To be honest- Kandy was one of my least favourite places that I visited in Sri Lanka. Don’t let that dishearten you too much- because everywhere else in Sri Lanka was AMAZING. However, due to Kandy’s central locations chances are that you will find yourself there. Here are some things to do to create an enjoyable stay in Kandy.
Stay in the Right Place
Because Sri Lanka isn’t very touristy it can be hard to come across other backpackers. Kandy was the only place in Sri Lanka were I was lucky enough to find a hostel that was very social and easy to meet people.
I stayed at City Monkey Hostel. It is the cheapest hostel you will find in Kandy- and probably all of Sri Lanka. They serve free breakfast which creates another social situation for you to meet people. I am happy that this was my first stop in Sri Lanka because I ended up keeping in touch with the people that I met here and was able to meet up with them while I traveled around Sri Lanka. Without staying here my trip would have been a lot lonelier as a solo traveler.
Explore Around the Temple of the Tooth
This temple is right next to the lake in the middle of the city. Just follow the path along the lake you you will naturally come across this temple. To enter the temple grounds it is free but you go through a security checkpoint to make sure that you have no alcohol on you and that you are properly dressed (shoulders, cleavage and knees covered).
Around the grounds there are many small temples that you can check out. The Temple of the Tooth is the main temple and is about $10 to enter. It is said that this temple has Buddha’s tooth in it (hence the name). However, you do not actually get to see the tooth.
I chose not to go into the temple because my personal feelings were that it goes against Buddhism to charge people to enter a temple. A donation is fine but to charge a fee- and one so high- seemed like a scheme for them to get money from tourists. Locals do not have to pay to enter the temple.
Visit the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue
This is a giant white statue of Buddha that overlooks all of Kandy. When I first saw it on the top of the hill I thought that it looked beautiful and wanted to figure out how to get there.
I found out that I could actually walk there from downtown and from my hostel. The last part of the walk up to the Buddha statue is quite steep but easily manageable- just be ready to get sweaty. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that you can actually climb the buddha- there is a staircase that goes up the back of the statue.
It costs about $1.50 to enter (as well as a ‘donation’ for them to keep your shoes). The view from the Buddha overlooking the city is very beautiful and you can even go inside of the Buddha. This statue is a nice escape from the chaotic streets of downtown.
Get in Touch with Nature at the Botanical Gardens
One of my favourite things about Sri Lanka is how lush and green this country is. Even driving from the Colombo airport you already see palm trees and greenery. If even the airport area is beautiful you can only imagine how amazing their gardens are. Even if you are not a tree-hugger you will still find this place stunning.
The botanical gardens are bit outside of Kandy but you can reach them by bus or tuk-tuk. The price for tourists is about $5 and I have never heard anyone regretting going. Kandy is not the most beautiful city but their garden makes up for it.
Take a Walk Around the Lake
The lake is actually a man-made lake that is in the middle of the city. It isn’t the most beautiful lake but it is a nice place to go for a stroll or so sit and eat some fresh pineapple. While in Kandy a friend that I met went to the lake with me and we just sat and talked about our travels. While talking we watched two little turtles who were also hanging out together.
Take in the City from Viewpoint Restaurant
Okay so this isn’t actually the name of the restaurant that we went to- I have no idea what the name is. But this is where we told our tuk-tuk driver to take us and we ended up at a restaurant on the top of the hill with a beautiful view of the city. It surprised me to see how beautiful the city looked at night- with the giant Buddha overlooking everything.
The restaurant was quite pricey so we just enjoyed a beer as we took in the night view with the city lights below. This is a great way to wind down a day in Kandy with some new friends.