Set tranquilly amongst the forests and plantations at the heart of the island, Kandy is far and away Sri Lanka’s cultural capital. With its cool climate and relaxed air, the last capital of the Sinhalese kingdom was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. The city has its own unique music, dress and architecture, a legacy of years resisting the colony rule of the Portuguese and Dutch and is home to Sri Lanka’s most sacred place of worship – the Temple of the Tooth.
One of the world's most beautiful train journeys, you can travel between Kandy and Ella, chugging through the hills carpeted in tea plantations and lush forest. This journey takes around 7 hours, but is well worth it.
Set on the lakeshore east of Kandy’s centre, the Temple of the Tooth is resplendent with its gold roof against a backdrop of wooded hills. This is Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist shrine, originally built in the 16th century to house an object of devotion for many Sri Lankans – Buddha’s tooth. Rebuilt and embellished many times the temple you see today is an amalgamation of additions made by kings and presidents over the centuries, the devoutness though is just as strong as it has always been. There are many temples and museums worth exploring on the complex, including the World Buddhism Museum.
Second to the capital, Kandy has an urban buzz that is at once bustling and laidback, a legacy of lush surroundings and a cooler climate. The streetlife here is colourful and vibrant, with culture oozing from every nook and cranny and the mix of old Kandyan and colonial buildings lending an air of grandeur. Head to the National Museum to learn about Sinhalese life and to admire impressive royal regalia and browse the busy street markets. For a more tranquil experience, wander through the Udawattakelle Sanctuary, a forest of huge trees, monkeys and good bird spotting. Make sure you see a show of Kandyan dancing and drumming whilst you’re here – it is the iconic Sri Lankan performing art.
There are a number of interesting sights just outside of Kandy that are worth a visit. Just 4 kilometres south of the city is the Ceylon Tea Museum housed in the 1925 Hantane Tea Factory. Abandoned for a decade the old building was redeveloped and contains tea-based exhibitions and vintage tea processing equipment. Head west from Kandy for 5.5 kilometres and you’ll find the Botanical Gardens, renowned for extensive number of orchid species. As a whole, over 4,000 different types of plant are cultivated here. For those particularly interested in Sri Lanka’s spices, the road north of the town on Matale, 50 minutes from Kandy, is lined with plantations growing all sorts of exotic produce.
Nestled in the hilltops above Kandy, the Amaya Hills offers a tranquil retreat overlooking lush forest. Built in the style of a Kandyan palace but replete with all the modern comforts, the hotel is eco-friendly and offers an excellent range of facilities. No matter what room you choose you are guaranteed optimum relaxation and a beautiful view over mountains or valleys.
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