Kandy, a Jewel in the Crown of Sri Lanka’s Heritage – Kandy’s attractions, coupled with the beautiful places you can visit, give you a new dimension in tourism in the country. Historically, the best place in Sri Lanka was where kings ruled the country. All year long, the city is shrouded in a serene atmosphere, with clouds meeting the beautiful hills. The Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy Lake, and the list goes on are all tourist attractions. Sri Lanka is proud of Kandy’s rich heritage and historical sites, which are intertwined with the country’s history.
In 1357, King Vikramabahu III established Kandy. It is no doubt one of the oldest and second largest cities in Sri Lanka, with a heritage that is still evident, and with its beautiful places to visit, no doubt it would bring about a new experience for all visitors. You will be surprised to find out that the historical past of the country is still alive due to the maintenance of it.
Travel to Kandy
Today, there are many modes of travel to Kandy. The transportation system is well established, and you can either take intercity buses from the Central Bus-Station in Fort, which will take you to Kandy in about 3 hours, or travel by train, as Expo Rail operates a luxury train service. The best way to travel to Kandy is by Expo Rail, as it offers a range of luxury facilities that you will not see from public transport such as buses and the usual trains. If you can afford it, then you could hire a van or cab from a reputed travel agency. Booking tickets on Expo Rail can be done at the Fort Railway Station. Make sure that you arrive on time at the Fort Railway Station on the day of your departure to experience the beautiful places in Kandy.
Kandy Lake is over 200 years old and was created by King Wickrema Rajasingha. This lake is known as the Kiri Mudu, or Sea of Milk, and stands next to the Temple of the Tooth Relic (which is also called the Dalada Maligawa). The little island in the centre of the lake was supposed to be the bathing place for the king at that time and is said to have a secret tunnel running underneath, it that led to the palace. The tranquility and sereneness of this lake and its surroundings bring about a peaceful atmosphere, and one could sit down and gaze across this magnificent span of water. The beautiful white wall that runs around the lake gives it an atmosphere of solitude. The fish in the lake are an attraction to tourists, who feed them with Pori which is similar to popcorn.
If you have seen other lakes in the country and then the Kandy Lake, you will undoubtedly notice a difference as its waters gently rock as they slap against the white, intricately carved fence that surrounds it.
Just sitting by this lake and looking at the birds of different hues and the fish that come up fearlessly for their share of pori, you will no doubt want to come back again to experience that beauty.
Where to Stay
There are luxury hotels and hotels that are priced economically for travellers and tourists. The Queens Hotel is the oldest hotel in Kandy and is styled to depict the British Colonial era. The Queens Hotel was once the Governor’s Residence and is said to be over 160 years old. The hotel has seen many wars as well and was once used as the barracks by the Ceylon Rifle Regiment.
For its cuisine, the notable restaurant is the Queen of Hearts Restaurant, which serves both international and local cuisine. The Pub Royal is proud of its existence in that its services depict the old Colonial era. The hotel boasts of 80 rooms and has a swimming pool and barbeque facilities. The other hotels in Kandy are the Suisse Hotel, Hotel Thilanka, and Hotel Topaz. Apart from these popular hotels, there are smaller hotels that are moderately priced, and have basic facilities.
There are also houses which rent out rooms, but you need to be careful of such places and unless it is recommended by trustworthy people, you should not risk staying in such places.
The Knuckles Mountain Range
As is evident from the name, the Knuckles Mountain Range takes its name from a depiction of the knuckles of a clenched fist. Looked at from afar it is a beautiful sight that mesmerizes one no end. The Knuckles Mountain Range got its name from the British, but Sri Lankans now call it the “Dumbara Kanduvetiya,” meaning the Misty Mountains. The beauty of this mountain range is that the peaks of the mountains are not seen all the time as they are laced with candy floss clouds that embrace the mountain. There are around 40 villages surrounding this beautiful mountain range, which is also the home for rare species of wildlife. A trek to this scenic mountain range is a must if you are visiting Kandy. Whether you will be able to see wildlife is not certain, but you will definitely enjoy the beauty that surrounds this intriguing mountain range, which is a landmark in Kandy.
The ground is smooth, but on a rainy day it might turn greasy and you’d also have to put up with the leeches. So it is best to go up there on a sunny day. Your trek to this mountain will see you meeting the Leopard Rock and the scene will take your breath away as you take in the beauty of the forests.
