Insider’s Guide to the Best Things to Do in Kandy in 2024

 In Adventure, Best Time to Visit, Holidays, Places To Visit, Sri Lanka, Temple, Travel

Nestled amidst the lush hills of central Sri Lanka lies the enchanting city of Kandy, a place whose history, culture, and natural beauty make it an unmissable place to visit in Sri Lanka.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking adventure, there are a lot of interesting things to do in Kandy for everyone, making it an essential addition to our Sri Lanka tour packages

Visit the Temple of the Tooth Relic

temple

No visit to Kandy would be complete without paying homage to the sacred Temple of the Tooth Relic, known locally as Sri Dalada Maligawa. 

This revered temple houses the relic of the tooth of the Buddha, making it one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists around the world. 

Steeped in history and surrounded by serene gardens, this Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka offers a glimpse into the country’s spiritual heritage and provides a sense of tranquility amidst the bustling city.

Legend has it that the sacred tooth relic was brought to Sri Lanka in the 4th century AD, concealed within the hair of Princess Hemamala, who fled from India to protect it from falling into the hands of her enemies. 

Since then, the relic has been enshrined in various temples across the island, with the Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy being its final resting place putting a visit to this temple on top of the list of things to do in Kandy.

Peradaniya Botanical Gardens

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Among the lot of things to do in Kandy, the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens stands out as a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and those seeking a serene retreat amidst the city’s hustle and bustle.

 These 147-acre gardens, which are situated along the banks of the Mahaweli River, provide a peaceful haven that is home to an amazing variety of plant species from all over the world.

A sensory extravaganza of colors, scents, and textures greets you as soon as you enter the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.

The remarkable collection of orchids, which comprises over 4,000 species and hybrids, making it one of the greatest orchid collections in the world, is one of the gardens’ highlights. Explore the Orchid House and be amazed by the dazzling variety of shades and forms on display, ranging from beautiful blooms the size of dinner plates to tiny microscopic orchids.

The imposing Giant Bamboo Grove is another must-see sight. Here, you may stroll beneath the canopy of these magnificent bamboo giants and take in their amazing height.

Kandy Lake

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Kandy Lake, locally known as Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk, stands as a serene centerpiece amidst the vibrant tapestry of a lot of things to do in Kandy. 

Kandy Lake’s middle island, home to the Royal Summer House, or “Walakulu Bemma” in Sinhala, is one of its most charming characteristics. Reachable over a lovely footbridge, the island lends the lake a sense of mystery and offers an appealing backdrop for strolls and photographers.

A well-manicured sidewalk surrounds the lake, providing a pleasant route for leisurely walks or brisk runs. The walk, which is surrounded by tall trees and rich vegetation, offers panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding area as well as shade from the tropical sun.

You’ll pass several interesting locations as you stroll down the lakefront promenade, such as the red-and-white-striped Kandy Maligawa Island Pavilion, a well-liked location for relaxing picnics. 

Cultural Show at the Kandy Cultural Centre

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Visit the Kandy Cultural Centre to have a full cultural experience, where traditional dance, music, and drumming are showcased in a captivating display making it one of the most interesting things to do in Kandy. 

A wide range of captivating acts from Sri Lanka’s many areas and ethnic groups are showcased in the cultural show. Every show is a tribute to the island’s artistic talent and cultural diversity, from the energetic beats of drummers to the powerful rhythms of Kandyan dancers.

One of the highlights of the cultural show is the Kandyan dance, a traditional form of dance that originated in the central highlands of Sri Lanka

In addition to Kandyan dance, the cultural show also features performances of other traditional dance forms, such as the fiery and acrobatic ‘fire dance’ and the elegant ‘ves dance’ performed by female dancers.

Throughout the cultural show, live musicians provide the soundtrack, playing traditional instruments such as the ‘geta bera’ (drums), ‘thammattama’ (cymbals), and ‘raban’ (hand drum). 

Tea Plantation Visit

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Embark on a sensory journey through the verdant hillsides surrounding Kandy with a visit to a local tea plantation, where you’ll discover the time-honored tradition of tea cultivation and production that has shaped Sri Lanka’s identity as one of the world’s leading tea producers. 

Upon arrival at the tea plantation, you’ll be warmly welcomed by knowledgeable guides who will lead you on a guided tour of the estate, sharing insights into the history, cultivation, and processing of tea in Sri Lanka. 

Learn about the different varieties of tea grown in the region, from delicate white teas to robust black teas, and discover the art and science behind producing the perfect cup of Ceylon tea.

Next, venture inside the tea factory, where the magic of tea production comes to life. Watch as withered tea leaves are carefully rolled, fermented, dried, and sorted to produce the distinctive flavors and aromas that characterize Ceylon tea.

