Places to visit in Kandy
Welcome to the mesmerising city of Kandy, nestled amidst lush green hills in the heart of Sri Lanka! Located approximately 115km away from Colombo, the journey from the capital city to Kandy takes you through picturesque landscapes of rolling hills, lush tea plantations, and charming villages. From ancient temples to scenic landscapes, this article will guide you through some of the must-visit places in Kandy. A visit to Kandy is incomplete without paying homage to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. This sacred Buddhist temple houses a relic of Lord Buddha’s tooth, and you can witness the rituals and ceremonies that take place daily. Nature lovers will be captivated by the beauty of Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens. Spread over 60 hectares, these gardens showcase a stunning collection of exotic flora and fauna. Speaking of Kandy Lake, it is a picturesque centrepiece that adds to the city’s charm. It provides a peaceful retreat, allowing visitors to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether you’re fascinated by ancient history, enchanted by natural wonders, or seeking spiritual solace, these places to visit in Kandy have something for everyone. So, pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey to this enchanting city that will leave you with lifelong memories.
1. Temple of the Tooth Relic
The Temple of the Tooth Relic, known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, is a place of profound historical significance and spiritual reverence among the captivating places to visit in Kandy. It is believed to house a sacred relic – a tooth believed to be that of Lord Buddha. According to legend, possession of the relic grants governance of the country. For centuries, Sinhalese kings held the responsibility of safeguarding this precious relic. The temple is tended to by two specific chapters of bhikkhus (Buddhist monks): the Malwathu and Asgiri chapters. These dedicated monks conduct daily rituals within the inner chamber of the temple, fostering an atmosphere of spiritual devotion and reverence. The temple pulsates with spiritual energy as daily rituals unfold in its sacred halls. Three worship ceremonies are performed each day: at dawn, noon, and in the evenings. The rhythmic chants of the monks and the fragrant aroma of incense fill the air, creating a serene ambiance that envelops visitors. On Wednesdays, a symbolic bathing ceremony known as Nanumura Mangallaya takes place. During this ritual, the tooth relic is bathed in scented water and adorned with fragrant flowers. The holy water is then distributed to those present, believed to possess healing properties and symbolize blessings and protection.
2. Royal Botanic Gardens
Royal Botanic Gardens has become a renowned destination for nature enthusiasts and curious travellers alike. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Mahaweli River, this botanical wonderland is spread across an impressive 147 acres of land. As you explore the gardens, you’ll be captivated by the sheer diversity of flora, boasting over 4,000 plant species. Among the garden’s highlights is its magnificent collection of orchids, renowned for their breathtaking beauty and delicate charm. But the Royal Botanic Gardens offer much more than just orchids. Spice plants, medicinal herbs, and majestic palm trees are among the countless treasures you’ll discover. As you stroll along the meticulously maintained paths, you’ll come across iconic avenues like Cook’s Pine Avenue and Palmyra Palm Avenue. One of the garden’s most famous attractions is the Cannonball Tree, planted over a century ago by King George V and Queen Mary, whose fruit strikingly resembles cannonballs. The Royal Botanic Gardens holds a special place in history as well. During World War II, it served as the headquarters for Lord Louis Mountbatten, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in South Asia, adding a touch of wartime significance to its already remarkable story. Royal Botanic Gardens is a captivating destination that should be on your list of places to visit in Kandy.
3. Kandy Lake
Kandy Lake, known by locals as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk. In 1807, King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe transformed the area known as Tigolwela, once vast paddy fields, into a majestic lake. The king’s vision and ingenuity brought forth an enchanting water body that would become a cherished symbol of Kandy’s beauty. Kandy Lake spans an impressive area of natural beauty. The circumference of the lake measures 3.21km, while its greatest depth reaches a remarkable 18.5m. As you walk along the shores, you’ll be captivated by the ethereal Walakulu Bemma, a parapet wall resembling a cloud, stretching for 633.82 meters. The lake’s allure is further enhanced by a small artificial island situated at its centre. Legend has it that this island was once used by the king’s harem for bathing and was connected to the palace by a secret tunnel, adding an air of mystery to the surrounding landscape. Kandy Lake offers visitors a peaceful sanctuary amidst the bustling city. The shaded path encircling the lake provides a perfect setting for strolls, jogging, or simply enjoying the breathtaking views of the surrounding hills. Kandy Lake, a must-visit attraction among the places to visit in Kandy, mesmerizes visitors with its serene beauty.