The Temple of the Tooth Relic
The Temple of the Tooth Relic or the Sri Dalada Maligawa is a part of Sri Lanka’s rich culture and one of the oldest Buddhist Temples in the country. It sits on a foundation that was once a Palace when the country was ruled by Kings. The usual rituals are conducted thrice a day, at dawn, afternoon and in the evening. The tooth relic of Gautama Buddha, the enlightened one, is housed in the Dalada Maligawa. The Asgiriya and the Malwatte are two Chapters which conduct worship on a daily basis in the inner chamber of the temple. The emblematic bathing of the relic is performed on Wednesdays and a herbal preparation is used for this purpose. The water used for this purpose is prepared using the sweet aromatic flower called the Nanumura and is this ritual is appropriately called the Nanumura Mangallaya or Nanumura Festival. The holy water is given to worshippers who believe that it has a healing power.
The Temple of the Tooth Relic has a illustrious heritage as it be believed that after the pirinirvarana of Lord Buddha the tooth relic that is in the temple at present was preserved in Kalinga and brought to Sri Lanka by Princess Hemamali and Prince Dantha.
There are many buildings associate with the Temple such as the Royal Palace which is north of the Temple and was used by King Vikramabahu the 3rd from 1356-1374 and thereafter by many other Kings who ruled the country.
Secondly the Audience Hall or as referred to in Sinhala, the Magul maduwa is a hall where the Kings of Kandy conducted different meetings and held court. The entire structure is made of wooden pillars which is supported by a wooden roof and intricately carved during the Kandyan era.
Thirdly the Mahamaluwa is an area which people congregate to witness the Kandy Esala Perahera. This Perahera is an annual ritual and conducted with much pomp and glory and goes on for about 7 days at a stretch. Elephants are beautifully dressed and the main Tusker of the Temple carries the Tooth Relic in a casket. It is believed that many years ago when Raja the most popular Tusker who carried the tooth relic for over 50 years, refused to step out of the temple once the Relic was strapped to his back. No coaxing or cajoling could get this Tusker to move and finally the Diyawadana Nimale (a person appointed under election and who is the custodian of the Temple) checked it himself only to find that one part of the casket had loosened and if the Tusker had taken a step out of the Temple the revered Tooth Relic would have fallen to the ground.
British Garrison Cemetery
The British Garrison Cemetery or the Kandy Garrison Cemetery was established in 1817 for the burial of British nationals who died in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon. The last person to be buried at the Garrison Cemetery was Anne Frits in 1951. Those buried in this cemetery were those who died of malaria and cholera at that point in time. The cemetery is situated in a land within a short distance of the Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth Relic. Distinguished people who have been buried there are a British Colonial Administrator called John D Oyly and the first wife of William Henry Gregory, Governor of Ceylon in 19872, Lady Elizabeth Gregory. Spare a few minutes in prayer at this cemetery, even though you may not belong to the ethnicity of those buried there.
The Royal Botanical Gardens
The Royal Botanical Gardens counting 147 acres, is situated in Kandy and is a picturesque landmark that draws over 2 million visitors annually. The most famous species of flowers that grown in the Royal Botanical Gardens is the Orchid and you could find a variety of them as you walk through the serene splendor of Kandy’s most visited place. Apart from the orchids the age old trees that envelope you are you walk the Royal Botanical Gardens gives you a sense of inner peace.
It is quite common now to find that these beautiful places of yore were nurtured and brought to life by Kings of Ceylon at the time. This beautiful piece of Kandy’s heritage does back to 1317 when King Vikramabahu III reigned. George Gardner expanded this beautiful garden in 1844 when he was Superintendent and from that time onwards all who rules were interested in maintaining the beauty of this garden which is nature’s own product.
Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage
The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is a home for Elephants. At present the orphanage houses elephants and also acts as a breeding grounds and “enclosure” from danger grounds for elephants. There are over 150 elephants in this orphanage at present. This orphanage is situated in Rumbukkana and is a place that every tourist visits, as these elephants are quite tame and are under the watchful eye of over 50 mahouts (Caretakers). You can get to feed the baby elephants with their bottles of milk and they look so adorable.
The Udawattekele Sanctuary is another beautiful sight to visit and is located on the hilly grounds of the Temple of the Tooth Relic. The Sanctuary boasts 275 acres of land.
The Sanctuary dates back to the era of the Kandyan Kings, and Uda Wasala Watta is known as the upper palace and from which the name Udawattekele was derived.
Horton Plains National Park
The Horton Plains National Park is set in a tranquil and serene setting. Sri Lanka’s 2nd and 3rd highest mountains the Kirigalpota and the Totapola shadow this beautiful park. Another name given for this serene park is World’s End. It has not been said by Horton Plains for this name but most think that it is because of the mystery of the beautiful waterfalls that cascade around in a soft whisper.
