Kandy is the second largest city in Sri Lanka and known as the Cultural Capital of the Island Nation. At a height of about 1600 ft., it is nestled between hills and dense tropical forest, hence the climate is relatively cooler as compared to rest of the coastal Sri Lanka. The name Kandy is believed to be the anglicised version of it’s Sinhalese name, that means ‘Land of the Mountain’. The city of Kandy is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kandy was the last capital of the ancient kingdom. Due to its location the city remained protected from colonial invaders Portuguese and Dutch until 18th century while rest of the coastal country was taken over in 16th century. Kandy is home to Temple of the Tooth Relic, a major Buddhist site. The city is a calm, peaceful abode with beautiful botanical gardens, an artificial lake and lush green forest. The major attractions include:
Temple to the Tooth Relic:
The Temple of the Tooth Relic is adjacent the Royal Palace complex of the erstwhile Kingdom of Kandy and overlooking the Kandy lake. This is the most revered, sacred place in Sri Lanka. The temple preserves the relic of Buddha. Since ancient times it was believed that whoever housed and protected the sacred relic, would have the power to rule the country. The relic cannot actually be seen because it is encased in seven golden boxes in the inner shrine of the temple, open to visitors and pilgrims. Thousands of pilgrims visit the site and it can get very crowded, visit early in the day and in appropriate attire for a place of worship.
The Royal Botanical Gardens:
Spread over 150 acres, The Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya is by far the most beautiful and well-kept Botanical Gardens that I have seen. Around 4000 species of plants, including orchids, spices, medicinal plants and palm trees thrive in the Royal Gardens.
With origins dating back to 13th century,the garden was originally built for Royals. It takes about three to four hours to take a stroll amidst the soothing greenery. Walk along the palm line avenue, marvel at the variety of orchids, the green shaded green houses, spice gardens and enhance your knowledge about some rare species of plants and herbs. Walk on the suspension bridge over River Mahaveli and gaze at the aquatic plants in the lake at the centre.
Uddawattakele Forest Reserve:
Nestled amongst the hills of Kandy and a short distance from Temple of the Tooth Relic, the Forest Reserve is a beautiful lush rainforest spread over 257 acres. The forest was initially reserved and used as a pleasure garden for the royalty hence was also called The Forbidden Forest. It also served as a hideout for the kings. The limited access resulted in abundant growth of the forest, flora, fauna, density and species of birds over the years. Take a walk amidst lush green trees craning your neck to look up and spot the birds chirping all around. Visit during the morning hours to feel the early morning cacophony of the birds, rustling leaves and fragrance of the foliage. It is truly a nature lover’s paradise and kids enjoy the place as much. There are over 400 varieties of plants and over 80 species of birds, 30 species of butterflies.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha Statue:
The 80 ft. Buddha Statue in white is visible from everywhere in Peradeniya city as it is located atop a hill. From here you can get a beautiful panoramic view of the entire Kandy Town. The statue looks equally beautiful, lit up by lamps at night.
Visit a Tea Factory: Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest tea producers. Visit one of the tea factories to get a close view and enhance your knowledge about the various processes, the humble leaves go through, right from the stage of plucking the best leaves, till the final processing through various rooms and machines. The bonus is you get to taste the finest teas prepared by them for you.
Visit a spice garden: If you’ve not been to a spice garden before, hop in to a spice garden here to catch a peek at how spices, that add aromatic flavours and therapeutic properties to our plates, are cultivated. Walk around in small spice gardens looking at Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Peppercorn, Cacao etc. with a guide.
While Sri Lanka is known for it’s beautiful beaches and coastal towns, Kandy is a beautiful, serene, nature’s abode to sooth your sun and sand weary nerves and sun burnt skin. Take a break here, catch your breath and move on further to explore Sri Lanka, The Pearl of The Indian Ocean.