The bustling hill-country capital of Kandy lies on a plain amidst towering hills and looped by Sri Lanka’s largest river: the Mahaweli. The town’s pleasant temperate climate, its scenic location and its rich history has made it a favourite haunt for travellers. It is also the natural gateway to the stirring peaks of Sri Lanka’s hill country. During the month of August, Kandy dazzles with the sounds and lights of the Kandy Perehara – a magnificent procession where a sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is majestically paraded on elephant back along the streets.
>A pooja at the Temple of the Tooth in honour of Lord Buddha
>Kandyan dancing and drumbeats
>The Kandy Perehara, one of the finest cultural festivals in Asia
>Roses and orchids in Peradeniya’s Botanical Gardens
>Golf or other outdoor activities at Victoria’s scenic Golf & Country Club
>Trekking in the magnificent Knuckles mountain range
Kandy is a central destination from which other regions of the island can all be accessed. It is also the halfway point from Colombo to the hill-country town of Nuwara Eliya. Kandy can be accessed by train or car along the crowded main Colombo – Kandy road. Pick your times to travel carefully.
For two centuries Kandy’s monarchs, protected by Kandy’s rivers, mountains and jungle, proudly withstood the onslaught of three European forces: the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. To this day it remains proud of its cultural heritage and regards itself as a bastion of Buddhist philosophy. The sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined here within the Temple of the Tooth, which dates back to the 16C. The Kandyan culture is distinct from the island’s coastal areas, with differences in family names, rituals, cuisine, and even the way a sari is draped.
Kandy is not renowned for shopping and has only a handful of independent bars and restaurants, but it has the usual selection of small shops selling gems & jewellery, clothing and souvenirs. For traditional arts & crafts, we recommend buying direct from the villages, which therefore derive maximum benefit from the income. For cane and reed wear, try Wevaldeniya before you get to Kandy; for handmade brass wear including oil lamps and wall hangings, visit Gadaladeniya.
Kandy Perehara: In August each year, the spectacular Esala Perehara winds its way through the streets of Kandy. Tradition, religion, and the arts all come together in honour of Lord Buddha. For ten nights under the moonlit sky, Kandy dazzles. Musicians, dancers, Kandyan chieftains and hundreds of elephants dressed in glittering royal finery move to the rhythm of the Kandyan drums. Reels of white carpet are laid on the roads for one special elephant, the temple tusker that bears the tooth relic of Lord Buddha encased in a golden casket. This historic ritual is one of the finest festivals in Asia.
Kandy sits at a far lower altitude than the other main hill towns and because of this often basks in higher temperatures and lower rainfall than in the hills to the south. December to May is the best bet. June to August can be breezy and short on sunshine; October is generally the wettest month. The main south-west (“yala”) monsoon brings rain to the west and south-west coasts and hills largely between May and July. The north-east (“maha”) monsoon hits the east coast from November to January. There is also an inter-monsoonal period of unsettled weather in October.
Kandy: The ascent to Kandy from Colombo is quite dramatic, past a ring of mountains including Bible Rock, several hairpin bends lined with wayside fruit stalls and a hint of the spectacular scenery to come deeper into the hills. Once across the bridge over the Mahaweli River, the magnificent Kandy Botanical Gardens with its immaculately designed lawns and tropical foliage come into view. Easy to visit by foot, there is however the option of taking a tour by cattle-drawn carriage. Beyond this is Kandy’s traffic-crammed main town, a contrast to the quieter outlying areas. The main attraction is the Temple of the Tooth, where a tooth relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined. A pooja (religious service) is held at dawn, midday, or in the evening, accompanied with traditional music and drumming. Kandy National Museum lies behind the Temple of the Tooth, The Kandyan dancer, drummer, musician, artist and the craftsmen – all contributes significantly to the vibrant culture, lifestyle and economy of the area. Daily Kandyan dance performances are held in town by the Temple of the Tooth. Kandy’s artisans produce intricate crafts as home-based cottage industries. Different villages in Kandy specialize in specific artistic skills that have been handed down to generations.
The Knuckles Mountain Range which spreads across the districts of Kandy and Matale, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Red Dot can offer either a daily Knuckles trek or hill-country walking holidays for the serious trekker who yearns for get-away-from-it-all camping or for the gentle walker who likes a hot bath and a warm bar at the end of a contented and wearying day. Trek through dense forests, along rivers and waterfalls, past tea plantation and terraced paddy fields, and along the way, visit some of the small rural village communities. Victoria Golf and Country Resort, 50 minutes east, offers one of the most picturesque courses in Asia, ringed by Victoria reservoir and impressive peaks. A range of other sports and leisure activities are also available.