Things to do in Kandy
Apart from Sri Lanka’s stunning beaches, it is also famous for its religious sites and spectacular train rides. This is where Kandy’s role in your Sri Lanka Route comes in, as the gateway to one of the most epic train journeys in the world and host to a myriad of cultural exhibits. Plan to spend one or two days in Kandy.
1. Visit the Botanical Garden in Kandy
The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kandy is a place where people of all ages gather, especially at the weekends. The garden is famous for its countless (4000+) species of plants and trees. It is situated a 15-minute drive west of Kandy, and is a great escape from the city. Wander around the massive garden, take a towel and relax in the grass or sip a drink at one of the cafes.
Entrance fee: 2,000 LKR (10 USD) – Pricey but worth it if you spend a couple of hours.
2. The Streets of Kandy
The streets in Kandy center are filled with old colonial buildings and street vendors. Start from the Temple of the Tooth and wander around the old streets, enjoying a fresh coconut from one of the many colorful fruit stands.
Tip: Don’t forget to look up to see the beauty of the historical buildings!
3. Day trip to Sigiriya
Sigiriya is a stunning area of about three hours drive from Kandy. It is home to Lion Rock, one of the Sri Lankan UNESCO world heritage sites and a must-do in Sri Lanka. Lion Rock is an enormous 200-meter square-shaped rock towering over the entire region.
One of the best ways to experience this natural phenomenon is by hiking to the top at sunrise. For this reason, it is recommended to spend the previous night nearby in Sigiriya or Habarana.
Tip: Pidurangdula lies opposite Sigiriya Rock and is a great alternative to avoid the crowds at sunrise. Not only do you get the same panoramic views as you would from Sigiriya but also a head-on view of Sigiriya Rock itself.
4. Temple of the Tooth, Kandy
The Temple of the Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, is a beautiful golden-roofed Buddhist Temple in the heart of Kandy. Plan an early-morning visit to skip the crowds and see the legendary tooth relic of Buddha (yes the actual Buddha!). No expense is spared to protect the tooth, which is enclosed inside several golden boxes, covered in jewels.
Looking for a Sri Lankan driver? Contact our friend Indi on Whatsapp (+94777644144).
The temple is a must-see in Kandy, not just for its religious fame as one of Buddhism’s most important shrines, but also for its beautiful interior!
Tip: You do not need a guide to enter the building, even though the guides at the front might say otherwise.
5. Stay at a Rainforest Resort
The real beauty of Kandy exists in its unique blend of nature and luxury. The nearby rainforest hosts a selection of resorts with pools overlooking the forest. Aarunya Resort is a sustainable nature retreat set within a 7-acre plantation, which they use to harvest fresh produce for their on-site restaurant. Their true Sri Lanka dining experience is, without a doubt, one of the best Sri Lankan meals you will have.
6. Do NOT visit an Elephant Orphanage
Visiting an elephant orphanage is a popular thing to do in Kandy but this doesn’t mean it is a good activity. Although you might be led to believe that these establishments take care of animals (which is partly true), the animals are used more as a form of entertainment, rather than genuinely being taken care of. Here are the things to know about wildlife tourism and the better alternatives.
Multiple animal organizations, such as Born Free, have written about this and have stated that these examples of animal activities are always a no go.
Here’s the best way to see the Elephants in Sri Lanka
7. Head for the hills to visit the Kandy Buddha Statue
The Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue is the biggest Buddha statue in Sri Lanka. This 88-foot high statue is nestled within the hilltops above Kandy, in the shadow of the Knuckles mountain range. The top can easily be reached by car or motorbike, and a small climb up the stairs will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city.
8. Kandy Lake
Stroll around the peaceful Kandy Lake, considered the heart and soul of the city because of its central location and undeniable beauty. In the middle of the lake is a tiny island with a few palm trees, recognized as one of Kandy’s iconic scenes, and featured on many a postcard.
Tip: When getting near the Temple of the Tooth do not buy any tickets from strangers on the streets. Kandy is sadly the only place in Sri Lanka where scams take place.
9. Kandy to Ella Train
Kandy is the starting point of one of the world’s most beautiful train routes – a stunning 4-7 hour journey through the tea plantation hills, which is an absolute must-do on any Sri Lanka travel route. Feel the wind blow through your hair and across your skin, as you dangle your feet outside the door of the open train- an exhilarating experience that allows you to see nature in a totally unique way!
Options and Prices: Take the 4-hour ride to Nuwara Eliya or the 7-hour to Ella. A ticket costs around 400 LKR depending on the class and destination.
How to get to Kandy, Sri Lanka
Kandy has a strategic location in between all the major sites. The train station is connected to the central highlands, north to Jaffna, east to Trincomalee, and to the capital Colombo.
- Option 1: A train from Kandy to Colombo taking 2.5 hours. Get tickets from Colombo to Kandy
- Option 2: A direct bus or taxi from Colombo taking 3-4 hours.
- Option 3: Self-drive – Rent a car through SunnyCars.
Where to stay in Kandy, Sri Lanka?
Kandy offers a good selection of affordable hostels and hotels. Stay in the city center to explore everything easily. Or choose for calmness by staying up in the hills.
Hotels & Resorts
Best restaurants in Kandy
As a popular travel hub, Kandy is not short of a variety of different restaurants and cuisines. The incredible flavors of traditional Sri Lankan dishes are well preserved, western recipes have been introduced and there is a great fusion of east meets west so that there is something for everyone in Kandy. These are our favorites:
- Banana Chill
- Vito Wood Fired Pizza
- Indian Summer
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- Find Hotels via Booking.com
- Find a Rental Car via Sunny Cars
- Find Cheap Flights via Skyscanner
- Get a Travel Insurance via Heymondo
- Book Tours & Attractions via Viator
- Book a Bus/Train/Transfer via 12Go
Looking for more travel information? Plan a chat with us for personalised travel advice or get an answer from the Salt in our Hair Travel Community on Facebook.
I also looked at the land of my birth with “rose coloured” glasses. Unfortunately, after this trip, the lenses have been irreparably broken.
The Dalada Maligawa is a revered site for Buddhist’s worldwide. It is the premier showcase of Theravada Buddhism. Unfortunately, it has become a den of thieves. Nowhere in the world does any “faith” charge to enter their holiest sites. All tourist’s including expats will be charged a fee to enter this site. This disgusting practice has been perpetrated on tourists for many years. It is one thing to ask for donations and another to charge an entry fee ( incl: Buddhist’s on foreign passports). Unfortunately, shameful practices like this have become the norm in Sri Lanka.
Also, be very careful to renew your visa before the expiry date. Do not rely on the online visa extension system. It often does not work or fails to recognise your passport number. You are expected to immediately halt your trip and return to the immigration office in Colombo before the expiry date. The immigration officers enjoy stomping on people’s heads. They will not accept any fault of the system or the department, and will impose a fine of USD $500 for overstaying, plus, the additional visa costs. No excuse will save
you ! The tourist can gauge the caliber of these officers on arrival at the airport by their unfriendly, miserable faces, and rude conduct.
If you are a female travelling in the outstation areas on a bike or car ( especially Jaffna) even as a passenger; be aware that you will be stopped on the pretext of violating some road rule and asked/intimidated for “donations” by the police . Many of whom are nothing more than highway robbers.
Sri Lanka is still a beautiful country. But be acutely aware that you as a tourist will be viewed as nothing more than a ‘milking cow’.