Kandy, located in the heart of Sri Lanka, is a captivating city that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. With its picturesque landscapes and iconic landmarks, such as the Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kandy is a must-visit destination for any traveller.
To fully experience the charm of this enchanting city, be sure to explore the bustling streets of the city centre, where you can indulge in delicious street food and shop for traditional handicrafts. If you're feeling adventurous, head to the nearby Udawatta Kele Sanctuary, a peaceful forest reserve that is perfect for hiking and bird-watching. And don't forget to witness the breathtaking beauty of Kandy Lake, especially during the annual Esala Perahera festival, when the city comes alive with vibrant processions and cultural performances.
If you're interested in learning more, you can find my comprehensive Kandy Travel Guide below.
If you are travelling from either Colombo or Galle, you have two options to reach your destination: by train or bus. To catch a train, make your way to the Colombo Railway Station. If you prefer the bus, head to the Central Bus Station. For those arriving at Colombo Airport, take bus #187 from the front of the airport (to the left) to reach Colombo City Centre.
When opting for rail as a mode of transportation in Sri Lanka, it offers several advantages. One can enjoy the opportunity to hang out the window, capturing stunning photos and videos. Additionally, the spaciousness allows for comfortable leg room, while the fresh air adds to the overall experience.
The Colombo Railway Station is equipped with a ticketing area that prominently features large boards displaying information on routes, destinations, and prices.
If you're looking for a convenient option while travelling on a train, Second Class is a great choice. This seating option provides luggage racks above the seats, allowing you to store your bags easily. Additionally, there are vendors who occasionally board the train to sell refreshing beverages like bottled water and juices. They also offer various snacks, including a spicy fishball batter with a small prawn on top, which may be unfamiliar but worth trying.
The train journey from Colombo to Kandy, departing at 12:50, typically takes approximately 3 hours and 20 minutes. While the first hour of the trip may be slightly bumpy, the remaining duration is generally smooth. On the return journey from Kandy to Colombo, opting for an earlier train at 10:30 ensures a more enjoyable experience, as the temperature is usually cooler during that time.
To ensure a smooth train journey, it is advisable to arrive at the station ahead of time. Trains often arrive early, allowing passengers to board and secure a seat comfortably. It is also wise to bring sufficient water along with hydrating fruits and snacks. However, be mindful not to consume excessive amounts of water that may lead to the need for using the train's restroom. To avoid any inconvenience, it is recommended to use the restroom facilities before reaching the railway station.
For more information on rail travel in Sri Lanka, and worldwide, check out seat61.com
Attractions & Experiences
Temple of The Tooth
It is important to note that there is a dress code in place that prohibits entry if you are wearing revealing clothing such as shorts or tank tops, regardless of gender. Many travellers who are unaware of this dress code often choose to purchase a wrap-around long-tie skirt or elephant-printed pants as a suitable alternative.
When I visited the temple, I noticed that many local women were wearing saris. Inspired by this, I decided to embrace the local culture and wear a sari myself. I found a shop just 50 meters away from the temple gates that had a sign advertising saris for only $2.50. After browsing for about 30 minutes, I selected a beautiful dark blue sari and had it fitted to my size.
After going through the security and dress code checkpoint, visitors will need to take a pleasant, albeit warm, walk to reach the temple entrance.
At the temple, it is common for locals to remove their shoes and place them near the steps. However, for foreign visitors, there are signs indicating that they should leave their shoes at a designated shoe clock room. Visitors are given a ticket, which they can use to retrieve their shoes after they have finished exploring the temple.
Please be aware that the shoe room to the inside of the temple can cause your feet to burn. It is advisable to walk along the roped-off side of the grass when visiting the small glass flame room to avoid discomfort. Although I personally did this and encountered no issues, it is worth noting that many others also followed suit without any objections.
When visiting the temple, foreign visitors are required to pay an entrance fee of 1000 LKR. Upon payment, you will receive a ticket that should be presented at the temple door.