Udawattakele Forest Reserve

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Nestled on the outskirts of Kandy lies the enchanting Udawattakele Forest Reserve, a hidden gem waiting to be discovered by nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.

 Spread over 257 acres of pristine rainforest, this biodiverse sanctuary offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and is among the favorite things to do in Kandy for nature lovers.

Udawattakele, which translates to “Royal Forest Park” in Sinhala, holds a special place in Kandy’s history, serving as a royal reserve and sanctuary for the ancient kings of Sri Lanka. 

One of the most fascinating national parks of Sri Lanka is Udawattakele, which has a network of beautiful hiking routes that weave through the dense forest and provide views of unique fauna and flora at every turn.

Several historical sites and cultural icons that provide insight into the forest’s colorful past can be found at Udawattakele.

See the Senkanda Caves’ ancient cave inscriptions, which are thought to be over 2,500 years old, or tour the 19th-century British Garrison Cemetery’s ruins, where tombstones from the colonial era serve as quiet reminders of the past.

White Water Rafting in Kelani

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One of the most thrilling things to do in Sri Lanka for thrill-seekers and adventure seekers is white water rafting on the Kelani River, which offers heart-pounding action amid the stunning scenery of the country’s hill area.

From easy Class I rapids ideal for beginners and families with small children to more difficult Class II and III rapids that offer an exciting challenge for seasoned rafters, the Kelani River has a range of rapids to suit all skill levels.

Stop for a refreshing swim in crystal-clear pools, or paddle ashore to explore secluded beaches and hidden waterfalls that are inaccessible by land, creating unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.

Explore Embekka Devalaya and Gadaladeniya Vihara

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Delve into the architectural wonders and spiritual heritage of ancient Sri Lanka with a visit to Embekka Devalaya and Gadaladeniya Vihara, two historic sites and temples in Sri Lanka located just a short drive from Kandy. 

These sacred temples offer a captivating glimpse into the island’s rich cultural and religious heritage, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship, intricate carvings, and centuries-old traditions that continue to inspire awe and reverence today.

When exploring things to do in Kandy, a visit to Embekka Devalaya is a must for those interested in ancient architecture and cultural heritage.

Located amidst tranquil surroundings, Embekka Devalaya is a testament to the architectural talent and artistic mastery of ancient Sri Lankan craftsmen. 

Built-in the 14th century by King Vikramabahu III, this intricately carved temple is dedicated to worshiping the deity Kataragama Deviyo, a revered guardian deity believed to protect the island and its people.

As you step through the ornately carved entrance gates of Embekka Devalaya, you’re transported back in time to an era of kings and kingdoms, where devotion and craftsmanship flourished hand in hand. 

The temple’s exterior is adorned with elaborate wood carvings depicting mythical creatures, floral motifs, and scenes from Buddhist and Hindu mythology, showcasing the skill and artistry of its creators.

 Gadaladeniya Vihara:

gadaladeniya-vihara

A short distance from Embekka Devalaya lies Gadaladeniya Vihara, another architectural marvel that showcases the fusion of Sinhalese and South Indian architectural styles. 

Built-in the 14th century by King Wickramabahu III, this ancient temple is dedicated to the worship of the Buddha and is renowned for its graceful proportions, intricate carvings, and serene ambiance.

As you approach Gadaladeniya Vihara, you’re greeted by a majestic staircase leading up to the temple’s main entrance, flanked by stone pillars and statues of guardian deities.

 The temple’s exterior is adorned with intricate carvings depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha, as well as mythical creatures and celestial beings that populate the Buddhist cosmology.

Spice Gardens Tour

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Embark on one of the adventurous things to do in Kandy through the aromatic world of spices with a visit to a local spice garden, where you’ll discover the secrets of Sri Lanka’s rich culinary heritage and traditional healing practices. 

Located among the lush greenery of Kandy’s countryside, these spice gardens offer a fascinating journey through the sights, scents, and flavors of some of the world’s most prized spices.

A knowledgeable guide will lead you on a guided tour of the garden, sharing insights into the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of a variety of spices that grow abundantly in the fertile soils of Sri Lanka.

Next, explore the spice garden’s diverse array of plantations, where you’ll encounter exotic spices such as cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, and pepper, each with its unique flavor profile and culinary uses.

For a truly immersive experience, participate in hands-on activities such as spice grinding and herbal tea making, where you can grind fresh spices using traditional tools and techniques or brew aromatic herbal teas using freshly harvested herbs and spices. 

Attend the Esala Perahara

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With its rich cultural heritage and diverse atmosphere, When exploring things to do in Kandy, one of the most iconic and captivating experiences is attending the Esala Perahera festival. 

One of the most iconic and captivating festivals in Sri Lanka is the Esala Perahera, a grand procession that takes place annually in the month of Esala (July or August) to honor the Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha.

