A 3 - 4 hour drive from Colombo to the hill country can lead you to the very hill capital of Sri Lanka, a UNESCO World Heritage city; where the last ancient kingdom of Sri Lanka stood. Kandy justifies itself as the cultural hub of the country with its many historic ruins, historical places of worship belonging to the main faiths of the country and the Esala Perahera, one of the oldest processions dating back to the 3rd century BC. In addition to its illustrious history, the abundance of estates with lush green tea plantations, great cloud forests and daunting mountain ranges creates the perfect backdrop for that perfect nature retreat.

Top Reason to Visit

The main reason for anyone to visit Senkadagala or the Kandyan kingdom, as it was known formerly, is none other than visiting the Sri Dalada Maligawa (the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic), which houses the sacred Tooth Relic that belonged to Lord Buddha and is the symbolic representation of Lord Buddha. The Sri Dalada Maligawa is also responsible for continuing a sacred procession dating back to 3rd century BC, known as the Esala Perahera, which is a religious ritual of parading the sacred relic and praying for rain.

While You’re There

Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic:

A trip to Kandy is not complete without a visit to this historical and religious monument that was once the king’s palace and now houses the sacred Tooth Relic. The relic, which is the left canine tooth of Lord Buddha was brought to Sri Lanka from India by Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamali to safeguard it from the warring Indian region, has now become a symbolic representation of the living Buddha. This has led to many followers making a pilgrimage at least once in their lives to the sacred temple. The beautiful temple where the relic is housed signifies the deep integration of the virtues of Buddhism within Sri Lankan society and is responsible for the Kandy Perahera (parading of the sacred relic and praying for rain) as well, which dates back to 3rd century BC.

Witness a pageant like no other:

Every July, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic organizes the Kandy Perahera, which is a religious procession dating back to the 3rd century BC with the purpose of paying homage to the Sacred Tooth Relic by parading it through the streets of the city and praying for rain in order to sustain the paddy fields of the area. The procession’s grandeur is best described with the elephants adorned in ceremonial garbs and colourful lights along with individuals showcasing artistic performances, the most popular being the ‘ginibol karayo’ (fireball men).

Walk around and reimagine an ancient kingdom:

Even with development of the infrastructure in the town area, the city center is virtually unchanged since historical times, which allows you to reimagine an ancient kingdom filled with unique culture. The Queen’s Hotel (Formerly a governor’s home built like a Victorian mansion) gives you the influence of the colonial past as well. A gentle stroll around the picturesque Kandy Lake is one way to reminisce and wrap your head around the long history it possesses.

Fancy a walk in the park?:

A 20 minute drive South East from the Kandy town, very close to the Mahaweli River will lead you to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya. Most famous for its collection of orchids, it provides one of the best expressions of horticulture in the country.

Tee off in style:

Hidden away from the whirlwind of the Kandy city life, wedged between the Mahaweli River and the Victoria Reservoir lies the luxury Victoria Golf Resort that has hosted many local and international competitions. A fine example of luxury lodging too, further justifying Kandy’s position as ‘the’ place for a mountain nature retreat.

History, culture and more history:

Kandy may be famous, mainly for the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, however, there are many other sites that explain why it is considered a melting pot for all cultures in the country. Just next to the temple is St. Paul’s Church that dates back to the colonial times and is virtually kept in its original state. The Muslim mosque called Meera Makkar, with a rather unorthodox architecture is located a mile south of the temple. The Kandy Museum, the British Garrison Cemetery, the Commonwealth War Cemetery and the Bahirawakanda temple to name a few more, justify its position as the historical and cultural hub of the country.

Challenge a daunting mountain range:

Kandy is also famous for its mountain trekking opportunities as it is home to the Knuckles Mountain range. The Hunnasgiriya Mountain, which belongs to the mountain range is the most preferred mountain since it is easily accessible and a challenging one to trek on.

Insider Advice

Travel: Getting about in the Kandy city would not be much of a problem since it is small and most historical monuments are situated in close proximity. There is, however, tuk-tuks if you do not wish to walk that would charge around LKR 50 for the first kilometre and LKR 40 thereafter (make sure they have meters). The Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens is, arguably, the farthest site from the Kandy City so it is best to travel there by bus or tuk-tuk, which is available in plenty during the daytime.

Clothing: The society in Kandy is very conservative due to its deep integration with culture so it is advisable to be clad in clothes that respect its traditions. It is strictly prohibited to enter any place of worship without covering adequately the shoulders and legs (Wear a sarong if you dislike wearing longs in hot weather).

Money: It is important to keep cash in hand, especially small notes like LKR 20s, LKR 50s and LKR 100s for your expenses like refreshments or meals since many of the street shops do not accept debit or credit cards.

Safety: Be vigilant with your belongings, especially in crowded areas as it could get easily snatched without knowing.

Customs: Many of the people in Kandy, especially the city area, are very friendly and helpful, but are also very conservative so it is important to respect their traditions.

Weather: Kandy usually experiences a tropical climate, but is also affected by the rainy season between May and August which is normally the season to visit the city.

If you are looking to delve deep into the unique culture and illustrious history of Sri Lanka, Kandy gives you a 360 degree view of a lost kingdom, a colonial stronghold and a melting pot of local traditions.

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