Located in the foothills of the central highlands around the banks of a picturesque lake, steeped in history, and possessing a salubrious climate, Kandy is Sri Lanka’s renowned second city. In many ways, however, Kandy is more important than the true capital, for although Colombo may be the hub of commerce and communication, it is Kandy that has always been the centre of Sri Lanka’s rich culture and the symbol of the nation’s complex identity.
Kandy is one of those cities well-suited for brief exploration, as you can easily fill a day with activities a few blocks away from each other, but beware of the horrendous traffic in the city, most time of the day !!!.
Here are 6 things to do in a day to optimize your time in Kandy!
1. Visit the Temple of the Tooth
Arguably the main tourist draw to Kandy, the Temple of the Tooth, or Sri Dalada Maligawa, holds the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, making it one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world.
While you probably won’t be able to see the tooth itself, you can stretch to view the casket it is contained in with hundreds of other pilgrims. The temple itself is worth it for sheer aesthetic overload—vibrant colors, fragrant flowers and ornate designs line the walls and ceilings.
It’s best to align your visit with one of the puja ceremonies throughout the day. A rich cultural experience (yes, we saw more Sri Lankans there than westerners, although there were certainly plenty of westerners) lush with tradition, rhythm, and ritual, the puja ceremonies bring the caskets holding the tooth relic out for the public’s eyes, set to the sound of traditional drums and horns.
Held every day at 5:30 am, 9:30am and 6:30 pm, the puja ceremonies may be more crowded than other times of the day at the temple, but it’s worth it! And make sure you’re dressed appropriately! As with all temples in Sri Lanka, you shouldn’t wear anything shorter than the knee (especially the ladies), and your shoulders should be covered. A scarf, sarong, or pashmina are great items to pack for just the purpose!
2. Watch the Traditional Dances
After some R&R by the lake, you might want to watch a traditional dance show at one of the nearby halls. The show will likely feature a variety of styles of Sri Lankan dance, but the style native to the hill country and Kandy is known as Uda Rata Natum. No matter the style, the dances are a spectacle of elaborate and stunning costumes, acrobatics, symbolism, and even fire-walking. There are several ways to buy a ticket, but the best method is to ask your hotel ahead of time (if you’re staying in the general region of Kandy Lake). If they don’t sell them, there will most likely know someone nearby who does.
3. Take a Stroll Around Kandy Lake
Digest the cheapest meal of your life from the market while strolling along its edges, watching children feed the birds, taking in the scenery, and maybe picking up some sliced mango from a vendor to snack on. If the weather’s nice, you can even opt for a peaceful boat ride on the lake.
4. Browse the Markets
A few blocks from Kandy Lake (starting on the same side of the street as the Food City supermarket), you’ll find some of Kandy’s markets, stocked from floor to shack-roof with a medley of clothing both trendy and traditional, scarves shaded every hue, linen-everything—and yes, the hecklers that come with bargain-hunting. It’s worth it, though! Before you go to the market, make sure to check out Foodie Souvenirs to Bring Back from Sri Lanka. We snagged several bags of Sri Lankan spice tea with cardamom pods and other spices added for a fraction of the cost it would be at spice gardens (which are pretty much universally rip-offs, by the way), and a few adorable printed lounge pants. Plus, it’s a great location to fulfill the second item on our list…
5. Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens
Peradeniya (Royal) Botanical Gardens – is 147 acres in extent and started in 1374 as a pleasure garden of the kings of Kandy. There are more than 500 species of trees and plants. Some are rare & endemic as well as flora from the tropical world. Spice Garden on Orchid House is more popular with tourist.
It is renowned for its collection of a variety of orchids. It includes more than 300 varieties of orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palms trees. Attached to it is the National Herbarium. The total area of the botanical garden is 147 acres (0.59 km2), at 460 meters above sea level, and with a 200 day annual rain fall.
6. Take a brief jungle trek at Udawattakele
Udawatta Kele Sanctuary – 0ften spelled as Udawattakele, is a historic forest reserve on a hill-ridge in the city of Kandy. During the days of the Kandyan kingdom, Udawatta Kele was known as “Uda Wasala Watta” in Sinhalese meaning, “the garden situated above the royal palace”. The sanctuary is famous for its extensive avifauna. The reserve also contains a great variety of plant species, especially lianas, shrubs and small trees. There are several giant lianas. Many of small and medium size mammals that inhabit Sri Lanka can be seen here. Several kinds of snakes and other reptiles might also be seen.
The forest is very popular among foreign tourists, especially bird watchers. The forest is also of religious importance as there are three Buddhist meditation hermitages and three rock shelter dwellings for Buddhist monk hermits.
How to get there from Wirawa
Guests going to Kandy should go through Gampola town and proceed to Kandy via Kandy – Nuwara Eliya highway.