Kandy Sri Lanka – The city of Kandy is part of the famous Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka and is particularly popular for its Temple of the Tooth. It houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, one of the most important relics in Buddhism. Today, Kandy is considered the religious capital of the country.
After Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, it was also the official capital of Sri Lanka from the 16th to the 19th century. The Kingdom of Kandy had to face waves of invasions coming from Europe, namely from Portugal, Holland and the U.K. It was the Portuguese who gave the kingdom its name in reference to the local chief Kande Raja, the King of the Mountain.
Today, Kandy is an urban city with over 110,000 inhabitants and lots of visitors Since the population has grown rather quickly, the infrastructure of the city is not always appropriate to such population density. Don’t be surprised to find lots of traffic jams in Kandy; the city might even remind you of Colombo. So downtown Kandy might not be very enjoyable but it gets better as soon as you get out of it!
Let me show you a little bit around Kandy and start by giving you a few tips on how to get there and where to stay.
How To Get There?
The train ride from Ella to Kandy is an attraction all by itself. It crosses beautiful landscapes including the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya. I highly recommend you stop by Nuwara Eliya by the way, it’s a very beautiful city. More info on it here: Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka.
The train ride from Ella to Kandy lasts about 6 hours and there are two daily departures from Ella, one at 6:40 AM and another at 9:24 AM. A one-way ticket costs only around 125 to 230 rupees (about $1), depending on the class. You can check train schedules in Sri Lanka on this website. If you’re looking for trains from and to Ella, type in “elle” instead (don’t ask me why!).
If you can manage to do the trip on your own (on a motorcycle for example), I guarantee you will enjoy it because the road between Ella and Kandy is absolutely great! Keep in mind that it’s a twisty road and that it’ll take you about half a day to cover the 134 km between Kandy and Ella. I was driving my motorcycle at about 40 km/h on average but it was a freaking blast!
If you’re coming from Dambulla, you will have to take the local bus to go to Kandy. It’s a two-hour drive and departures are scheduled every half hour. Tickets cost around 200 rupees (~ $1) depending on the bus type.
Where to stay?
As far as accommodation in Kandy is concerned, I recommend you stay away from downtown Kandy to avoid the city bustle. For example, you can book at the Mountain View which is located on the hills that surround the city. You will enjoy the hotel’s pleasant atmosphere without being too far from the city’s main attractions. Don’t forget to enjoy the sunset at the end of the day. Terrific show!
How about a homestay in a beautiful house around Kandy? You can book at Villa Niketh if you’re interested. This is a really beautiful place to stay; it’s run by a host family that will gladly welcome you during your stay.
As you can see, the architecture is a bit of a mix between local and colonial styles. Villa Niketh is also located on the hills of the city and therefore offers great views and a magical natural setting. If you’re looking for a change of scenery, this is where it’s at!
Where to eat?
If you want to eat at a good local restaurant, I recommend The Garden Cafe (exact location). It’s not expensive at all and serves very good local cuisine both at lunchtime and in the evening. Here’s for example what a curry with vegetables and chicken as well as an egg roti look like.
What To Do In Kandy?
Transportation and accommodation tips aside, here is a list of places I loved visiting during my trip to Kandy. You will also find them on the map below so you can have a better idea of their location and the distance between them.
- Kandy Lake
- The Temple of the Tooth
- Saint Paul’s Church
- The Bahirawakanda Temple
- The Commonwealth Cemetery
- The Peradeniya Botanical Garden
- The Gadaladeniya Temple
- The Ambuluwawa Tower
Kandy Sri Lanka – The Lake
Also called Kiri Muhuda, Kandy Lake is not a natural but an artificial lake that was built by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe in 1807. It used to be farmland where rice and other crops were grown. The story goes that the lake was actually the king’s private bath and that there was even a secret tunnel that connects the royal palace on the bank of the lake to the small island in the picture above.
You can also see the large Buddha statue of the Bahirawakanda Temple that I’m going to tell you about later.
Kandy Sri Lanka – The Temple Of The Tooth
Entry: 1500 rupees (~ $8.5)
Opening hours: 5:30 AM to8 PM
The Temple of the Tooth is the main attraction of Kandy and also a very important sacred place for the city’s inhabitants. The temple is said to house a Buddha tooth that has allegedly been found after the cremation of Prince Siddhartha’s body in India. It is also said that whoever possesses the precious sacred relic will gain power over Sri Lanka.
