Kandy, the second-largest city of Sri Lanka, is surrounded by mountain ranges and tea plantations. Due to its 3-hour distance from the capital Colombo, Kandy is a crowd favorite for travelers wanting to spend a day or two visiting its colonial buildings and religious sites. While most guidebooks mention Kandy city as the main attraction, there are more remarkable sights to see outside the city in the rainforest area.
How to get to Kandy, Sri Lanka
Kandy has a strategic location in between all the major sites. The train station is connected to the central highlands, north to Jaffna, east to Trincomalee, and to the capital Colombo.
- Option 1: A train from Kandy to Colombo takes 2.5 hours.
- Option 2: A direct bus or taxi from Colombo takes 3-4 hours.
Best time to visit Kandy
If you ask the locals when is the best time to visit Kandy, they will tell you that the best time is during their festival: The Esala Perahera. The Esala Perahera is one of the grandest (and oldest) of all Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. The festival takes during July or August, depending on the full moon.
March-May: This is the ideal time to visit Kandy when the temperature remains around 26 – 28 degrees celsius and conditions are ideal to plan activities and other excursions in and around the city.
December – April: This city has new Beauty to offer, the weather remains cool and satisfactory. Neither too cold nor too hot, absolutely perfect for the travelers to enjoy the climate and the surrounding.
October- November: In this span of two months Sri Lanka goes through the intense monsoon phase which is not suitable for visitors to enjoy.
Things to do in Kandy
Apart from Sri Lanka’s stunning beaches, it is also famous for its religious sites and spectacular train rides. This is where Kandy’s role in your Sri Lanka Route comes in, as the gateway to one of the most epic train journeys in the world and host to a myriad of cultural exhibits. Plan to spend one or two days in Kandy.
The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kandy is a place where people of all ages gather, especially at the weekends. The garden is famous for its countless (4000+) species of plants and trees. It is situated a 15-minute drive west of Kandy and is a great escape from the city. Wander around the massive garden, take a towel and relax in the grass or sip a drink at one of the cafes.
The Streets of Kandy & City Center
The streets in Kandy center are filled with old colonial buildings and street vendors. Start from the Temple of the Tooth and wander around the old streets, enjoying a fresh coconut from one of the many colorful fruit stands.
The City Center shopping mall is a commercial and shopping complex in the Center of town. This 10-story building has a variety of stores from souvenirs to electronics, clothes, and shoes as well as a food court. It is one of the only shopping malls in Kandy and a nice place to escape the heat.
Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
The Temple of the Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, is a beautiful golden-roofed Buddhist Temple in the heart of Kandy. Plan an early-morning visit to skip the crowds and see the legendary tooth relic of Buddha. No expense is spared to protect the tooth, which is enclosed inside several golden boxes, covered in jewels. The temple is a must-see in Kandy, not just for its religious fame as one of Buddhism’s most important shrines, but also for its beautiful interior.
Kandy Lake was artificially constructed by the last king of Sri Lanka and Kandy, Wikrama Rajasinhe, as an additional feature for the beautifully laid out Temple of Tooth complex. Also called the Milky Ocean, the lake remains partially incomplete due to the British invasion in 1815. Nowadays, it remains one of the most highly regarded sights in the country, Stroll around the peaceful Kandy Lake, considered the heart and soul of the city because of its central location and undeniable beauty. In the middle of the lake is a tiny island with a few palm trees, recognized as one of Kandy’s iconic scenes, and featured on many a postcard.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue
A giant Buddha statue and one of the city’s most notable religious monuments. Visitors can climb to the top of the hill within an hour but should be aware of rising temperatures during noon. Once you have reached the peak, bahivara kanda, or devil’s hill, offers panoramic views of Kandy and its surrounding area. The statue itself can be seen from most places throughout the city and is particularly enchanting at night when it is bathed in light. Make sure to remove your shoes before entering the premises or join the devotees, who offer flowers or light oil lamps in reverence to the mighty Buddha
Visit the Tea Factories
Sri Lanka is one of the main countries in the world for tea production. They produce a staggering 300,000 tonnes of tea yearly! Kandy is home to some incredible tea fields and factories so make sure to visit at least once. The whole process from picking to packaging takes 24 hours with the majority (apart from picking) all done by large machines.
Traditional Kandy Dancing
If you are someone looking for a fun time then the best things to do in Kandy include indulging in some delicious local delicacies and watching the famous Kandyan dance performances while are in Kandy. Kandy dance is an intense, energetic show, with dancers and drummers. During one hour, they will dance and play music in colorful traditional costumes.
There are 3 venues to watch Kandy dancing, all located around the lake:
- Kandyan Art Association & Cultural Centre
- Kandy Lake Club
- Mahanuwara YMBA
Although this was very tourist, it was interesting to see their traditional dancing. Every day from 5-6 pm people will gather in a giant hall for the one-hour performance (which should really be just 40 minutes). The Kandyan Dance is traditionally performed to percussion only, the most common drum is the ‘Geta Beraya’. Overall, the production is colorful & interesting, although a bit repetitive.