Sri Lanka has a new contender for the world’s most scenic rail journey

March 14, 2023 at 5:12 PM

I had only been on the Ella Odyssey for 10 minutes when the woman sitting next to me proffered a plate piled high with neatly cut white-bread sandwiches containing a mildly spicy paste. “Please,” she said. “We have a long journey. Take two!”

She was with her husband, daughter and two grandchildren, and, in common with everyone else on board, was relishing the prospect of travelling along one of the most scenic stretches of train track in the world. I had been looking forward to this journey for years, and although we had barely started, I felt a shared sense of excitement with my fellow travellers.

The Ella Odyssey was introduced by Sri Lanka Railways last year as a tourist-friendly “luxury” service along the island’s Main Line, which was built in the period of British rule to link the capital Colombo with Badulla to the east.

The original aim of the line was to facilitate the highly lucrative trade in coffee and then tea, a crop that flourished in the wet, misty highlands of central Sri Lanka following the cultivation of the first leaves by the Scottish settler James Taylor in the mid-19th century. The line also served as an artery linking the people from the capital and the west coast with those from the mountainous interior and the sacred city of Kandy. (The Telegraph)

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