Journey: Colombo to Nuwara Eliya

At an altitude of 1868 meters (6128 feet), Nuwara Eliya (or ‘City Light’) is a place to remember if you happen to find the island’s tropical weather too hot for you during your visit, especially from Feb to May. The district has been identified as the coolest area in Sri Lanka, the ‘little England’ that can be your perfect getaway if you are in search of silent solitude and an alluring atmosphere to soothe your senses.

The pleasant, temperate climate of Nuwara Eliya is mainly due to its high elevation and the surrounding craggy geography that mainly comprises of sky hugging mountain ranges. Mount Pedro, the tallest peak of Sri LankaL, casts itself into bold relief over the entire place, but it is reportedly out of bounds for the general public.

But not to worry Nuwara Eliya is home to picturesque waterfalls, streams, lakes, parks, plans, 18-hole golf courses, race courses, botanical gardens, luxury hotels and city sights. So let’s see how to get you there, with the least hassle.

Travel Options

You can choose the road, rails, air travel or a combination of them. Being air borne is not a must for the trip if you prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground. Air taxis are quite expensive anyway, although it provides you with the best panoramic view of hill country. Moreover, there are plenty of ways to go Nuwara Eliya by rail or road.

Colombo to Nuwaraeliya on the road

Then it is the A5 highway for you. Starting from Colombo – Katunayake Expressway / E03, down Kimbulapitiya Road to Negombo – Aluthepola Rd/B321, Danowita, Ulapane, along Pussellawa Rd to A5 in
Nuwara Eliya. The road is shorter than the rails, but it would still take more than 4 hours to reach your destination. The good news is you have plenty of places to visit along the road. The bad news; more time you spend in the sightseeing, more late you would be for check-in.

Public transportation comprises mainly of buses, private or state funded. Latter rarely meet the necessary comforts you might expect, like air conditioning or seat belts, but still, the worn out vehicles serve your purpose and come cheap. The buses are usually crowded, slow, dirty and undergo frequent breakdowns.

Private intercity buses come with air conditioning, built in TV and CCTV surveillance. Standard private buses do not provide air conditioning, so the fare is cheaper. The biggest problem can be the presence of a conductor. There are lots of complaints about their uncouth behaviour.
Our advice is; let your guide do the talking.

Insisting on public transport? Visit National Transport Commission at:
http://www.ntc.gov.lk/timetable.html

If you are interested in travelling in your private vehicle, you can either rent it or hire it. If you rent, you would have to drive it on your own. Hiring, you probably would be hiring a driver too. We recommend you the second option since there is someone at the wheel who understands the road better than you. But there are travellers quite good at picking up their route the first time. If you are that confident then Godspeed, but then it is better to accompany a guide.

Colombo to Nuwaraeliya by Air

The leading service provider in local air taxi service is Cinnamonair Air. They are costly. Taking off from BIA, the Cessna type aircraft would gently touchdown and float to a stop on Lake Gregory Waterdrome, quite close to NE.

Colombo to Nuwaraeliya by Rails

Rail way route is longer than the road, more than 200km (207km to be exact) but it is a journey to remember. Breathtaking scenery, with meadows, rolling. Stretch of emerald green tea plantations enriched with springs and waterfalls.

Our advice: choose your seat with care. Be seated facing forward so you can enjoy the oncoming view. Select the side of the carriage that furnishes you the best show of landscape. Avoid sitting near to toilets.

Good idea to reserve your seat in an intercity train though it is bit expensive. Exporails and Rajadhani express are good if not excellent. Standard trains are slower and tend to be crowded.

More bad news; you can’t reach Nuwara Eliya travelling by train alone. Alight at Nanu Oya station and get a bus to the city. Or hire a tuk-tuk. Getting on the train at Colombo Fort, the Main Line would branch off at Polgahawaela Station towards the mountains.

The following list of stations would be helpful to you.

Polgahawela railway station
Distance from Fort station: 73.8 km
Contact phone Number: 037-2243271

Panaleeya railway station
Distance from Fort station: 77.8 km

Tismalpola railway station
Distance from Fort station: 78.9 km

Yatagama railway station
Distance from Fort station: 82.5 km

Rambukkana railway station
Distance from Fort station: 84.4 km
Contact phone Number: 035-2265271

Kadigamuwa railway station
Distance from Fort station: 90.2 km

Gangoda railway station
Distance from Fort station: 93.8 km

Ihalakotte railway station
Distance from Fort station: 96.0 km

Balana railway station
Distance from Fort station: 101.0 km

Kadugannawa railway station
Distance from Fort station: 105.5
Contact phone Number: 081-2571271

Pilimatalawa railway station
Distance from Fort station: 109.4 km

Peradeniya railway station
Distance from Fort station: 114.8 km
Contact phone Number: 081-2388271

Koshinna railway station
Distance from Fort station: 117.3 km

Gelioya railway station
Distance from Fort station: 119.5 km

Gampola railway station
Distance from Fort station: 126.9 km
Contact phone Number: 081-2352271

Tembligala railway station
Distance from Fort station: 130.8 km

Ulapone railway station
Distance from Fort station: 134.3 km
Contact phone Number: 081-2352671

Nawalapitiya railway station
Distance from Fort station: 141.5 km
Contact phone Number:054-2222271

Inguruoya railway station
Distance from Fort station: 147.3 km
Contact phone Number: 054-2223871

Galaboda railway station
Distance from Fort station: 152.8 km

Watawala railway station
Distance from Fort station: 162.1 km
Contact phone Number: 051-2237271

Ihalawatawala railway station
Distance from Fort station: 165.1 km

Rosella railway station
Distance from Fort station:167.7 km
Contact phone Number: 051-2237270

Hatton railway station
Distance from Fort station: 174.9 km
Contact phone Number: 051-2222271

Kotagala railway station
Distance from Fort station: 179.9 km
Contact phone Number: 051-2222439

Talawakele railway station
Distance from Fort station: 187.8 km
Contact phone Number: 052-2258271

Watagoda railway station
Distance from Fort station:194.2 km
Contact phone Number: 051-2236071

Great western railway station
Distance from Fort station: 199.3 km

Radella railway station
Distance from Fort station: 202.7 km

Nanuoya railway station
Distance from Fort station: 207.0 km
Contact phone Number: 052-2222873

Travel Tips

We always raise our hands with approval whenever trains are mentioned. But for this one we keep our arms crossed. No, we can’t give thumbs up for rails for your Nuwara Eliya trip. It takes too much time, exhausts you and demands that you hire another vehicle once you get out from the train at Nanu Oya. After all, giving up the train journey would not deprive you of the spectacular scenery. You would have plenty of that on the tarmac too.