Kandy has a rich and proud history and when the first European’s landed in 1505, Kandy was established as the capital of one of the island’s three main kingdoms. It’s remote and easily defensible location amid the steep, jungle-swathed hills at the centre of the island kept the Portuguese and later the Dutch and British invaders at bay for centuries. We’d recommend reading the Elephant Complex, by John Gimlette’s for those interested to learn more about its history.
Today, it remains very much on the tourist trail but in reality, it’s not particularly well setup for tourism and can be a bit of an anti-climax. The traffic can be pretty tedious too so where possible we’d recommend travelling around outside of school run and rush hour. Tuk tuks are a good way to get through the traffic a bit quicker. Unless you’re really adamant on staying in the city centre we’d probably recommend staying in a property just outside the city (see recommendations below) and coming in for a half/full day visit.
Kandy is warm all year, although when it’s rainy it can feel much cooler. It tends to rain most between April – September and can also be quite stormy during Oct–Nov. December to March is tends to be hot and dry.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY
Kandy is very well located in the centre of country and can be reached in 3 hours by road (or train from Colombo). The road is very busy, as there is currently no highway, so if possible we’d recommend taking the train. There is also a domestic flight from Colombo on a light-aircraft if you want a quicker transfer.
Kandy Railway Station also acts as a great access point into the southern highlands of Hatton and Ella, and is one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.
GOOD TO KNOW
Check out our general Sri Lanka – ‘Good to know, before you go’ article…
WHERE TO SLEEP
The Radh (new) – This is a new (opened in 2018) hotel, which has been nicely designed and offers a good level of comfort, in a great location for exploring the city.
Elephant Stables – This is a little favourite of ours and offers a funky place to stay, with charm and character not far from the city centre.
Theva Residency – It is located on one of the hills overlooking Kandy, so offers good views but also some of the best food & drink in the city. It’s 10 minute’s drive to the city.
Cinnamon Citadel Kandy – If you’re happier with a larger style hotel then this is our pick, mainly due to the superb location over- looking the Mahaweli Ganga River.
Helga’s Folly – This is a pick for the quirkier and more daring ones of you out there! We quite like it’s eccentricity but it’s not for everyone.
If you are not fussed about staying in Kandy itself, then there are some lovely properties on the outskirts of the city (all within 1hr) which offer a more peaceful experience:
The Green House – This is a private house, located in the Victoria Golf & Country Club, which works well for families or friends travelling together.
Ashburnham Estate – Ashburnham is a beautiful 6-bedroom boutique hotel set on it’s own 100 acre tea estate in the hills above Kandy (50 mins)
Bougainvillea – Another nice option, near Victoria Reservoir, with a lovely swimming pool.
Restaurants & Bars:
We must note that Kandy isn’t the highlight of Sri Lanka’s food & beverage industry. Eating at your hotel can be a good option, but if you fancy getting out and checking what’s around then we’d recommend the following:
Royal Bar – This has a nice old colonial feel upstairs and a nice place for lunch or drinks.
Ozo Kandy (Bar) – The rooftop bar overlooking Kandy has great ambience and a nice place to head for evening drinks
Hella’s Folly: This is actually a hotel but unless you are really open-minded and up for a totally unique hotel, we’d recommend just coming for a drink and a walk around the hotel to look at the bizarre concert of art and style that to the right folks makes for a rich and beautiful experience.
Theva Residency: The Theva Residency is a little drive outside the centre of Kandy, but it does offer good wining and dining, if you’re wanting something closer to fine dining.
THINGS TO DO:
Relax in the Royal Botanical Gardens near Kandy
This is one of the surprising highlights of Kandy and offers a pleasant escape from Kandy’s traffic. It has been well maintained and showcases an impressive collection of tropical plants and trees. It’s a nice place to just relax and unwind for a few hours in a peaceful and tranquil setting.
Temple of the Tooth
The Temple of the Tooth, the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddhist, is Kandy’s most famous tourist attraction. As a result, it can get very busy so we’d recommend going early morning to try and avoid the crowds.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue
This impressive giant, white, Buddha statue sits on a hillside overlooking Kandy and is worth the climb up to enjoy the amazing views of the city.
Much less know is the Gadaladeniya Temple, located just outside the city, which is great for those wanted to visit a local temple without hordes of tourists.
Take a walk around Kiri Muhuda (Kandy Lake)
On a nice day, Kiri Muhuda is the most iconic place in the entire city. It’s located in the heart of Kandy, next to the Temple of the Tooth, and there are several peaceful spots where you can just sit and relax and enjoy the views.
Kandy, in all honesty, isn’t really famed for its shopping.
The Central Market near Keppetipola Road has quite a buzz and plenty of things on sell for tourists.
There are a good number of antique-type stores, such as Waruna Antiques on the Old Perideniya Road – less about expensive antique furniture and most in the way of trinkets and little objects.
For gems and stones, we’d recommend Tiesh, in terms of quality and price and we’ve received good feedback from previous guests.