The religious and cultural heart of Sri Lanka. Referred to as the hill capital, it is the second-largest city and the gateway to the verdant central highlands. Enveloped by the Sea of Milk, the serene Kandy Lake adds to the city’s splendor.
Historically Kandy was the last stronghold of the Sinhala kingdom. It stood strongly against the repeated attacks from the Dutch and Portuguese but only subdued to the British in 1815. The city boasts of a rich cultural and historical heritage that spans beyond 2500 years. Today, Kandy is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is no wonder since it is home to an interesting collection of religious and historical sites, cultural monuments, rich traditions, and the most celebrated botanical garden in the country. Kandy reflects the heart and soul of the country so if you are looking for Sri Lanka tailor made holidays, spend a few extra days here.
Travelling to Kandy
There are several modes of transport to Kandy, you can use public transport or take a private vehicle and it all depends on your requirements.
To take the bus from Colombo to Kandy, you will need to get to the Fort bus station. From there you need to catch the number 1 bus to reach your destination. For a more comfortable option, you can take an intercity air-conditioned bus.
The train ride from Colombo to Kandy is a very scenic one. It’s best to take the intercity express for a comfortable journey. The tickets for the intercity train needs to be reserved in advance if travelling during the weekend.
Taking a private vehicle for your journey is the most comfortable choice. The cost of this will be much higher than using public transport but it will be a safe, comfy and peaceful trip.
You also have the option of taking an air taxi to go to Kandy. It is only a 30-minute flight from Colombo however the cost is much higher than the other methods.
Best time to visit Kandy
Kandy welcomes visitors year-round. There are many things for you to see and experience at any time of the year. For those who are interested in culture, August is the best time to witness Sri Lanka’s biggest and the most lavish Buddhist procession the ‘Esala Perahera‘.
Where to stay in Kandy
The hill capital is one of the most favoured holiday destinations in Sri Lanka among locals and tourists alike. You will understand why when you get there. Due to the immense popularity of this charismatic city, there are plenty of accommodation options in Kandy to choose from. Your choices will vary from high-end hotels to simpler options such as a bed and breakfast.
This is an upscale hotel located overlooking the Mahaweli River. You can expect spacious, stylishly decorated rooms with cable TV and free access to Wi-Fi. On-site restaurants and lavish buffets are all part of the experience at this swanky hotel in the highlands.
Located in the hillside above the Kandy Lake, the Sharon Inn is owned by a Lankan-German couple. It’s a clean and comfortable stay that serves value for money dinner buffet.
Viyana Boutique Hotel
This a modern boutique hotel located within walking distance from the Temple of the Tooth. Equipped with modern amenities and tastefully designed rooms, this is a mid-range hotel that’s ideal for all types of travellers.
Things to do and see in Kandy
The Temple of the Tooth
The Tempe of the Tooth is the most eminent Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka and the Buddhist World. Located overlooking the Kandy Lake is one of the most remarkable places to visit in the city. The sacred tooth relic of Buddha is enshrined to a guarded room in the temple. The room that houses the sacred relics is open to devotees only during prayer time (three times daily). The tooth relic is kept in a golden casket in a stupa shaped structure and only this casket is shown to people. There is a strong belief that the temple stands as the guardian of the country. Don’t worry if you go outside prayer times since there are plenty of things to see inside the temple.
The Royal Botanical Garden
This is counted as one of the top attractions in Kandy. Sprawling over 60 hectares of land the Royal Botanical Garden was reserved specifically for the royal family during ancient times. After the British invasion, it was converted to a botanic garden open to the public. The orchid patches, palm tree walkways, and the spice garden are some of the main highlights of the garden. The National Herbarium of Sri Lanka attached to the botanical garden is also a must-visit.
Visit a tea plantation
Sri Lanka’s hill country is blessed with emerald tea plantations and Kandy is no less when it comes to producing world-class Ceylon Tea. The Giragama tea plantation is located within a short drive from the Kandy town and it offers picturesque views that leave your soul stirred.
Located at the mountainous terrains of the Temple of the Tooth, Udawattekele Sanctuary was reserved as a retreat for the Kandyan kings back in the day. It was later converted to a sanctuary and is an important bio-reserve in the city. The sanctuary is sprawled over 100 hectares of land and is home to 80 species of animals including mammals, birds, and insects.
Kandyan cultural shows are spectacular dance performances with acrobats, pirouettes, and drumming acts. The costumes are colourful and the music unique and engaging. The cultural show depicts different forms of Kandyan dancing which was once confined to Kandy but has now spread to other regions in the country. The dance acts depict graceful movements of various animals and it dates back to the ritual known as the ‘Kohomba Kankariya‘. The show ends with a dramatic fire walk, which leaves the spectators awestruck.