Kandy is a great place to start your travels in Sri Lanka. It might not be the capital of the country but it is surely one of the most cultural places that you can find in Sri Lanka. It is a relatively big city with quite a lot of things to see. I would recommend spending 3 days in Kandy to see the whole city and perhaps some sparks around it as well. Kandy has a lot to offer for both nature lovers but also people interested in the local culture. Here is my itinerary for Kandy, feel free to be inspired!
Itinerary for 3 days in Kandy
Before I even start telling you how great the city is — ups, already did – and what to do there, let’s start with a question. Are three days in Kandy worth it? I mean surely you can spend here just one day in the city center and that would be it. But I prefer to travel a little bit slowlier so three days fits me a little bit better. Especially in this city that is relatively big and with a lot of hidden places to see. Most of the people would spend there just one day and then move to some other places. It is fair, but you can explore the city a little bit more than that. Besides, spending 3 days in Kandy is a great way of how to acclimatize in Sri Lanka.
Temple of Sacred Tooth Relic
One of the most sacred temples for Buddhists that hides the relic of Buddha. The temple is part of the Kandy palace. There used to be kings of Kandy and Kandy was one of the most powerful kingdoms in Sri Lanka. The tooth relic might have something to do with it because it is believed that whoever holds the tooth will have power over the country.
Temple itself is a really beautiful place to visit, everything inside looks so ancient. Perhaps because of that, it was a place where one of the Indiana Jones was shot. If you can remember the Temple of Doom, the temple is the one of Sacred Tooth Relic. And no one’s heard will be cut out here. So it is safe to visit.
You can come here to watch the ceremonies. There is one in the dawn, another at noon and one in the evening. Every Wednesday, there is a special ceremony, where monks would wash the tooth. And since people think that the tooth has healing power, the water from washing it is divided between present people. So they can use it to get better.
The temple areal is pretty big and you will need at least 3 hours to go through all of it. The area of the temple is quite big and you can also visit the museum of this relic, where you will get the whole story about why is the tooth of buddha so important.
Opening times: 5.30 am to 8 pm
Entry fees: 1500 Rs
Fire shows times: Ceremonies are three times per day and are in the price of the entrance. Most people would visit the evening one since the fires are more visible then. Start you visit 1,5 before the ceremony to make sure you will see all of the dances. The show usually takes about an hour and a half.
The historic center of Kandy
I have already mentioned the Temple, but that is not the only historic building in Kandy. It is far from it. In the historic center, you can find the palace or even a national museum. Not a lot of people know about the history of Sri Lanka and this is a great place to learn a thing or two.
Besides all of this is in the areal of the Temple so you can spend here basically the whole afternoon. Outside of this center, you can find a garden that is managed by monks. There is not a lot of things to see – there are other more beautiful gardens in Kandy. But it is nice to see how the monks live and what do they do.
In the historic center, you can also find one of the Christian churches of Kandy. In fact, there are actually three churches and one cathedral in the historic center. You can see here the Anglican church, dedicated to Saint Paul, baptist church, or Saint Antony cathedral. All of them were th built in the 17th or 18th century by Dutch colonists that conquer Sri Lanka at that time.
Walk around the Kandy lake
Once you decide to leave the historic quarter of Kandy, pay attention to the lake that is around the Temple and the historical building. You can walk all around it. There is a lot of nature all around. You can even spot there big lizards or quite a big fishes. On the side around the historic part are also quite vibrant markets. When you go all around you can don’t even take a lot of time, you can probably go full circle in 40 minutes – that is if you walk really slowly.
Royal botanic garden
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One of the best things to do in Kandy and you shouldn’t miss it during your 3 days in Kandy. The gardens are close to the nearby river and are full of life. They have something around 4000 species of different plants, which makes them one of the most diverse botanic gardens that you can see in Asia and certainly in Sri Lanka as well. You can see here all kinds of plants from medical herbs, orchids, spices to palms, and other kinds of trees.
Garden dates way back to the year of 1347 when the king of Kandy decided to have a palace nearby. The palace got destroyed once the British forces take over the kingdom of Kandy. But in 1821 another British botanic did all the groundwork for the gardens to work again.
The gardens are relatively big, you will need at least two hours to properly enjoy them. But it is a very nice walk around such a colorful place that even smells great.
Entrance fee: 1500 Rs
Opening times: 8 am to 5.30 pm
Hike to the Buddha statue
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At this point, you have been around the city for a little bit so you can see that there are hills all around it. On one of the peaks, there is a big Buddha statue. It is a white one so you can see it from everywhere in the city. In fact, it is one of the dominant in the city.
Officially it is called Sri Maha Bodhi Vaharaya and it is another Buddhist temple in Kandy that you can visit. It is only about 2 km from the city center which is not a lot. But on your way there, you would get to see a lot of markets or just local streets so you can see how some of the regulars neighborhoods look like.
At some point, the roads will lead you to the steep chairs that will get you directly to the temple.
The temple is quite new. The idea of another Buddhist temple in Kandy came just from the 70s when one monk decided to make a whole new temple on lands that were donated to the church. The story says that the monks from the Temple of the Tooth didn’t like this idea, mainly because they were afraid that the new temple would overshadow the old one. Truth is that even when this temple has the highest Buddha statue of Sri Lanka, it is not as visited as the old one in the city center.
