Train Travel in India & Sri Lanka: 5 Memorable Trips

Whenever possible we love to take trains to explore different parts of a country. We love the gentle rhythm the train makes as it works its way across the land, the noises the trains – big and small – make as they move, plus the daily life you see as you go, things you don’t see from major highways or up in the air. When on a tour of India especially, it often also creates the opportunity to talk to local people and hear their stories. We usually encourage our travellers to take a train when on one of our India or Sri Lanka tours – for the experience and often it can be more comfortable than some roads.

Here are 5 great train trips in India and Sri Lanka we have done in recent years – in no particular order.

#1 Ooty Toy Train

Ooty Toy Train

Waiting to board the Ooty Toy Train


The Niligiri Mountain Railway, or Ooty Toy Train, is a must for train enthusiasts when an India tour. We took the train from Coonoor to Ooty and sat right behind the conductor at the front of the train – which provided the most amazing views with the windows open! The train weaves its way among the trees and up the hills, blowing its whistle as it goes. Take a jacket as the temperature drops along the ride!

Ooty Toy Train

What a view! Sitting behind the conductor on the Ooty Toy Train.

#2 The Shatabdi Express. If you are like us and enjoy getting out of the city and into the hills or country, heading to Uttrakhand in the foothills of the Himalayas is a great way to see some of India’s natural beauty or to take a walking tour of India. This regular train from Delhi gets a mention from us, as it’s express, leaves early in the morning and about 4-to-5 hours later you are in the hills.  It also has a great executive class of seats, which makes for a very comfortable journey when on a tour of India.

Shatabdi Express

Watching the world go by from the Shatabdi Express.

#3 – The Maharajas’ Express – luxury train travel in India.  If you like luxury train travel, or are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, then the Maharajas’ Express is perfect. We hopped on this luxury train in Mumbai and travelled through to Ellora and Ajunta – seeing the magnificent caves. The train trip is fantastic – great meals, a butler per carriage, a lounge carriage with bar for pre-dinner drinks. We particularly loved sitting up in the dining carriage during the day, lingering over meals and seeing India roll by outside our windows.

Maharajas’ Express

Breakfast in style on the Maharajas’ Express.

#4 Hatton to Heeloya, Sri Lanka. Toward the end of 2014 we were in Sri Lanka and took Sri Lanka Railways from Hatton to Heeloya, where we were going from one tea plantation walk to another tea region stay. This trip is charming, weaving through the fog at times and giving great views over the mountains and countryside. We recommend the cheaper tickets as the air-conditioned carriages don’t have windows that open, so the views aren’t as good. This trip is quiet popular with tourists now on holidays in Sri Lanka and is worth including in a tour of Sri Lanka.

Seeing Sri Lanka by train

Seeing Sri Lanka by train.

# 5 – Colombo to Jaffna, Sri Lanka. With the end of the troubles in the north of Sri Lanka this train route has only just recently opened. As you leave the city, you travel through agricultural land and quiet villages, before finally reaching the very new and quiet Jaffna railway station. It was very exciting heading into a part of the country only just recently opened to tourists.  We were so excited about the trip we forgot to take picture along the way – but here Lincoln is buying coffee in the main market of Jaffna once we arrived. Jaffna is a great place to base yourself to explore Sri Lanka’s north when on a tour of Sri Lanka with new hotels and fabulous regional food to try.

Downtown Jaffna

Lincoln buying some local coffee in downtown Jaffna!