The Temple of the Tooth in Kandy is renowned for its possession of a tooth that is believed to have belonged to Buddha. Regardless of personal beliefs, visiting the temple provides a unique and enjoyable experience. While it may not appear extraordinary in photographs, it offers an opportunity to witness local worshippers engaging in prayer, chanting with prayer beads, and expressing gratitude with floral offerings.
In addition to the temple grounds, there is a dedicated room for candle burning that is worth visiting. This room features glass walls and is adorned with racks holding individual flames, which are lit by numerous visitors daily. From this vantage point, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the temple grounds, providing insight into the complex's surroundings and offering a stunning cityscape.
After leaving the temple, visitors can find a charming water fountain where locals often cleanse their faces, hands, and feet. Following this local tradition, I also washed my feet at the fountain since they tend to get dirty from walking barefoot on the temple grounds.
If you are interested, the tooth is available for viewing at ceremony times, which are reported to be around 6:30 pm.
For more information on the temple, check out the official website: https://sridaladamaligawa.lk/
Cultural Dance Performance
While exploring Kandy, I unexpectedly came across a fascinating cultural performance that I didn't know existed. As I was walking around the lake, I noticed a group of foreigners gathered around a local man who was sharing information about a traditional dance show that takes place every Friday. Intrigued, he described some of the captivating performances that are part of this cultural event.
In search of more thrilling experiences in Kandy, the author stumbled upon a captivating event featuring firewalking, fire dancing, and cultural dances. Intrigued by the prospect, they decided to join the crowd and head towards the Cultural Arts Hall, conveniently located just behind the temple of the tooth.
The tickets for the performance cost 1000 LKR and the show lasts for approximately 1 hour. Upon entering, you will receive an information sheet that provides details about the different dances and the traditional stories associated with them.
The performances at the event were highly entertaining, showcasing a range of traditional dances and impressive acrobatics. There were a total of 12 performances, with female dancers presenting graceful traditional dances, while male dancers captivated the audience with their flips, twists, and high-speed local dances infused with daring moves. Each performance skillfully portrayed different aspects of the story being depicted through dance. Additionally, the costumes worn by the dancers were beautifully designed, adding to the overall visual appeal of the event.
After the exciting dancing and fire performances, the audience was led outside to witness the mesmerizing fire walking. As I sat in the front row, I couldn't help but feel a bit apprehensive as the performers skillfully handled and splashed petrol onto the fire, while twirling their fire sticks. Clad in my polyester sari, which measured about 5 meters in length, I couldn't help but worry about the proximity to the flames. However, my concerns were alleviated as I watched various men confidently dance and walk across the fire pit. The performance concluded with warm wishes to the crowd, and those who wished to support the show had the option to make donations.
Visiting a Temple and Receiving Blessing from Monk
During my trip to Kandy, I unexpectedly had the opportunity to receive a unique blessing from a monk. While exploring the village streets near a temple, I was invited into a room by the monk, who graciously bestowed upon me a special blessing. This experience stood out to me as distinct from the previous blessing I had received in Colombo.
During a spiritual ceremony, the monk presented me with white and orange strings to hold in a prayer position. As he chanted, he gently fanned me and placed the fan on my head, arms, and string. The chant, lasting approximately 2 minutes, created a profound and unforgettable experience for me.
During my brief encounter, I observed a unique type of chant as I walked by a room. Intrigued, I was graciously invited to join. Following the monk's captivating chant, he proceeded to tie the strings I held onto my wrist, signifying a symbolic gesture.
Kandy Lake is a highly recommended attraction that often ranks second in many travel guides, just after the Temple of the Tooth. This serene lake is nestled amidst mountains, offering an ideal spot for capturing breathtaking sunset photographs. Not only is it a peaceful area, but it also serves as a useful landmark for finding your way to other nearby attractions.
