Kandy is a surprisingly big city nestled in the mountains of Sri Lanka’s Central Province, a busy, dirty place surrounded by an endless sea of green. There are a few things to do here and it’s worth a quick visit on your way to or from Ella.
I didn’t have any intention of visiting Colombo, so as soon as I left Bandaranaike International Airport with a bit of cash and my new Mobitel SIM card I caught an Uber to Veyangoda station (because it’s easier and faster to get to than Colombo Fort station) and hopped on my first Sri Lankan train with a second class ticket for only Rs.180 (80p). You can check train times here and it’s easy to buy unreserved tickets at the station.
Where to sleep and eat
I first stayed at the lovely Villa 92, a nice hostel in an old colonial building near the train station for Rs.900 a night, and then the slightly shabby Elephant Shed Hostel in the city centre for Rs.480 a night, but there are so many great options to choose from for any budget.
It’s also a great place for food and drink, whether you want to try local dishes or need some western food for a change. I loved Buono Cafe for healthy breakfasts, the Kandy Muslim Hotel does cheap local food, Cafe Devine Street makes amazing burgers, and Sri Krishna Dosai is the place to go for a cheesy dosa after a few beers at the lovely Royal Bar and Hotel.
Things to do and see
It’s easy to visit all the highlights of this city in one day, either by walking or with a tuk-tuk. You can rent your own from Tuk Tuk Rental in Colombo if you’re brave enough to drive it yourself, or you can easily hire a tuk-tuk and driver for the day, remember to haggle over the price!
The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic inside the royal palace complex is probably the most popular sight to see in Kandy. It’s one of the holiest Buddhist shrines and can get super busy. You can walk around the grounds for free but it costs Rs.1500 (£6.40) to go inside and you aren’t allowed to take photos which is why I chose to skip it. Once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all.
The white buddha you see perched on the hill is part of Bahirawakanda Temple and it’s worth visiting just for the views. Tickets cost Rs.250 (£1.05) plus a small donation (I gave Rs.20) for your shoes. You can climb almost to the top of the Buddha but there isn’t much else to see around it.
A nice way to spend some time is a walk around Kandy Lake. It’s quite clean, and it’s easy to find a shady spot to sit and watch the world go by. You can also climb the hill to Arthur’s Seat, a free viewing deck on the opposite side of the lake to the white buddha.
It’s recommended to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens, a short tuk-tuk ride from the city centre. Tickets cost Rs.2000 (£8.50) which is why I didn’t visit them myself, not when I’ve visited so many amazing gardens in Europe for free.
My favourite part of my few days here was visiting Ambuluwawa Temple, a 48m high tower that you can climb, on top of a mountain with probably the most impressive 360° views in the country. You can read more about that adventure here!
I spent three days in Kandy and it was more than enough to see the highlights. There are a few more temples you can visit if you feel the need, and it wouldn’t be hard to find some small hiking trails in the surrounding hills. My main concern was getting out of there to ride the famous Kandy to Ella train, one of the main reasons I wanted to visit Sri Lanka!
You can view the full album here.