kandy-things-to-do

Kandy is a vibrant city in the middle of Sri Lanka. It is for some travellers the start, or end point of the train journey through Sri Lanka’s hilly inland. Apart from the beautiful beaches in Sri Lanka, the country is also famous for its religious sites which can be found around Kandy and Sigiriya. So if you have the time, there are lots of beautiful places to visit in Kandy. After all, Kandy is the second biggest city in Sri Lanka after the capital Colombo. Plan to spend one or two days in Kandy after, or before you hop on the famous train. In this travel guide you will find all the top things to do in Kandy Sri Lanka.

Best tours in and around Kandy

If you want to explore the best of what Kandy and the surroundings have to offer, then these are the best guided tours. All of these tours include air conditioned transport with hotel pick up and drop off, certified guides and sometimes also lunch and the entrance fees. You can reserve now and pay later, with cancellation up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

  • Kandy all inclusive city tour. Explore most of the highlights in and around Kandy such as a Tea Factory, the Botanical Garden of Peradeniya, a wood carving factory and Kandy Lake including the Temple of the Tooth.
  • Historical three temples all-inclusive tour Kandy. Visit three of the most ancient and historically important temples built in the 14th century. The perfect tour for heritage lovers.
  • Sigiriya and Dambulla cave private day tour from Kandy. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage monuments of Sigiriya on a guided tour of the rock fortress and amazing Dambulla cave temple complex. Stop at a spice garden in Matale and more.
  • Kandy temple tour, Botanical Gardens and cultural show. See the highlights of Kandy and its surrounding areas on this full-day guided tour. Visit temples, the Botanical Gardens, see panoramic views of the city, and enjoy a performance of traditional Kandyan dances.
  • Visit the Sigiriya Rock, Village Tour and Minneriya Park from Kandy. Visit some of Sri Lanka’s most popular attractions on a day tour from Kandy. See Sigiriya Rock Fortress, Minneriya National Park, and take a tour of a traditional local village.
  • Kandy All-Inclusive Afternoon City Tour. See the most important attractions within the city of Kandy and enjoy the beauty and cultural heritage of this small hill capital. You will visit the Botanical Garden, do an upper lake drive, witness a cultural show, and visit Kandy Temple.
  • Go from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya by train. Discover Sri Lankan tea country with a full-day excursion to the town of Nuwara Eliya from Kandy. See the beautiful green hills of the region, and visit a historical tea factory, which produces the famous “Ceylon Tea”.

How to get around in Kandy

The best way to explore Kandy city is with a Tuk Tuk, or you have to be very confident to drive a motorbike. There are also options for Kandy day tours where you go to the hotspots of the city in one day. But if you want to be more flexible, you can better arrange a Tuk Tuk.

Enjoy the Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens are located approximately a twenty minute Tuk Tuk ride from busy Kandy city center. The total area of the garden is 147 acres and attracts about 2 million visitors yearly. The Royal Botanic Gardens have more than 4.000 species of plants and trees and are well known for their orchid collection! It is a place where people of all ages gather, especially in the weekends. Wander around the massive and beautiful garden, take photos at the impressive palm trees relax in the grass or drink some Sri Lankan tea at one of the cafes. 

Book here your Kandy all inclusive city tour. Explore most of the highlights in and around Kandy such as a Tea Factory, the Botanical Garden of Peradeniya, a wood carving factory and Kandy Lake including the Temple of the Tooth.

Book here your Kandy temple tour, Botanical Gardens and cultural show. See the highlights of Kandy and its surrounding areas on this full-day guided tour. Visit temples, the Botanical Gardens, see panoramic views of the city, and enjoy a performance of traditional Kandyan dances.

Book here your Kandy All-Inclusive Afternoon City Tour. See the most important attractions within the city of Kandy and enjoy the beauty and cultural heritage of this small hill capital. You will visit the Botanical Garden, do an upper lake drive, witness a cultural show, and visit Kandy Temple.

Visit the Temple of Tooth

The Temple of Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, is the most holiest Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka. Making it even one of the most sacred places of worship among Buddhists around the world. This beautiful golden-roofed Buddhist Temple in the heart of Kandy is a must visit. Plan an early-morning visit to skip the crowds and see the legendary sacred tooth relic of Buddha. The Temple of sacred Tooth relic is located in the royal palace complex of the former Kingdom of Kandy where you can see a few other temples and museums within the complex.

Book here your Kandy all inclusive city tour. Explore most of the highlights in and around Kandy such as a Tea Factory, the Botanical Garden of Peradeniya, a wood carving factory and Kandy Lake including the Temple of the Tooth.

Book here your historical three temples all-inclusive tour Kandy. Visit three of the most ancient and historically important temples built in the 14th century. The perfect tour for heritage lovers.

