12 Best Things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka

by Danushka Tharindu
Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Kandy, the country’s cultural capital, is located almost in the geographic center of Sri Lanka and was once the royal residence of the island country’s rulers. Despite being recently taken by the British in 1815, the city still proudly displays its rich history and tradition, with many beautiful palaces and temples located all throughout. The most magnificent of them is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, which is also one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world.

Kandy is centered on the beautiful lake of the same name, which is surrounded by undulating hills covered with thick forests. Kandy’s surroundings are breathtaking, but the city itself is a pleasure to see as well, thanks to the harmonious coexistence of stunning examples of traditional Kandyan architecture and colonial structures.

One of the best things to do in Kandy to see the city’s rich history and culture come to life is to attend the annual Esala Perahera festival.

12. New Ranweli Spice Garden

Since spices have played an important role in Sri Lanka’s history, visiting the New Ranweli Spice Garden is a must if you want to experience the aromas and flavors for which the country is known. The garden is beautiful to stroll through, and the aroma of numerous spices fills the air. It is located in a quiet and relaxing area on the outskirts of Kandy.

In addition to gaining insight into the cultivation of chocolate, black pepper, and vanilla, visitors can try these aromatic spices for themselves and purchase some to take home.

11. World Buddhist Museum

Museum of World Buddhism in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Museum of World Buddhism is located next to the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: saiko3p/Shutterstock.com

Located in the same building as the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, this excellent museum traces the development and global spread of Buddhism. The museum is housed in the city’s Victorian-era old High Court building, and it has a vast collection of artifacts such as photographs, exhibitions, models, and paintings.

In these, you can learn about the life of the Buddha and about the many religions and forms of worship practiced in countries as diverse as India, Japan, and Afghanistan. The World Buddhist Museum is an excellent resource for learning about Buddhism and appreciating the wonderful temple to which it is tied.

10. St Paul’s Church

St. Paul's Anglican Church in Kandy, Sri Lanka

St. Paul’s is a beautiful Anglican church located in the heart of Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock.com

St. Paul’s Church was constructed by the British between 1843 and 1852 for the benefit of the colonial soldiers stationed in the area. Its towering and formidable rust-red crenellated tower soars into the sky with dramatic effect. There’s something about it that makes you think of a castle rather than a church.

Despite its gloomy exterior, its interior is adorned with beautiful stained-glass windows and depictions of biblical themes. Located in the heart of town and built in a Neo-Gothic style, the Garrison Church is one of the most prominent symbols of the city’s time under British colonial administration.

9. Royal Palace of Kandy

Royal Palace complex in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Kandy Royal Palace is a stunning example of Sri Lankan architecture and history. Image source: nicolasdecorte/Shutterstock.com

Before the British captured Sri Lanka in 1815, the Sinhalese kings and queens resided in what is now known as the Royal Palace, which is now home to the wonderful National Museum of Kandy. The palace complex dates back to 1634 and is home to a wide variety of stunning pavilions, halls, and temples, all of which showcase the exceptional quality of Kandyan architecture.

In addition to the amazing architecture, there are also many fascinating relics and displays from the Kandian and colonial times for you to explore. The Royal Palace of Kandy is located between the Udawattakele Forest Reserve and Kandy Lake, with the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic only a short distance away. It is a great destination to learn more about Sri Lanka’s fascinating history, culture, and traditions.

8. Perahera Festival

The Kandy Royal Palace is a stunning example of Sri Lankan architecture and history. Image source: nicolasdecorte/Shutterstock.com

The Kandy Esala procession is a vibrant and colorful celebration of Sri Lankan culture and tradition. Image source: SamanWeeratunga/Shutterstock.com

Esala Perahera, or the Festival of the Tooth, as it’s commonly called, is an incredible spectacle that takes place annually in July or August. There are several parades and processions spread out over the period of two weeks. These are a tribute to the city’s most famous relic, the Sacred Tooth.

