The most beautiful places in Kandy, Sri Lanka, aren’t difficult to find. As Sri Lanka’s culture capital, this city has enough charm and character to keep you interested for days. It is nestled between towering mountains and defined by it’s spiritual and laid back nature, making it a popular city for Buddhists and tourists alike.
You can’t go far wrong just wondering the busy streets and taking in all the different sights and sounds, but there are also so many things in and around Kandy to visit. It would be a crime not to tick off at least a few of the most beautiful places in Kandy before you leave.
The Best Time To Visit The Most Beautiful Places In Kandy
To be fair, I don’t think there’s a bad time to visit Kandy. It’s the atmosphere that really makes this place special. That being said, there are certain times of the year that you can expect to get pretty darn wet!
March – May: Hot but not too hot, this is a great time to visit the most beautiful places in Kandy. The temperature remains around 26 – 28 degree celsius so exploring on foot shouldn’t be too sweat inducing, and you’ll be able to get out and explore the areas around Kandy too.
December – April: Again, a great time to visit Kandy. The weather shouldn’t be too cold or too hot, so you’ll be able to enjoy the place as much as it deserves!
October- November: During these few months Kandy is in monsoon season. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit if now is your only chance, but you will get pretty wet! Monsoons are pretty impressive, so if you’re happy to run from building to building and get completely drenched then perhaps you should give it a go!
The Most Beautiful Places In Kandy (In Our Honest Opinion!)
#1. Temple Of Tooth Relic
The Temple of the Tooth is considered one of the most important Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. Located north of Kandy lake, and very central, it would be a shame to miss out on this world famous temple and it is definitely considered a Sri Lanka highlight.
It is thought that the sacred tooth of Buddha himself is enshrined in the temple. You can enter the room containing the tooth to offer your prayers, but nobody gets to see the tooth because it is kept in a golden casket inside a stupa-like structure. The grounds are a nice place to visit too, so make time for both. The temple is housed in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy and was made a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Make sure you cover up (trousers and long sleeves) before you enter the temple as it is an important religious site.
Prices: Adult Rs 1500
Opening Times: Between 5:30 AM and 8:00 PM.
#2. Kandy Lake (One of the most beautiful places in Kandy)
This is honestly one of the most stunning places we have ever seen at sunset, and we’ve seen a lot of pretty sunsets! The sun sets behind the mountains, and casts an incredible golden and purple glow over the lake. As if the reflections weren’t breath taking enough, the growing dark brings out literally hundreds of huge bats which fly over the lake and nest in the surrounding trees. It is quite something.
After watching the impressive sunset show, you can then watch all the people running around with newspapers on their heads to try and avoid the droppings from the sky! And I shouldn’t laugh, as we got caught out here with a good old dollop. I’m not sure bat droppings are as lucky as bird droppings, but who knows!?
The lake, existing since 1807, is surrounded by some of the most beautiful places in Kandy. It is also known as the Kiri Muhuda or the Sea of Milk and is an artificial lake. Being in the heart of the city and beside some of the famous attractions of Kandy, it is a popular tourist site. You can expect it to be quite crowded in the evening with tourists and locals alike. If you would prefer to see it when it’s quieter we would suggest heading there at sunrise.
It is possible to take boat rides on the lake, though this isn’t something we tried when we were there. There are also lots of places to grab a bite to eat or a drink, while you take in the beauty of the lake.
#3. The Knuckles Mountain Range
One of the most beautiful places in Kandy and high up the list for our favourite place in all of Sri Lanka.
The Knuckles Mountain Range (So called because it resembles the shape of a knuckle of a clenched fist from the top) is definately the most adventurous and off the beaten track thing to do in Kandy. The mountain Range is in the region towards the northern end of the Sri Lankan highlands (39 km from Kandy) and is the perfect place to try your hands at long distance hiking and camping.
You will need to book onto a guided trek with a personal guide, as it is illegal to trek here without one. Although the walking isn’t too strenuous as hikes go, the weather in the area is extremely unpredictable and the area is very large. Your guide will also be able to point out all the incredible wildlife found here, including the unique Crestless lizard, Kangaroo lizard, and Pygmy lizard. We even spotted a rattle snake on our two day trek.
You can read all about the different trekking options and the amazing variety of sights and eco systems you will encounter in our extremely detailed post on trekking the Knuckles Mountain Range. You can also find prices here (true in 2018) and recommendations of an excellent tour company.
#4. Visiting Huluganga Waterfall, One Of The Most Beautiful Places In Kandy
Just 30 km from Kandy, in the sleepy town of Dumbara, lies Huluganga Falls on the Hulu River. The river source is from the beautiful Knuckles Mountain Range, and is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Kandy city itself.
