Stronghold of the Sinhala Kings and capital of Sri Lanka’s hill regions, Kandy is perhaps the most beautiful and romantic city in the island.
Surrounded by green hills and with a large lake in the town centre, Kandy combines the sophistication of a modern city with the timeless appeal of ancient temples.
Temple of the Tooth
The most famous is the gold-roofed Temple of the Tooth, where a simple wooden structure contrasts with the lavish golden roof and exuberant Buddha statues. The temple houses the tooth of the Buddha and bustles at night with pilgrims attending a lively ceremony involving several drummers.
Sri Lanka has a majority Buddhist population and their main festival, the Esala Perahera, is a ten-day pageant that transforms Kandy during July or August. Timed in accordance with the lunar calendar, it is a wonderful spectacle with dozens of robed elephants, dancers and musicians thronging the streets. The dates are announced about a year in advance. In festival times, a stay in Kandy is an assault on the senses.
Outside Kandy, there are two particularly fascinating places to visit.
The nearby botanical gardens are renowned worldwide, bringing together countless species from every part of the island.
The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage
The Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, about an hour and a half drive out of town, is a fascinating place to see elephants at large: watching them bathe is always a joyful experience.
As night falls, cultural shows take place in a number of venues around Kandy. Offering a snapshot of music and dance on the island, they may conclude with a dramatic fire walking demonstration.
Kandy is also a good place to shop, with gems and jewellery especially good value.
Two or three days here are needed to explore the many facets of this holy town and the beauties of the surrounding area. Centrally located, Kandy is easily accessed from Colombo, the Cultural Triangle and Nuwara Eliya. If travelling on, a scenic train journey runs from Kandy up to Nuwara Eliya, in the heart of the tea country.