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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kandy - The Hill Capital

A KanCanDo Guide to What to see in Kandy

This article is a long awaited one and one which I have been working on for some time. The article covers, What to see and do in Kandy. I will write another article soon which will cover Where to eat in Kandy and a few recommendations on where to stay in Kandy depending on your budget.

About Kandy: Location and how to get to Kandy


Kandy is located towards the centre of the Island of Sri Lanka, seen in the map below. The city resides on the foot hills of the central hills, at an elevation of 465 meters above sea level.

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Kandy is located around 115KM from the capital city Colombo. Kandy can be reached from Colombo on the A1 Colombo - Kandy highway by your own means of transport or through the use of public transport. There are many bus routes that run between Colombo and Kandy, as well as a train service that runs between Colombo and Kandy.

Journey by bus or car can take anywhere between 3-4 hours, as around 30% of the journey will be up long winding mountain roads. Below is a video I shot of the road journey from Colombo to Kandy.

The Colombo - Kandy trains run from the Fort railway station in Colombo, a time table for the train services can be found here - . There are several variations of the service offered. Train travel is rather inexpensive in the standard classes, that said you would probably get a better view of the scenery if you travelled on the observation cart. For those who want a bit of luxurry then there is always the luxary services offered by expo rail, more information can be found here -

Below is a video I found on YouTube, once again thank you to the original uploader! The video gives you a good idea of what you will see and experience on a trip from Colombo to Kandy on standard class.

There are also steam train services that are run depending on demand, this is called the Viceroy Special,  you can find out more information on how to arrange a journey on this service through the following website.

I also found a video on YouTube that will give you an idea of what to expect with this service.

About Kandy: Breif History

Kandy is the last of Sri Lankas Royal cities, established in the 15th Century, and ruled by Kandiyan kings until the handover to the British in the year 1815.

Kandy is known to locals as Mahanuwara, which translates to "Great City". The kingdom of Kandy was established by King Wickramabahu (1357-1374 AD). Kandy was then stated as the capital of Sri Lanka in 1592 after the Portuguese conquest of the coastal regions of the country, the kingdom of Kandy was the last such independent kingdom of Sri Lanka, it stayed unconquered until the power was handed over to the British in 1815.

Kandy has been the home of the tooth relic of the Buddha ever since the kingdom moved to Kandy. This follows a long tradition which was adopted in Sri Lanka in the 4th Century, where by the regent must be the sole custodian of the relic.  

I found this interesting video which talks you through some of Kandys history, thank you to the original uploader / creator. I would recommend that you watch it as it is very informative.


What to see in Kandy

I have compiled the below map with the exact location of 16 places of interest in and around Kandy, each of which I would highly recommend.

View Kandy - What to see in a larger map

Below are some of the places of interest in more detail.

Sri Dalada Maligawa (The Temple of the Tooth)

Probably the most famous of the points of interest in Kandy, is the Temple of the Tooth or the Dalada Maligawa. Situated at the heart of the city, the Temple of the Tooth, is home to the tooth relic of the Buddha. It has been a Sinhala Buddhist tradition since the 4th century AD, that the regent of Sri Lanka must be the sole custodian of the Tooth Relic. Following this tradition, there is temple in each of the ancient capitals that housed the Tooth relic, most of which are now ruins. I will be writing a seperate post on the Temple of The Tooth soon. In the mean time you can find out more information regarding the Temple of The Tooth here -

The temple of the tooth is also one of the World Heritage sites in Sri Lanka. The temple is visited by thousands of both local and forigne tourists and pilgrims each day, and can get very very busy.  (please refer to the map). Please see here my album of pictures from The Temple of the Tooth, taken in Dec 2012.

Kandy Museum

The Kandy Museum is located directly behind the Temple of the tooth (please refer to the map), and houses a large collection (over 5000 objects) of artefacts from the Kandian aera. This building was once the Royal palace of the Queen of Kandy, built during the term of King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. There is an entrance fee applicable for all visitors, at the point of my visit this stood at Rs300 for foreign children and Rs500 for foreign adults.

Kandy International Buddhist Museum

The Kandy International Buddhist Museum is located just behind the Temple of the Tooth complex (please refer to the map). It houses artefacts and information about the practice of Buddhism from around the world. The museum is divided into each region and country and in each of these sections you will be able to experience how Buddhism in practised. I would highly recommend this location for anyone who wishes to learn more about Buddhism and the many different ways in which it is practised around the globe.

