05
Mar-2014

Kandy

Sri Lanka   /  
  • Temple of the sacred tooth

  • Kandy young monks

  • Kandyan dances

  • Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden

  • Peradeniya Royal Botanical Garden

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Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka after Colombo. Very lively, the city is built around a large artificial lake and is particularly known in the Buddhist world for its Temple of the Sacred Tooth. It is a very pious and conservative city, and therefore not very festive in the night (for party, prefer Colombo, Hikkaduwa or Unawatuna)… Kandy is also the point of arrival or departure of two beautiful train journeys : Colombo – Kandy and Nuwara Eliya – Kandy.

Where to stay in Kandy ?

There are two hostels in Kandy : Kandy City Hostel, opened in late 2013, and the Kandy Down town hostel, quite popular. We tested the Kandy City Hostel , very clean , large and well thought out, but not super warm at first and still quite expensive (11 € per person). The manager is super friendly and very helpful. Every evening, backpackers drink some beers together in a common room upstairs, but you must first get beers and it is not easy in Kandy as we will explain later. It is still one of the only real hostels we could find in Sri Lanka. The hostel is located very far from the bus/train station, at the other side of the town, so we strongly advise you not to try to navigate the city on foot with backpacks ! We asked a Tuk Tuk to take us for convenience and because it was already the night. Since the hostel is new, the driver didn’t find it easily. There are regular buses to go downtown, you have to stop them in the street because there is not really a bus stop. The bus fare is ridiculous, only 13 Rs for 5 min, often done standing because buses are packed with locals.

What to do in Kandy ?

  • Dalada Maligawa or the famous Temple of the Sacred Tooth is a MUST. Indeed , Kandy hosts one of the most precious relics of the Buddhist religion, the Buddha’s tooth ! Spend some time in the temple watching the pilgrims from around the world who gather in front of the tooth. They have the right to enter in small groups, in the room where the famous relic is placed. Tourists do not have the right to enter but can see the relic for a few seconds each in turn… The entrance fee is about 6 € (1000 Rs).
  • Walk around the lake. The city was built around an artificial lake.
  • Walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya, 25 minutes from downtown. It is the largest botanical garden in the country, with magnificent collections of flowers, a majestic avenue of palms, a spice garden, etc.  You will surely come across couples who make their wedding photos. Stay at least  2 to 3 hours to walk at your own peace and why not do a little siesta in the shade. Admission is not free unfortunately : 1100 Rs or 850 Rs for students.
  • Stroll around the market to buy curry spices (negotiable but cheaper in all cases than the spices sold in the spice gardens), bags and leather shoes or saris and scarves of all kinds!
  • Visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Deveni, which is apparently one of the most beautiful war cemetery and one of the best maintained in the world. We unfortunately did not have time to see it.

If you need to skip something, skip the Kandyan dance shows where you would feel like a stupid tourist. The show lasts an hour, but it is enough. It is more acrobatics than dance, and at the end they walk on fire. Buses loads of tourists meet there. There are several places where you can see it, at the Kandyan Art Association & Cultural Centre, not far from the Temple of the Tooth and the YMBA (Young Men Buddhist Association ), which are apparently very similar, but the show starts at different times, around 17h -17h30. We paid Rs 500. It is not difficult to find, just ask someone in the street and they will lead you there.

Some tourists climb the hill to reach the Bahirawakanda Temple with the giant Buddha statue that can be seen everywhere in Kandy, but is best seen from a distance.

Where to eat in Kandy ?

In the city center, we recommend the White House (21 Dalada Veediya). On the ground floor you will find a buffet and food to eat on the go, and upstairs you will find a very nice restaurant with huge chandeliers. We took an Indian curry, for a change, and it was absolutely divine! It is a little more expensive than other restaurants but worth it.

We tested one of the local restaurants on the main street, where we had a delicious Kottu Rhoti !

Where to go out in Kandy ?

There really is no nightlife in Kandy, although it is the second largest city after Colombo. This is a very conservative city and it is also difficult to get some alcohol. To find it, go to the basement of the supermarket Cargills Food City. The place is pretty dismal, vendors are separated from customers by bars and it is expressly hidden to the public.

Getting in and out of Kandy ?

If are going to Dambulla, take the bus, but if you come or go to Colombo or to Nuwara Eliya, we strongly recommend the train ride to enjoy magnificent landscapes. Take a seat near the window or sit down in front of one of the doors, which are always open. This is where you get the best view ! And do not forget your camera because you’ll be dazzled!

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