The procession of elephants decked out in religious garb and the incredible cultural dances and fire shows during the Perahera Festival will be unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

7. Ceylon Tea Museum

Ceylon Tea Museum in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Ceylon Tea Museum in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: SamanWeeratunga/Shutterstock.com

The Ceylon Tea Museum provides a fascinating look into the development of one of Sri Lanka’s most prized exports. The museum is housed in the historic Hanthana Tea Factory, which dates back to 1925, and has many informative displays on tea, including how it is grown, how it is harvested, and about some of the pioneers who helped pave the way for modern tea production.

In its quaint, small tea room, you can taste some of the country’s brews after learning everything about the procedure and history behind them.

6. Lankatilaka Temple

Lankatilaka Temple in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Lankatilaka Temple is a magnificent Buddhist temple located near Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock.com

The Lankatilaka Temple is well worth the half-hour trip southwest of the city to see the spectacular Sinhalese architecture and artworks it houses. The temple was constructed on a natural rock in the 14th century, and its gleaming white walls are intricately decorated with statues and bas-reliefs.

There is just as much allure on the inside, with paintings and sculptures from the Kandyan period adorning the walls and ceiling. The magnificent Lankatilaka Temple is a three-story masterpiece of Gampola-era architecture.

5. Kandy Lake

Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Temple of the Tooth is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka. Image source: Val Shevchenko/Shutterstock.com

Kandy Lake, located in the middle of the city, is a man-made body of water that was built by Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, the ruler at the time. With trees on both sides and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic resting on its borders, the lake makes for a picturesque setting and pleasant promenade.

A small island in the middle of the lake is said to be linked to the Royal Palace through an underwater tunnel, just one of many legends and myths surrounding the lake. According to legend, the king and his harem would bring it along when they took baths in the lake.

4. Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya

White Buddha statue at Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya is a serene Buddhist temple located in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: Stephen Bridger/Shutterstock.com

The Sri Maha Bodhi Viharaya temple is a popular destination for tourists visiting Kandy since it has one of the biggest and most stunning Buddha statues in all of Sri Lanka. The temple’s location in the forested hills to the west of Kandy’s downtown gives it an ideal getaway from the city.

The 26-meter-tall white Buddha statue, which represents him in a meditation pose, is the show-stopper. The Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue, one of the city’s most photographed landmarks, sits atop a steep set of steps and can be seen popping its head above the city’s treeline from a variety of vantage points.

3. British Garrison Cemetery

British Garrison Cemetery in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The British Garrison Cemetery in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: saiko3p/Shutterstock.com

The British Garrison Cemetery is continuously maintained to this day and is located on the outskirts of Udawattakele Forest Reserve, with views of Kandy Lake. Its well-maintained grounds have tombs, headstones, and even a few small obelisks. Between 1817 and 1873, this cemetery was used for inter-British citizens who had passed away due to diseases including cholera and malaria.

The cemetery is located in a beautiful setting and is well worth seeing, despite the sad atmosphere it exudes, if you are interested in learning more about the colonial history of the city and country.

2. Udawattakele Forest Reserve

Udawattakele Sanctuary in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Udawattakele Sanctuary in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: saiko3p/Shutterstock.com

Udawattakele, which extends over the hilltop above Kandy’s Royal Palace and the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, was a popular place for ancient monarchs to roam and enjoy nature. The area is now protected as a forest reserve, and it has a wide variety of exotic plants and animals as well as many beautiful routes winding through the forest.

Not only do exotic birds fly above, but sometimes pangolins, macaques, and civets emerge from the underbrush to investigate the noise. Udawattakele Forest Reserve is a wonderful spot to visit for both residents and visitors because of the wonderful environment and beauty that can be found there.

1. Temple of the Tooth

Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Temple of the Tooth is a sacred Buddhist temple located in Kandy, Sri Lanka. Image source: Arkady Zakharov/Shutterstock.com

The Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka is one of the most sacred places in the country because it contains a tooth said to have belonged to the Buddha. The magnificent temple with its golden dome is an appropriate setting for this priceless artifact. Though you can’t see it with your own eyes, the elaborate gold coffin in which it is stored certainly is.

With its sacred aura and three daily rituals, the temple is a unique and worthwhile destination. Though the tooth was likely delivered to the island in the third century, the stunning temple and shrine weren’t built until much later. The Temple of the Tooth, which is located inside the Royal Palace, is perhaps the most famous and visited attraction in Kandy.

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