The sacred city of Kandy, a former kingdom of the 16th century Kandyan Kings, is the second largest city of Sri Lanka and a major administrative and religious hub. Also referred to as ‘Maha Nuwara’ or Great City, Kandy lies a three hour (115 km) drive from the capital Colombo. One of the seven UNESCO World Heritage sites of the country, Kandy serves as a gateway to the Central Province of Sri Lanka. There are so many amazing things to do in Kandy that you would need at least three days to see and experience them all.
The impressive colonial-era architecture and many other attractions warrant more than a visit or two to this scenic destination at any time of the year. While two days are sufficient in Kandy, an extra day would be just perfect to chill and relax while exploring some of these astonishing sights of this city. No matter how much time you have on hand, Kandy is an unmissable addition to any Sri Lankan itinerary.
Visit a tea factory
Being the fourth largest producer of tea in the world, Sri Lanka is home to a staggering number of tea estates and factories. Because of its location and conducive environment, Kandy became synonymous with tea production during the height of the British rule. It is therefore impossible, not to visit Kandy without paying a visit to a tea industry outlet.
A tour of the The Kadugannawa tea factory will show you, step by step, the time consuming method involved in making this world famous brew and round up the visit with a tea tasting session. Even if you are not a tea lover, the rolling hills shrouded in mist will provide a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the highly prized and revered temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, or Dalada Maligawa, is considered to be the most visited religious attraction of Sri Lanka. It is said to house the holy tooth of Lord Buddha, within a closely guarded ornamental temple situated inside the grounds of the Royal Palace of Kandy. The best time to visit this place is during August when a most vibrant parade and a colorful pageant displaying this holy relic in the public takes place.
Royal Botanical Gardens
Said to be the largest of its kind in the world, the Royal Botanical Gardens are located about five kilometres west to the city of Kandy in a place called Peradeniya.
Occupying an area of over 147 acres, the gardens serve as a home to nearly 4000 species of plants and over 10,000 trees of different kinds, which include the Giant Bamboo of Burma growing to a height of 40 m. The garden is particularly known for a variety of beautiful orchids and visiting it, is one of the best things to do in Kandy.
For nature enthusiasts, more than eighty different butterflies, 15 amphibians, 20 reptiles and 18 species of mammals have been recorded in the park. This garden is so stunning that it made me want to buy some cheap artificial grass and spread it in my balcony and backyard to reminisce it’s beauty.
Sample the local food
There is no better way to enjoy the delicious Sri Lankan cuisine than on a food sampling tour in Kandy. This culinary experience of the city, takes you much beyond some of the authentic local bites along past some cultural highlights as well.
As you savor cassava chips, a substitute for potatoes and relished by the locals, with a cup of Ceylon tea in the vibrant city center, you will be able to admire the Old Prison with its unique colonial architecture. Once you have checked the profiles, you can pick your favourite food, which can then be matched 100% as per your taste
The man made Kandy Lake, situated right next to the Sacred Tooth Relic temple, enjoys a scenic location in the centre of the city. The lake was constructed in 1807, by the then King of Sri Lanka, Sri Vikrama Raj Sinh, to lend some harmony and beauty to the neighbouring holy temple.
There is an island in the middle of the lake, which is most alluring as it served as a bathing spot for the royal ladies of the king’s court. A quiet peaceful stroll among the grounds of the lake after sunset is a magical experience. At this time the still waters of the lake reflect the beauty of the illuminated temple of Sacred Tooth Relic in a breathtaking manner.
Udawatta Kele Sanctuary
Nature and animal lovers need to look no further. A trip to the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary in Kandy is like being in the middle of an enchanting fairyland. The 257 acres reserve is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna including some rare bird species. Birdwatching enthusiasts will consider a visit to Udawatta Kele Sanctuary as the highlight of their trip, one of the best things to do in Kandy.
This is said to be one of the most sought after birding spots in Sri Lanka. Some of the unmissable spots inside the sanctuary are Senkanda Caves, the water pond and Kodimale, the highest point in the park. The sanctuary is located right behind the Sacred Tooth Relic temple. One will come across many Buddhists temples and other relics inside the park.
Commonwealth War Cemetery
One of the interesting things to do in Kandy is visiting the Commonwealth War Cemetery. Formerly referred to as the Pitakande War Cemetery, this cemetery is said to be the most well maintained and visited war memorial in the world. This beautifully landscaped burial site dates back to World War I. In World War II also 96 soldiers of the commonwealth were buried here. Walking by the graves of these bravehearts is a poignant experience, but offers good knowledge about the history of Sri Lanka during that period.
The spice gardens of Sri Lanka are an attraction in their own right. Kandy leads the pack as it is home to a rare collection of herbs and spices. A tour of a spice garden displays how these rare collections of spices are grown and processed for sale in the market and their benefits to humans. Some popular spices like turmeric, pepper, cardamom, Aloe Vera and cinnamon grow here in their natural environment.
Hike to the Alagalla Mountains
If you are an adventure junkee, a hiking tour of the Alagalla or Potato mountain range is an absolute must. One can get stunning views of the surrounding countryside from the peak which lies at 3600 feet.
The trail begins at the base of the mountain and follows a very picturesque route through dense forests rich with a variety of flora. Though this is an ideal day trip from Kandy, the more enterprising souls have the option to camp at the top and enjoy the spectacular sunrise and sunset.
Where to stay in Kandy
Mahaweli Reach Hotel was one of my favourite accommodations during my 10 days trip to Sri Lanka. With a massive swimming pool, beautiful large rooms and a great restaurant, Mahaweli Reach Hotel is the place to stay in Kandy if you are looking for relaxation and luxury.
Most people visiting Sri Lanka are drawn to the white sand beaches and the wildlife sanctuaries. However, if you are looking for an insight on the country’s rich culture, Kandy is an invaluable source. If nothing else, the hills and the lush greenery are sure to take your breath away.
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This is a sponsored post. Please note that I visited Sri Lanka as a guest of the Sri Lankan Tourism Board. However, all the opinions in this article are my own and I would not recommend anything that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself doing or think it was a great place to visit.