Understandably, it’s not just a tooth but a strong symbol of religious and political authority in the country. Apparently, the tooth has often traveled around, namely to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, two former capitals of Sri Lanka. It was then transferred to Kandy when it became the capital of the country and hasn’t moved since, even though the current capital of Sri Lanka is Colombo. That’s why Kandy is considered the religious and spiritual capital of the country by the way.
To visit the temple, you’ll have to pay 1500 rupees (~ $8.5) at the entrance’s automatic pay station. A manager will help you if you have trouble using it. You can finally start your visit to the several buildings of the temple including the main one where the tooth is located.
Keep in mind that it is mandatory to cover your knees and shoulders and take off your shoes before entering the sacred temple. The visit should take about 2 hours. Try to get there early because many Sri-Lankans come to visit the temple from all over the country.
Kandy Sri Lanka – Saint Paul’s Church
You may know that Sri Lanka is a multi-religious country with many Christian inhabitants. Christianity was introduced by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century so there are many churches throughout the country. St. Paul’s Church was built in the 19th century by English people and is home to the largest organ in Sri Lanka.
As surprising as it may seem, the church is almost an integral part of the Temple of the Tooth. The west exit of the temple will lead you there. It is seldom crowded and you can take as much time as you like to visit it.
Kandy Sri Lanka – The Bahirawakanda Temple
Entry: 250 rupees (~ $1)
Let’s climb up some hills and visit the Bahirawakanda Temple. You know, the one you can see from Lake Kandy. You can hardly miss it; it has an almost 27 meters high Buddha statue! You can even visit the inside of the statue by taking the stairs behind it.
Don’t forget to enjoy the view of the whole city! You can see Lake Kandy here and the hills surrounding the city.
Kandy Sri Lanka – The Commonwealth Cemetery
Sometimes, people forget that the Second World War was indeed a world war and has, therefore, made many victims in Asia. This cemetery has about 200 graves of British but also Sri Lankan soldiers and even a French one. I think it’s always interesting to visit this kind of emotionally charged places to always remember the consequences of humanity’s past mistakes.
Kandy Sri Lanka – The Botanical Garden of Peradeniya
Entry : 1500 rupees (~ $8.5)
Opening hours: 8 AM to 6 PM
If you want to get some fresh air, go to the botanical garden of Peradeniya which is located west of the city. To enter the garden, you can cross the suspension bridge (pictured above) here instead of through the main entrance. It may take a few minutes because there is a maximum number of people allowed on the bridge. Many macaques will be on your left to greet you!
This botanical garden was built in 1821 by the British and is really huge. I’m talking 145 acres huge! You’ll need about half a day to visit all of it. Don’t forget your picnic sandwiches!
There’s also a tree there commonly called cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis) and known for its spherical fruit. It’s actually George V, King of England and Emperor of the Indies, who planted it in the garden of Peradeniya. The Royal Palm Avenue is also a must-visit spot and you can see it below. You kind of feel very small walking in the shade of huge palm trees.
Kandy Sri Lanka – The Gadaladeniya Temple
Entry : 300 rupees (~ $2)
The Gadaladeniya Temple is an old Buddhist temple that was built in the 14th century at the request of King Buwanekabahu IV. There you will find beautiful murals and Buddha statues, one of which is 2.5 meters high and sits in the main building. This temple is rarely visited by tourists and you can have it all to yourself. 🙂
Kandy Sri Lanka – The Ambuluwawa Tower
Entry: 300 rupees (~ $2)
Opening hours: 8.30 AM to 6 PM This is my favorite attraction in Kandy! The Ambuluwawa Tower is located about 25 km southwest of Kandy. It is at the top of a hill of the same name and is a bit difficult to access. I went there on a scooter so the trip was no trouble for me. If you don’t have a scooter, ask a tuk-tuk to take you there but it will not get you to the top of the mountain and you will have to climb the rest of it yourself. You will cross a beautiful forest so it’s not an unpleasant trip at all.
The tower is a symbol of humanity and harmony in Sri Lanka. Thus, four religious buildings were built there side by side, representing the four main religions of Sri Lanka: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity.
The different communities of Sri Lanka haven’t always lived together in peace. I am particularly referring to the civil war between Sinhalese Buddhists and the Hindu Tamil people from 1983 to 2009. Today, harmony has found its way back to the country and the Ambuluwawa tower is a beautiful memorial to this newfound peace.
Feel free to climb to the top of the tower to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view.
This tower was our last but certainly not least attractions, people! Did you like this virtual tour of Kandy? Let me know in the comments below!
Have a nice trip to Sri Lanka and see you around for more breathtaking adventures in Asia! 😉