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.
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!
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 ethically responsible. 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.
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.
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.
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!
How to get to Kandy, Sri Lanka
- 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.
Driver Sri Lanka
Contact our friend Indi on Whatsapp (+94777644144). Make sure to tell him you came via ‘Salt in our Hair’ so you’ll get the best price possible.
Best restaurants in Kandy
As a popular travel hub, Kandy is not short of a variety of different restaurants and cuisines. The incredible flavours 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 favourites:
- Banana Chill
- Vito Wood Fired Pizza
- Indian Summer
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.