Horton Plains also has its share of wild life in the form of Sambo Deer, Leopards, Wild Boar and is also the appropriate place for an array of beautiful birds who flutter around in an aura of colors.
It is however advised that one does not visit this area during the rainy season.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue
Never miss visiting this beautiful serene place. The statue of Lord Buddha is 88 ft. If you are full of energy you can climb the stairs that reaches this beautiful statue or you could hire a three wheeler (tuk tuk) that would take you up there. This statue is a beauty to look at in the night when all the lights around it are aglow.
The best time to be here is early morning or late evening when the sun is rising or setting respectively. The beauty of this place is that you can see the whole city below you, including the Kandy Lake and the football stadium.
International Buddhist Museum
This museum is located within the walls of the Palace and close to the Temple of the Tooth Relic. It depicts an entire library of knowledge on Buddhism throughout the Asian continent. The beauty of this is that each country’s worship of Buddhism is depicted separately and one could gain immense knowledge in this manner. The museum has a vast collection of books, statues and pictures which would be so useful if you want to enhance your knowledge of Buddhism.
Please note that you should be properly attired if you are visiting this museum and your clothes should be respectable enough to enter this hallowed place.
Ceylon Tea Museum
The Ceylon Tea Museum is a vintage icon that is located in Hantane and is ninety three years old. It is one of the most important appealing of vintage history in the hill country. Its four floors house old machinery used in the tea industry, a library with an array of books and auditorium. The sales department is housed on the third floor where you could purchase a variety of tea in flavours that would have you smacking your lips in appreciation. The view of the hills surrounding this beautiful museum is breathtaking. The lush green hills covered with tea plantations is an appropriate surrounding for this museum.
Sri Lanka has created a niche worldwide for its array of herbs and spices that grow in the wild with no insecticides but just nature’s pure work. Why Spice Garden is a vital attraction is that rare herbs are grown and nurtured in the Spice Garden and you would be amazed to be among all these beautiful plants. The many herbs that are grown in the Spice Garden are turmeric, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, Aloe Vera, Pepper, Vanilla and Cinnamon. The most important thing that one could do when visiting Spice Garden is gain immense knowledge on spices, their medicinal contribution and how they are grown.
Spice Garden is located very close to the Kandy Botanical Gardens.
Wales Park, located on Rajapilla Mawatha, Kandy, gives you the best quality time you need with your family and friends. This park is situated on a diminutive hill and it overlooks the Kandy Lake. A sure place for your bucket list, don’t miss out on this attraction.
Another attraction in this park is a Japanese Field Gun which was supposed to have been capture in Burma during World War II by the British Army. Lord Mountbatten presented this to the Kandy City.
Kandy View Point
This is a main attraction for tourists who visit Kandy, as it give a panoramic view of the City. Situated on Rajapilla Mawatha, the view is breathtaking landscapes and is a wonderful sight at night, when the city comes alive with the glow of a kaleidoscope of lights. It’s a steep climb on Rajapilla Mawatha to this sight, but worth every effort. You will get to watch the entire Kandy town which would mesmerize you as your eyes focus on the Temple of the Tooth Relic.
Day Tour of Kandy
Don’t miss out on this Day Tour is you wish to reach the most beautiful sights of this historic town in Sri Lanka. The Day Tour could be organized by any reputed travel agency and you will be taken to the Spice Garden, the Botanical Gardens, The Tea Museum, The Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage.
Hulu River and Waterfall
Nature’s product at its best is the Hulu River and Waterfall which is situated 30 km from Kandy where you enter the village of Dumbara which is a part of the Hulu River and Waterfall. This river originates from the Knuckles Mountain Range and is so tranquil and serene as it flows at its own pace which has been given to it by mother-nature. One needs to be extra careful as the waters at times seem to rise and flow at a fast pace.
Commonwealth War Cemetery
This Cemetery was known as the Pitakanda Military Cemetery, this Cemetery is the resting place for war heroes and the best maintained in the whole of the world. As you step into this serene place, the sadness is overwhelming as you walk past the graves of those who laid their lives down in the war. Do visit this Cemetery and say a prayer for those war heroes.
This Royal Palace of Kandy was the final palace to be built in this historic city, and this magnificent palace was once called the Magul Maduwa, where kings sat to discuss various matters concerning Ceylon. Today, only a part of this palace remains, and this too houses the museum that we spoke of in this article. The Royal Palace is situated in Sri Dalavidiya, Kandy.
Maha Vishnu Devalaya
The Maha Vishnu Devalaya is associated with the Temple of the Tooth Relic. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and devotees from all over the world arrive here to worship this hallowed deity in prayer. The sereneness and tranquility equipped with immense faith by its devotee brings about a heartwarming experience in worship.