Discover Kandy, Sri Lanka: Everything You Need To Know
Full of culture and history, Kandy city is a mesmerizing tourist destination of Sri Lanka that is often included on any travel itinerary. If you’re planning a visit to this lovely town, here is everything you need to know for a great holiday.
I. About Kandy
Surrounded by tropical plantations and rolling hills in the heart of Sri Lanka, Kandy, byname Maha Nuwara, is the country’s second-largest city and the current capital city of the Central Province. In the past, it was the last capital of the Sinhala kings and an important Buddhist pilgrimage destination that remains its thriving status until now with a UNESCO World Heritage Site title declared in 1988.
Kandy was first established by the king of Gampola, the Vikramabahu III (1357–1374 AD), and named Senkadagalapura at the time. During the period of Kandyan Kingdoms, Buddhism flourished in the city and Kandy became a sacred Buddhist centre with a multitude of medieval temples. The most important of its many religious sites is Sri Dalada Maligava (the Temple of the Tooth Relic), where the tooth relic of Lord Buddha has been preserved since 1590. The city also experienced a period of European colonial era when it came under British rule, but many treasures from its past are still held intact by its people.
The magnificent city of Kandy attracts many pilgrims and tourists that make it a significant commercial, cultural, educational and administrative centre of Sri Lanka. The surrounding region is covered in lush green fields of tea, rice and other crops, perfect for couples’ romantic getaways, friend or family holidays.
II. How to get to/around Kandy?
Kandy is a major transportation hub in Sri Lanka and also the gateway to the Central Highlands, therefore, it is very easy to get to the city from every direction of the island by major motorways. Most will journey from Colombo which is quite simple with a variety of ways to travel between the two big cities. You can choose a 3-hour train ride from Colombo Fort to Kandy Railway Station or take a 3-hour public bus from Pettah central bus station, Colombo to Kandy bus station. Another option is a private transfer which you can speak to any local taxi drivers or book the service from a tour company.
Getting around Kandy is easy as well. While walking is the best way to see the city’s highlights such as temples, museums, or markets, hiring a tuk-tuk is a great idea to explore the outer temples and attractions. If you want to visit the suburbs of Kandy, you can also use the bus system from Kandy station or Torrington bus station in downtown.
III. Best time to visit Kandy
Located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s mountainous interior with tropical rainforests covering around, Kandy has a pleasant year-round climate and the temperature usually becomes cooler than other parts of the country, between 23 to 25 degrees Celcius. The perfect time to visit the city is from January to May when tourists can unwind in stable weather conditions and enjoy every charm it offers. Prices for hotels and other touring services can be expensive during these months, so you may want to book everything in advance.
Kandy also experiences two monsoon seasons. The Yala monsoon from May to September brings rains to the southwestern part of the town and makes it a little bit hard for sightseeing and trekking, but you can still explore the cultural aspects of the city. Meanwhile, the Maha monsoon that comes anytime between October to December is perhaps the most avoided time of the year with the most amount of rainfall, which can make your trip difficult to organize.
IV. Things to do in Kandy
There are so many things to do and experience in Kandy that take days to spend. Here are some of the best you shouldn’t miss if you visit this lovely city.
1. Visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
A must when people think about Kandy, this Buddhist temple has well preserved the tooth relic of Lord Buddha brought to the island in the 4th century, making it one of the most important Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and even in the world. The relic is honoured inside an ornate golden-roofed two-story building and the main shrine is always busy with flows of tourists and worshippers. The temple becomes most vibrant and vivid during the annual Esala Perahera (the Festival of the Tooth), taking place every July or August. When the sun sets, the entire town of Kandy will be illuminated brightly and the tooth relic is paraded through the streets. You will also see majestic elephants in colourful clothing, Kandyan drummers, local dancers and fire plays.
2. Watch a traditional Kandyan dance show
With colourfully elaborate costumes, eye-catching dance moves, and fire walking shows, a Kandyan dance performance is one of the best things to see in Kandy. During the one-hour performance, you will watch different Sri Lankan traditional dances such as Thelme, Salupliya, Fire and Harvest dances, all accompanied by ceremonial drums. Tourists can enjoy these nightly shows at three main venues inside the city: Kandy Lake Club, Kandyan Art Association & Cultural Centre, and Mahanuwara YMBA. Although it is a little touristic, the show is interesting to see.
