Are you planning a short trip to Sri Lanka? The city of Kandy must surely be on your bucket list since it is one of the most fascinating places in the country. UNESCO has listed Kandy amongst the world heritage sites and the entire city is built around the Kandy lake. Sounds interesting right?
Kandy was also the old capital of Sri Lanka before Colombo. I’m glad I visited Kandy when I travelled to Sri Lanka since it gave me a totally different experience. I spent 2 days there, which I feel are more than enough to explore most of the places and experience their local culture. If you’re short on time, you can plan your trip for 2 days and still discover most of the parts of the city.
So, here’s how I spent my days in this beautiful city.
How I explored Kandy
There are two ways by which you can explore the city, either hire a taxi or a tuk-tuk. I felt this is one of the best ways to interact with the locals since they give you more information about the place you’re visiting. Some of the places we visited on our arrival since we had hired a cab from Colombo to Kandy. It cost us around 5000 LKR for the entire journey.
The next day, I had hired a tuk-tuk for approximately 6 hours for the day and it cost me roughly 2500 LKR. The taxi costs almost double the amount than the tuk-tuk, but it all depends on your bargaining skills. I personally preferred exploring the city through tuk-tuk since it gives me that feeling of being a part of the city instead of a traveller. Also, it’s more fun and cost effective!
Where to stay in Kandy
There are numerous places to stay in Kandy depending on what your budget is. If you’re looking for larger hotels or some of the finest ones, they are mostly located just near the city centre. But if you’re on a budget, you’ll find hotels and even hostels that are located near the Kandy lake.
I actually stayed at a beautiful resort, Amaya Hills, which not surprisingly, on a hilltop some distance away from the city. You can hire a taxi or a tuk-tuk to reach the hotel you wish to stay in. It wouldn’t cost you much. I have a few recommendations of hotels for every kind of budget in case you want to consider.
1. Budget hotels
Feel Home and The Sky Deck Kandy are one of the best options if you’re on a budget. You’ll get access to all the basic amenities and they’re great to stay in too!
2. Mid-range hotels
In case you’re looking for a more comfortable stay with a few more amenities, you can consider mid-range hotels like Hotel Lakefield and Mount Blue Kandy.
3. Luxury hotels
If you’re someone who loves staying at luxurious inns, some of the best ones are Kings Pavilion and The Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge.
Things to do in Kandy
The city of Kandy has a few popular places to see. Well, I was on a shorter trip so I spent my time experiencing and exploring some of the best places in the city and skipping the ones I felt wouldn’t interest me.
1. Kandy Lake
Kandy lake occupies the major part of the city and you should definitely visit it! It is one of my favourite places when it comes to Kandy. I took a walk by the lake early one morning and it was a very pleasant experience. I came across people who were practising the Buddhist way of meditating in the areas nearby. The lake runs parallel to the roads which can cause a bit of chaos during the busy hours of the day, but in the peaceful morning hours, it is one of the best places to spend time with yourself and relax.
2. Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue
This beautiful Buddha statue is one of the biggest statues in the country and if you’re visiting Kandy, you must not skip visiting this place. The huge 88 feet tall statue of Lord Buddha sitting in the Nirvana position is quite a sight to behold. But I climbed till the top of Bahirawa Kanda Hill and the view from the top was so breathtaking! I had heard that the statue looks beautiful during the evening and that’s when I visited. It was fully lit with lights and lamps and I was able to see a mesmerising panoramic view of the city from the top.
The place is open 24 hours but the best time to visit is either during early morning or during the sunset. Also, it cost me around 200 LKR to see the statue which is around ₹ 80.
3. Kadugannawa Tea Factory
I was surprised to know that Sri Lanka is ranked 4th in the world when it comes to the largest producers for tea! Kandy city has some amazing tea factories and tea fields so I thought I would visit one since I’m a die-hard tea lover! I went to Kadugannawa Tea Factory to learn more about the whole process of tea making.
Embilmeegama is another famous tea factory of Kandy which you can visit. I took a tour around the factory, learned about some machines and their workings, and lastly had an amazing cup of one of their famous teas. It was interesting to know that the entire procedure of picking up the tea leaves to packing them takes entirely 24 hours, with the majority of work done by machinery. You can visit this place too if you’re a tea lover like me. The visit to the factory is free too!
4. Traditional Dance of Kandy
I personally like to learn more about the cultures and traditions of the places I visit so I went to see the traditional dance show of Kandy. It is known as The Kandyan Dance which happens at many different places in the city. However, the one I saw was near the Kandy lake, at the Kandy Lake Club, which ultimately is one of the best in the city. It was a great experience to see the colourful costumes and unique Srilankan dance-forms! The dance ends with a performance where artists walk on fire! The show usually starts at 5:30 pm, but I went about 15 minutes early so that I get a seat in the front rows. It lasts for about an hour. Also, it cost me roughly ₹ 500 for the show, but I felt it was worth experiencing once.
5. Sacred Tooth Relic Temple
This is yet another place to visit if you are religious and like visiting temples. I am personally not very religious and was short on time so I actually skipped this one. But I heard from a local that it is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. It is said that one of Buddha’s teeth was taken during his funeral ceremony and is hidden in a golden casket in the temple. People come to visit the shrine and worship Buddha. The local Buddhists believe that once in their lifetime they must complete at least one pilgrimage to this temple.
6. Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens is one of the biggest botanical gardens in the country. It has a variety of trees and plants and if you like to know more about them you can visit the place. Although the tuk-tuk driver may tell you that it’ll take 4-5 hours to explore the garden, we managed to wrap it up in an hour. It was an ok-ish place and I wouldn’t recommend you visiting if you are on a shorter trip.
Some restaurants to enjoy Kandiyan flavours
Kandy has a wide variety of restaurants for all foodies (read more about the Sri Lanka food) with so many different dishes and cuisines. Here are some of my recommendations that you can try out to give yourself a treat.
1. Licensed to Grill
This is a roadside place for wraps and burgers at super cheap prices! And the food is so delicious I kept craving for more and more! I loved eating the tandoori wrap there and it was delicious!
2. Café Divine Street
It’s a small café but has decent and cost-effective dishes. You can try the local specialities as well as western dishes here. You get a decent quantity of food and it was good eating here.
3. Slightly Chilled Lounge Bar
If you’re craving for an evening beer, this place is one of the best bars. You’ll get to chill with your glass of beer with a rooftop view of sunset which is so mesmerising!
4. Cool Corner Ice Cream Parlour
Well, who doesn’t love ice creams! This is one of my favourite places for ice creams because they served me with such huge portions, I found it difficult to finish it after a full heavy dinner! And the menu card contained 3 whole pages of different flavours of ice cream! That is just insane! Also, the price is decent when compared to the quantity so you can give this place a shot for ice creams.
Places where you can shop
Central Market and Kandy City Center are some of the best places to shop if you love shopping. You can also explore the local markets of the city around Kandy Lake where you’ll find some accessories, handicrafts, designer wears, and so much more!
Kandy is a beautiful place to visit in Sri Lanka if you’re planning a trip to the country. I had an amazing time here and I’m sure you would have too! You’ll love exploring the place and learning and interacting with the locals and it would be an experience of a lifetime!