Kandy is a Sri Lankan city perched atop a plateau surrounded by giant green hills. It is a destination famed for its serene beauty and is located in one of the cheapest countries to visit as a tourist in Asia. However, I must say that modern advancements have bruised Kandy's charm a little bit.
That being said, there's still a lot of beautiful places in Kandy to visit. Below, I have highlighted some attractions that define Kandy in its purest and serene form. You can explore the attractions within the city limits in a day, but I would add on another day or two more to your Sri Lanka trip if you include sites outside the city centre on your Sri Lanka itinerary.
Kandy is a landlocked region located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka - about 3 hours south of Polonnaruwa, with Mirissa even further south - that you shouldn't miss visiting. It bears many historical tales of both pride and pain as one of the strongest kingdoms in the country and the last one to fall under the reign of foreign invasion.
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Using the map of Kandy, you can explore all the things to do.
Otherwise known as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Dalada Maligawa is a place of utmost importance to the Buddhists in the country as it houses a sacred tooth of Lord Buddha.
The interior of Dalada Maligawa is awe-inspiring with intricate carvings, paintings, and statues to observe. You need to be dressed in clothing that covers beyond your knees to enter the palace premises. You must also maintain silence at all times once inside as it’s a place of religious observation.
The Esala Perahera is one of the most spectacular festivals not just in Sri Lanka, but also in South Asia. The festival begins from this temple, and the celebration consists of an array of performances that take place in the streets of Kandy. It is truly amazing to watch! So if you visit Sri Lanka during the festival season, make sure not to miss it!
If you are interested in learning about Kandy’s long-standing history, drop by the museum adjoining the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The Kandy National Museum is on the premises of the former Royal Palace complex of the Kandyan Kingdom rulers.
The museum houses an exciting collection of jewellery, relics, coins, thrones, and armaments from the Kandyan period and the colonial rule after that.
You can also take a look at the remains of the Royal Palace of Kandy while you are here to get an understanding of the royal life of kings back then. The entrance fee costs around 600 LKR (3.5 USD).
The World or International Buddhist Museum in Kandy is not just one of the first museums dedicated to Buddhism in the city or Sri Lanka, but in the world. It is located close to both the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and the National Museum of Kandy.
Allocate 1 to 2 hours to spend in this spacious and organised museum. It has detailed descriptions in English under the displays, and you will have to pay an entrance fee to enter.
Opposite to Dalada Maligawa is a large artificial lake constructed in 1807. Fenced by white stone pillars, it is one of the most beautiful places in Kandy to visit and spend some time in observing birds, monitor lizards, and ducks idling along the water's edge. There is a small island in the middle of the lake which you can see up close if you go on a boat ride.
Kandy Lake is more enjoyable early in the morning when the mist surrounds the area, and the weather is quite refreshing. It is also one of the romantic places in Kandy to visit at night when the city's chaos has subsided, and tranquillity takes over.
This massive statue of Buddha in a seated position is located atop a hill known as Bahiravo Kanda (Devil’s Hill). It is 2km away from Dalada Maligawa, and you can easily reach the foot of the hill by a tuk-tuk.
The origin of this statue and how it came to be a place of worship has some mythical tales surrounding it, the most intriguing of it being the sacrifice of 100 virgin women.
The Vihara Buddha Statue is 88 feet high and is one of the primary places of worship in Kandy. Climbing to the top is a bit of a challenge, but you get stunning panoramic views of the entire city from here. The entrance fee for the temple costs around 250 LKR (1.5 USD).
Also known as the Royal Forest Park of Kandy, this forest reserve is a popular place for bird watching as it is home to many native bird species. You will also get a chance to observe some wildlife species like monkeys, porcupines, wild boars, and deer.
Some noteworthy walks and sights here are ‘The Lover’s Walk,’ the ‘Marble Seat’, and a few Buddhist monasteries.
The forest reserve is not very dense, so you get a picturesque view of nature, and you should be able to easily navigate yourself without the help of a guide.
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens is one of the prettiest sites in Kandy cradled by Sri Lanka’s longest river, Mahaweli. It was initially designed as a pleasure garden for a Kandyan queen and then extended into a botanical garden during the British colonial rule.
Today, it is the largest in Sri Lanka with over 4,000 varieties of plants. It has an array of exotic flowers, notably many types of orchids. There is also a herbarium which has an extensive collection of plant specimens.
You can also spend some time relaxing on the lawn. If you don’t want to walk around the gardens, you also have the option of booking a cart to take you on a tour.
After a time well spent in the Botanical Gardens, you can pay a visit to a unique burial ground located less than two kilometres away. It is a war cemetery dedicated to 203 soldiers and men who lost their lives during the Second World War in their fight against the Axis Powers. This cemetery is also known as the Kandy War Cemetery or the Pitakande Military Cemetery.
Maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it stands as a testament to the tragic war whose wounds are borne by every country in the world. You will find this place very calm and ideal for spending some quiet time.
Note that you have to book in advance if you want to visit the cemetery.
A trip to Kandy wouldn't be complete without a visit to one of its magnificent waterfalls. Unfortunately, most of the waterfalls in the area are located about 1 to 2 hours outside of the city.
While there are many breathtaking waterfalls ideal for sightseeing, I am going to recommend one to you that lets you enjoy its crystal-clear waters.
Sudugala Waterfalls is located in Nawalapitiya and takes an hour and a half to reach from Kandy city. It is a relatively small one compared to the other waterfalls around, but it has several natural pools. It is an excellent place for bathing and swimming as it's not very deep.
The Kadiyanlena Falls is also located close by and is another choice available for swimming and relaxing.
If you want to enjoy a cultural performance, you should check out the Kandy Lake Club. It hosts a cultural dance show here every day starting from 5:30 pm.
The entire show is a mixture of different traditional dances in Sri Lanka performed by experienced dancers wearing colourful costumes. It concludes with a fire show outside where some performers walk on hot coal, which is pretty interesting to see.
They will provide you with a leaflet containing information about the significance of each performance. You will love the aesthetic and energetic vibe of the entire event! The Lake Club is located in Sangamitta Mawatha in Kandy, and you can reach here by tuk-tuk.
The towering mountains in Kandy not only take your breath away with their beauty, but also invite you to partake in the challenge of overcoming their tedious routes and getting to the top. In this regard, the Knuckles Mountain Range is a paradise for anyone who wants a rush of adrenaline.
The Knuckles Range is rich in biodiversity and is home to a range of animal and bird species. You will love the fantastic view of lush greenery with mist clinging on to the mountains.
It is best to allocate at least a day if you want to get the best experience of trekking. You will have to hire an experienced guide to accompany you as it is strictly prohibited to trek alone due to unpredictable weather conditions.
There are many trails available, and you can pick one according to your preference. Make sure you wear the right clothes to keep you warm and be equipped with essential travel gear!
Laksala is a state-owned gift and souvenir boutique that sells a wide range of local handicrafts. They have a collection of leather items, batik clothes, handloom toys, miniature figurines of elephants, jewellery boxes with intricate wooden carvings, ceramic pieces, and gems.
They are perfect for souvenirs to take back home to keep as memorable items for yourself, or to give as gifts to your loved ones. If you find them too expensive, you can shop in other stores located nearby.
All in all, you will love the perfect weather and diverse attractions Kandy has to offer you.
Many people choose to visit the beautiful places in Kandy on their way to Nuwara Eliya or Ella, especially if they are traveling by train. But, if you are returning to Colombo after your stay, you can also visit Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage on your way.
Enjoy your time in Kandy!
This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on Feb 23, 2020 11:51 UTC.
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