The best things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka

When we arrived in Kandy we had barely read about it in our travel book guide. We got the needed knowledge to enjoy the visit on the go. If you want to do it a bit better and have some information upfront here we will explain for you the best things to do in Kandy. 

Colonial street in Kandy. Best things to do in Kandy
Colonial street in Kandy

Why to go to Kandy?

The city of Kandy is located in the center of Sri Lanka and is the second largest city on the island. The city of Kandy is in a mountainous area and it has one of the most gentle climates in the country. Nevertheless, the main reason to visit Kandy is that it is considered to be the cultural epicenter of Sri Lanka. A visit to Kandy will allow you to fully discover the most historic part of the country and some of its most dazzling places. Keep reading to acknowledge the best things to do in Kandy. 

When to go to Kandy? 

You can visit Kandy all year long but we recommend visiting Kandy between January and April. During that period you may enjoy a rain free visit although the weather can be a bit more humid and hot. From May to July, and from October to December, Kandy has its two monsoon seasons, during which time the weather is more unpredictable. However, don’t hesitate to go even during the monsoons since they are not strong enough to disgrace any tourist experience. 

The best things to do in Kandy

Kandy is a colonial and a domestic city. You can take a stroll in the old center and enjoy large colonial avenues filled with European white architecture and views to the lake. There are magnificent colonial cafès and nice restaurants. However, just nearby, you will immediately catch up the local vibe in narrow streets with local shops and appetizers. Feel free to get lost strolling around. The town has amazing heritage, it is safe and walk is one of the best things to do in Kandy. 

Sri Dalada Maligawa

Called in English, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth and Royal Complex. The building is just impressive and you can spend a couple of hours just visiting the white structure, the candle repositories and admiring the monks and the prayers arriving to perform. The temple itself consists of several rooms containing paintings and ancient objects. Around the main building you can see various dagobas and statues or figures of Buddha.

The temple was built in the late 16th Century to keep the most important relics of Buddhism. It is a 2.5 cm tooth which belonged to Buddha himself. It is in an urn in the inner sanctum of the temple. That box cannot be seen more than only three times a day. Inside the urn there are six more urns, each one of a smaller size. Inside the last smallest one supposedly lays the tooth of Buddha.

A good time to visit the Buddha Tooth Temple is after 6:30 p.m., when monks and pilgrims come to make their offerings, pray and put on a drum show. It is a time when you must show the utmost respect to the faithful, being silent and wearing clothing that covers the shoulders and long pants. 

To enter the temple you must take off your shoes and keep them at the official place where they will gently charge a fee. You must bear in mind that, especially during the offerings, there may be a greater crowding of people. The lines can be quite untakeable if you are not very patient or a devout follower of Buddha.  

It is open from 5.30 a.m to 8 p.m. everyday and the ticket is 1.500 LKR plus 500 more to leave your shoes at the official shoe room.

Bogambara Lake 

Also called Kandy Lake, it is located in the center of the city. It is a nice place to take a quiet walk. This lake was artificially constructed in 1807 by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe with an extension of 19 hectares. Currently it is totally prohibited to fish or use the lake water for human consumption due to the high levels of contamination. Besides it is only used to be admired, the pictures look very nice at it.

Kandy Lake

The Giant Buddha 

The giant Buddha statue is more than 25 meters high. It is also known as Bahiravokanda Vihara and stands on top of a hill in Kandy. The views from the top are panoramic: from there you will see the most important places in the city, such as the lake or the Buddha temple.

Entrance costs 250 rupees and it is also common that during your visit they ask for extra donations. You should know that in 2022 it is under renovation and covered partially with scaffolding. Keep also in mind that to enter you must take off your shoes and cover your shoulders and legs.

Arthur’s Seat

For the best panoramic views of Kandy, nothing like visiting the Kandy viewpoint, also known as Arthur’s Seat. It is the highest point in the area, located in the south of Lake Bogambara. To get there we recommend you get on a tuk-tuk that will take you to the top in a few minutes. From there you can see the lake and also the most significant monuments of the city. The name “Arthur’s Seat” was given to this viewpoint in homage to Arthur C. Clarke, a British author, who lived in Colombo for years.

Kandy Central Market 

This is a local experience. It is a real market for locals and very few tourists go shopping there. However, the sellers are used to dealing with tourists from time to time. Some locals can offer to go there with you for better prices but forget about being treated as a local. You are a tourist and you will pay tourist prices. Even though the visit is worth it.

Central Market Kandy

Kandy Clock Tower

A clock tower is a classic for every Sri Lankan important town. It shows the status of the town, the colonial past and the will of modernity. In Kandy the Clock Tower is in the middle of a roundabout close to the Bus Station. You won’t miss anything new if you skip it, but you will lose even less if you take a second for a picture.  

Kandy Clock Tower
Kandy Clock Tower

Ceylon Tea Museum

You can visit in Kandy the Tea Museum, located in an old tea factory from 1925, 4 kilometers south of the city. You will be able to understand how tea is produced, what processes it goes through, how it was produced in the past, what were the promoters of this product and, of course, tasting a cup of authentic Ceylon tea.

Royal Botanic Gardens of Peradeniya

Before the British arrival the gardens were only to please the Royal family. In 1821, this changed and the colonial power built a Botanical Garden that can be one of the most important ones in all Asia. The entrance fee is 1,500 but it is definitely worth it if you like to discover new types of plants and flowers.

Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage

An especially recommended visit for lovers of nature and animals. Pinnewala elephant orphanage, established in 1975 and located about 40 kilometers from Kandy. In the orphanage they take care of the elephants, especially the smallest ones or those that are injured and have been abandoned, so that they have a pleasant and dignified life. They feed and bathe more than 65 elephants everyday. You will be able to observe them and see their daily life. Some especially fun times are during feeding times at 9:15, 13:15 and 5pm and bathing times at 10am, 2pm and 4pm.

Where to stay in Kandy

We can recommend two hotels based on our own experience: 

  • Hotel Casamara Kandy: It is in a perfect location in the old colonial town. The lake and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth and Royal Complex is very close. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants around and the services at the hotel are good value for your money.
  • Tree Breeze Inn: It is located on a hill, far away from the crowd of the center and with perfect views. It is not expensive and the quality of the services are worth it. This can be a very good alternative if you want a relaxing vacation rather than a local vibe. 

Take a look to all the options in Kandy on our partner’s map: 

How to get to Kandy

The trip to Kandy can be around 3 hours long from The International Airport of Colombo. It is hardy recommended to go with your own rented transport. You can rent easily a car, a tuk-tuk or a motorbike in Sri Lanka.

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2 Replies to “The best things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka”

  1. Kandy is such a delightful place to visit! I enjoyed my time there and loved the tea shops scattered around the city center. The most delicious tea in the world!

    1. We bought tea there too! Indeed a very nice place to stay, enjoy and understand about Sri Lanka and its culture.

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