Please see here my album of pictures from out side Kandy Lake, taken in Dec 2012. The museum does not allow photography inside the building unfortunately. For more information visit the Museums website here -

Kandy Lake

The Kandy lake, takes centre piece in the city of Kandy. The lake was built in  1807 shortly before Kandy was handed over to the British. The lake makes for a 2.1 mile walk around its perimeter, and has some stunning views. A walk around the lake is a must do if you visit Kandy. Other than the lake it self, the main attraction or parts of significant importance are the Island in the middle of the lake and the cloud wall. The island in the middle of the lake houses the Royal Summer House. The Cloud Wall runs for 2060 feet along the perimeter of the lake, it was originally built to make Kandy look more attractive. The wall was never completed as the Kingdom was ceded to the British before its completion. (please refer to the map). Please see here my album of pictures from Kandy Lake, taken in Dec 2012.

Bahirawa Kanda temple

Located above the city of Kandy, this omnipresent giant Buddha statue can be seen from anywhere in the town. What more, you get stunning panoramic views of the city and the surrounding country side. It is located within the city limits and is easily accessible both via foot or your preferred mode of transport (please refer to the map). 

Bahirawa Kanda which translates into gnome mountain is steeped in ancient tales, you can read more about these tales here. In the present day however what attracts the visitors is the Buddha Statue. You can climb most of the way up this statue, there are also prayer rooms within the base of the statue. Please see here my album of pictures from Bahirawa Kanda Temple, taken in Dec 2012.

Hanthana Range

The Hantana Range is a perfect place within the Kandy area for anyone interested in a good hiking adventure. This mountain range conists of seven peaks, with the highest point being 3800ft. The range is a popular destination for local hikers, and has been declared a protected zone by the environmental authority of Sri Lanka. (please refer to the map).  Please see here my album of pictures in the Hantana range, taken in 2005. I also found this amazing set of pictures taken by Charith of the Hantana Range here

Hantana Tea Museum

Tea Museum, Kandy

Within a short distance from the City centre (please refer to the map) this tea factory which has been converted into a museum is certainly a must go destination if you are in Kandy, specially if you are a tea lover! You can get guided tours of the whole process of how tea is made, as well as learn about and sample the different types of tea.  For more information visit -

Udawatta kele Forest Reserve

Udawatta Kele SanctuaryThis is a small forest reserve which is located within the Kandy city limits, and is a great place for bird lovers and walkers alike. The name simply translates to "The Garden Above the Royal Palace" (please refer to the map). I found a few pictures of the reserve on Flikr, unfortunately I did not get a chance to photograph this point of interest. There are a few tour organisers that arrange guided walks in the park, here is one such organiser - . The link also provides a great deal of information on what to expect. I also found the following link to be of good use for giving you an idea of what birds you can expect to see in the park -

Commonwealth War Cemetery

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For a more exact location please refer to the map. Unfortunately I was unable to photograph this point of interest, here are some photos that I have found on Flikr. The cemetery is part of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, contains 195 graves of those who lost their lives during attacks on ceylon during the world wars. More information can be found here

Kandy City Centre

20100704_IMG_9579.jpg The Kandy City Centre complex is a modern shopping mall situated in the city centre (please refer to the map). This modern building was built and opened to the public very recently and follows the Kandiyan architecture. It is a modern addition to this historic and picturesque city.

Arthur Seat

Located above the city on Rajapilla Mawatha (please refer to the map), provides stunning panoramic views of the city. I would certainly recommend this place to anyone who wishes to get some good photos of the lake and Temple of the tooth from a far. Please see here my album of pictures from Arthurs Seat, taken in Dec 2012.

Natha Devalaya

The Natha Devalaya, is located opposite the Temple of the Tooth (please refer to the map). The Devalaya is the oldest structure in Kandy Town and is said to have been built in the 14th Century, before the Tooth Relic was brought to Kandy.  It played an important role in the Royal family, it was where the kings of kandy had to go to get their names. There are 3 other such temples around Kandy. The Vishnu, Kataragama, and Patini Devalayas along with the Natha Devalaya are the special dedicated temples to the four gods who protect Kandy. I must thank the original poster for this very informative but short report on these four temples, which are located in the city centre - . Going back to the Natha Devalaya it  has some interesting wood carvings and has almost always got a elephant and many dozens of roosters, which can always make for good photos! Please see here my album of pictures from Natha Devale, taken in Dec 2012.


British Garrison Cemetery

The British Garrison Cemetery is a a small Anglican graveyard, located just behind the Temple of the Tooth (please refer to the map). It was established in in 1817 for the British army just after the British takeover of Kandy.  Please see here my album of pictures from the British Garrison Cemetery, taken in Dec 2012. For more information on the Cemetery I would recommend reading this article by the BBC -

Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, which is a short distance from Kandy (please refer to the map). The park was established in its current form by the British in 1843, however the history of the garden dates back to the 1300. The Kings of Kandy had been using these grounds as their leisure park for centuries. It covers an area of 147 acres. The garden has a large collection of orchids and boasts around 4000 species of plants. Among some of its star attractions are the Avenue of palms seen in the picture to the left, the Cannon Ball tree, planted by King George V in 1901, the oldest tea tree in the country and the orchid green house. Please see here my album of pictures from Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, taken in Dec 2012.

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