Discover the island on a train – the best views around the country

A train travel that offers scenic views of the hot spots in Sri Lanka.
Colombo to Dambulla
Chundikulam lagoon in Elephant Pass
Rolling tea estates in Hatton
Fishing boats lying on the beach at Kudapayagala
By Swetha |

The first steam powered train in Sri Lanka rolled into the Ambepussa station on December 27, 1864 via the Main Line being built from Colombo to Kandy. Since then, the Sri Lankan railway has travelled on a progressive journey and has served countless passengers, daily commuters and holidaymakers. One of the most romantic ways to discover the tropical island is by train. Colloquially known as the yakada yaka, these iron devils rumble along the tracks, allowing countless passengers to enjoy delightful views of the scenic landscape; and the rhythmic and repetitive sound of the train can be heard as it passes over the railway sleepers.

There are three main rail lines that take passengers to the south, the east and the north, all setting forth from Colombo. Each of these railway lines offer splendid scenery before arriving at the final terminus. 

The Kalutara Bodhi greets the train
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Colombo to Matara

The train that winds its way to Matara in Southern province offers mesmeric views of the beaches of the West Coast. The sights of Fishermen hauling their oru (traditional outriggers) with the day’s catch, the makeshift cricket grounds on the sand, Kalutara Bodhi, Kalu Ganga, coconut groves, numerous river crossings and friendly pedestrians near the city limits will greet the traveller. The train gives access to areas such as Galle, Hikkaduwa, Mirissa and other famous beachside destinations as well. It is a great alternative to the Southern Highway and an unparalleled way of travelling to the laidback south.

Discover the island on a train
BT Images

While the train journey to the south takes you through the west coast, the train that departs from Colombo and heading towards Badulla offers a different perspective of the country.

Nine Arches Bridge
©BT Images

The east-bound train cuts across a rugged mountainous landscape and along the 290km journey, where passengers can obeserve the charming pristine hill country scenery. Some of the popular attractions of this journey include numerous tunnels through mountains and hills, cloud-covered mountain peaks, including Pattipola, the highest station in Sri Lanka, Nine Arches Bridge, Kandy, Peradeniya, Nuwara Eliya, Hatton and Ella.

Abhayagiriya at a distant
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Colombo to Kankesanthurai

The Yal Devi train, takes the passengers on a journey that lasts approximately ten hours from the city of Colombo to Kankesanthurai (KKS) in the Jaffna Peninsula. The train transitions from wetland to dry land terrain as well as the change in the landscape is gradual but unmistakable. Once past the city limits of Colombo, the land begins to transform into rocky terrain towards Kurunegala. As it reaches the heritage city of Anuradhapura, rocky outcrops are replaced by ancient temples, and passengers can glimpse the three main Stupas – Ruwanweliseya, Jetavanaramaya and Abhayagiriya. As the train reaches the Jaffna peninsula, one can immerse salty breeze blow from the Indian Ocean.

Train travel
©BT Images

Train travel has been an integral mode of transportation in Sri Lanka, and it provides a different way of travel. It is a leisurely way to reach a destination that is as amazing as the destination itself.