Udawattakele Forest Reserve

A sprawling 103 hectares of floral and faunal life, which has thrived atop a hill ridge in Kandy since the days of the Kandyan reign, the ‘Udawattakele Forest Reserve’, called the ‘garden above the royal palace’, is now a sanctuary reflecting the tales of what once was in history. Renowned for being a hub of avifauna and a natural collective of organisms, be it plant or animal, this forest reserve in Sri Lanka serves as a source of education for students and scientific research for academics. A must-visit in Kandy for those looking to immerse in nature and the wilderness aspect of Sri Lanka.

Best Known For

  • Birdwatching: a spot famous with foreigners and locals alike to witness a range of birds in their natural habitat, the reserve prides itself on being home to around 80 endemic species, with the rare three-toed kingfisher Ceyx erythacus occasionally viewed at the pond.
  • Teeming with faunal life: a diverse line-up of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians settle into the mass of greenery, some of which are endemic and nocturnal. The ‘Udawattakele Forest Reserve’ is also home to the wet-zone butterflies and invertebrates such as the giant forest scorpion and the poisonous ornamental tarantula as well as a range of insects and snails.
  • A hub of plant life: mostly made up of dense forest, comprising of plantations and secondary formations. A breakdown of plant life by a 2013 survey recorded 58 indigenous tree species, 61 shrub and small tree species, 31 herbs and 57 liana (long-stemmed, woody vines) and creepers.
  • Historical association: according to lore, a brahmin used to live in a cave in the forest, which was located on a slope above the ‘Temple of the Tooth’. The Kandyan Kings used the forest exclusively as their own garden for recreational purposes.

Interesting Facts

  • Some of the native fern species are rare and are exclusive to the reserve.
  • The ‘Udawattakele Forest Reserve’ was initially reserved for the Royal Family in the olden days and no member of the public was permitted access; thus the reason the forest was additionally called ‘Thahanci Kele’ or ‘The Forbidden Forest’.
  • In 1834, the governor Horton built a path in the forest, called ‘Lady Horton’s Drive’ in honour of his wife. The trail is rumoured to be around 3 miles long.
  • Several other paths were built in the forest; Lady McCarthy’s Drive, Lady Torrington’s Road, Lady Gordon’s Road, Lady Anderson’s Road, Gregory Path, Russell Path and Byrde Lane. Some of these paths no longer exist for the forest has now grown over them.
  • The highest point of the forest ridge which overlooks the ‘Temple of the Tooth’ is 635 meters above sea level and 115 meters above Kandy Lake.
  • Located at the sanctuary are 3 Buddhist forest monasteries, the ‘Forest Hermitage’, the ‘Senanayakaramaya’ and the ‘Tapovanaya’ as well as 3 cave dwellings for Buddhist monks, the ‘Cittavisuddhi-lena’, ‘Maitri-lena’ and the ‘Senkadandagala-lena’.
  • The reserve doubles as the water collection point to supply to the city of Kandy.
  • Invasive, exotic plant species pose the biggest threat to the forest as they restrict the growth of plant and tree species as well as the animals and insects that dwell in them. As the invading tree and creeper species are not stunted by diseases or organisms that feed on them, they are able to grow more freely at the expense of life in their vicinity. Their invasion has now reached almost half of the ‘Udawattakele Forest Reserve’.

Times, Seasons and Tips

  • The entrance to the ‘Udawattakele Forest Reserve’ is located on its western side, a 15 or 20 minute walk from the ‘Temple of the Tooth’. Take the route north of the ‘Temple of the Tooth’, along the D. S. Senananayke Veediya road, make a right after half a kilometer at the post office near the Kandy Municipal Council and make your way up a hill. You shall find the entrance to the right of the ‘Tapovanaya Monastery’.
  • For the visitors’ convenience, a parking space will be made available near the entrance along with a refreshment stall.
  • A local will have to register and leave their identity card at the entrance.
  • Entrance to the forest will be denied to unmarried couples.
  • Best visit in attire which covers your legs and feet during rainy weather for leeches may attach themselves onto you. Carry a mosquito repellent or herbal balms such as Siddhalepa to ward them off.
  • A guide for birdwatching can be provided at the ticket office, with LKR 500 charged for the service.
  • Should you be a lone visitor, best keep an eye on your belongings to ensure you don’t misplace them.

Overall, the reserve makes for an enthralling experience, affording one an opportunity to witness and immerse in some of the natural assets of the country. Of not only educational and scientific value, but historical and ecological as well, the reserve is one of the natural features in Sri Lanka which should be preserved for the expanse of life that grows within and as a long-standing testament to certain aspects of Sri Lanka’s history. With the immediate threat posed to the forest being the growth restriction of vegetation by certain species of plant, which if allowed to continue, would adversely impact the faunal life which thrives within, public support in establishing control measures such as uprooting of seedlings and the removal of creepers and invasive species could always be of use.

Location info



Sri Lankans
LKR 30
LKR 570

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