Many travellers visit Sri Lanka for its gorgeous golden beaches, but if you venture further inland you’ll fall in love with the country’s emerald peaks swathed in plumes of white clouds. It is within these hills that you’ll find Kandy, the second largest city of Sri Lanka and it’s cultural capital. There are a number of fun things to do in Kandy, ranging from the historical, cultural and outdoorsy. Here are the 4 best things to do in Kandy.
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, or Sri Dalada Maligawa, is the holiest Buddhist site in the whole country and one of the most interesting places to visit in Kandy. Built in 1592 AD by a Kandyan king, Sri Dalada Maligawa houses the Sacred Tooth Relic belonging to the Buddha. It is an ornate gold-roofed temple and is found in the old palace grounds of the Kandyan Kingdom, the last independent monarchy of Sri Lanka. There are brief viewing times where you can catch a glimpse of the relic, but even if you don’t make it in time, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is still worth the visit. If you’re in Kandy between June and July, you can watch the Esala Perahera, for a full guide click here.
Also known as the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, this garden is Sri Lanka’s largest and most extensive botanical garden. Kandyan royals solely used the garden as an outdoor promenade before the British made it a botanical garden in 1821, which is why it feels more regal than the other botanical gardens in Sri Lanka. The 60-acre garden houses over 4000 species of flora from all over the island and from other parts of the world. Some of the highlights are its world-renowned orchid collection, extensive spice garden, tall palm-lined pathways, bamboo forests and its Cannonball Tree planted by King George and Queen Mary during their visit in 1901.
The train journey from Kandy to Ella is often considered as the most picturesque train journey in the whole country- perhaps even the whole world! The clackety tracks wind through the beautiful Sri Lankan countryside and hug the cliff face on one side while the other looks out over the lush green vistas. The most beautiful leg of the journey is from Nanu Oya to Ella as the train goes through a verdant forest. To get the most out of this journey try and get window seats to admire the misty mountains of Sri Lanka. Since this is such a popular attraction it’s best to buy your ticket at least a day or two in advance.
To get away from the hustle and bustle of Kandy and to add a bit of nature to your trip you should visit Udawattakele Sanctuary Forest Reserve. This ancient forest reserve, once the king’s private garden, is found just behind the Sri Dalada Maligawa; its white and gold stupa standing out from the wall of greenery. The reserve is a wonderful jungle oasis found in the heart of the city and is an excellent place for bird watching. A fun thing to do in Kandy with the whole family is the 5km hiking trail, although it’s more of a leisurely walk, try and make it to the top of the reserve for sunset.
It can be quite tough when deciding on how many days you should stay in Kandy. Ideally, you should devote two nights and three days; the first two days you can explore the city and visit all the important sites, and on the last day you can just relax. Also, since Kandy is centrally located, it’s a great base to do many day trips. From Kandy, you can visit Dambulla, Kitulgala and Nuwara Eliya, all within a two-hour drive.
Since Kandy is such a large city you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to stay. However, instead of staying in the city centre, it’s much nicer to stay on the outskirts of the city surrounded by lush greenery. Jetwing Kandy Gallery is your tranquil abode in the cultural capital. A short drive from Kandy city, the boutique hotel sits on the banks of the Mahaweli River and is encircled by tall swaying trees- the perfect haven to return to after a busy day of sightseeing.