The view of Kandy Lake from Heaven Seven Hotel

Sweet like Sri Lanka Kandy

After a tranquil stay in our jungle hideaway, Kandy was an assault on the senses. Cars and colourful tuk tuks choked the roads as our driver stuttered through the modern centre of Sri Lanka’s second-largest city. Although the streets were crammed with people and noise, they were also surrounded by forested mountains and in the distance, Kandy Lake lay sparkling like a jewel in the city’s heart.

The view of Kandy Lake from Heaven Seven Hotel

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kandy was once home to Sri Lanka’s last ancient kingdom, which was taken by British colonial forces in 1815. As such, the city is stuffed with historical sites including a royal palace, sacred Buddhist temple, war cemeteries and botanical gardens. Located in the central province, Kandy is also the gateway to the highlands and the starting point for the country’s most scenic train journey through tea plantations to the mountain town of Ella. If you’re wondering how to get to Kandy from Colombo, check out train times in this guide.

Our Sri Lanka Kandy highlights

There are enough attractions in Kandy to keep you busy for a few days, but with limited time we started with a stroll around the lake, armed against the grey skies with an umbrella. Women clad in bright saris and school children in sparkling white uniforms traced the lake path, which we followed into the city’s train station.

The beautiful train journey from Kandy to Ella

In typical Sri Lankan fashion, we were immediately helped by a smiling guard, who directed us to the counter where we bought our onward tickets to Ella, as well as tickets from Ella to Colombo, a nine-hour journey in first class which cost a staggering £6 each. Did we mention how cheap public transport is in Sri Lanka?

Kandy market

With our travel tasks done, we let ourselves be swept by the crowds down to the local market, where we wandered through lanes crammed with stalls. Each was heaving with colourful tropical fruit and vegetables; orange mangos and yellow bananas, huge green watermelons and piles of leafy veg.

The colourful Kandy Market

Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Also named the Dalada Maligawa, this sacred Buddhist temple is set on the banks of Kandy Lake, in the Royal Palace complex. One of Lord Buddha’s teeth is enshrined in a golden casket, held in a stupa at the temple, which makes it an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. We visited during morning Puja, the three-times daily prayer ceremony where locals line up to leave offerings and view the sacred casket while musicians play traditional Kandyan music.

The morning Puja at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy

Kandyan dancing show

To end a day of sightseeing, we went to the Kandyan Art Association and Cultural Centre by the lake to watch a traditional dance show. Set to frantic drumming, we watched a performance that involved peacock costumes, fire breathing and walking on hot coals.

The Kandyan Arts Association dance performers

Where to stay in Kandy city

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sri Lanka, there are dozens of hotels in Kandy city to choose from. We stayed at the awesome Heaven Seven Hotel, which has incredible views overlooking the lake. The hotel was in the perfect spot for exploring all Kandy’s main attractions, yet it was set slightly away from the bustle of the main roads, giving it a quiet, peaceful vibe.

Heaven Seven Hotel, Sri Lanka Kandy City

The Kandy Lake view from Heaven Seven Hotel

Our room had huge sliding doors opening onto a balcony, where we could take in sweeping views of the lake and temple, which looked particularly majestic when lit up at night. After a hectic day of exploring we opted for a meal in the hotel’s restaurant, where we were served a traditional Sri Lankan feast of string hoppers and curry. Breakfast was also excellent and we were served huge portions of toast and pastries, egg and hash browns, yoghurt and fruit.

From visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth to watching a Kandyan dance show, here's what we got up to on our visit to Sri Lanka Kandy.

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*Full disclosure: we were given a complimentary stay at Heaven Seven Hotel, however all opinions are our own and we’d highly recommend staying there.

  • Gilda Baxter
    Posted at 08:58h, 16 July Reply

    Sri Lanka is definitely on my list, nice to hear that transport is cheap, particularly train journeys which I love. Your hotel was in a perfect location and sounds like you had a very comfortable stay? Totally deserved after all the hard trekking you did in Nepal?

    • Amy
      Posted at 18:41h, 16 July Reply

      Yes, it was lovely Gilda. Everywhere we stayed in Sri Lanka was amazing, the service and quality of hotels is the best we’ve come across in Asia. I’d definitely recommend it!

  • Patti
    Posted at 20:37h, 18 July Reply

    What’s not to love about a luxury hotel?! 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 07:55h, 19 July Reply

      Exactly Patti, and everyone needs a bit of luxury every once in a while.

  • Victoria @The British Berliner
    Posted at 12:24h, 26 July Reply

    Haven’t yet been to Sri Lanka. ‘Sounds like a dream!

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:23h, 26 July Reply

      It was Victoria, we’ll definitely stop there again on our way back to Asia, whenever that may be!

  • Louisa klimentos
    Posted at 04:01h, 27 July Reply

    Sri Lanka is so awesome and what a beautifulk stay

    • Amy
      Posted at 16:07h, 27 July Reply

      Yes, it was lovely Louisa 🙂

  • Kristen
    Posted at 18:23h, 27 July Reply

    Sri Lanka has unexpectedly shot to near the top of my list, though I’m not sure why. How would you rank it? I feel such a strong pull!

    • Amy
      Posted at 11:36h, 28 July Reply

      We were taken aback by how Sri Lanka, it was so much better than we thought it would be. It still feels quite non-touristy and people are so polite and nice. It’s a relatively small island so it’s super easy and cheap to get around and it has everything from jungle to highlands and beaches. We’ll definitely return to Sri Lanka next time we’re in Asia 🙂

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