Bandarawela: Hill top trains & a colonial time-warp

Passengers waiting to board the 10:10am train bound for Colombo

Calves wincing with each step from our Adam’s Peak adventure, we wound onward through beautiful hill country for a one night stop off in Bandarawela, where the town’s perfectly preserved colonial hotel stole all our hearts.

The internal courtyard at the Bandarawela Hotel

Like the rest of the Commonwealth, Britain’s history in Sri Lanka may be chequered but it’s left behind a distinctive style which is still proudly displayed across this area.

When construction began in 1893 its original intention was to be a tea planter’s club, but soon became a rest house, as it stays to this day (with a few diversions along the way).

Stuck somewhere between the 1930s and 1950s, the Bandarawela Hotel is clearly a hotspot for local weddings, one of which we stumbled upon with our backpacks and dusty shorts!

What we saw when we became accidental wedding crashers on our arrival!

The whole place felt like a crystallised bygone era, like something out of a Wes Anderson film. So much so we posed, Wes style, on the front lawn!


We also made friends with barman Richard, who’s about to leave to start his own venture (more on that later).

This was the first but not the last time we were to see Richard!

The highlight though was taking the train through hill country, just for the hell of it.

We took a 4 hour return journey from Bandarawela for £1, stuck our heads out of the giant open train doors and watched the wonderful world go by.

Ignore the horror stories about Sri Lankan trains, and suspend your health and safety fears; to most Southern Rail commuters this journey would be nirvana. We loved it.

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