Considered one of the more popular travel destinations in Sri Lanka, Kandy is where both the locals and tourists go when they want to experience the perfect blend of ancient customs and culture without forsaking the convenience of modern amenities.
Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, Kandy is known around the country as Sri Lanka’s hill capital and is a very special city of religious significance to Buddhists around the world.
How to Get to Kandy
Kandy was the last kingdom to fall to the colonial powers because it was inaccessible in the past but today it is one of the most accessible cities in the country. You can get there on almost all major transport systems in the country.
- Train – the train to Kandy from Colombo is quick, comfortable and lets you watch the beautiful scenery as it goes by. You would need to book tickets in advance. The 3rd class compartments are usually crowded so 2nd class or 1st class would be the preferred option. 1st class also includes the observation deck for unparalleled views.
- Car – the Kandy – Colombo road is a sprawling road with many iconic bends and stops as it was the first modern road in the country when it was opened by the British in 1932. It will roughly take 3.5 to 4 hours to get from Colombo to the hill capital. You can also get to Kandy from Nuwara Eliya in 2.5 hours and through the A9 from Jaffna and up north.
- Bus – you can use public transport in the form of government, private and A/C Intercity buses along the routes mentioned above.
- Air – you can get to Kandy by seaplane or by helicopter. The seaplane would take around 30 to 35 minutes minus the drives necessary to get to and from the plane. Hunas Falls has one of the only helipads in Kandy and would offer a pickup service enabling you to make the journey by taking off at various authorised locations island wide.
Thanks to its high-altitude of 1600 ft above sea level, the Kandy plateau has a tropical climate that is sufficiently cooler and wetter than Colombo. The temperatures range from 22 to 30 degrees Celsius. The city is within the only region that lies in the path of both the Northeast and Southwest monsoons. If you aren’t partial to rain book a hotel in Kandy around the months of December to April.
Things to See in Kandy
• The Temple of the Tooth – no trip to Kandy is complete without a visit to the Temple of the Tooth Relic. It is the most important Buddhist places of worship and is considered to house one of Buddha’s teeth. The temple is part of the palace complex and is open daily from dawn to dusk. You must take off your shoes, hats and cover your legs shoulders before you enter.
• The Royal Botanical Gardens – built sometime between the 14th and 16th centuries, the botanical gardens were initially made to mirror the medieval medicinal gardens of Europe. Today it extends over 147 acres and houses 10,000 species of flora of which 4,000 are labelled.
• The Royal Palace – the palace surrounds the famed temple and is a spectacle of wonder. It retains the history of the last royal family to have ruled in the country in its comprehensive chambers for the concubines and the queen, council chambers, the armoury all of which are museums today and can be explored at leisure.
Things to Do in Kandy
• Explore the city – the city of Kandy makes for a wonderful walk, whether early morning before the shops open or in the evening when everything is coloured by the yellow sun. Explore the open streets where ancient buildings stand side by side with modern shops, discover hidden alleyways and when you’ve worked up a sweat, retire into the Kandy City Centre, an indoor shopping mall to cool down and window shop at luxury boutiques.
• Visit a Tea Garden – Kandy is home to many tea gardens, some that harken back to the colonial times. Visiting a tea garden will take you through the whole process behind the best cup of Ceylon Black tea from plucking the leaf to serving it as a warm drink.
• See the elephants – visit the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala where you can see rehabilitated and orphaned elephants, watch the little ones being fed and the whole herd have a bath in the river.
• Look down on the plateau – climb up to the top of Bahirawakanda mountain and see the big Buddha statue that looks down on the city spread over the plateau. It’s the best place to get a bird’s eye view of the entire city, sprawled out in front of you like a living and breathing map!