most scenic section in the last 3 hours between Nuwara Ella to Ella. Given this, we opted to ride the shorter section and were glad we did this! Traveling by car is much faster than train and we were able to have a leisurely drive from Adam’s Peak to Nuwara Ella stopping at tea plantations along the way.
Travel Tip: First class tickets and most second class tickets for the train to Ella sell out a month in advance. Most are purchased by travel agencies due to the popularity of the train ride. Unless you book far in advance, try to book via an agent. 1st class cars have air conditioning so the windows and doors are closed. If you want the iconic photo out the window your best bet is 2nd class reserved.
Since we bought ours the day of, we were lucky to get 2nd class unreserved. We were told you can always get a ticket in 3rd class unreserved, but during high season this could mean a very cramped 3 hour ride. Seats opened up as we progressed on the ride but we much preferred to sit at the door and dangle our feet out the train taking in the scenery. The train stations also sell some pretty delicious treats so we bought some to enjoy on the ride.
Additionally riding from Nuwara Ella to Ella provides great views on both sides but the views are better on the left side of the train (when facing forward) to Ella and the right side in the opposite direction. Sitting down with our legs hanging out the open door with amazing scenery and local Sri Lankans playing music inside the train was the highlight of Sri Lanka and one of the best parts of our Around the World Trip thus far. This is a must, if you are visiting Sri Lanka.