WHAT TO DO IN KANDY?
Despite being the second-largest city in Sri Lanka (after Colombo), the city center of Kandy is surprisingly small with not that many places to visit. Most of the interesting activities are around the Kandy 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 a large crowd. Overall the Temple of the Sacred Tooth is an interesting place to understand the origin of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and hiring a guide would help you make the most of it.
- Opening hours: 5.30 am to 8 pm
- Ceremony Times: Morning: 5.30 am to 7 am 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 can 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. In the evening, watch out the Kandy sunset over the lake.
Continue by doing a little shopping at Kandy Central Market, near the Clock Tower. The market spreads 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.
PERADENIYA BOTANIC GARDEN
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 away from the city, Peradeniya Botanic Garden is a place you absolutely must visit if you need a quick escape from Kandy’s crowd and noise!
- Opening hours: 8 am to 5.30 pm
- 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 my 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 read my article on the topic here), and I am not sure it is a good thing to include it into this Kandy guide. To form your own opinion, you can read this opinion article from HandLuggageOnly for example. The many comments left by both locals and foreigners are also very interesting.
24 HOURS IN KANDY: WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN KANDY?
- Cafe Walk Kandy: 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.
- Bakehouse: 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 and you want to visit all these places at a peaceful pace, I recommend you stay in the city center. Although there might a little noise from the busy streets, you will avoid long drives and nerve-wracking traffic jams. On my last visit, I booked a 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 staying in town, in the below hotels for example. 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 calmer, ask for a non-street facing rooms. ±150 USD / night.
- Lakewood Residence ****: Modern architecture, very green, with a nice view of 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 Instagrammer’s paradise. ±200 USD / night
- Santani Resort & Spa ***** : For its sleek modern architecture in the middle of nature. ±500 USD / night
Still not sure where to stay in Kandy? You can always find some great deals on Booking.com
HOW TO GET TO KANDY?
Drive / Taxi: Kandy is a 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 guide interesting and you now know what to do in Kandy. To plan your Sri Lanka itinerary further, check my 1-week travel itinerary.
If you have been to Kandy, would you recommend to visit any other places? Leave me a message below if you do, so I can include it into this Kandy city guide.