3. Walk around the Kandy Lake
Locally known as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk, this is a large artificial lake in the heart of the city centre, just next to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Kandy Lake was built in 1807 by Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of Kandyan kingdom, and it is said that the island in the middle of the lake was used for the king’s harem. Today it becomes a perfect place for a relaxing stroll with many trees planted around creating a shady path and a pleasant ambience of the hill town.
4. Admire Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue
This giant Buddha statue sits atop a hill overlooking the city and can be seen from almost everywhere in Kandy, especially when it is all lit up at night. Visitors can climb to the hilltop to see the sculpted white statue within an hour but be prepared for the scorching heat during noon. Once you reach the peak, enjoy the fantastic panoramic views of Kandy and its surrounding areas. Make sure to remove your hat and shoes before entering the premises.
5. Explore the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya
For travellers on the lookout for nature escapes, Peradeniya Botanical Garden is an ideal place for a day trip from Kandy city. Located just a few kilometres outside of the town centre, this site was formerly used by Kandyan royals before transformed into a botanical garden by Alexandar Moon in 1821. Today, it is home to over 4000 different plants species including medicinal plants, orchids, spices and palm trees spread across 60 hectares, making it the largest and most extensive garden in Sri Lanka. When strolling through, be sure that you check out the spice gardens, orchid collection and the avenue of royal palms for insta-worthy photos.
6. Hike in Udawattakele Forest Reserve
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Udawattakele Forest Reserve is an incredibly tropical world that lets you feel nature at its best. Situated behind the Temple of the Tooth Relic and covering an area of 104 hectares, this urban forest reserve and wildlife sanctuary is the home of many mammal and reptiles species, and is a great spot for bird watchers as well. Following the hiking path amidst the lush jungles, you can see several Buddhist meditation hermitages and temples, making the walk an interesting adventure.
V. Where to stay in Kandy?
There are a lot of options for accommodation in Kandy. Browse through some of our Kandy hotel listings to find the perfect match for your holiday.
Located within Kandy's city centre, Hotel Casamara offers 32 elegantly furnished Deluxe Rooms in European style with traditional Kandyan hospitality. Besides having a rooftop pub and an outdoor swimming pool, this property is also close to Kandy Lake and the Temple of the Tooth Relic.
Fox Resorts Kandy
Fox Kandy is a serene boutique resort perched atop a cliff of Hantana mountain range, south-west of the cultural Kandy city. It provides a retreat into nature with 26 luxury rooms in tropical design overlooking lush green tea and pepper plantations. The resort is also famous for its excellent cuisine and luxurious spa treatments.
Mount Blue Hotel
Situated in a hill covered with lush greenery, this hotel provides great views of Knuckles mountain ranges and Mahaweli River, especially from its beautiful infinity pool. It also offers easy access to Kandy's must-see attractions like the lake or the sacred temples.
Hotel Topaz Kandy
A great 4-star hotel, this property offers travellers warm hospitality, lavish comforts, and breathtaking views of Kandy city. All rooms’ design is inspired by Kandy’s colonial heritage with first-rate amenities to ensure that you will have an enjoyable stay in the hill capital.
Overlooking Kandy Lake and surrounded by Udawattaekelle Natural Reserve, Thilanka Hotel is a great base to explore the heritage city. All rooms are intricately designed with quaint charm and comfortable furniture, suitable for solo, couple and family travels.
Amaya Hills Resort
This is a luxurious and lavish resort surrounded by the lush verdant greenery of Heerassagala Hills. All 100 rooms are elegantly designed and adorned with exquisite wood carvings, the unique features of the Kandyan culture. Amaya Hills Kandy is like a royal treatment high up in the mountains.
The Golden Crown Hotel
The Golden Crown is a luxurious and exceptional hotel option for a family vacation or couple holiday, with a chic all-day dining restaurant, spacious accommodations, and an extensive range of banqueting facilities. It is situated at Ampitiya in the heart of Kandy, but away from the city hustle, which is perfect for those seeking luxury & peace.
Mahaweli Reach Hotel
A luxurious hideaway nestled beside the famous Mahaweli River, Mahaweli Reach Hotel offers 112 rooms and suites designed with distinctive characteristics, from colonial to traditional Kandyan styles, luxury comforts to picturesque views of the surrounding nature. This hotel is a great choice for fun family times or couple holidays.
The tropical island of Sri Lanka is a beautiful and captivating destination for the holidaymaker, and Kandy is a must-visit city on any trips. With nice weather and plenty to experience, this plateau town should definitely make your journey a memorial one. Should you need any further information for your Sri Lanka Private Tours, please do not hesitate to contact our Asia Private Tours experts who are always delighted to help you create a perfect itinerary.