The waterfall is an impressive 75 meters high and is one of the most popular places to visit as a day trip from Kandy. It certainly is a picturesque place to spend a few hours and is especially cool in the heat of the day.
Be aware though sudden increase in water levels can make Huluganga Falls a place to be cautious of in certain weather conditions. Double check with your driver before you go!
#5. The Kandy National Museum
This museum is in the former Royal Palace and displays artefacts, weapons and much more from this period in time. It’s an interesting place if you like history and want to learn more about the Kandian era. You won’t need too long here, but it’s conveniently located next to The Temple Of The Tooth, so you can combine a visit.
#6. The Royal Botanical Gardens
One of the most beautiful places in Kandy, these Royal Botanical Gardens are a must visit for nature lovers.
The gardens are very well maintained and teeming with beautiful flowers (what you see will depend on the time of year you visit). The place has a very calm and peaceful feel to it, so it is a great place to be in the heat of the day, or to escape the noise of the city.
Within the park itself, there is a restaurant that sits on the main field and it reasonably priced with a lovely view. It’s the perfect place to stop for a cool drink and plan out your route around the gardens.
You will probably want to spend around three hours here, though it will depend on how interested you are in the plants they have on show and how much you enjoy strolling around the pretty gardens. We thought half a day was the perfect amount of time.
Price: Adult Rs 1500
Opening Times: 7.30am-5pm
#7. The Kandy To Ella Train
Famous for being one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, we can see why Sri Lanka’s trains have become a firm favourite tourist attraction. Even if you aren’t planning on visiting Ella, we can thoroughly recommend taking the train there and back (or grab a tuk tuk back for a different experience!)
It passes through tea fields, lush greenery and beautiful waterfalls, and you can experience it all from an open doorway with the wind in your hair. It takes 4 hours to Nuwara Eliya (so you could do this as a day trip) and 7 hours to Ella.
We did this exact journey by train, starting in Kandy, stopping over in Nuwara Eliya and ending in Ella. You can read all about the train journey itself and how to book tickets in our detailed guide to taking Sri Lanka’s most beautiful train journey.
#8. Udawattakele Forest Reserve, One Of The Most Beautiful Places In Kandy
If you’re after a trek that you can do on your own then this is a great option. Thin forest reserve on a hill-ridge in the city of Kandy is the perfect spot for those wanting to get away from it all. You could easily spend a full day exploring this area so pack a picnic and plenty of liquid and head off for the day.
If you’re into birdwatching, you can arrange a guide for around 500 LKR, or just grab a map at the entrance and follow the trails that lead to various different places of interest.
Price: Rs 550
#9. Bahirawakanda Temple And The Soaring Buddha
Just 1 km away from the Kandy city, the Bahirawakanda Temple is a major attraction and can actually be seen from most places in Kandy, but it’s pretty cool to visit it up close, if just for the views.
The place is an important monastery where many Buddhist events take place, with Buddhists meeting here from all over the world. The building of the statue started in 1972 and ended in 1993, so it took a long time to build! You can take the steps to reach the top of the hill or you can take a tuk-tuk ride if you’re not feeling quite so energetic. Remember to take water if you plan on taking the stairs, it’s a long way up!
Price: Rs 200
#10. CommonWealth War Cemetery
There are six commonwealth war cemeteries in Sri Lanka, yet the one in Kandy is known to be the most beautiful. It is maintained by soldiers and is there to commemorate the soldiers of the British Empire who died during WW1 and WW2.
#11. Ceylon Tea Museum
About 15 minutes drive from the centre of Kandy is the Ceylon Tea Museum. Dating back to 1925, this vintage tea museum is built on four floors where you can see vintage tea making equipment, machinery, libraries and have a look around the museum. Obviously, you can also taste this authentic Sri Lanka tea while enjoying the mountain views with the help of the telescope present here.
Opening Hours: 8.30am-3.45pm Tue-Sat, to 3pm Sun
Price: Adult Rs 800
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Now, I’m no animal activist and I don’t have the subject specific knowledge to know what is right and wrong in this situation, so instead I’ll just give a little overview from what I know and let you decide for yourselves.
The orphanage is situated in the Pinnawala village, in the Sabaragamuwa Province of Sri Lanka. The orphanage was started in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is a popular breeding ground for around 90 elephants who are raised inside the park. The orphanage rescue and care for abandoned elephants but also for elephants who are seriously injured, separated from their group or elephants that have been raised in captivity and donated to them. They bring all elephants back to good health in the best way they can and try to raise them in their natural habitat as much as possible.
