Established deep in the impenetrable hills at the heart of the island, discover the characterful colonial-era buildings laid out around a picture-perfect lake, unique music, dance and intriguing history in the cultural capital of the island, Kandy.
Hidden away amid the hills at the heart of the island, Kandy is Sri Lanka’s second city and undisputed cultural capital of the island, home to the Temple of the Tooth (Sri Dalada Maligawa), the country’s most important religious shrine. It was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1988. Kandy is also renowned for the great Kandy Esala Perahera, held over 10 days leading up to the Nikini poya (full moon) at the end of the month of Esala (July/August), but it has enough attractions to justify a visit at any time of year.
Kandy served as the capital of the last Sinhalese kingdom, clinging onto its freedom long after the rest of the island had fallen to the Portuguese and Dutch, preserving its own unique customs and culture which live on today in the city’s unique music, dance and architecture. With its old Kandyan and colonial buildings, scenic highland setting and pleasantly temperate climate, Kandy retains a surprisingly small-town atmosphere.
Sights in and around Kandy
Top things to do in Kandy
TEMPLE OF THE TOOTH RELIC
Temple of the Tooth Relic or the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is a Buddhist temple in the city of Kandy. It is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy, which houses the relic of the tooth of Buddha. Since ancient times, the relic has played an important role in local politics because it is believed that whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country. Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings and is a UNESCO world heritage site partly due to the temple.
Monks of the two chapters of Malwatte and Asgiriya conduct daily worship in the inner chamber of the temple. Rituals are performed three times daily: at dawn, at noon and in the evenings. On Wednesdays, there is a symbolic bathing of the relic with a herbal preparation made from scented water and fragrant flowers, called Nanumura Mangallaya. This holy water is believed to contain healing powers and is distributed among those present.
PERADENIYA BOTANIC GARDENS
Royal Botanical Garden, Peradeniya is situated about 5.5 km to the west from the city of Kandy and attracts 2 million visitors annually. It is renowned for its collection of a variety of orchids. It includes more than 4000 species of plants, including of orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees. The total area of the botanical garden is 147 acres (0.59 km), at 460 meters above sea level, and with a 200-day annual rainfall.
EMBAKKA WOODEN TEMPLE
The Embekka Devalaya (Embekke or Embekka) Temple is situated in an area known as Udunuwara in the Kandy district. It was built during the Gampola Era (AD1357 – 1374) by King Vikramabahu lll, as a place of worship dedicated to Mahasen, also known as “Katharagama Deviyo”. It is also where local deity Devatha Bandara is worshipped by devotees.
It has been said that the Embekka Devalaya is the best place in Sri Lanka to see the finest wood carvings of old. The shrine consists of three sections, the ‘Sanctum of Garagha’, the ‘Digge’ or ‘Dancing Hall’ and the ‘Hevisi Mandapaya’ or the ‘Drummers’ Hall’. The Drummers’ Hall that has drawn the attention of visitors to the site, due to the splendid wood carvings of its ornate pillars and its high pitched roof.
On the outskirts of Kandy stands this unique Buddhist temple. Built of stone, lime plaster and bricks; the Lankatilaka Temple attracts a huge number of tourists every year. The temple is believed to be built in 1344 AD by King Buwanekabahu IV. The architecture of the temple is a blend of Sinhalese architecture of the Polonnaruwa period and of Dravidian and Indo Chinese style. Built on an uneven, large rock outcropping, you will find that there is not only religious piety at the temple but it also offers stunning views of the surrounding hills and paddy fields.
PINNAWALA ELEPHANT ORPHANAGE
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the elephants, which makes for a truly memorable experience. It is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village, 13km northwest of Kegalle. Pinnawala is notable for having the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. In 2011, there were 88 elephants, including 37 males and 51 females from 3 generations, living in Pinnawala. The orphanage was originally founded in order to afford care and protection to many of the orphaned unweaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka and was established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).