Before I arrived in Sri Lanka, I’d heard a lot about the stunning in-land tea plantations and breath-taking beaches, but people have little to say about the cities of Sri Lanka. And maybe I could agree with them if we were talking about Colombo, but I think Kandy is too easily over-looked.
Situated in central Sri Lanka, Kandy was the first place I visited after landing in Colombo. I felt a sense of relief and a new ray of hope for the island upon arriving in the country’s second largest city, which has so much more to offer than the capital. You could easily spend two days in Kandy with plenty to amuse you. However, if you do find yourself on a tight schedule and budget, these top 5 activities can be done in a casual day trip.
- Nelligala Temple
A half-an-hour uber drive from the city centre, Nelligala is a Buddhist Temple situated right at the top of Nelligala mountain, offering 360 views. The wide open space, white temple structures and golden statues create a tranquil atmosphere to enjoy the surrounding scenery. To make the most of this steep trip, I suggest visiting the site in the morning. You are more likely to be greeted with clear skies, and thus a clear view of the towns below and the surrounding mountains.
- Arthur’s Seat
A viewpoint overlooking Kandy Lake and the city centre. Despite being a high point, the walk up to Arthur’s Seat is short and easy-going. It’s a great chance to experience the city at a lower level, in the midst of the everyday bustle. On our way up, we got a few waves from the local shop owners and school children playing in the playground.
- Kandy Lake
On your way to lunch, take a stroll around Kandy Lake. An artificial lake constructed by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinha in 1807, and prettily bordered by a white parapet, added to the lake later by the British. On my visit I saw lots of different fish and even a water monitor sunning itself on the bank.
Lunch Spot: By this time, I’m sure all this walking has worked up an appetite so I recommend going to Balaji Dosai for a cheap, tasty and filling lunch. An Indian chain restaurant serving the best local cuisine for a reasonable price.
- Udawattakele Forest Reserve
A 20-minute walk from Balaji Dosai and the main centre of Kandy is the Udawattakele Forest Reserve. A large and dense forest with high winding trees and plenty of wildlife. Be careful if you go during the rainy season, as we experienced a few leeches on our walk through the forest. Also make sure you wear insect repellent. The two main walking paths are easy enough, although the lack of signage can be unnerving if you’re alone. It might be worth getting a guided tour if you really want to make the most of your visit. Entrance fee costs 650 LKR for tourists (approx. £3).
- Kandy Lake Cultural Dance Show
Probably my favourite activity of the day! I did not think this would be my kind of thing at all, but the show, which takes place at the Kandy Lake Club, was a hugely interesting and entertaining experience. Tickets cost 1200 LKR (approx. £5), and you get to see twelve different dances plus fire walking, which consists of people walking across coals and eating fire. Each performance moves quickly onto the next keeping things interesting and unexpected. I also loved that they gave us a translated handout sheet on our arrival, which explained what each different performance meant and the history behind the different dance rituals. Refreshments are also available to purchase. So go and enjoy!
Like I said, the list above is tailored to a day trip, but there is definitely more to see and do, such as the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic and the Royal Botanical Gardens. Either way, I hope this post has convinced you to take a peek at Kandy and what it has to offer.