Is there a traveler kindled in your heart? Ever wished that you could travel to any location you crave in just one click? Well, the moment you clicked this article open, you have unleashed the gateway to the enchanted Kingdom of Kandy. Read away through the engrossing city, its venues, and the exhilarating sites of this grand Kingdom of great heritage and rich history, with your imagination alive and your adventurous heart beating.
The entrance to the Kingdom
The entrance is quite an extraordinary one, as it is a pierced rock, called the Kadugannawa Pass, situated in the Kadugannawa climb on the Kandy-Colombo Road. Back in the 1820s, the British had pierced this rock when building the Kandy Road to create an entrance to Kandy. A few meters before the Kadugannawa Pass, you would come across a historic wayside rest: the Kadugannawa Ambalama, which is about 200 years old by now and was built during the English colonial rule of Ceylon.
Guarded Chamber of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Our first stop is a place of great significance for Sri Lankan Buddhists, which is the Temple of Tooth Relic, ‘Sri Dhalada Maligawa’, located to the north of Sri Lanka. It is where the guarded chamber housing the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha is situated. The tooth is kept safe, housed by 7 golden caskets engraved with gemstones. Every year, a grand scale festival called ‘Esala Perahera’ or the ‘Sri Dhalada Perahera’ is held to pay homage to the sacred tooth relic. The temple embodies a myriad of very intricate carvings that represent the great architectural value of Kandy and was built by Vira Narendra Sinha, who was one of the last Sinhalese kings of Sri Lanka of the Kingdom of Kandy. During the reign of King Sri Wickrama Rajasingha, the octagonal structure called the ‘Patthirippuwa’ (Octagon), which adorns the palace majestically, was constructed. When visiting the Temple of Tooth Relic, one should be dressed in proper attire, out of respect, as this is a very religious and sacred place.
Impeccably architected Royal Palace of Kandy
Located to the north of the Temple of Tooth Relic, rests the divinely designed building: The Royal Palace of Kandy housing Kandy’s rich legacy and heritage. It is the last reminiscence of the reigning King of the Kandyan kingdom, Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe. This valorous construction which was built in the 14th century has had witnessed war scars, painful memories of invasions by other rulers, and a long history of battles and glorifying triumphs.
Ancient proof of a Victorious Kingdom
The National Museum of Kandy, located next to the Temple of Tooth Relic is a part of the former Royal Palace of Kandy. The architectural features were based on the Kandy period and houses over 5000 artifacts on display, including antique jewels, tools, weapons, and other interesting artifacts from the Kandyan era and the post-British Colonial Era.
A row in the majestic waters
In the heart of the hill city of Kandy is the Kandy Lake, also known as the Kiri Muhuda, built-in 1807 by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe next to the Temple of Tooth. The lake is a very serene and peaceful sight. A joyous boat ride or a tranquil stroll around the lake would be perfect for a date with your friends or your loved ones, or even for some quality time with yourself to untangle your thoughts.
A Fortress of greenery and wilderness
If you are an animal lover, there are a few places in Kandy that you should not miss. One is the Udawattekele Sanctuary. It would be one walk-in-a-nature documentary! The land is garlanded with emerald greenery, flourishing with the pure essence of nature. Providing a home to over 80 species of birds, mammals, insects, and so many other animals, Udawattekele strives to be a hidden gem in the wild. If you visit it early enough in the morning to hear the first calls of birds, I promise you, your wilderness heart would be blessed. This historic forest is about 104 hectares large and during the era of the Kandyan Kingdom, this was known as ‘Uda Wasala Watta’, which stans for ‘the garden above the royal palace.’
Royal Botanical Gardens of Kingdom Kandy
Not just animals, Kingdom Kandy has a castle of fauna and flora, as well. Housing over 4000 plant species, awaits the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya, to be visited and admired for its exotic charm. If you ever happen to step inside this magical palace, don’t forget to pay a visit to the National Herbarium of Sri Lanka which is linked to the Botanical Gardens, and make sure to check out the beautiful Cannonball Tree, planted by King George V of the United Kingdom and Queen Marry, in 1901. If you’re looking forward to having a picnic with your family, a romantic date, or an educational field trip, this is your ultimate spot.
A Cascading garland of water and greens
Resembling the knuckles of a clenched fist when viewed from certain areas of Kandy, rises aloft the Knuckles Mountain range, although the Sinhalese have traditionally referred to it as the ‘Dumbara Kanduvetiya’. The range consists of nine peaks over 1200 meters (4000 ft) in height. The site of swooshing, gushing waterfalls, and flourishing emerald forests, embellishing the peaks as they peep through the misty nothingness, is one of the scenic views you will ever see.
Another amazing mountain range is the Hanthana Mountain Range, perfect for all the hikers out there. There are seven individual peeks to be climbed and it is very popular for birdwatching as it allows you to be close to nature in so many ways.
Once a dungeon of doom
Every kingdom has its dungeons, a space for all those who did something they were not supposed to do. The Kingdom of Kandy once had the country’s second-largest ongoing prison: The Bogambara Prison. However, after holding prisoners captive for about 138 years, the prison was closed by the government in 2014 and the area was declared as a cultural tourism site, now coined by the name: the Bogambara Cultural Park.
