Kandy has everything going for it. The location is beautiful; the city is a charming mix of colonial buildings and bustling Asian vibes, and the hills are just gorgeous. There are quite a few places to visit if you wish to go to the regular tourist trail and it is also a great place for unwinding. Tea rooms, beautiful hotels, lush greenery, and plenty of surrounding areas to visit make Kandy a perfect Sri Lankan destination. Plus, the Kandyan festivals are amazing, the city hosts regular traditional dance shows and the train journey between Kandy to Ella is touted as the most beautiful in the world. Kandy is riddled with religious sites, the most important one being the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. Owing to its historic and religious significance, Kandy was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and is referred to as the cultural capital of Sri Lanka.
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Best time for Kandy travel
Sri Lanka experiences two monsoon seasons: the Yala and Maha. The Yala monsoon season happens from May to August affecting the southwestern part of the country. The Maha monsoon season takes over from October until January and pours over the northeastern parts of Sri Lanka. Kandy is located in central Sri Lanka and is generally affected by both monsoon seasons to a certain extent. The best time therefore to visit Kandy is between January to March. October till December is the wettest time and Kandy travel is not advisable.
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How to reach Kandy
A well organized Kandy travel means an easy means of transportation. Gone are the colonial era days when Kandy could be reached only by an arduous trek from the coast. Nowadays, it is a very popular destination that is easily reached from all over Sri Lanka.
- One can reach Kandy by bus, train, and taxi from Colombo Fort, Galle, and Nuwara Eliya or any other hill country destination.
- The Colombo-Kandy, Galle-Kandy, and Ella-Kandy train routes get filled up fast and it makes sense to book your tickets early.
- From Galle by bus – Please note that there is no direct bus from Galle station to Kandy station. There are daily services departing from Galle Bus Station and arriving at Kandy Good Shed Bus Station via Kaduwela. This journey takes approximately 5h 10m including transfers.
- From Galle by train – Similarly, there is no direct train from Galle station to Kandy either. There are daily services that leave from Galle Station and arrive at Kandy via Fort Station. The journey also takes around 5 hours including transfers.
- From Colombo by train – The Colombo to Kandy train ride cost ranges from LKR 180 for 3rd Class, LKR 280 for 2nd class, and LKR 500 for first-class (air-conditioned).
- From Colombo by bus – The Number 1 bus from Pettah central bus station from Colombo goes to Kandy bus station. The cost is around LKR 130 – 150. It takes around three hours and the bus ride is reputed to be very uncomfortable.
- From Kandy to Ella by train – Trains leave from Kandy train station, Kandy and the ticket prices for the 2nd class and 3rd class seats per person are LKR 240 and LKR 175 respectively. Express trains depart Ella for Kandy twice a day at 0847 and 1110. These are subject to change.
- Kandy is the starting point of one of the world’s most beautiful train routes. Choose from a stunning 4 to 7 hours journey through the tea plantation hills and rainforests. Take the 4-hour ride to Nuwara Eliya if the 7-hour to Ella is not your cup of tea.
City transportation for a hassle-free Kandy travel
Tuk-tuks are the lifeline of Sri Lankan transportation system. They are cheap, convenient, and easy to get. In Kandy, however, tuk-tuks have a bad reputation and the local drivers are extremely aggressive. I too had a very unpleasant experience with an aggressive tuk-tuk driver in Kandy and he creepily followed me around after I hired some other driver’s services. The best way to avoid such unpleasantness is to explore Kandy on foot. It is a compact and easily walkable city. However, if you are staying away from the city center in hilly areas like Anniewata, then a mode of transportation can be a blessing. You can try your luck with the Kandy tuk-tuks. Just flag one down, negotiate and agree upon the fare before getting in. At any cost, avoid taking a tuk-tuk from the train station. They have the worst reputation. There is a Sri Lankan transportation app called PickMe and it works like Uber. Just download it on your Android/IOS phone and start using it. There is another useful app called Fairsfare that gives you the correct estimate of a ride anywhere in Sri Lanka. The main Kandy bus station is located next to the train station. It caters to long-distance routes only. Head to the Torrington bus station in the downtown area for inner-city buses.
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Things to do during your Kandy travel
- Visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic – This is a holy place for the Buddhists and supposedly contains the canine of Buddha. This relic is housed in a jeweled casket and it is widely believed that whoever possessed the tooth relic had a divine right to rule that land. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth is best visited during the 10-day grand Kandy Esala Perahera that is held every year in July and August. Suggested Length of Visit: About 2-3 hours / Admission: LKR 1,500 or LKR 1,000 from SAARC countries. Both females and males need to cover up legs and shoulders. Shoes must be removed before entering the temple.
- Relax at the Botanical Garden in Kandy – The Royal Botanical Gardens of Kandy is famous for its 4000+ species of plants and trees. It is a 15-minute drive from downtown Kandy and is a great escape from the city. Entrance fee: LKR 1,500 per person entry. Hire a tuk-tuk to the gardens for LKR 400 or catch the number 644 bus from near the Kandy Clock Tower. It will take you directly to the garden, for around LKR 20.
- Watch a Kandyan Dance Performance – Though a tad touristy, watching a Kandyan dance performance is one of the best things you can do here. Kandy is considered to be the cultural capital of Sri Lanka and there are a few venues around the city that holds regular traditional dance performances. I enjoyed a performance at the Kandy Lake Club. It is held every day from 5-6 PM.
- Day trip to Sigiriya – Sigiriya is a three hours drive from Kandy. It is the home of the Lion Rock, one of the Sri Lankan UNESCO world heritage sites. The Lion Rock is an enormous 200-meter square-shaped rock towering over the entire region. It is a must-visit place in Sri Lanka. One can also visit Nuwara Eliya on a day trip from Kandy, though it deserves more time.
- Unwind and Relax – No Kandy travel is complete without unwinding and relaxing. It is a place meant for hanging up your hat. Kandy has excellent homestays and resorts that provide the ultimate serenity needed to recharge your batteries. All you need is a good book, a pot of hot Ceylon tea, and cloudy, cool hilly weather. With all that lush, wet greenery around you, unwinding will come naturally.
A suggested itinerary for that perfect Kandy travel
• Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
• Kandy Lake and Kandy city walk
• Udawattakele Forest Reserve (optional)
• Kandyan Dance Performance
• Minibus to Dambulla
• Dambulla Cave Temple
• Climb the Lion Rock at Sigiriya
• Overnight stay in Sigiriya
• Bus to Polonnaruwa
• Ancient City of Polonnaruwa
• Bus back to Kandy
Follow the rest of Sri Lanka series:
- WHAT I LOVED ABOUT SRI LANKA
- COLOMBO VIBES
- KOLLUPITIYA MARKET IN COLOMBO PHOTO WALK
- COLOMBO TRAVEL GUIDE
- MIRISSA DAYS
NOTE: In view of the security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, the updated travel advisory states that the security situation in Sri Lanka is gradually returning to normal with the lifting of curfew & restrictions on social media and the opening of schools. Foreign nationals travelling to Sri Lanka are advised to be careful and vigilant.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE