A Guide to What Kandy has Best to Offer
Located in the heard of the island, Kandy is the second largest city of Sri Lanka and the capital of the Hill Country. This charming and culturally vibrant city is home to the famous Temple of the Tooth, which attracts visitors from all around the world. The area surrounding the city is covered with jungles and tea plantations. It is also the beginning (or the end) of World’s Most Beautiful train ride of Sri Lanka. In this guide, we will tell you what hidden gems Kandy has to offer!
- Stroll Around Kandy
- Visit the Temple of the Tooth
- The Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
- General Infos
- Where to Eat
- Where to Stay
1. Stroll around Kandy Lake
First in our Kandy guide, visit and feel the city on foot. And one of the best spot to do so is around the lake.
Located in the heart of the city, this lake was created by the last king of Kandy, Wickrama Rajasinghe, in the 19th century. The views on the lake and surrounded mountains are beautiful.
↬ TIP : Rent a small boat and row around the lake to the small island in the middle. It holds what used to be the king’s holiday house.
2. Visit the Temple of the Tooth
The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is a very popular spot for both Sri Lankans and tourists. It is the most important Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka and thus attracts pilgrims and visitors all year round. Built in the 16th century originally as a Royal Palace complex, the temple was destroyed by the Dutch during their invasion of 1765. It was later restored by the last king of Kandy, Wickrama Rajasinghe, in the 19th century.
There are many rituals throughout the day. Buddhist monks visit the temple daily. The most important Buddhist relict, the Buddhas tooth is hid in a box behind a glass window.
Make sure to pass through the Alut Maligawa chamber. The walls are decorated in series of paintings depicting the story of the Tooth Relic, explaining how it arrived in Kandy. And also let the paths guide you to the different temples and monuments that compose the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy.
Practical info for the Temple of the Tooth:
The entrance ticket
The entrance ticket to the shrine costs 1500.00 LRK (7.5 EUR) for tourists.
The temple is open daily from 5.30AM to 8PM
How long will it take to visit
It will take around 1.5h to slowly discover the temple and walk around its gardens.
↬ Note : You must leave your shoes at the entrance gate. You will walk around the whole temple barefoot, including the outside parts.
This 10 days festival celebrated in honour of the Tooth Relica is held once a year in August. The Maligawa Tusker (the biggest elephant) carries a replica of the Tooth Relic on its back around the city. There are dancers and drummers in traditional costumes, and many other shows. There are other elephants walking in the festival dressed in traditional covers and carrying people on their back. Even if we fully support traditions, any type of festival involving wild animals, as elephants, is in our eyes hurtful and unnatural. Those animals have their will broken at a very young age by being beaten and maltreated so they won’t be dangerous anymore. As beautiful as it might look during the nights parade, during the day the elephants are chained with very short chains and left in the middle of the city. It is just cruel.
↬ Read : The Sad Truth – Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Kandy
We decided to leave Kandy early not to take part in animals suffering and encourage everyone to do the same.
If you are reading this guide of Kandy and wish to see elephants in Sri Lanka: visit one of the National Parks. In those parks, th beautiful creatures roam free in the wild.
3. Climb to Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue
One of the biggest Buddha statues of Sri Lanka majestically overlooks Kandy from hill atop. If you choose to walk, take care on the narrow road. The cars pass here as well. Alternatively you can grab a tuk-tuk from the center.
It’s the best view point of the city. The panoramic view from the top of the temple is simply breathtaking.
There is a small entrance fee of 200 LRK (1 EUR) and you must leave your shoes at the ticket booth and walk to the temple barefoot.
4. Take a Break from the City at the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
Those gardens were build for the Kandyan royalty in 1371, but turned into botanical gardens in 1821. Stroll around giant bamboo, palms and pines. Make sure to visit the Orchid House which holds over 300 different species of orchids!
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens are located 20 min drive from center of Kandy. The easiest way to get there is either by a taxi or tuk-tuk.
The gardens are open daily from 8AM to 6PM.
The entrance fee costs 1500 LRK (7.5 EUR).
5. Take the world’s most beautiful train ride
The 7 hour long train ride is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The train passes through various landscapes: tea plantations, mountains, forests, overlooks villages and farms. The views are simply breathtaking. If you get a chance sit by the open door and you won’t even feel the time passing.
↬ Read : World’s Most Beautiful Train Ride from Kandy to Ella.
We do not mention Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage as one of the things to do in Kandy on purpose. Before we traveled to Sri Lanka we had an idea of visiting this place. However, it took us one google search to find the terrible truth about this government-run attraction. During our travels across the country we talked to a lot of people who all convinced us not to visit this sad place. To be clear: we do not support any attraction that hurt live beings in anyway. We ask you not to visit it either.
↬ Read : The Sad Truth – Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Kandy
↬ Read : The Best National Parks for Safari in Sri Lanka
Getting to Kandy
Kandy is well connected to the capital, Colombo. You can arrive here by train, bus or a taxi. If you choose to go by taxi, have a look at facebook taxi share pages. You might be able to find other travellers going the same direction at the same time and split the cost!
Coming from Ella or Nuwara Eliya, it’s best to choose the train.
↬ Read : Guide to All the Things You Must Do in Nuwara Eliya
You can also arrive here by bus from The Cultural Triangle and continue your 3 weeks Sri Lankan route.
Kandy is a big city. However, most of the sights are located in the center and can be reached by walk. Alternatively, grab a tuk-tuk.
Where to eat
Kandy has a lot of great restaurant serving European and local food, we chose our 3 favorite for this guide.
The Empire Cafe located in the heart of Kandy right next to the Temple of the Tooth. This colonial style cafe serves good food and refreshing drinks.
↬ TIP : Pretty good & fast wifi.
Licensed to Grill located off the main street. It’s a nice place with outdoor rooftop sitting serving grilled street food.
The Kandy Garden Cafe is a really small place located right by the lake. The local food is delicious and the rotti is highly recommended. Its more a street food bar than a restaurant. Don’t expect high class service or sits. Our tip is to get kottu and rotti as take away and eat them by the lake.
Where to stay
There are many hotels with astonishing views in Kandy.
↬ Find all the best deals in Kandy on booking.com
We recommend: The Golden Crown Hotel – The Buena Vista Kandy