Alongside this comes some hard to see practices. Some of the elephants are chained up, apparently to prevent them from hurting the other animals when they are on heat. They exhibit what I would perceive as distressing behaviour, like swaying back and forth and shaking their heads non stop (though as I said, I’m no expert in elephant behaviour, it just doesn’t seem quite right).
I also heard reports that they chain the animals to the river so that they have no choice but to be there for when the tourists arrive to see them bathing.
Now, the optimist in me would argue that had they been left injured, or without their mothers in the wild, obviously they would have suffered more. Elephants are an endangered breed, and caring for them is incredibly important. If this orphanage makes the money it needs to care for these animals properly from taking them for a half an hour bath in the river and making them stay there, then maybe the good outweighs the bad.
Another huge part of me thinks perhaps the elephants are better left to die in nature than endure cruel behaviour from humans, which is mostly how they ended up here in the first place.
I wish I knew more, about whether they are running this ‘charity’ for profit, and about how the elephants are treated after the park closes. I have seen some excellent examples of how humans can do good when it comes to protecting endangered animals (read my posts on Ol Pejeta in Kenya and the Nairobi elephant orphanage to find out more).
I have also seen the incredibly negative impact that tourists and travellers can have on this worlds wildlife (see my post about whale watching in Mirissa, Sri Lanka). The sad thing is that most people won’t know what they are in for until they have paid their money and supported the wrong doing. As travellers we need to be aware of the impact we are having.
Although it’s impossible to know the ins and outs of organisations like this unless you work for one, I do think it’s important to do careful research before you pay money to people who are running a business without a care for the animals. Make sure you do the same, and make an informed decision before you go. There are plenty of first hand accounts on the internet.
If I read any possible negative about a place then I make it my rule to stay away. More than anything, I have seen badly treated animals and it has scarred me for life. I never want to risk seeing it again. For this reason I avoided Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage and it has not made it onto my list of the most beautiful places to visit in Kandy, but do your own research before you decide!
How To Reach Kandy
By Air: Bandaranaike International Airport is the nearest airport to Kandy and you will probably want to take a taxi or hire a driver from here to get to Kandy itself. The journey should take you around 3 hours depending on traffic.
By rail: The Colombo to Kandy train ride is a spectacle in itself, with great views and an incredible atmosphere. It is one of the most scenic train rides in the world. It will take around 6 hours, so it might be worth reserving a seat. You can read all about how to do that here. There are also frequent trains running from Ella and Nuwara Eliya if you are coming to Kandy from the other direction.
Bus: You can also catch a bus from Colombo to Kandy. It will take around 3-4 hours and should cost around 187 – 400 LKR. The train is usually recommended for comfort and reliability when travelling in Sri Lanka.
Tuk-tuk: You can rent and drive your own Sri Lankan tuk-tuk to go around the whole island, giving you lots of freedom and a good few laughs. Tuk-Tuk rental based in Colombo come highly recommended and cost around USD$18 a day for a rental period of 28 days.
Be warned though that Sri Lankan roads are a little hectic. You will want to be a confident driver to take this on!
Places To Stay In Kandy
Budget Option-Upland Inn
This cheap and cheerful option has lake views and is close to Kandy city centre. It’s got great reviews and won’t break the bank!
Mid Range Option-Kandy Eco Retreat
With a garden view you can really escape it all at this eco retreat. Close to the city centre, but not too close to soak up the traffic noise, this place will make for a pleasant stay while you visit the most beautiful places in Kandy.
Luxury Option-Sati Villa
Set in beautiful surroundings, this place really does have it all. Book a stay here to feel thoroughly pampered on your holiday in Sri Lanka.
The Equipment We Use When Travelling
We often get asked what equipment we use when taking photos and video for our blog posts on Sri Lanka and our social media posts so here is all the information for you, because we’re helpful like that!
If you aren’t such a keen photographer, but like something that you can have a play with when you feel in the mood, then I can thoroughly recommend the Olympus OM-D. It’s small and light, so I can take it anywhere. I have the option to change lenses (I love my zoom lens for wildlife shots), but it also works great as a point and shoot. It looks really stylish too-a great reason to buy a camera!
We always carry a Tripod: Great for creating stable content
Further Reading To Help You Plan Your Trip To Sri Lanka:
Whale watching in Mirissa
Nine Arch Bridge, Ella
Pedro Tea Estate in Nuwara Eliya
Lover’s Leap waterfall in Nuwara Eliya
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on the most beautiful places to visit in Kandy, Sri Lanka. If you have any questions then don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below!