Kandy travel guide: the best activities in busy Kandy in Sri Lanka

In this travel guide about Kandy in Sri Lanka, you will find everything you need to know about this busy city. What are the highlights and hotspots in Kandy? Where do you sleep in Kandy and what are nice restaurants here! Read on in this blog!

Travel guide Kandy: a busy and bustling Asian city

Okay, we’re going to be very honest, Kandy was not our favourite place in Sri Lanka. It is a busy city with smog, horns and lots of people. Nevertheless, we certainly enjoyed ourselves in Kandy, mainly because we found some peaceful places. In this travel guide, we, therefore, cover the nicest, quiet places in busy Kandy!

Kandy is one of the largest cities in Sri Lanka. With a population of 115,000 in a relatively small area, it is very busy. The city is centrally located on the island and can be reached in three hours from Colombo. Surrounded by hills (the Kandy plateau) with rice fields and tea plantations, the surroundings of Kandy are beautiful! As soon as you leave the city you can immediately enjoy this, something that we did. Besides, Kandy is known as the starting (or ending) point of the famous train ride to Ella.

Oldest hotel of Kandy

Kandy: the start of the most beautiful train ride in Sri Lanka.

This may sound familiar, everyone knows the photos of a train through a green hilly landscape. These are taken during the train ride from Kandy to Ella. This train ride is known as one of the most beautiful in the world. You drive between the tea plantations in seven hours to southern Ella. We get off in Nuwara Eliya en route to climb Adam’s peak.

Read more about Ella and this train ride in this travel guide on Ella.

Tip: if you want a nice spot on the train, reserve your train tickets well in advance. This is possible at any train station. We recommend that you reserve them at least a week in advance.

How many days to spend in Kandy?

Two days is more than enough time to see the highlights of Kandy. If you are not a fan of busy cities or if you have limited time, stay in Kandy for just one night and then take the train towards Ella.

Big Buddha statue @ Kandy

Planning your trip through Sri Lanka? Then read this blog with the ultimate Sri Lanka itinerary! Including tips and an overview of all the highlights in Sri Lanka. 

Six fun things to do in and around Kandy

Okay, we didn’t immediately love Kandy itself, there are nicer places in Sri Lanka to explore. But if you look a bit closer, Kandy has more than enough to offer. Consider below activities that are definitely worthwhile your time.

Note: for some activities, you will need transport (a tuk-tuk or scooter). We rented a scooter for Rs 1500 a day.

1. Visit the botanical gardens

Slightly south of the centre are the botanical gardens. A botanical garden may sound a bit dull, but I can really recommend this place! The gardens are situated in a large park where it is wonderful to walk around for a few hours, relax and enjoy the beautiful flowers, trees and nature. Be sure to look for the double coconut tree, which grows giant coconuts.

The entrance fee for the botanical gardens is Rs2000 per person (approximately €10).

Charlotte @ Royal Gardens of Kandy 2

Rainy day at Royal Botanical Garden

2. Climb the Ambuluwawa tower (and try to pronounce it correctly)!

About 25 kilometres south of Kandy, near the city of Gampola, lies a mountain with the futuristic Ambuluwawa tower on top. What makes this tower so special, besides the beautiful view, is the design. This is reminiscent of an inverted shell. Very nice! You can climb the tower to enjoy the view of the underlying valleys. Admission is Rs 200 per person (approximately 1 euro).

Unfortunately, the tower was closed on the day we wanted to visit it, so we shot some images with a drone to get an impression. A bit of a shame because we rode the scooter for an hour to get here. Ah well, stuff like that is part of travelling!

Ambuluwawa Tower Spark

3. Admire Bahiravokanda Vihara, a white Buddha with a beautiful view of the city

Just outside the centre is a white Buddha statue of 26 meters high. This place is nice and quiet and since it is slightly higher, you have a nice view of the valley of Kandy from here. Climb up the back of the Buddha statue for the best view. This stairwell is loved by local youth who relax here in the shade.

Buddha Bahiravokanda Vihara

4. Walk along the big lake in the city centre

In the middle of the city lies a large lake: Kandy Lake. A nice place to escape the honking tuk-tuks and gasses of the public buses. Walk all the way around the lake in a few hours. Do you spot the small island in the middle of the lake?

Kandy's Lake

5. Visit the temple of the tooth

Nice to combine with a visit to Kandy Lake: the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. This is one of the holiest places in Sri Lanka because there is an alleged tooth of Buddha located here. Whether this is really the case or whether it might be a replica, nobody knows, but the building itself is very beautiful.

The entrance fee for the Temple of the Tooth is Rs 1500, around € 7.50.

6. Take a hike to the beautiful Alagalla Mountains

At 20 kilometres from Kandy, you will find the Alagalla mountains, with the most beautiful summit being the “Potato mountain”, named after its shape reminiscent of a potato. It is possible to climb this summit, a nice day hike that is quite challenging at the end. To get here, take the train from Kandy to Ihala Kotte, from where the walk starts. You walk there and back in about six hours. At the last stretch to the top, bear in mind a difficult climb where you need to use a rope. It is also possible to go with a guide, ask around at your hotel.

Tip: start early, because it can get pretty hot. In addition, take into account leeches that are particularly common here after the rain.

Kandy town

Read our travel guide on beach town Trincomalee!

Great food in Kandy!

The Kandy Garden Cafe – easy lunch
This simple restaurant sits on the lake and you will find a mix of ex-pats and locals here for an easy lunch or quick dinner. The food is cheap but tasty. Click here for the location.

Buono – good coffee
You can drink really tasty coffee (even with coconut milk) at Buono. This nice place is hidden on the first floor of a meaningless building in the centre but is really worth visiting. A place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and recharge with a cup of coffee, lemonade or avocado toast. Click here for the location.

Kandyan Muslim Hotel – the tastiest roti!
Contrary to what the name says, Kandyan Muslim Hotel is not a hotel but a local restaurant. You sit here among the Sri Lankans while the tastiest roti, kottu (chopped roti with vegetables) and lassi are served. Be sure to try the kabool: roti sandwiches filled with vegetables, egg, or chicken. Delicious! Click here for the location.

Slightly Chilled Lounge – food with a view!
Slightly Chilled Lounge, a restaurant/lounge bar, is one of the few places in Kandy where you can get something to eat or have a drink after eight in the evening. From the terrace outside you have a nice view and the Chinese cuisine is good. Prices are slightly higher. Click here for the location.

Where to sleep in Kandy?

My city hotel €my city hotel kandy

This hotel is opposite the train station, so it’s centrally located. The rooms are spacious with a wonderful bed and a luxurious bathroom. The staff is always ready to help you. You sleep here from € 20 a night, including breakfast (2 people).

Book now

Sweet Lanka Kandy €€sweet lanka kandy

This beautiful hotel is set against the hills bordering Kandy Lake. So you have a nice view of the city here. The rooms are spacious and there is a kitchen! You can sleep here for as little as € 30 per night (2 people).

Book now

The Radh Hotel €€€€the radh hotel

Treat yourself as a real prince or princess and stay at the super-luxury The Radh Hotel. This beautiful hotel has a spa and some rooms have a private swimming pool. You can sleep here from €130 per night (2 people).

Book now

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