Book here your Kandy temple tour, Botanical Gardens and cultural show. See the highlights of Kandy and its surrounding areas on this full-day guided tour. Visit temples, the Botanical Gardens, see panoramic views of the city, and enjoy a performance of traditional Kandyan dances.

Book here your Kandy All-Inclusive Afternoon City Tour. See the most important attractions within the city of Kandy and enjoy the beauty and cultural heritage of this small hill capital. You will visit the Botanical Garden, do an upper lake drive, witness a cultural show, and visit Kandy Temple.

kandy-temple-tooth-relic

Visit Dambulla Cave Temple

The Dambulla Cave Temple, officially called Jumbukola Vihara, is the largest and best-preserved temple cave complex in Sri Lanka. It is one of the eight UNESCO attractions that Sri Lanka has to offer. The Dambulla Cave is 70 km outside of Kandy located which is a 2 hour drive one way. You can combine a visit to the Dambulla Cave temple perfectly when you’re on your way to Sigiriya, or if you have some spare time in Kandy and you want to escape the busy city.

Book here your Sigiriya and Dambulla cave private day tour from Kandy. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage monuments of Sigiriya on a guided tour of the rock fortress and amazing Dambulla cave temple complex. Stop at a spice garden in Matale and more.

Read here everything about the Dambulla Cave Temple

dambulla-cave-temple

Stroll along Kandy Lake

Strolling around the Kandy Lake is one of the many free things to do in Kandy. Next to the Temple of Sacred Tooth relic, you will find the cities artificial lake which was built in 1807 by King King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. The nicest part to walk along is the area around the Temple of Sacred Tooth relic. Due to some past cases of harassment, women should not walk here alone after dark. If you want to be safe, then it is highly recommended to book a tour in Kandy city to enjoy your time and not have to worry about getting lost. 

Book here your Kandy all inclusive city tour. Explore most of the highlights in and around Kandy such as a Tea Factory, the Botanical Garden of Peradeniya, a wood carving factory and Kandy Lake including the Temple of the Tooth.

Book here your Historical three temples all-inclusive tour Kandy. Visit three of the most ancient and historically important temples built in the 14th century. The perfect tour for heritage lovers.

Book here your Kandy temple tour, Botanical Gardens and cultural show. See the highlights of Kandy and its surrounding areas on this full-day guided tour. Visit temples, the Botanical Gardens, see panoramic views of the city, and enjoy a performance of traditional Kandyan dances.

Book here your Kandy All-Inclusive Afternoon City Tour. See the most important attractions within the city of Kandy and enjoy the beauty and cultural heritage of this small hill capital. You will visit the Botanical Garden, do an upper lake drive, witness a cultural show, and visit Kandy Temple.

kandy-lake

Take a trip to Sigiriya

Sigiriya is a stunning area which is a three hours drive north from Kandy. Sigiriya is famous because of the Lion Rock, which is one of the Sri Lankan UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Lion Rock is an enormous 200-meter high rock fortress towering over the jungle. One of the best ways to experience this ancient rock fortress and UNESCO World Heritage is by hiking to the top with sunrise or before sunset. For this reason, it is recommended to spend one or two nights in Sigiriya.

Tip: Instead of hiking the Lion Rock fortress, you can also hike the opposite Pidurangala Rock. That is a great alternative to avoid the crowds at sunrise, plus its way cheaper! Not only do you get the same panoramic views on the jungle as you get from the Sigiriya Lion Rock, but also a head-on view of Sigiriya Lion Rock itself. Which is in our opinion way more beautiful than the view from the Sigiriya Lion rock towards the Pidurangala Rock!

Book here your Sigiriya and Dambulla cave private day tour from Kandy. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage monuments of Sigiriya on a guided tour of the rock fortress and amazing Dambulla cave temple complex. Stop at a spice garden in Matale and more.

Read here about the best things to do in Sigiriya

Hike Pidurangala Rock in Sigiriya

Hike Sigiriya Lion Rock

Pidurangala-rock-view-Sigiriya-rock-sunset-couple
Sigiriya-lion-rock-drone-view

Visit the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue

Nestled within the hilltops above Kandy lies the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue. A giant 88-foot Buddha statue which is one of Kandy’s most notable religious monuments. The top can easily be reached by car or motorbike, and a small climb up the stairs will be rewarded with a panoramic view of the city. The statue itself can be seen from most places throughout the city and is particularly enchanting at night when the lights are on. Make sure to remove your shoes before entering the sacred site and cover your knees and shoulders.

Book here your Kandy all inclusive city tour. Explore most of the highlights in and around Kandy such as a Tea Factory, the Botanical Garden of Peradeniya, a wood carving factory and Kandy Lake including the Temple of the Tooth.