4. Bahirawakanda Temple
Bahirawakanda Temple beckons you with its awe-inspiring features and rich cultural heritage. Embark on a journey to this sacred sanctuary, where tranquillity meets grandeur. At the heart of Bahirawakanda Temple stands a colossal treasure—the Giant Buddha Statue. As you approach, you’ll find yourself gazing in awe at the magnificent figure, standing tall at over 25 meters in height. The statue depicts Lord Buddha in the Nirvana pose, embodying his first Enlightenment. This wondrous sight is not just a treat for your eyes, but also a symbol of peace and spiritual enlightenment. Make your way up the gentle slopes of the temple, and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Kandy’s landscape. Climb the stairs behind the Buddha statue, and behold a panorama that will leave you spellbound. The temple’s surroundings come alive in the evening, as the city of Kandy illuminates with countless twinkling lights. When you visit the temple, remember to remove your hat and shoes as a sign of respect. Embrace the spiritual ambience and consider making an offering of flowers or lighting an oil lamp, immersing yourself in the local customs and traditions. Nestled in the scenic city of Kandy, Bahirawakanda Temple is a must-visit destination among the enchanting places to visit in Kandy.
5. Udawattakele Sanctuary
If you’re exploring places to visit in Kandy, don’t miss the captivating Udawattakele Sanctuary. Spread over 104 hectares of lush greenery, this enchanting forest reserve invites you to embark on an unforgettable journey through its diverse flora and fauna. Step into the world of wildlife as you encounter a variety of captivating creatures within Udawattakele. The Sanctuary boasts a thriving avifauna, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. Listen to the melodious songs of vibrant birds and catch glimpses of their graceful flight. Udawattakele is also home to numerous small and medium-sized mammals, adding an element of mystery to your journey. Udawattakele Sanctuary carries a deep historical and cultural legacy. During the days of the Kandyan kingdom, it was a cherished retreat for royalty, earning the name “the garden above the royal palace.” Today, you can explore the remnants of this rich history by visiting the Senkandagala-Lena cave, associated with the city’s ancient Brahmin and the legend of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi sapling. Beyond its natural wonders, Udawattakele holds spiritual significance with its Buddhist meditation hermitages and rock shelter dwellings. These serene sanctuaries provide a tranquil space for reflection and inner peace, offering visitors a chance to connect with their spiritual side amidst the forest’s calming ambience.
6. Gadaladeniya Temple
Uncover the allure of Gadaladeniya Temple, a testament to Sri Lanka’s rich heritage and spiritual significance. Built-in 1344 under the patronage of King Bhuvanekabahu IV, this magnificent temple stands as a captivating example of the island’s architectural prowess and cultural legacy. Gadaladeniya Temple, located in Pilimathalawa near Kandy, is renowned for its distinctive Dravidian architectural style. The temple’s intricate carvings and ornate details showcase the skilled craftsmanship of the era, leaving visitors in awe of its splendour. This ancient sanctuary, perched on a rocky outcrop, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. As one of the largest rock temples in Sri Lanka, Gadaladeniya Temple captivates with its grandeur and commanding presence. Beyond its architectural magnificence, the temple holds deep spiritual significance for devotees. Throughout the centuries, it has been a sanctuary for seekers of solace and enlightenment, providing a tranquil space for prayer and introspection. As you step foot into Gadaladeniya Temple, you will be transported to a world where history, art, and spirituality converge. Embrace the serenity that envelops this sacred site, and allow yourself to be immersed in the palpable sense of ancient wisdom that resonates within its hallowed halls. Gadaladeniya Temple is a must-visit attraction among the enchanting places to visit in Kandy.
7. Embekka Devalaya
Embekka Devalaya, renowned for its exquisite wood carvings, is a captivating destination among the many enchanting places to visit in Kandy. This awe-inspiring temple, built by the esteemed King Vikramabahu III, is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the region. Embekka Devalaya is a sacred place dedicated to the revered deity, Kataragama Deviyo. As you step into its hallowed grounds, you will be greeted by a sanctuary divided into three distinct sections, each with its unique charm. One of the highlights of Embekka Devalaya is the mesmerizing wood carvings that adorn its interior. These intricate designs showcase the exceptional craftsmanship of ancient artisans and transport visitors to a bygone era. The Drummers’ Hall, in particular, stands out with its ornate pillars and a magnificent high-pitched roof, both meticulously adorned with breathtaking carvings. As you explore the temple, you will be captivated by the entwined swans, double-headed eagles, and delicate rope designs that grace the wooden pillars. Every detail tells a story, from the image of a breastfeeding mother to a gallant soldier mounted on a horse. The carvings also depict graceful dancers, powerful wrestlers, and mythical creatures like bird-human hybrids and elephant-lion hybrids.
