10 best things to do in Kandy
Kandy travel guide featuring all the best things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka. This is the perfect way to spend 2 days in Sri Lanka’s 2nd largest city.
Kandy in Sri Lanka is not only a popular destination among international tourists but also a local’s favorite.
Situated only 3 hours away from Colombo, Kandy is surrounded by mountain ranges and sprawling tea gardens which makes it a crowd-puller.
Thanks to the relatively cool weather, exploring the colonial buildings and religious sites makes it an even more desirable destination in Sri Lanka.
THINGS TO DO IN KANDY
The bustling hill city of Kandy is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sri Lanka.
Whether you are spending one or two days in Kandy, there is enough to keep the visitors busy. Kandy things to do include something for everyone. There are options for hiking, cultural entertainment, nature walk, temple run, and culinary trails. Some of the best places to visit in Kandy are:
Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya
The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kandy is a locals’ favorite and there are many reasons for it. A vast land of soothing greens that offers peace, calm, and relaxation; it is a must visit in Kandy.
As the name suggests, the garden was exclusively reserved for Kandyan royals to stroll across the area. However, with the passing years and throughout the long history of Sri Lanka and its rulers, the gardens kept turning bigger and better.
Currently, the garden is home to over 4000+ species of plants and trees, some of them endemic and the rest of them foreign.
Royal Botanical Garden is spread over 147 acres of land and there are over 10,000 trees that attract over 1.2 million visitors.
While walking through the entire area could be exhaustive and time taking, there are golf carts or buggies available for 60 minutes. This ride showcases the highlights of the garden in the comfort of a vehicle.
Coconut palm in Royal Botanical Gardens Kandy
Must visit places in Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya
Double Coconut Palms
The biggest seeds that ever saw in my life! Imported from Seychelles these coconut palms take over 5 years to mature.
Sri Lanka-shaped Lake
This is quite an attraction and it is fun to identify places visited in Sri Lanka.
The largest bamboo in the world has made its home here. These bamboo can reach up to 30-40 meters and 20-25 cm in diameter.
Although there are 3 palm avenues, each one is insta-worthy. The road in the garden is lined with palm trees on both sides and makes for a beautiful pathway.
This undulating lawn is also one of the highlights of the garden. The green is literally till the eyes can see.
A stunning and colourful display of various types of orchids in an in-house display surely captivates the visitors.
Sri Lankan spices are quite famous and a representative display is showcased here with trees of pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, etc.
Entrance fee: 2,000 LKR
Timings: 7:30 am to 6:00 pm (Open all days of the year)
Royal Botanical Garden of Peradeniya
Tooth Relic Temple, Kandy
The Temple of the Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, is one of the most important religious sites in Sri Lanka. Pilgrims from all over the country pay their visit here annually.
While for tourists it is one of the must-visit places in Kandy because of its stunning interior. Ornate wood carvings, beautiful marble statues, elaborate wall paintings, and history is sure to make visitors intrigued about this place.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth and Royal Complex (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is the number one attraction in Kandy.
The temple was built between 1867 and 1707 specifically to honor the most important sacred relic – a tooth of Buddha brought to the country in the 4th century. The tooth, which is enclosed inside several golden boxes is covered in jewels.
Inside the main shrine, devotees slowly move through the various rooms to the casket, while chanting Sanskrit mantras. They give their offerings including flowers and pray in this extremely spiritual place.
The casket can be seen three times a day during the daily service also known as Theva. The early morning service timings are 5:30 am, mid-day service timings are 9:30 am, and evening service timings are 6:30 pm. Each service lasts for about one hour and each service has different purposes and rituals.
My visit to the Tooth Relic temple in Kandy was timed to visit the evening service.
The beating of Hewisi drums started exactly at 6:25 pm which indicated that the service was about to begin. On the ground floor, we saw the temple monks walking from their chambers into the tooth relic temple.
As I appreciated the old temple premises and how well it was kept, we were told to move to the upper floor where the casket containing the tooth relic is located.
Temple of Tooth Relic Kandy
A big table with fresh flowers overlooked an elaborate square that has a carpet and an elephant tooth. Beyond the square in a silver door and I assumed that is where the casket would be as everyone’s cameras were pointed toward it.
Visitors cramped for space with their camera phones on video mode while some locals clad in complete white clothes chanted some shlokas.
After approximately 15 minutes, the silver door opened from the inside, the casket was visible. I paid my respects and moved on to give space to others.
The next hour was spent exploring and understanding the various places in the temple complex.
If you visit during the annual Esala Perahera (Festival of the Tooth), you may see the tooth’s gilded casket paraded around the city on bejeweled elephants. The festival is conducted in the month of July or August every year and is a week-long holiday that honors the Sacred Tooth Relic and the four ‘guardian’ Gods Natha, Vishnu, Kataragama, and Goddess Pattini.