Central Market is a unique marketplace located beneath a canopy of trees in a small concrete park area. Visitors can access the market by descending a set of steps. The market is known for its assortment of clothing vendors offering traditional elephant print pants, souvenir t-shirts, and saris. Additionally, there are several stores selling bags, suitcases, hair accessories, and other various accessories. It is important to note that foreign visitors may encounter vendors who try to overcharge them, often resulting in prices that are four times higher than those in Hong Kong. Therefore, it is advisable to be prepared to negotiate and haggle for better prices.
Located directly behind the temple of the tooth, outside of the temple grounds, is the Garrison Cemetery. It was established in 1817, shortly after the British capture of Ceylon, now known as Sri Lanka. The cemetery contains 163 graves that offer a fascinating insight into colonial life during that era. Among the graves, it is notable that many belonged to young individuals who sadly passed away in their 20s. Causes of death recorded include sunstroke, encounters with elephants, and jungle fever.
Local Wholesale Fruit and Veg Market
The place provides a unique experience with its bustling ground floor filled with an array of fresh vegetables, spices, fruits, and fish vendors. These vendors enthusiastically shout out about their products, enticing customers. Observing the locals as they meander around, inspecting different goods and going about their daily lives, offers an intriguing glimpse into a distinct style of shopping for produce, unlike what one would typically encounter at a local market or supermarket.
The mall may not be considered a popular attraction or a desirable shopping destination, but it does offer a few conveniences. On the basement floor, you will find a supermarket and well-maintained toilets, complete with toilet paper. Additionally, there are some steps where visitors often take a break. This is particularly useful after spending hours exploring Kandy, as public seating and restrooms are scarce in the area.
Kandy, a quaint village, offers easy access to all its city attractions for those staying within the city area. However, if you're interested in visiting attractions outside of the city, such as Sigiriya Rock or the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, you will need to find alternative transportation options.
There are a variety of tours that offer day trips to both of these mentioned attractions, as well as numerous other day trip experiences to choose from.
No, I Do Not Support that – Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage
Although I initially planned to visit the Elephant Orphanage, I decided to do some research first. It was important for me to ensure that this establishment was a genuine orphanage where needy elephants could receive the care they needed to recover and thrive. As a frequent traveller, I believe in the importance of responsible travel and supporting only those causes and organizations that align with my values.
According to various online reports and descriptions, it has been observed that this orphanage has undergone significant development and transformation over the years. Its main focus now revolves around the captive breeding of elephants for tourism purposes. The elephants are carefully managed and relocated to designated bathing and feeding areas at specific times to cater to the needs of tourists. However, it is worth noting that overnight, the elephants are chained up for their safety and to ensure proper care.
Accommodation in Kandy Sri Lanka
During my trip in Sri Lanka, I was looking for accommodation that was conveniently located near the main attractions and city streets. After having numerous encounters with tuk-tuk drivers, I decided to stay at Clock Inn Kandy on Hill Street in the city. This location allowed me to easily explore the markets, temples, lake, and shopping streets, all within a short 1-minute walk.
Clock Inn Kandy Sri Lanka offers a variety of accommodations including dorm rooms, capsule-style rooms, and private rooms, ensuring a suitable option for every budget and travel preference. In addition to comfortable lodging, Clock Inn Kandy also provides a range of tours, including attractions and thrilling adventure activities like kayaking. The facility boasts a brand-new building, well-maintained rooms with modern fittings, and convenient amenities such as breakfast, a water dispenser, and a microwave. Guests can also enjoy a shared lounge room and relax in the outdoor seating area.
I hope this article has provided you with useful information and potentially sparked your interest in visiting Sri Lanka.. For information on visa requirements for travelling in Sri Lanka, head to the Government Immigration Website, https://eta.gov.lk/etaslvisa/etaNavServ, where you can apply for an E-Visa online. When I arrived in Colombo, I found that there was no need to print out any documents since the information was stored electronically. All I had to do was show my passport to the immigration staff and I was allowed to proceed.