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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

Temple of the ToothSitting 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

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

Botanical Gardens, KandyOriginally 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.

Food tours

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.

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Audley Travel specialist Niall

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Kandy by calling one of our Sri Lanka specialists at 617-223-4190

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