Winding around a scenic Kandy Lake, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Kandy is gorgeously stunning. The hill-country is now the second-largest city of Sri Lanka and is home to the famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, beautifully landscaped Botanical Gardens, cultural attractions, and much more. From lush tea plantations to tropical rainforests to attractive hiking trails – there’s a world beyond Kandy too meaning a lot of day trips.
If you’re short on time we recommend booking a Full-Day Guided Tour of Kandy that includes all the must-see attractions with a Kandy Lake Club Cultural Show.
Book your Kandy tour easily online!
One of the most beautiful and sacred places to visit in Kandy, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is a Buddhist temple housed in a royal palace complex of the erstwhile Kingdom of Kandy.
The temple is home to the relic of the tooth of the Buddha which is preserved in a decorative gold box.
Make sure you plan to visit the temple during the ceremony because that’s when they bring out the casket holding the Tooth Relic from the chamber so devotees can witness it. The ceremony takes place thrice a day – 5:30 am, 9:30 am, and 6:30 pm.
Located in the heart of Kandy, next to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy Lake is a scenic artificial lake created in 1807 by Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kandy. The lake is aka Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk.
An evening stroll around the lake is a great way to rejuvenate and relax.
A beautiful lookout point at 550 m above sea level, Arthur’s Seat is the highest point in Kandy. It offers panoramic views over Kandy Lake, Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, the Royal Palace of Kandy, and the city center.
Kandy View Point is named Arthur’s Seat after a British science writer and a tea planter, Arthur Charles Clarke who had a bungalow above the lookout point. He’d stand on a stone under a tree before his bungalow and enjoyed the views across the city.
One of the best of all the Kandy attractions, Kandy Lake Club Cultural Show is a vibrant and unique extravaganza where dancers perform the intriguing blend of Sri Lankan folk and traditional dances. It’s your chance to witness the rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka.
The Fire Show is the high point of the show where the artists walk barefoot on a fire pit and come out absolutely unharmed. It’s quite an experience.
One word. Brilliant.
One of the most scenic train journeys in the world and of course, the cheapest, the Kandy to Ella train lets you experience Sri Lanka’s eternal beauty. From lush hill country to rolling tea plantations to misty mountains to ever-smiling locals – this 7-hour train journey is pure joy.
Tip: For first-hand authentic experience, we urge you to prefer third class over first class.
Sri Lanka’s most imposing and largest botanic gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya is located near the Mahaweli River. The garden with about 4000 species of plants is well-known for its fine selection of orchids, royal palms avenue, cannonball fruit tree, giant Javan Fig tree, and Burma bamboo.
It’s a great way to escape the city pandemonium for a while.
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Full of classical Kandyan and colonial-style buildings, vibrant markets, charming cafes, and authentic restaurants – strolling the streets of Kandy is a delight.
Wander around the streets to get the vibe of Kandy.
A Theravada Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, Sri Mahabodhi Maha Viharaya is located on Bahirawakanda hill, just about 2 km from the Kandy city center. The temple is best known for its 88-feet high beautiful white statue of Buddha in Nirvana mudra (pose), Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue. One of the tallest statues of Buddha in Sri Lanka, it can be seen from anywhere in Kandy.
The top of the hill can easily be reached by car. You can climb up the stairs for the panoramic views over the city of Kandy.
Tip: Bahirawakanda is best visited at night when the statute as well as the city of Kandy, both are all lit up.
If you are looking for the best day trips from Kandy, Sigiriya is the answer!
Around 90 km (2 hours 35 minutes) from Kandy, Sigiriya, or Sinhagiri (Lion Rock) is one of the best places to visit near Kandy. It is an ancient rock fortress located in the center of the island between the towns of Dambulla and Habarana on a massive rocky plateau that’s 370 meters above sea level.
A UNESCO World Heritage site is reached by a series of steep stairs. Don’t forget to stop and admire the frescoes and a pair of lion’s paws carved into the rock on the way to the top.
Once you reach the top, apart from the ruins of the fortress you get to enjoy the views across the lush forests surrounding Sigiriya.
Sigiriya is one of the most visited attractions in Sri Lanka and thus, you can expect hordes of tourists.
Tip: Sunrise and Sunset are the best times to visit Sigiriya.
Pidurangala Rock lies just opposite Sigiriya. You’ll get a good view of Pidurangala Rock from Sigiriya.
If you want to avoid the crowds at Sigiriya, you can plan to climb Pidurangala as it offers the same panoramic views you get by climbing Sigiriya. Plus, you also get an amazing view of Sigiriya Rock.
The largest and the best-preserved cave-temple complex in Sri Lanka, Dambulla Cave Temple OR Golden Temple of Dambulla is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s around 71 km (2 hours) from Kandy.
Out of about 80 caves, 5 caves are of particular importance that contain 157 statues and mural paintings depicting the life and times of Gautam Buddha.
You can explore Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Pidurangala Rock as a day tour from Kandy or can arrange a night stay in Dambulla or Habarana to explore at leisure.
The ancient city of Polonnaruwa, once a royal capital for Chola and Sinhalese kingdoms, is now an archeological treasure and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s around 135 km (3 hours) from the city of Kandy.
From palaces to tombs to ancient pools to temples to statues to stupas to sacred quadrangle – with intriguing ancient structures, the Polonnaruwa archeological park is captivating.
About 136 km from Kandy, one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Anuradhapura is well-known known for its vivid ruins of an ancient Sinhala civilization.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, Anuradhapura was once a center of Theravada Buddhism. The archeological complex houses many monuments like dagobas (stupas), temples, ancient pools, monasteries, and statues.
You can’t miss Jaya Shri Maha Bodhi, the Sacred Bo Tree at Anuradhapura which is considered the oldest (2,130 years) historical tree in the world.
This is it!
Oh, I forget to tell you, if you love attending world festivals like us, you wouldn’t want to miss the coolest, oldest, and grandest Buddhist festival of Kandy Esala Perahera (The Festival of the Tooth) when in Kandy. So, better plan around July and August. In 2021, it’s taking place between 14 August to 24 August.