Kandy is one of the historical cities in Sri Lanka, though it’s also transitioning into a modern city. It’s best known for its temples, particularly Sri Dalada Maligawa, and botanical gardens. About an hour outside Kandy, there are a series of tea plantations, all the way into Nuwara Eliya.
I didn’t get to visit all of the main points of interest in Kandy; I saw Maligawa and skipped the Botanical Gardens as we were short on time.
Unfortunately, none of the sites are clustered in one area so if you’re going to stay overnight in Kandy, it’s best to stay near around the Bogambara Lake (aka Kandy Lake), on the City Centre side. The City Centre is located near the Maligawa Temple, but the reason I recommend staying near there is because they have the most restaurants and a couple of foreign ATMs in walkable distance. Additionally, Kandy traffic congests easily, and is exacerbated by the one-way streets around City Centre. As a bonus, you can also stroll around Kandy Lake in the evening.
Just for reference, I would’ve picked the Queen’s Hotel to stay in Kandy if I stayed in Kandy because of its location. It is the closest hotel to the Maligawa Temple, and within walkable distance to the City Centre.
Hours: 5:30 AM – 8PM
Time to spend: 3-4 hours.
This is a Palace and Buddhist Temple that houses a reliquary: the Buddha’s tooth. It’s a large palace and temple, which has been sectioned off into several small museums, including an archaeological museum, and a cultural/anthropological section on the two floors above the ground floor. There are also a couple of Hindu temples nearby that are part of the grounds as well, though they don’t require the entrance ticket. Other than the reliquary itself, there’s also a section where the story of Buddha’s life is told in paintings, and the history of the reliquary through the ages also in paintings.
Other pertinent information:
Shoes need to be deposited in a shoe booth near the ticket counter. Socks are ok, but they’re going to get very dirty because a good deal of walking is done outside, between the different complexes. If you decide to walk barefoot, be careful of how hot the ground gets and sharp edges, nails, etc.
Verdict: Worth it – Don’t miss.
There are a couple of other smaller temples that I ended up not visiting – Lanktilaka and Gadaladeniya. I’m not sure whether they’re worth going to, but obviously, if you don’t have a lot of time, I’m sure skipping these isn’t as bad as skipping Maligawa.
There are also two parks in and around Kandy: The Royal Botanical Garden and the Royal Palace Park. The Royal Botanical Garden is the largest Botanical Garden in Sri Lanka. I opted to skip this because my interest in Botanical Garden is limited (it would really have to have something special to pique my interest), and also because we were short on time because our driver had got lost in Kandy before we got to Maligawa.