Sri Lanka by private train – one of my best ever travel experiences

The Viceroy Special crossing the Nine Arches Bridge

Travelling across Sri Lanka in a privately chartered, all inclusive heritage steam train, staying in resort hotels along the way, is by far the best travel experience I’ve had. 

As part of my work with Scott McGregor’s Railway Adventures, I’ve been lucky enough to experience some of what they offer us guys and gals over 50.  The  Sri Lanka on the Viceroy Special tour, along with 24 other over-50’s travellers has been a truely memorable experience.

We came from all over Australia, from different walks of life and all had experiences to share. Two weeks together in the hands of Scott McGregor, a recognised television personality, actor, producer and author, whose lifelong passion for the great railway age led him to establish his own boutique tour company, Railway Adventures, which has specialised in train tours to destinations all over the world for the last six years. Scott’s incredibly joyful personality, showbiz energy, competence and seemingly bottomless pit of knowledge about the history of Sri Lanka was just the beginning of what turned into a truly encapsulating two weeks on the rails.

The train

The passenger carriages on the Viceroy Special are fitted with nineteenth-century period fittings and include a restaurant car, an observation car and a bar, which was well patronised as we travelled across the country. Modern features such as air-conditioning and refrigeration in the kitchen and bar cars make for a very comfortable journey.  The train itself is run by both diesel locomotive and the only steam locomotive still in operation in Sri Lanka. And all of us got a turn riding up the front!

The Viceroy Special

There’s nothing quite as much fun as riding in the cab of a steam locomotive, with someone shovelling the coal on my right and the driver on my left, with me in charge of the steam whistle, which I was at liberty to blow pretty much any time I wanted!  They probably should have through that one through a little better!

The hotels

The train isn’t a sleeper train, which makes the adventure even more fun as you get to stay in opulent hotels along the way – 5-star wherever possible! From the wonderful Uga Bay Resort near Batticaloa on the east coast to the iconic Geoffrey Bawa-designed Heritance Kandalama, to the very English Grand Hotel in the tea country region of Nuwara Eliya (fondly referred to as ‘little England’), it was class and comfort all the way!

The iconic Geoffrey Bawa-designed Heritance Kandalama

The places 

This itinerary takes in all the must-see’s of Sri Lanka, including most of the stunning and priceless UNESCO sites – the Ancient City of Sigiriya; the Golden Temple of Dambulla; Anuradhapura, the first ancient capital of Sri Lanka; Polonnaruwa, the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s kingdoms; the sacred city of Kandy and the ancient city of Galle.

Crossing the Nine Arches Bridge

But my favourite visit by far was the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, where we saw first hand the work of committed volunteers in protecting and rehabilitating the beautiful Sri Lankan elephant community, devastated by poachers and the loss of habitat.  Watching a great herd of these wonderful animals lumber down to the river and enjoy 30 minutes rolling around in it was truly heart-warming and rather life affirming!

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

Add in great shopping, brilliant food and some of the most kind and generous people on the planet and you have a ‘cracker’ two weeks.

Railway Adventures will be running their Sri Lanka tour in November 2023 and again in 2024, visit their website for more info!

Our experienced and friendly Customer Service Team are always on hand to answer any questions you may have, call us on 1300 800 977 or email us at [email protected] to request a brochure on our tours in 2023/24 or visit our website to view all our tours.

Scott McGregor’s Railway Adventures tour is more than just a holiday, it is a unique way to experience the world. By train you are completely immersed in culture and adventure, exploring the most scenic corners of the world in the comfort of a luxury train. Whether you are an experienced traveller or just beginning to explore this wonderful world, Railway Adventures has something for everyone. Transform your holiday into the most unforgettable adventure of a lifetime with Railway Adventures.

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