Kandy is often referred to as the cultural center of Sri Lanka. It’s got a much more laid back feel than the capital city of Colombo and is home to spectacular views, a lake and revered sites like the Buddhist Tooth Temple. Kandy is about a 4 hour drive from Colombo. I arranged a private car with driver through Rent A Car Sri Lanka. The car was very comfortable and the driver was able to find my homestay in Kandy pretty easily. Drivers don’t seem to have access to GPS so just to be safe print out the address, map and the phone number of where you’re going in case your accommodations in Kandy are a bit hard to find.
WHERE I STAYED
There are several hotels, homestays and hostels in Kandy to fit every budget. I chose a homestay to get more of a unique local experience. The Home Away Home homestay went beyond my expectations with its charm, decor, cleanliness and views. As soon as I arrived at Home Away Home homestay I was warmly greeted, shown my room (again killer view) and invited out for a night on the town with Mufi the homestay owner.
WHERE I ATE/DRANK
Hipster’s Hideout Lounge: Mufi is well connected in the community and knows all the best places to eat, hangout and shop. On my first night Mufi and I went to Hipster’s Hideout Lounge; a bar and hostel owned by one of Kandy’s cool and hip millennial entrepreneurs. It wasn’t hipster in the negative way one might think of. Instead, it had a very solid DJ, an extensive cocktail list and an interesting mix of Sri Lankan delicacies and western dishes.
photo credit: Booking.com
Secret Alley Cafe: After taking photos from the viewpoints on my first day of sightseeing I was craving a smoothie bowl and found a place called Secret Alley Cafe that came highly recommended. It did not disappoint. I had a refreshing pineapple, mango, banana smoothie bowl and with a passionfruit club soda drink. Secret Alley Cafe had a very similar vibe to Hipsters Hideout and I found out from Mufi the owners are friends.
photo credit: explorewithpoornima.com
Slightly Chilled Bar and Restaurant: Per Mufi’s recommendation I went to Slightly Chilled Bar and Restaurant. It’s owned by some of her friends and has a wonderful view of Kandy and the Buddha on the first viewpoint I visited. It was very busy but the service was great and the food even better. I had a falafel wrap with avocado and enjoyed watching Kandy at night come alive below the hillside restaurant.
photo credit: Yash Maheshwari
THINGS TO DO
I spent my first full day in Kandy doing a custom city tour by private tuk tuk for 3,500 LKR ($23); arranged by Mufi. I simply told her the night before what I was interested in seeing and she shared the itinerary to Sham my driver for the day. I recommend hitting the Botanical Garden early in the morning before the tour buses start to arrive. I was there at 9:15 and left at about 10:30 when large groups were just starting to lineup at the ticket booth. The most popular part of the garden is the avenue of palms symmetrically lining a walkway. It’s very popular with Instagramers and there were a few people about taking selfies but you’re still able to get a shot without anyone if you’re patient and wait for a break in people traffic. The orchid house is also very impressive and reminded me of the one I visited last year in Singapore.
Kandy Botanical Garden
After the Botanical Garden I went to a tea factory and tasting. I had been to Darjeeling and experienced something similar so would not recommend the tea factory tour if you’re already been to a tea plantation elsewhere or have plans to go on the way to Ella.
My tuk tuk driver took me to two viewpoints where I could see all of Kandy and the lake. The first lookout point was up a very steep hill with a large statue of Buddha at the top. To climb up to the statue you’re required to take your shoes off and the ground is sizzling hot so I’d recommend brining socks to avoid burning your feet on the way up.
photo credit: Third Eye Traveller
The second viewpoint was also very good and did not require taking off my shoes. From this viewpoint I could see the lake and the Tooth Temple.
photo credit: Eat.Travel.Photography
The day became very hot so I spent a few hours shopping indoors at the local mall and shops along main street in Kandy. I was on the hunt for walking shoes and short sleeve tops but ended up with two dresses that are travel friendly so was happy with my afternoon shopping break.
Late in the afternoon I got dropped off at the local stadium to watch the final Rugby match of the Dialog league’s season. Kandy SC played Havelock SC and won with several touchdowns and conversions 30 to 28. It was an action packed game and I was happy the home team won and sealed their championship status for the season.
Kandy Rugby Match
The next day in Kandy I spent the early part of the day doing laundry and running errands. Mufi cooked an amazing lunch with fried fish, two curries, rice, pineapple salad and sautéed mushrooms. Video of the potato and eggplant curries below.
After lunch, I spent the early evening at the Kandyan Cultural Show and Buddhist Tooth Temple. The best part of the cultural show was actually outside the theater when the cast breathed fire, walked on hot coals and showed of their acrobatic skills.
photo credit: Boots and Butter
At sunset I arrived at the Buddhist Tooth Temple. It was crawling with tourist so I quickly walked around made my way to the prayer room which was very fragrant from all of the flower offerings. I was put off by the traffic of people and lines to get into various rooms so made a quick exit and headed off to dinner early. (see Bamboo Garden Cafe recommendation).
photo credit: dalekietakblisko
All in all I’d give Kandy a thumbs up. If you have the time to visit for one or two days give it a go. If you’re limited on time I’d prioritize Galle and Weligama above Kandy. It was on my way to Ella and Yala so I’m glad I made the stop and made new friends with Mufi and her beautiful family.