Kandy, Sri Lanka: What you should know before you visit

Jan 22, 2020 | Asia, Global travel, Sri Lanka

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(Last updated on: 01/04/2020)

Kandy is a wonderful place in Sri Lanka, full of culture and history. We loved our two day visit and we recommend that Kandy is included on any Sri Lanka travel itinerary. Here is everything you need to know when planning your visit…

Kandy

Where is Kandy?

Located in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, Kandy is a major city within the hills of the eponymous plateau. It is the current capital city of the Central Province, and was also the last capital of the ancient kings’ era of Sri Lanka.

Kandy has had various names. These include Katubulu Nuwara, and the much longer Senkadagala Siriwardhana Maha Nuwara. This roughly translates as great city of Senkadagala of growing resplendence. It is thought that this name came from a brahmin named Senkanda, who lived in a nearby cave – or a queen who was also named Senkanda, or perhaps a coloured stone called Senkadagala. 

The English name ‘Kandy’ comes from the colonial era of Sri Lanka. During this time, the name ‘Sinhala Kanda Uda Rata’ – which means the land on the mountain – was shortened and anglicised. This gave Kandy the name that many know it by today!

How to get to Kandy

Currently, Kandy does not have its own international airport. The closest airport to the city is Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. You can fly here from London, Dubai, Melbourne, Chennai, Delhi, Moscow and various other major cities.

Getting from Colombo to Kandy is simple. Both are big cities, so there are a variety of ways to travel between the two. There is a domestic airport in Kandy, and you can fly here from Diyawanna Oya (DWO) Airport – a 6 mile taxi ride from Colombo. However, this can be incredibly costly and involves multiple journeys. Consider the train or bus instead!

Costing just £1-2 GBP, the train from Colombo to Kandy takes around three hours. Take any of the trains heading to Badulla (or one that terminates at Kandy itself) from Fort Station. Trains run daily between 5.55am and 5.45pm.

There is also a direct bus route from Colombo. It leaves every 20 minutes, and takes just over three hours. Again it will only set you back around £1 – which is fantastic for such a straightforward journey. The bus leaves from Colombo Bastian Mawatha Bus Terminal, and drops you at Kandy Good Shed Bus Station.

Because we were tight for time and wanted to pack as much into our Sri Lanka trip as possible, we booked this tour with Viator. I love Viator because they offer such a wide range of tours for a variety of budgets. You also know that the company is legitimate and that you will get your money back if there are any problems.

Things to do in Kandy

There is so much to do in Kandy – here are some of the best bits. They’re the ones you really shouldn’t miss if you do visit this incredible city!

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, a Buddhist temple, is located in Kandy. Legend has it that this beautiful temple was built around the Buddha’s tooth, which was gifted to the Sri Lanka monarchy way back when. Tourists and worshippers can visit the tooth, held inside a golden stupa inside a two-story shrine. Kandy Lake is located here too, incomplete and known as the Milky Ocean – and perfect for a relaxing stroll.

We really enjoyed our visit to the important site in Kandy. There just so happened to be some kind of festival on the evening that we visited and it was REALLY busy. However, we got to see the famous tooth (fo about 5 seconds) and it was a fascination cultural tourism experience.

sri lanka with a baby
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic was very busy during our visit!

Like many other parts of Sri Lanka, Kandy has plenty of tea factories and plantations. You can do a tour of the lush green fields, taste tea at its freshest and learn about the history and process of tea making. Perfect for those tea-obsessives out there!

See Kandy from above here!

Dalada Maligawa Museum is all about Buddhism. It highlights the spread of the religion throughout Asia and worldwide, and there is so much to see and learn here. The museum is perfect for helping your children understand more about other religions, too. There are also plenty of other parts of Kandy that provide a learning opportunity, as well as just showcasing the beauty of Buddhism. Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue is a giant Buddha statue that overlooks the city. You can climb up here, and it’s well worth doing so. The views are incredible…

GOOD TO KNOW: if you do plan on climbing up to the huge Buddha statue, do so early in the morning or towards the evening. The heat can be unbearable in the middle of the day.

There is so much nature to explore in Kandy. Udawattakele Forest Reserve is an urban forest that was once the garden of the kings of Kandy; it is now a wildlife sanctuary, and home to all sorts of plants, mammals and reptiles. Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden serves as Kandy’s main spice garden. All sorts of incredible smells fill the air, and there are beautiful plants and flowers too.

Where to stay in Kandy

There are a lot of options for accommodation in Kandy. Here are some of my recommendations.

We spent Christmas Day in Kandy and really enjoyed staying at Kings Pavilion Luxury Hotel, where we enjoyed some well-deserved relaxation time in the beautiful pool overlooking the Sri Lankan Tea Plantations and fields. The food was lovely and there was a great atmosphere during the Christmas party. And they even had a Sri Lankan Santa!

Kandy
Enjoying pool time at the Kings Pavilion Luxury Hotel

Signature Kandy is a guest house a couple of miles from the city centre. Each room has its own bathroom, and the accommodation has free WiFi and free parking. There is ample outdoor space, a shared kitchen, and beautiful views. Shops, restaurants and landmarks are within easy reach of this guest house, and there is even an airport shuttle!

Funk Bunks Kandy offers a variety of rooms. From double rooms to family rooms as well as large dormitories where you can book a single bed, there’s something for every kind of traveller. Just a mile away from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, this accommodation offers free WiFi, free parking and daily housekeeping. There is a bar and restaurant on-site, and various activities can be arranged.

Queen’s Hotel allows you to take a step back in time. A colonial style building with spacious rooms and a fantastic restaurant, the hotel is less than a mile from so many of Kandy’s main attractions. There is a pool, free WiFi, free parking and more.

Not convinced by these hotels? Use the search box below to see the full list of available accommodations for your travel dates.

Booking.com

Sri Lanka is a beautiful and interesting place to visit, and Kandy is no exception. With year-round warm weather and plenty to do, it should definitely be on your bucket list!

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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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