Entrance fee: 1,500 LKR (for SAARC nations) and 2,000 LKR for others
Timings: 5:30 am to 8:00 pm (Open all days of the year)
Tip: Wear white clothes and cover your shoulders and knees.
Sri Dalada Maligawa Temple_Things to do in Kandy
Walk around Kandy Lake
In the heart of Kandy is Kandy Lake with a backdrop to many of the city’s major attractions including the Temple of the Tooth Relic. In the middle of the lake is a tiny island with a few palm trees, making it the most photographed place in the town.
The artificial lake was built in the 18th century by Sri Wickrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kandy.
The idyllic lake is the perfect place to watch the sky change its colours while the city goes about its daily routine. Or one can walk on its periphery which is close to 3km.
The advantage is that the lake periphery passes near the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic.
So add this to your things to do in the Kandy list and get going!
Entrance fee: Free
Timings: Always open
Visit the Kandy Buddha Statue
The Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Kandy.
It is the biggest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka. At 88 feet, this statue is nestled within the hilltops, in the shadow of the Knuckles mountain range. The top can easily be reached by car or motorbike, and a small climb up the stairs will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city.
Entrance fee: 250 LKR
Timings: 6:30 am to 8:00 pm (Open all days of the year)
Explore the Three-Temple loop of Kandy
While the Sacred Tooth Relic temple is the most important of Kandy’s temples, it’s definitely not the only temple worth visiting.
Three temples namely Gadaladeniya Viharaya, Lankathilaka, and Embekke form the aptly named ‘three temple loop’, and are a testament to the long-living history of Sri Lanka’s extensive Buddhist heritage and craftsmanship.
Situated a bit away from the town center, these are often missed by visitors. But I highly recommend you visit them.
Gadaladeniya Viharaya is a 14th-century temple built of stone on a rock cliff. The central temple building is unique in that it is built entirely of sculptured granite, except for two shikharas which are built of brick, and sits on a massive stone slab.
Perched on a rocky outcrop, this 14th-century temple is one-half Buddhist, one-half Hindu, and incorporates a number of historically significant relics, including a seated Buddha image, rock-face inscriptions featuring both Sinhala and Tamil section, and stone Elephant figures.
This is a Hindu temple dedicated to Mahasen. The temple is famous for its carved wooden pillars. Each carving is fascinating that depicts humans, animals, and geometric patterns.
Entrance fee: 1,500 LKR for each temple
Timings: 5:30 am to 7:00 pm
Embekke Devalaya, Kandy
Enjoy a tea-sipping Geragama Tea Factory
Being a small island country, Sri Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea in the world.
With good weather and fertile soil, Sri Lankan tea is very famous.
Visiting a tea garden and seeing tea being produced is one of the best things to do in Kandy.
Geragama Tea Factory is one of the oldest in Sri Lanka and conducts one-hour guided tours on the tea production process.
On the tour, we learned how the tea pickers pluck the leaves, saw the cleaning and processing of tea, and tasted various teas. The detailed explanation also included grading, colour, and types of tea.
Having been to a tea factory in Manas, Assam, and in Kerala, Silver tea and Golden tea were a big revelation to me.
The names are given based on the colour of the tea buds that are considered premium tea and believed to have even more health benefits than green tea.
Entrance fee: Free. Tips encouraged.
Timings: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Tea display at Geragama Tea Factory
Get the bling at Gem museum, Kandy
Sri Lanka is a land of gemstones. With over 25 gemstones being mined from the country, it is only fair to visit a gem museum.
While there are many gemstone stores in Kandy that have an in-house museum, we visited the Handuni Gems and Jewellery Museum and store.
The visit started with the showcase of a short documentary demonstrating the mining process.
This is followed by a visit to the gallery which shows the kind of gems found here.
Visitors are also encouraged to visit the workshop and see craftsmen working on the gemstones.
Visitors are then escorted to their shop.
Entrance fee: Free
Timings: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Gemstone Museum in Kandy, Sri Lanka
Pay a tribute at the Kandy War Cemetery
Kandy War Cemetry is a military cemetery just like the other 6 commonwealth war cemeteries all over the country.
It is the resting place for soldiers of the British Empire who sacrificed their lives during the Second World War.
I think this is an excellent place to visit to immerse in the nation’s history while paying tribute to these courageous soldiers.
Entrance fee: Free
Timings: 7:00 am to 4:00 pm
Walk the Streets of Kandy
The best way to explore a town is on foot – filling the nostrils with fragrant flowers, the ears with the hustle and bustle of the road, and the mouth with roadside snacks.
The streets of Kandy center are filled with old colonial buildings and street vendors. Start in the city center and wander around the old streets, enjoying a King coconut, street graffiti, or even appreciating the colonial buildings.
Things to do in Kandy – Explore street art
Immerse in Kandian culture through a Kandy dance performance
Sri Lanka has a rich culture which is showcased through its art and culture.
