How to get to Kandy, Sri Lanka
If you have started your backpacking journey through Sri Lanka from Colombo, you can reach Kandy in around 2-2.5 hours (traffic dependent).
You’ve got a couple of different options available to you, each of which I discuss below.
- 1. Car: You can opt for an Uber journey which should cost you around 6000 LKR without luggage and 7000 LKR with luggage. This works out at 1750 LKR per person based on four people sharing, and to get the best possible exchange rate, I recommend picking up a Revolut card before you travel. That’s not a bad deal for convenience and aircon.
- 2. Train: The train journey from Colombo to Kandy is supposed to be quite scenic and should take 2.5 hours. You can find out more information here.The cost should be around 180-1,450 LKR depending on the class of travel. Generally, train travel in Sri Lanka is considered more comfortable than buses. We use 12Go Asia for all our train travel needs in Asia, and Sri Lanka is no different. You can easily search and book online here.
- 3. Bus: You can also catch a bus from Colombo to Kandy. It will take around 3-4 hours and should cost around 187 - 400 LKR. We’ve not used the bus, so I can’t verify how comfortable they are.
- 4. Tuk-tuk: You can rent and drive your own Sri Lankan tuk-tuk to go around the whole island. That's what Bradley and I did and it was the best decision we made. Not only is driving a tuk-tuk a lot of fun, but the flexibility it gives to you and your trip is brilliant. You can get off the beaten track and really do whatever you want. We used a company based in Colombo called Tuk-Tuk rental and I highly recommend them. It cost us USD $18 a day for a rental period of 28 days.
Pppsst, you can get 5% off your Tuktuk Rental with our code: DreamBigTravelFar
How long should you spend in Kandy?
This will depend on the amount of time you’ve got to backpack Sri Lanka. In general, if you’ve only got a limited amount of time, then I would reduce the amount of time you spend in Kandy.
Bradley and I stayed 2 nights, which we thought was sufficient for all the Kandy attractions that we will discuss below.
You could possibly do all the things to do in Kandy in one day, but it would be a long day.
Instead, it’s nicer to break it up into two and take it easy.
Also, some of the accommodation in Kandy is BEYOND amazing, so you might want to stay just to experience an infinity pool for a day longer.
P.S. if you’re super short on time on your trip to Sri Lanka, then you can always opt for a day trip to Kandy from Colombo. You’ll get to see all the best sites and even visit a tea factory (always fun in Sri Lanka!).
The best places to stay in Kandy
After MUCH research and deliberation, Bradley and I wanted to stay somewhere slightly outside the Kandy centre (10-15 minute drive), as we had just finished some hotel reviews and had a lot of work to catch up on.
So we needed 4 things:
- A comfortable bed
- Good WiFi
- An awesome breakfast
In the end, we also got a pool which was a bonus!
We stayed in Nelinsa Kandy which cost just 1800 LKR each and with tonnes of excellent reviews, you know we aren’t lying when we say it was good!
They also serve dinner on your balcony which is delicious and well priced (you can check out prices and availability here on Booking.com).
For more inspiration on where to stay in Kandy, you can check out my guide on the best Kandy hotels.
8 Brilliant Places To Visit In Kandy
Well now that we’ve sorted out how you’re getting there, let’s check out (what we believe to be) 8 of the best places to visit and things to do in Kandy.
1. Visit The Unique Temple Of The Tooth
This is one of the most well-known Kandy attractions; it’s a beautiful temple located in the middle of the city which is said to house Buddha's tooth.
Also known as the sacred tooth relic.
The tooth is kept behind a glass and you can see it if you wish. It’s a 17th-century temple and it’s certainly a very unique place to visit in Sri Lanka, and a real chance to get more insight into the Buddhist religion.
I recommend visiting in the morning before the crowds gather, and be aware of local holidays which will also make it super busy.
This is another UNESCO world heritage sight that’s located in Sri Lanka.
You’ll soon discover that there are lots, especially in the cultural capital area of Anuradhapura.
Book: Check GetYourGuide
Opening Times: 5.30 am to 8 pm
2. Explore The Royal Botanical Gardens
This is without doubt my favourite place to visit in Kandy as it really is pure beauty.
In fact, I consider this not only one of the most beautiful places in Kandy, but Sri Lanka as a whole.
The gardens are very well maintained and depending on when you visit, there will be lots of beautiful flowers.
I wanted to see blooming rose gardens, but unfortunately, it wasn’t the season.
However, as you walk around with your map in hand there are lots of amazing plants and flowers to see.
It’s a calming area and a perfect place to spend a day in the sun.
It cost Bradley and me $15 for the both of us. However, I had read online it would cost $15 each, so I think when you visit in Monsoon-like Brad and I did, it’s cheaper.
Within the park itself, there is a lovely restaurant that sits on the main field and it’s cheap to dine with a lovely view.
They take cards as payment too which is useful; so you can grab yourself a cup of tea and plan out your route around the Royal Botanical Gardens.
The perfect spot for lunch!
You could spend up to three hours here, depending on what you want to do.
There is a well-priced souvenir shop on the way out, and I bought my Sri Lanka shot glass here (for those who are new readers, I’ve been collecting shot glasses from every country I’ve been too, which means I have a lot!).
It was the cheapest I saw in all of Sri Lanka, coming in at just 200 LKR.
Book: You buy directly from the entrance
Opening Times: 8 am to 5.30 pm
3. Wander around Kandy lake
Kandy Lake is one of the most iconic areas of the city, and if you want an evening stroll when the heat isn’t too strong, then this is one of the best things to do in Kandy at night.