The Esala Perahera is a vibrant and colorful spectacle that unfolds over ten consecutive nights, ending with the grand finale known as the Maha Perahera

The highlight of the Esala Perahera is the procession of beautifully adorned elephants, each carrying a relic casket containing a sacred relic of the Buddha, including the sacred Tooth Relic.

 In addition to the elephants, the Esala Perahera features a colorful cast of characters representing various aspects of Sri Lankan culture and mythology.

The Maha Perahera, which takes place on the festival’s final night, is the culmination of the Esala Perahera and the grandest procession of all. It begins with the ceremonial lighting of torches at the Temple of the Tooth Relic adding more life to the nightlife in Sri Lanka.

Zip Lining in the Hanthana Mountains

Little girl ziplining in forest

For those seeking adrenaline-fueled things to do in Kandy, zip lining in the Hanthana Mountains offers an exciting experience with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

As you arrive at the zip-lining site, you’ll be greeted by experienced guides who will provide safety briefings, and instruction on zip-lining techniques, and ensure that you’re properly equipped with safety gear before embarking on your adventure.

Harness up, helmet on, and adrenaline pumping, you’ll be ready to soar through the treetops like a bird, taking in the stunning vistas and feeling the rush of wind against your face as you zip from platform to platform.

Between zip lines, there are opportunities to pause and soak in the natural beauty of the Hanthana Mountains

Whether you’re a seasoned thrill-seeker or a first-time adventurer, zip lining in the Hanthana Mountains offers an unforgettable experience that combines the excitement of high-speed zip lines with the beauty of the natural world. 

Exploring Kandy’s Unique Culinary Scene

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When seeking things to do in Kandy, exploring its vibrant culinary scene is a must. Kandy offers a melting pot of flavors and aromas that reflect the city’s unique identity.

Kandy has a diverse range of cuisines to experience, including both native Sri Lankan cuisine and international cuisine influenced by the city’s colonial past.

Focusing on locally produced, fresh foods is a defining feature of Kandy’s culinary scene, which is a reflection of the region’s rich agricultural riches and fertile soils.

Kandy’s food is a tribute to the island’s natural reward, featuring tropical fruits and vegetables grown in the lush countryside and aromatic spices grown in the nearby hills.

Traditional Sri Lankan Cuisine:

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When exploring things to do in Kandy, indulging in the rich and flavorful dishes of traditional Sri Lankan cuisine is a must.

Influenced by centuries of cultural exchange and culinary heritage, Sri Lankan cuisine is a tantalizing fusion of flavors and techniques that reflects the island’s diverse ethnic and cultural tapestry.

At local eateries and restaurants throughout Kandy, you’ll find an array of traditional Sri Lankan dishes to tempt your taste buds. 

From fragrant rice and curry platters served with an assortment of spicy sambols and chutneys to hearty dishes like hoppers (crispy rice flour pancakes) and kottu roti (chopped flatbread stir-fried with vegetables and meat), there’s something to satisfy every palate.

Kandyan Delicacies:

kandyan-delicacies

In addition to traditional Sri Lankan cuisine, Kandy is known for its unique regional delicacies that are synonymous with the city’s cultural heritage, and tasting the local delicacies is one of the most essential things to do in Kandy

One such delicacy is ‘Kandyan dancing’, a traditional sweet made from jaggery (palm sugar), rice flour, and coconut milk, shaped into intricate patterns and fried to golden perfection.

Another must-try delicacy is ‘Kiri Bath’, a creamy rice pudding flavored with coconut milk and spices, often served as a celebratory dish during festivals and special occasions. ‘Wambatu Moju’, a tangy and spicy eggplant pickle, is another local favorite that pairs perfectly with rice and curry dishes.

If you want to fully immerse yourself in Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and rich culture, Kandy has a lot to offer.

This charming city has something to offer everyone, from historic temples to lush botanical gardens, and lively cultural events to picturesque tea estates. 

So pack your bags, embark on a journey of exploration, and let Kandy captivate your senses with its charm and allure.

What are the must-visit attractions in Kandy?

The must-visit attractions in Kandy include the Temple of the Tooth Relic, the Royal Botanical Gardens, and the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.

When is the best time to visit Kandy?

The best time to visit Kandy is during the dry season, which typically falls between December and April, to enjoy pleasant weather and avoid heavy rainfall.

Are there any unique local experiences or activities in Kandy?

Yes, there are several unique local experiences and activities in Kandy, such as attending the Esala Perahera festival, exploring traditional spice gardens, and visiting ancient temples like Embekka Devalaya.

What are the best shopping experiences in Kandy?

The best shopping experiences in Kandy include browsing the Kandy City Center for a variety of shops and boutiques, and exploring the local markets like Kandy Market and the Old City Market for souvenirs.

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