A cultural dance performance is conducted highlighting the country’s religious, folk and acrobatics.
High on local folk music, ethnic wear, and spectacular dance move all in perfect harmony, the performance is nothing less than a spectacle.
This is one of the best things to do in Kandy.
Entrance fee: 2,000 LKR
Timings: 5:30 am to 6:30 pm
Cultural Performance in Kandy
PLACES TO VISIT NEAR KANDY | ONE DAY TRIP FROM KANDY
White water Rafting at Kitulagala or Ulapane
For adventure seekers, the waterways in Kandy have water sports in store for you.
While Ulapane is closer to Kandy (about 30 km), Kitulagala is 60 km. This is a perfect way to have some fun in the rapids of Sri Lankan rivers.
Kandy to Ella Train
Kandy is the starting point of one of the world’s most beautiful train routes – and features on many bucket list items.
A 4-7 hour journey through the picturesque tea plantation hills connecting Ella is getting everyone excited. And rightly so.
The blue carriages passing through rolling tea hills, spectacular waterfalls, and dense jungles make for epic views.
Only a three hours drive from Kandy, Sigiriya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka. Also known as Lion Rock, it is an enormous 200-meter square-shaped rock.
One of the best ways to experience these Sri Lankan UNESCO world heritage sites is by hiking to the top at sunrise.
THINGS TO DO IN KANDY | KANDY TRAVEL GUIDE PRACTICAL TIPS
How to Reach Kandy from Colombo
There are a number of ways to complete the scenic 110km trip from Colombo to Kandy, including by train, bus, and car.
Colombo to Kandy is a 3-hour journey that passes some pretty spectacular scenery; over narrow ledges and through dense forests. Being a busy route, there are many trains that run daily between these two stations.
The bus also takes approximately takes the same time as the train. The roads are smooth and comfortable and pass through the countryside.
If you are traveling in a big group with lots of luggage, I would suggest you hire a car.
How to get around Kandy
For going from Point A to B, there are apps such as Uber and Pick Me.
The best way to explore the outer temples of Kandy and Peradeniya Gardens is to hire a tuk-tuk for the entire day. But do negotiate fares before you get in the tuk-tuk in Kandy, as they may overcharge tourists.
Best Time to visit Kandy
Being a hill station, Kandy enjoys good weather all throughout the year. However, to get the best of Kandy world, the best time to visit Kandy is between December to March.
From May to July, and from October to December, the region experiences its two monsoon seasons, during which time the weather is wetter and more volatile.
Mahaweli River Sri Lanka
Where to stay in Kandy, Sri Lanka?
Being a popular tourist town, Kandy has many types of accommodations to offer. There are luxurious resorts, hotels, and hostels to stay in the city center to explore everything easily. Or one can choose a lush property or a bungalow in the rolling tea gardens, away from the city, and enjoy better views.
We spent 2 nights in Kandy and to experience the best of both worlds, we spent one night in the town close to the city center and the other one in the hills.
Situated on the banks of Mahaweli river, this is a luxurious property. With lush gardens and a huge swimming pool, the hotel is popular among the locals for weddings too.
The rooms are extremely spacious and comfortable Mahaweli Reach. And the food buffet at breakfast and dinner is incredible too. They even have live music at dinner making it a very special dining experience.
You can book Mahaweli Reach here.
Mahaweli Reach_Hotels in Kandy
Mountbatten Bungalow is a restored colonial villa that still has its rustic charms. A 12-room property overlooking Kandy town, the surrounding of the property is a forest area and tea gardens.
The best feature is the 6 garden chalets that give a feeling of living in a forest guest room.
You can book Mountbatten Bungalow here.
Garden chalets at Mountbatten Bungalow
SUSTAINABLE TIPS FOR THINGS TO DO IN KANDY
Kandy is a hill town and so it is best to avoid polythene bags so do not use single-use or disposable plastic. Dispose of biscuit wrappers, wafer packets, and juice boxes in designated bins. Do not litter the highways, places of tourist interest or riverbanks.Respect nature during adventure activities and do not harm it in any form. A single cigarette butt can give rise to fires hurting the economy of the entire region.Since most religious places follow Buddhism, respect their dress code – white or light-colored clothes and covering shoulders and knees. remove footwear before entering temples.Tips are encouraged in public washrooms near areas of interest, for performers, and even for guides.The entire Kandy town is situated around the forest so there are many wild animals in the area. If you spot it, please give some space for them to peacefully pass.
I hope this Kandy travel guide on Things to do in Kandy will help you to plan your trip. Did I miss out on any places to visit in Kandy? Let me know in the comments below.
Disclosure: I was invited by Destination Sri Lanka to explore Kandy. However, all opinions in this post are unbiased and of my own. Special thanks to the team for taking take of everything during this trip.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. It means it adds no extra cost to you if you book through the link but I get a referral bonus which helps me earn a little to keep this website up and running.
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Written by Ketki Gadre
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