The lake itself is quite manic with traffic during rush hour, so if you want less beeping, then head early in the morning. There are some bench areas for you to stop and take in the surroundings.
There is also a little island in the middle with palm trees, but I am not sure if you can actually visit it.
But I think if you visit either early morning, or late evening, then you’ll be surprised at just how peaceful this area of Kandy can actually be.
Plus, it’s free!
Read Also: 50 Amazing Things To Do In Sri Lanka
4. Explore Udawattakele Forest Reserve
This is a historic forest reserve on a hill-ridge in the city of Kandy and is the perfect spot for those seeking walking/hiking and adventure.
This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Kandy and it’s totally worth a full day trip.
If you’re into birdwatching, you can arrange a guide for around 500 LKR which is super cheap. This is a good spot to pack a picnic, even grab a couple of beers and go for a relaxing walk in the sunshine.
You will be given a detailed map at the entrance (as part of the cost) which will show you where each path leads and even without a guide you can find your way passing through, ‘Marble Seat’, ‘The Lover’s Walk’, Ironwood forest and Buddhist monasteries.
Price: 500 LKR/Person
Book: You buy directly from the entrance.
Opening Times: 7 am to 6 pm
5. Be amazed by the soaring Buddha
I adore a view from above, and if you want the chance to see Kandy with a 360 panoramic view, then this is your best shot.
Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue is the biggest Buddha statue in all of Sri Lanka.
It requires some steps, but you can drive up with a tuk-tuk too.
The beautiful Buddha is also fascinating to see; just remember it's a steep walk, so if you are going during the heat then bring water and put on sunscreen!
It’s actually nestled in the shadow of the Knuckles Mountain Range (which you can visit in Kandy too!), so on a clear day, the views are epic.
This is also a great place to get some cool drone shots.
Read Also: The best places to visit in Arugam Bay
6. Learn history at the Kandy National Museum
If you like history, or you want to learn more about the Kandian era, then this is a good place to stop.
The museum is in the former royal palace and displays artefacts, weapons and much more from this period in time.
It's located next to the Temple Of The Tooth, so it’s a good spot to visit afterwards.
Also, you can combine this with a visit to the Royal Palace of Kandy which is located North of the Temple of the tooth.
Price: 600 LKR/Person
Book: You buy directly from the entrance.
Opening Times: Official website
7. Ride the Kandy to Ella train
To access these two hill country icons, it's often best to take the train which, in itself, is one of the best things to do in Kandy!
The Kandy to Ella train ride is regarded as one of the most scenic train rides in the world, and I am sure you've seen the pictures splashed all over Instagram.
It passes through tea fields, lush greenery and beautiful waterfalls.
It takes 4 hours to Nuwara Eliya and 7 hours to Ella.
It's cheap if you go for the cheapest class, and I've heard this is best because then you get the best views.
Plus you'll get to mingle with the locals and that is always fun!
Unfortunately, Bradley and I didn't get to go on the world famous train ride, as we had our own tuk-tuk for 4 weeks.
Whilst part of me does wish I did it, we pretty much did the same route and we got to physically stop at all the tea fields and drink tea, and stop at the waterfalls and take pictures.
So I don't think I missed out too much.
Book: Buy your tickets here.
8. Take a day trip to Sigiriya
Sigiriya is actually around a 2.5 hour drive from Kandy, so it’s totally possible to take a day trip here and visit the amazing Sigiriya Rock!
If you’re short on time in Sri Lanka, then this is a great way to see one of the best sights in the country.
Plus, on your way back, you could stop off at Dambulla and visit the Dambulla Cave Temple to knock off another item on that Sri Lanka bucket list.
You’ll need to start your day early, but you’ll definitely be able to see both sights in one day from Kandy!
Final tips for visiting Kandy in Sri Lanka
When planning our Kandy itinerary, we found a few other things to see and do that may be of interest. These include:
- Natha Devale
- International Buddhist Museum (the world’s first!)
- British Garrison Cemetery: this is a war cemetery for British nationals who died in Ceylon
- Hanthana Mountain Range: Located South West of Kandy and home to seven peaks, the highest of which is Uura Kanda
- Knuckles Mountain Range: This mountain range is located in between Kandy and Matale and it's a great place for hiking. Different tour companies can arrange tours from Kandy for hiking, so ask around to get a good price, and the more people you have, the better the deal.
- St Pauls Church
When is the best time to visit Kandy?
October to November is the “monsoon” season for Kandy, and it’s actually the time Bradley and I visited. We didn’t have much choice in the matter, but it only rained one day after 2 pm, so it really wasn’t too bad.
Typically, the best time to visit is between December to April as the weather is dry and pleasant. But either way, you can make it work with some strategic day activity planning.
The equipment we use when travelling
In case you're wondering what cameras we used to take our travel photos and videos from our time in Sri Lanka, here goes:
- Canon G7x Mark II: Brilliant little point and shoot, video recording for creating travel videos and vlogging camera. Wouldn't travel without it
- Tripod: Great for creating stable content
- Memory cards: I use 64GB Sandisk, sometimes the gold version for drone footage
- Mavic Pro Drone: Our baby mavic is high quality, worth a lot of money and worth it for the beauty it captures
For a better idea of what we took, check out our epic Sri Lanka packing list.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my post on eight brilliant places to visit in Kandy, and if you’ve got any questions or more ideas to be added to the list, then just let me know below ...
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