Book here your Historical three temples all-inclusive tour Kandy. Visit three of the most ancient and historically important temples built in the 14th century. The perfect tour for heritage lovers.

Book here your Kandy temple tour, Botanical Gardens and cultural show. See the highlights of Kandy and its surrounding areas on this full-day guided tour. Visit temples, the Botanical Gardens, see panoramic views of the city, and enjoy a performance of traditional Kandyan dances.

Bahiravokanda-Vihara-Buddha-kandy

Watch Kandy dancing

One of the unique things to do in Kandy is visiting a traditional Kandy dance. This intense, energetic show, with dancers and drummers will take one hour and starts around 17.00. Make sure you get there on time to buy the tickets and secure your spot. During the show, Sri Lankan music is played and the dancers wear colorful traditional costumes. There are 3 venues to watch Kandy dancing, all located around the lake:

  • Kandyan Art Association & Cultural Centre
  • Kandy Lake Club
  • Mahanuwara YMBA

Book here your Kandy temple tour, Botanical Gardens and cultural show. See the highlights of Kandy and its surrounding areas on this full-day guided tour. Visit temples, the Botanical Gardens, see panoramic views of the city, and enjoy a performance of traditional Kandyan dances.

Book here your Kandy All-Inclusive Afternoon City Tour. See the most important attractions within the city of Kandy and enjoy the beauty and cultural heritage of this small hill capital. You will visit the Botanical Garden, do an upper lake drive, witness a cultural dance show, and visit Kandy Temple.

Smell the nature at Udewatakele Forest

Udawattakele Forest is a 257 acres forest reserve on a hill-ridge in Kandy. The sanctuary is famous for its extensive avifauna and adventurous bike rides. The reserve also contains a great variety of plant species and even some small and medium sized mammals can be seen here. Udawatakele Forest was a forest reserve in 1856 and it became a sanctuary in 1938. The forest is of religious importance as well because there are three Buddhist meditation hermitages and three rock shelter dwellings for Buddhist monk hermits. It’s a nice way to get some fresh air and escape the busy, and a bit polluted city.

kandy-forest

Stay at a luxury nature resort

If you have some budget to spend and you want to have a quiet getaway from the busy city centre of Kandy, you might want to check out one of the luxury nature resorts around Kandy. We stayed at Aarunya Nature Resort for 3 nights which is a 20 minute drive away from Kandy city. This sustainable luxury boutique hotel is a true gem for nature lovers. Overlooking Knuckles mountain range and tucked away on a hill in the jungle, the incredible views on the green valley and nature sounds makes you want to stay here forever. Definitely some of the most exclusive hotels in Sri Lanka.

Book here your stay at Aarunya Resort or another hotel in Kandy

Read our complete guide and review about Aarunya Nature Resort here

aarunya-nature-resort-drone

Explore the local market

If you want to explore the real local Kandy, you have to go to the local market. Despite the market here is not that big, you will be able enjoy the authentic experience. It is a place where you can take many photos and portraits. People are very friendly and you can communicate well as almost everyone speaks English.

The market has two different parts:

  • The first one, which is close to the train station, is dedicated to fish.
  • The second area, closer to the lake, is dedicated to fruits and vegetables.

You will find many food stalls selling tasty fruits like pineapples, bananas, mangos and more more!

kandy-things-to-do

DON’T visit an elephant orphanage

Although visiting an elephant orphanage is a popular thing to do in Kandy, it isn’t ethically responsible. You might be led to believe that these orphanages take care of the elephants, (which is partly true). But sad enough, the elephants are only used as a form of tourism entertainment rather than they’re genuinely being taken care of. Multiple animal organizations have written about this and have stated that these examples of tourism animal activities are always a no go. You can better go on a safari in Sri Lanka to spot wild elephants in their natural habitat. This is in our opinion one of the best things to do in Sri Lanka and super adventurous! 

Book your safari to Minneriya National Park here

minneriya-national-park-safari-elephant

Train ride from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya – Ella

Kandy is the starting point or end point of one of the world’s most scenic train routes. A stunning 4-7 hour journey takes you through the tea plantations and central highlands which is some of the top things to do in Sri Lanka! Feel the wind through your hair and take in the incredible views you will see along the way. An epic experience that allows you to see the Sri Lankan nature in a complete unique way. Traveling by train through Sri Lanka also gives you a great insight in the local culture and makes it a great opportunity to connect with the locals. Read our Kandy to Ella train tips here.

Book your Kandy to Nuwara Eliya train tour here

Options: Take the 4-hour ride to Nuwara Eliya or the 7-hour to Ella.

Tip: Make sure to check the type of train because not all trains are the blue one! This might make a huge difference for your perfect Sri Lankan train picture as displayed below!

kandy-train