A sacred statue of worship on a hill
Rising from a hill adjoining the city of Kandy is an enormous and ethereally breath-taking statue of Lord Buddha and is called Bahirawakanda Vihara Buddha Statue. This statue and the Bahirawakanda temple were built in 1972 and are situated 2km from the Temple of the Tooth Relic. This divine statue of Lord Buddha is one of the biggest Buddha statues in Sri Lanka, standing 88 feet in height and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. The ultimate time to visit the statue would be at night when the entire statue is lit up with lights, like a twinkling star in the night sky of Kandy.
A temple, a rock, or a miracle?
Degaldoruwa temple, built by King Rajasinghe, is one of Kandy’s main attractions. The temple encompasses a cave excavated purely out of rock and is known to be 12m high. As one of the oldest temples in Sri Lanka, and as an ancient marvel containing countless colored frescoes on the walls, each shade narrating a unique story of the past, it’s worth paying a visit.
An Enchanted School
The University of Peradeniya, the largest university in Sri Lanka, is located 8km from the sacred city of Kandy, baring mist-clad mountains, and mesmerizing greenery. Even if you don’t study there, it’s still worth paying a visit. It’s extremely famous for its bedazzling beauty and is one of the dream universities of students both in and outside of Sri Lanka.
A spiritual stop
Embekka devalaya in Udunuwara is a temple built in devotion to God Kataragama and houses so many astounding wooden architectures. There are several buildings inside the temple premises, including ‘Garbha’ or the sanctum, ‘Digge’ or the Hevisi mandapaya, ‘Vahalkada’, and Palle devalaya. Near the temple, there used to be a sheltered place to rest back in the golden olden days. It was an ‘ambalama’ built by King Bhuwanakabhahu lV, and the ruins of that ambalama baring countless stories still stand with pride.
A royal architectural marvel
An architectural sensation created during the Gampola era, and an epitome of great history and rich culture is the Lankatilaka temple, situated in Udunuwara of Kandy. A place of worship and spirituality, often quite famous among locals as well as tourists.
A paradise of tranquillity
Meemure is a very remote village with a population of only about 400 people, and it is located near the border between Kandy District and Matale district, in the Knuckles Mountain range. If you ever need an escape from the daily hustle and a break from the rest of the world, this is your place. There is no cellular service available, just the angelic lush greenery and the cascading waterfalls, but I doubt you will complain.
On your way to Meemure from Colombo, you can stop by so many attractions like the Hulu Ganga, Victoria Reservoir, Teldeniya New Town and so much more.
Land of the braveheart soldiers
A kingdom isn’t a kingdom if it isn’t for its brave soldiers and knights in shining armors. The Commonwealth War Cemetry should surely be a part of your itinerary, to pay tribute to those who sacrificed, not only their blood, sweat, and tears, but also their whole life during the Second World War.
Royal arena of lions
Sri Lanka is very famous for its cricket, so if you are a die-hard cricket fan, I bet you can still hear the faint roar of our lions in the field during the 2011 Cricket World Cup matches and countless other matches followed by that, from all the corners of the Pallekele Cricket Stadium. Thereby, make sure to check it out if you ever visit Kandy.
The Mansion of tea
If you are a tea fanatic like me, the Ceylon Tea Museum is your cup of tea! It is a vintage tea museum, that was built in 1925 in Hantane. If you ever pay a visit, you would be blessed with the opportunity to witness vintage tea-making machinery, equipment, and of course to appreciate the exquisite taste of Sri Lankan tea.
The palace of tuskers
If you adore the wild, stopping by the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Rambukkana on your trip to Kandy, is a must. A chance to be bewildered by the wilderness, and to witness over 90 elephants in their natural habitats where they bathe and romp around with glee. To study their behavior, to feed them, and to learn about them, the Pinnawala elephant orphanage is the ideal place.
Another elephant paradise is the Millennium Elephant Foundation, where you would get the rare chance to ride on elephants’ backs. Imagine how amazing it would be to spend your day with one of the world’s most innocent and adorable animals? Quite splendid if you ask me.
Meet the Ceylonese Robinhood on the way
If you are travelling along the Colombo-Kandy Road, you can surely catch a glimpse of a chimney-like rock in the name of Uthuwankanda and this rock served as a hideout for ‘Sura Saradiel’, a Ceylonese gang leader and bandit who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. So, on your way to Kandy make sure to stop by the Saradiel Village in Mawanella and feed your curiosity about the unique story of Sura Saradiel. Not only that there are so many more jaw-dropping attraction sites to see in Kandy and around Kandy.
The Kingdom of Kandy has been standing with pride on its lushest greenery, blooming with beauty and hope, since so long ago, and will continue to strive with solemnity, if we as Sri Lankans protect it. Our mother Lanka has loved and cared for us across generations, and it is our duty to pay her back by preserving her natural resources and by protecting the wildlife, instead of polluting it and shredding her beauty away. Every corner of this mesmerizing kingdom bears a story, a legacy, a secret from the past, and if you want to unravel the royal tale of the sublime Kingdom of Kandy, make sure to read between the lines by paying a visit to all these astounding sites. Trust me, you will be in awe!
By Rtr. Ama Perera