Visit Kandy, Sri Lanka
Wood storks rest beside this Sri Lankan city’s tranquil lake and gold roof temple, set beneath undulating tea plantations.
In between undulating tea plantations and emerald rainforest, the city of Kandy lies within the Mahaweli River’s protective embrace. The former capital of Sri Lanka, Kandy’s famed for sheltering a tooth of the Buddha — the country’s most holy Buddhist relic — along with botanical gardens, temples and an artificial lake.
Kandy has a thriving food scene, with a growth in the number of restaurants starting to provide authentic Kandyan home cooking. Away from the throbbing motorbikes and noisy market vendors, the Kandy Lake is a calm oasis fronting the Temple of the Tooth. From the lakeside you can look out for Indian cormorant, stork-billed kingfisher and the alligator-like Asian water monitor lizard.
Temple of the Tooth
Sitting on a plateau beneath swirling tea plantations, Kandy’s tranquil lake and elegant botanical gardens provide stark contrast to its lively streets. Once the stronghold of Sinhala kings, Kandy’s main attraction is the gilded-roofed Temple of the Tooth, which shelters a relic believed to be Buddha’s tooth.
At the temple, puja (prayers) occur daily, where the tooth is taken out of its chamber in its golden casket for devote Buddhists to worship. The room is filled with flowers, praying Buddhists, onlookers and the sound of rhythmic drummers. Outside of puja, you can quietly admire the temple’s contrasting simple wooden structures, flamboyant Buddha statues and lavish gold roofs.
Kandy Lake was created as an additional feature for the Temple of the Tooth. You can take a break from the bustle of the city by walking the path encircling the lake. Nuga and palm trees shade the path, and you’ll notice white egret cranes, wood storks and pelicans around the water’s edge.
The Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya
Originally created solely for Kandyan royalty, the botanical gardens are now open for everyone to enjoy. Set 6 km (4 miles) outside the city, the gardens are a peaceful haven and home to over 4000 plant species including the coconut-like cannonball fruit tree, towering Burma bamboo and orchids.
The botanical gardens are the largest in Sri Lanka and are abundant with the smell of spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom. The main lawn is ruled by a giant Javan fig tree. At over 100 years old its thick trunk and spidery canopy of branches stretch over 2,420 sq m (26,048 sq ft). As you wander around, you’ll be joined by curious monkeys and can spot snoozing fruit bats hanging in the trees.
Back in the city, you can delve into the Kandyan food scene on a guided walking food tour. You’ll be taken on a culinary journey through Kandy’s markets, sampling tropical fruit and milky ‘workers tea’, before being greeted with plates of freshly fried Kandyan snacks such as wade at a woman’s cooperative. Your day culminates in visiting a cafe for curd and treacle (a typical Sri Lankan desert).
Alternatively, on an evening food walk your guide will introduce you to egg hoppers (rice-flour pancakes with an egg in the bottom) and kottu (a dish made of shredded roti, stir-fried vegetables and leftover meat cooked in egg).
Exploring around Kandy
A great way to uncover the countryside around Kandy is on a cycling tour. Starting just outside Kandy, you’ll feel the breeze whip through your hair as you wind your way through tea country on a 30 km (17 mile) guided route. The downhill route weaves through the mountains around Kandy, finishing at Peradeniya’s gardens. You’ll stop at a local spice shop for a chance to untangle the recipe for curry powder and taste freshly cooked roadside corn on the cob.
Due to Kandy’s central location, it makes for a good stop to break up your journey between tea country and Sri Lanka’s south coast. It’s easily accessed from Colombo, the Cultural Triangle and Nuwara Eliya.
Best time to visit Kandy
The best time to visit Kandy is between January and April. As the city sits in the middle of Sri Lanka, it bypasses both monsoon seasons. However, during the inter-monsoonal period between October and November, rain and thunderstorms cloud the sky.
Kandy becomes crowed in July and August, for 10 days, as the Buddhist festival of Esala Perahara is celebrated.
Suggested itineraries featuring Kandy
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Kandy, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Kandy
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Kandy
- Pallepolla 24 miles away
- Nuwara Eliya 24 miles away
- Hatton 28 miles away
- Adam's Peak 35 miles away
- Horton Plains 35 miles away
- Dambulla 40 miles away
- Bandarawela 41 miles away
- Sigiriya 47 miles away
- Polonnaruwa 52 miles away
- Minneriya National Park 53 miles away
- Negombo 56 miles away
- Uda Walawe National Park 57 miles away
- The Cultural Triangle 58 miles away
- Colombo 60 miles away
- Sinharaja Biosphere 64 miles away
- Wadduwa 65 miles away
- Anuradhapura 72 miles away
- Bentota 75 miles away
- Yala National Park 77 miles away
- Passikudah 78 miles away
- Tangalle 89 miles away
- Galle 92 miles away
- The Southern Coast 94 miles away
- Trincomalee 98 miles away
- Jaffna 170 miles away
Photos of Kandy
Accommodation choices for Kandy
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Kandy. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
One of the most rewarding small boutique hotels in Sri Lanka, Ellerton consists of small plantation bungalows with an interesting colonial history, set high on the hills above Kandy.
The Kandy House is a brilliant small boutique hotel capable of offering stylish accommodation and attentive personal service in a beautiful natural setting. This 200-year old property is a relaxing alternative for those seeking a break from the bustle of city life.
This riverside, family-owned property has more than 100 spacious rooms, decorated in rich brocade fabrics, beautiful wooden furnishings and each with a private balcony overlooking the river and pool against the distant green hills.
This property, a 10 minute drive from Kandy, is incredibly bright and contemporary with fantastic views of the lush hillside.
Located high above Kandy and with breathtaking views, Villa Rosa is an enchanting place to stay. This European-style villa has retained the comfortable and relaxed atmosphere of a family home and offers a delightful balance of privacy and informality.
Ideas for experiencing Kandy
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Kandy, and which use the best local guides.
The Kelaniya Ganga is a stunning river offering some excellent, though relatively gentle, white-water rafting.
The picturesque railway to Nuwara Eliya passes waterfalls and tea plantations, as well as Adam's Peak in the distance.
Traditional Kandyan dances include the cobra dance, mask dance, the Ginisila, showing power over fire. The entire frenetic and colourful spectacle climaxes with the amazing fire-walking act.