24 HOURS IN KANDY : WHAT DO DO ?
Despite being the second largest city in Sri Lanka (after Colombo), the city centre of Kandy is surprisingly small and most of the interesting activities are around the lake and can be seen in 24 to 36 hours. The whole town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1988, so aside from visiting specific sights, it is the city itself, its streets lined up with colonial buildings, the people and the ambiance in general that makes it worth visiting. Here is my guide of what you should do if you have 24 hours in Kandy.
Temple of the Sacred Tooth. The temple houses the most important Buddhist relic in Sri Lanka : A tooth of Buddha, saved from the flames during his funeral. This is one of the most sacred places in Sri Lanka, and millions of Buddhists visit it every year. Twice a day there is a ceremony unveiling the tooth (Actually the box that contain the tooth !) and the temple gets extremely busy. It can be both an interesting time to visit if you want to see locals worshipping, or an overwhelming experience if you are not comfortable with large crowd. Overall the Temple of the Sacred Tooth is an interesting place to understand the origin of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, an boring a guide would help you make the most of it.
- Opening hours : 5.30am to 8pm
- Ceremony Times : Morning : 5.30 am to 7am and 9.30 am to 11 am – Evening : 6.30 pm to 7.45 pm
- Entrance Fee : 1500 LKR (±9 USD) for foreigners.
- Tips : You will need to leave your shoes outside to visit the temple. You will easily find a guide around the ticket counter.
After visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, take a long walk all around Kandy lake. The side by the temple is the nicest, calmest one, while on the opposite one is a little more busy with cars.
Continue by doing a little shopping at Kandy Central Market, nearby the Clock Tower. The market spread on 2 floors around a tidy courtyard and it is a great place to purchase spices, fruits, clothes etc …
In the evening consider catching a Traditional Dance Show before going our for a drink or two at The Pub.
If you have a bit more time, spend a few hours in Peradeniya Botanic Garden, the largest botanic Garden in Sri Lanka with a beautiful collection of orchids, elegant avenues lines up with palm trees, an impressive bamboo forest etc … Located 6km from Kandy, Peradeniya Botanic Garden is the perfect escape from the city crowd and noise !
- Opening hours : 8am to 5.30pm
- Entrance Fee : 1500 LKR (±9 USD).
- Tips : You can easily reach the Botanic Garden by bus, from the Clock Tower station (expl . bus 652 to Penideniya, 724 & 644 to Pilimathalawa and bus 633 to Mahankanda, according to Wikitravel) or by Tuk tuk.
During by first trip to Sri Lanka, some 11 years ago, I also visited the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. But as the years passed, I became more aware of animal well being and eco conscious travel (you can ready my article on the topic here), and I am not sure it is a good thing to do anymore. To form your own opinion, you can read this opinion article from HandLuggageOnly for example. The many comments left from both locals and foreigners are also very interesting.
24 HOURS IN KANDY : WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK ?
Cafe Walk : For a quick sandwich or refreshment, Cafe Walk is a good option, but don’t expect too much atmosphere.
Muslim hotel : A Kandy institution for many years now. Try the Kotthu Rotti or one of the curry.
Bake house : For breakfast or an afternoon sweet treats in a building with a colonial flair.
The Pub : For a casual drink in a “sports bar” atmosphere.
All 4 places are on the same road (Dalada Vidiya), coming directly down from the lake to the market.
24 HOURS IN KANDY : WHERE TO STAY ?
If you only have 24 hours to spend in Kandy, I recommend you stay in the city center. Although there might a little noise from the busy streets, you will avoid long drives and traffic jam. On my last visit, I booked an hotel 8km outside of Kandy and it turned out to be 1h drive to get there because of the traffic and the bad road conditions.
Therefore I would recommend to stay in town, in the below hotels for examples. Full disclosure, I didn’t stay in any of them, but if I return to Kandy I will pick one of those.
The Secret Kandy ***** : Beautiful colonial setting, relaxing pool and modern bathrooms. For a bit more calm, ask for a non street facing rooms. ±150 USD / night.
Lakewood Residence **** : Modern architecture, very green, with a nice view over the lake. ±60 USD / night.
If you have more time to spend in Kandy and don’t mind the drive (and the splurge), you can consider some of the spectacular hotels located outside of town :
Aarunya Nature Resort and Spa ***** : For its mind-blowing infinity pool ! An Instagramer’s paradise. ±200 USD / night
Santani Resort & Spa ***** : For its sleek modern architecture in the middle of nature. ±500 USD / night
HOW TO GET TO KANDY ?
Drive / Taxi : Kandy is 3.5h drive from Colombo International Airport. A taxi from the airport will cost you around 9000 LKR (50 USD) . While in Sri Lanka I always book my airport transfer with Ceylon Airport Transfers. Their drivers are good, reliable and very responsive ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
Public Bus (CTB):
- From Katunayake Airport Bus Station ( the airport station ) : Bus 1/245 – ±150 LKR
- From Colombo Central Bus Stand : Bus 01 – Every 15 min – ± 155 LKR
Train : There is around 7 trains / day (and more during the weekends) leaving from Colombo Fort station to Kandy. It is around 2.5h ride, and a second class ticket cost 190 LKR. From Colombo it would be a more comfortable experience than taking the bus.
Voila, I hope you find this 24 hours guide to Kandy interesting. To plan your Sri Lanka itinerary further, check my 1 week travel itinerary.
Have you been to Kandy ? Is there anything else you would recommend to visit ? Let me know in the comments below !