8. Lankatilaka Vihara
Lankatilaka Vihara, a mesmerizing Buddhist temple nestled in the serene region, is a true testament to the grandeur of ancient architecture. Constructed during the reign of King Bhuvanekabahu IV, who ruled from 1341 to 1351 A.D., Lankatilaka Vihara is a testament to the vision and patronage of this esteemed monarch. The temple’s creation was entrusted to the talented Chief Minister, Senalankadhikara, who successfully oversaw its construction. The architectural brilliance of the temple was brought to life by the skilled South Indian architect, Sathapati Rayar. The temple’s main building, known as the image house, showcases exceptional architectural features adorned with traditional Sinhalese sculptures. The walls and ceilings of the image house are adorned with intricate Kandyan-era paintings and sculptures, transporting visitors to a bygone era of artistic splendour. Within the temple premises, you’ll find rock inscriptions that bear witness to the historical significance of Lankatilaka Vihara. These inscriptions, written in both Sinhala and Tamil, shed light on the temple’s initiators and the generous contributions made by the kings of yore. Lankatilaka Vihara also houses six devales, dedicated to revered deities such as Upulvan, Ganapathi, Saman, Vibhishana, Kataragama deviyo, and Kumara Bandara. Lankatilaka Vihara is a captivating Buddhist temple that should be on every traveller’s list of places to visit in Kandy.
9. Ceylon Tea Museum
The Ceylon Tea Museum, housed within the premises of the former Hanthana Tea Factory. Originally built in 1925, this historical site offers a unique glimpse into the rich heritage of Ceylon tea. Step inside the museum, which was officially opened on 1 December 2001, and embark on a journey through time. The ground floor welcomes you with a treasure trove of 19th-century colonial tea-processing equipment. Marvel at the sight of generators, rollers, dryers, fermentation tables, sorting machines, and more. As you ascend to the second floor, you’ll discover a library and museum that houses a wealth of information about tea and its historical significance. Dive into the world of tea pioneers, learning about visionaries like James Taylor and Thomas Lipton who played pivotal roles in shaping the tea industry. Venturing further, the third floor awaits a delightful shop where you can find a variety of tea-related products and souvenirs to take home. From tea leaves to tea sets, there’s something to please every tea lover. Finally, reach the top floor, where a charming restaurant and tea rooms beckon you to relax and indulge in the finest brews. The Ceylon Tea Museum is one of the fascinating places to visit in Kandy, offering a captivating journey into the world of tea and its rich history.
10. National Museum of Kandy
The National Museum of Kandy, located next to the iconic Temple of the Tooth, is one of the great places to visit in Kandy. Maintained by the esteemed Department of National Museums, the National Museum of Kandy has been a treasure trove of historical artefacts since it opened its doors to the public in 1942. Its prime location next to the Temple of the Tooth allows visitors to conveniently immerse themselves in both spiritual and historical realms. Within its halls, visitors are treated to a remarkable display of over 5,000 artefacts, showcasing a diverse range of objects from different periods. The collection includes intriguing items such as weapons, jewellery, and tools, offering glimpses into the everyday lives of people from the past. Each artefact tells a story, unravelling the customs, traditions, and skills of bygone eras. As you wander through the museum, you will be transported back in time, captivated by the exquisite craftsmanship and intricate details of the exhibited pieces. The National Museum of Kandy serves as a captivating bridge connecting the present with the past, allowing visitors to appreciate the historical significance of this enchanting city.
11. Hanthana Mountain Range
The Hanthana Mountain Range, located in the scenic central highlands of Sri Lanka, is a breathtaking natural wonder that attracts adventurers and nature lovers alike. Rising to a majestic height of 1,200 meters, this mountain range offers spectacular views and a sense of awe-inspiring beauty. One of the remarkable features of the Hanthana Mountain Range is its collection of seven peaks, each with its unique charm and character. Among these peaks, the highest one is known as Uura Kanda, standing tall and proud as if touching the sky. Scaling its summit rewards hikers with panoramic vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see, making it a truly unforgettable experience. Exploring the Hanthana Mountain Range is a journey of discovery. As you venture along its scenic trails, you’ll be immersed in a world of lush greenery, vibrant flora, and diverse wildlife. The air is crisp and refreshing, and the peaceful ambience allows you to connect with nature on a deeper level. It’s a place where you can reconnect with yourself, find solace in the embrace of nature, and create lasting memories. The Hanthana Mountain Range, with its breathtaking peaks and panoramic views, is among the top places to visit in Kandy for nature lovers and avid hikers.
12. British Garrison Cemetery
The British Garrison Cemetery, also known as the Kandy Garrison Cemetery, is a remarkable historical site located in Kandy. Established in 1817, shortly after the British captured Kandy, the cemetery served as the final resting place for British nationals who lost their lives in Ceylon. However, in 1873, it was closed due to a ban on burials within the municipal limits. Despite the closure, exceptions were made for the burial of relatives of those already interred. Today, the cemetery stands as a solemn reminder of the past. Within its peaceful grounds, the British Garrison Cemetery houses a total of 195 graves, where men, women, and children were laid to rest. Each grave tells a unique story, and walking through the cemetery allows visitors to connect with the lives that once thrived in this colonial era. The cemetery’s historical significance extends beyond its grounds. In November 2013, Prince Charles paid a visit to these hallowed grounds, paying tribute to the individuals who shaped the region’s past. This notable visit highlighted the cemetery’s importance as a cultural and historical landmark. The British Garrison Cemetery is a significant historical site and one of the notable places to visit in Kandy.