Opening times: 24 hours
Entrance fee to the temple: 200 Rs
Udawatta Kele Sanctuary
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The place behind the Kandy Temple of the Tooth might look like just a plain forest. But the opposite is true. It is the Udawatta Kele Sanctuary. It works as a sanctuary for the local ecosystem. You can find here several big lianas, a lot of palm trees and other 480 plants and trees.
The important thing about this forest is that indigenous plants are kept here, which makes it a little bit more special. Mainly because the royal gardens have a lot of species that are typical not only for Sri Lanka but plants from all around the world. So this sanctuary is a little bit special in that way.
You don’t have to come here only for the flowers. Udawatta is one of the most popular sites in Sri Lanka for bird watching. There are about 80 different species of birds including Sri Lankan hanging parrot and some other colorful ones. For people who prefer mammals, there are several kinds of civets and mouse deers. You can also find here a couple of lizards or snakes.
Opening times: 7 am to 8 pm
Entry fee: 570 Rs
Day trip to Pinnawala orphanage
If you want to see some elephants, Pinnawala is a place for you. This orphanage has a lot of elephants that they saved from tourist places where they made them be ridden. The elephants can walk here freely and enjoy massive baths and forest that is near it.
The orphanage also works as a nursery, where new elephants are born freely. Pinnawalla has the largest herd of elephants in captivity. It is truly a unique thing to see, the herd is much bigger than anyone would expect. Or at least it looks really big when you look at it. There are about 100 elephants since 2011.
You can see here both elephants that were kept captive and in really bad conditions – such as were ridden either bareback or with the big saddle on them or some elephants that were found in wild and got injured or were abandoned by their own herd. If you want to spend 3 days in Kandy, one of them could be dedicated to visiting this place.
But prepare your self – this orphanage is ethical, people are not allowed to ride here elephants or anything like this. It still has one big but. The orphanage is clearly commercial – the purpose is quite clear. They really cannot get a lot of money if they wouldn’t use tourists to come here. So it is perhaps a little bit more like a zoo. But the animals are still well kept.
Opening times: 8.30 am to 6 pm
Entrance fee: 3000 Rs
Practical info about 3 days in Kandy
How to get to Kandy?
If you are traveling from Colombo, the easiest way of getting here would be just by train. The train from Colombo to Kandy takes about 4 hours, but you will see breathtaking views from the train itself. The train goes to Kandy several times per day – about 10 trains going to Kandy every day. But the level of services and the length of the trip varies train by train. And the same goes for the tickets. If you want to go, first-class, you will need to pay up to 1000 Rs. But then you will get a train with AC. There is also second and third class, some of them might have AC as well. Those can cost anywhere from 500 RC to 190 RC, depending on whether you reserve a seat or not (Id recommend you do).
Trains might not be flexible for anyone so there is always a taxi. Taxi drivers from Colombo are quite used to driving to Kandy. But it will still take them about 3 hours to get you there. One way would cost something between 6000 and 6500 rupees. Which might be fine if you are in a bigger group of people.
You can catch a direct bus to Kandy from Colombo fort or from Colombo central station. The bus trip takes something around 4 hours. There are also about 10 buses going every day. The prices vary depending on the bus company but it is usually anything from 187 and 400 rupees.
Tips for visiting Kandy in 3 days
Kandy is a relatively big city. Chances are that if you are staying in Kandy for 3 days and want to visit all of the above, you might need some help.
Bring your socks to the temple – This sounds weird but if you are planning to visit the temple on the hill you will need socks. You cannot walk into the temple with shoes which would normally mean that you would have to go barefoot. That is a good idea only if you know that it recently rained. Otherwise, the floor of the temple is too hot to walk on it barefoot.
Bring longer clothes for the temples – You will need to cover your knees and shoulders regardless of which temple you enter. So you should have a longer skirt or shorts that would cover your legs. If you won’t bring it with you, there is a lot of street vendors who would offer you something to cover with.
Other than that, Kandy is quite a safe city to visit. People might want to take pictures with you but that is about it. In some neighborhoods, you might be started at or people will try to follow you but won’t really do anything. Most people are just curious.
Where to stay in Kandy
Budget – Funk Bunks is a great hostel located about 2 km from the city center but close to nature. The hostel is very well kept and has really first-class accommodation. Costs 2 USD for a bed in a dormitory or 5 USD for a budget double room with a shared bathroom. The bathroom is very clean and well kept.
Mid-range – Resort Beam is for anyone who loves jungle view. That is exactly what you can get here. It is only 1 km from the city center which means the walking distance from all the interesting sights that you can see there. The hotel is very modern and has great rooms and clean bathrooms. Outside is a very nice garden to relax after the whole day. For 30 USD per night for a couple, you can get a deluxe room with a jungle view and breakfast.
Luxury – Prepare your self for a first-class. 36 Bed and Breakfast is the first-class hotel with a great view of the city. You can live in a colonial-style building that will take your breath away. It is very close to the train station, so it is also easy to find. They charge 60 USD for one night for two people including delicious breakfast.
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