I'm flying to Sri Lanka on the 23rd of November and I'm really interested in taking a train trip around Sri Lanka. Basically, what I'm looking for is advice and interesting and beautiful routes to take. My idea is to travel, almost at random, from stop to stop and maybe stay in a guesthouse for a night or two at each stop and explore the surrounding areas.
I am from the UK but a regular visitor to Sri Lanka - a big fan - and I share your interest in interesting train journeys too.
Among the amazing rail journeys that you should consider are pretty much any of those that take you from Colombo into central Sri Lanka - the route taking you to Kandy, for instance, has stunning scenery once you reach the higher ground before reaching Kandy itself. One of the best journeys, however, is the one that takes you from Colombo to Badulla - also in the hill country in central Sri Lanka but one that will also feature sweeping tea plantations as well as other great sights. It's a long, slow journey but this also makes for numerous photo opportunities too.
Once you are in Colombo, as early as possible during your stay get to the main railway station (Fort Station) in order to book a first-class ticket (it may in fact say 'observation saloon ticket') for a trip a couple of days later - you won't regret it, these tickets are still cheap, but you do have to book them in advance. Not worth considering second/third class. It's chaotic at the ticket office too, but be patient and you'll come out with decent tickets after some time, and you'll only spend a few dollars/pounds. When you undertake any of these journeys, take with you some toilet paper on the train...err....just in case...the train toilet hygiene has slightly lower standards than in the western world, but hey, that's half the battle isn't it...! Here's a link to the timetable for trains from Colombo so you can at least check out the main routes:
Staying at places at random is also a great idea, and will work out cheap too - except at New Year if you are there at that time - may pay to try to book somewhere in advance then.
Hope that helps, enjoy your stay...
Thanks Mike, I appreciate the info. Unfortunately I'm a bit pressed for time, so I can't see everything I'd like to, but that just means I'll have to go again sometime.