What to see and do in and around Kandy

Kandy sightseeing

The hill capital is another “World Heritage Site”. It was the last stronghold of the Sinhalese Kings during the Portuguese, Dutch and British rule and finally ceded to the British in 1815. Close by are the remains of the Royal Palace where the Queens stayed and now used as the National Museum. Take a walk round the lake. The Bathing Pavilion is by the Lake and in the centre of the lake is the Island called “Kiri samudraya” (Milk white ocean) used by the kings as a summerhouse. Take a guide and sightsee around the city there will be many trinkets and souvenirs on sale if you need to take gifts home. Today it is the centre of Buddhism, Arts, Crafts, Dancing, Music and Culture.

Temple of Tooth

Located in Kandy, long a centre of the Buddhist faith, the stunning 17th-century (Sri Dalada Maligawa) is believed to house the left upper canine tooth of the Lord Buddha himself. This precious relic attracts white-clad pilgrims, bearing lotus blossoms and frangipani, every day. According to legend, the tooth was taken from the Buddha as he lay on his funeral pyre. It was smuggled to Sri Lanka in 313 AD, hidden in the hair of Princess Hemamali who fled the Hindu armies besieging her father's kingdom in India. It immediately became an object of great reverence and was enshrined in a series of nested jewelled reliquaries. The tooth was brought out for special occasions and paraded on the backs of elephants, which are sacred to the Buddha and has survived numerous attempts to capture and destroy it.

The Kandy Perahara

The procession of the Temple of the Tooth, also known as the Esala Perahara, has become a unique symbol of Sri Lanka and takes place during the months of July and August in Kandy. The procession includes whip crackers, flag bearers, dancers, drummers and many majestic elephants, who roam the city dressed in colorful and vibrant costumes. It is a magnificent and unique sight that must not be missed if you are visiting Kandy during the allocated days for the Perahara.

Aluvihara Temple

Aluvihara Temple is situated just north of Matale, about 18 miles from Kandy. Here, in the 2nd C. B.C., the Buddhist scriptures (Tripitaka) were first committed to writing on Ola leaves a chore that required the devout attention of about 500 senior monks. The rock caves were formed long ago by boulders tumbling down from a nearby mountain. They contain various icons and frescoes. One cavern graphically depicts sinners’ hell. A few years ago a new set of books were written down once again and this is one of the few places where visitors can see the method of preparing the Ola leaves as pages of books and the method of writing on them.

Matale Spice Garden

Here you’ll find in abundance the great scents, tastes and medicines that made and make Sri Lanka famous. Stroll around the fragrant greenery and through the cardamom groves in the shade of huge tropical trees and give your sense of smell a new lease on life. Sniff, see and learn about nutmeg, pepper, cloves, curry, cinnamon and many others at Matale, and experience the great riches of Sri Lanka’s cuisine and traditional Ayurveda therapy.

Royal Botanical Gardens

Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya, were created in 1374 as a pleasure garden of the Kings of Gampola and Kandy. There are more than 5,000 species of trees, plants and creepers set in 147 acres. Some rare and endemic as well as flora from the tropical world are found in the gardens including an avenue of Coco de Mer palms from the Seychelles, which have the largest seed of the plant world. The Spice Garden and Orchid House are popular and it’s a lovely place to wander around for an afternoon.

Knuckles Range Forest Reserve

Knuckles Range Forest Reserve is a 90 square mile area of pure wilderness There are 35 mountain peaks in the range above 3,500 feet and the 2 highest peaks are above 6,000. More than 100 species of birds are found here and out of them about 25 are endemic, 28 types of fish (9 endemic) and 3 species are only found only in the Knuckles Range. A large number of trees are also endemic. There are villages which can only be reached on foot and it’s a magnificent trekking area in some pristine wilderness.

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was started in 1975 to house the abandoned and injured elephants. There are 65 elephants here including more than 25 babies born, as a result of the captive breeding program. The best time to visit is bathing time when all the elephants are taken to the river close by in the afternoon. After which you can visit the elephant ‘houses’ where you may get a chance to bottle feed any babies (9am, 1.15 and 5pm), feed Stumpy who’s leg was tragically blown off by a land mine and Raj the blind elephant.

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