For a relatively small island, Sri Lanka has it all: vast jungles and wildlife-filled national parks, lush mountains and sandy beaches, great temples and ancient cities. It also has an extensive railway network that was built mainly in the 19th century and still passes through some of must-see places today. Most visitors start in the busy capital Colombo, before venturing out to visit the country’s tea plantations and incredible coastline. We’d take the train from Colombo to Ella, stopping halfway in Kandy – this part of the route takes three hours and passes paddy fields and tropical rainforest. After exploring Kandy (home to sacred temples and close to some of the best national parks), continue on to Ella, where you’ll find hipster cafes and local food stalls dotted around the famous Nine Arch Bridge – one of the country’s finest sites. From Ella, you can continue south to the old fort city of Galle, where the surf is always up.
Visit during the sunny, dry season (the best time to hit beaches and tea country) from December to April, when temperatures in Kandy hover around 20°C.
You can now buy advance train tickets using the country’s online ticketing system, though you will still need to pick up physical tickets from a station. Or Nemo Travel organises bespoke itineraries across the country.