About the City
The once impenetrable Kingdom of Kandy is home to the famous Temple of the Tooth and a lush 60-hectare Botanical garden. Full of ancient legends, cultural treasures and festivals Kandy can also be cozy and quiet. The drive offers stunning views of the hill country.
A UNESCO World Heritage City, Kandy is the historic and romantic hill capital of Sri Lanka, situated 116 kilometres inland from Colombo. The road to Kandy is enchanting and exciting revealing the full glory of the tropics. The roads run round in sharp curves and looking down will offer a view of deep valleys, abysses, rocks, waterfalls and streams glittering in the sun and patterned in emerald with terraced rice fields. On the other side, the mountains rise majestically against the blue sky. Whether one looks up or down, it’s a sight of beauty, glorious beyond the power of words to explain. Margaret Mordecai, the author of the book ‘Indian Dreamlands’ described Kandy as ‘The Most beautiful Spot in the British Empire’. Nature has Indeed contributed towards it and so has the culture.
Kandy was founded as the city of Royal Residence by King Vickramabahu in the late 14th Century and was the last strong hold of Sinhala rulers of the late medieval time until it came under British rule in 1815 when Sri Lanka became a full British colony. The last King of Sri Lanka and Kandy was King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe, who ruled from 1798 – 1815 AD.
Now transformed into a modern commercialised city as the capital of the Central Province with many monuments of the past, Kandy is now a thrilling mixture of new and old. The city holds a diversity of attractions with the preservation of certain important aspects of performing arts, religious practices of a bygone civilisation, and a dynamic new present with a tradition-bound past.
The greatest attraction of the city is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha or Dalada Maligawa. It is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists all over the world. It is famous for its Sinhalese style architecture and is visited by thousands of devotees every day. Ancient cultural rituals and ceremonies started in the 4th Century are still being performed here daily with great devotion. Beating of drums, early in the morning and in the evening is one routine of this ritual experienced by many visitors to this sacred place.
The well preserved buildings of the palace complex are living treasures and are presently being used for various different purposes. These historical buildings are preserved in the original form and could be visited by interested parties. The King’s Palace, Raja Wasala is presently used as the Museum of the Department of Archeology. The Council Chamber, popularly known as the Magul Maduwa is located to the left of the King’s Palace and is an excellent example of timber architecture of the Kandyan period. The Queens Bath, Ulpange, later converted to a library by the British, the King’s Harem, Palle Wasala presently the National Miseum of Kandy, the Queens’ Chambers, Meda Wasla and the Royal Armoury the former District Courts of Kandy are prominent historic buildings with great character.
The many historic Buddhist Temples located in and around Kandy have also become famous attractions to both local and foreign visitors to Kandy. The famous temples, Gadaladeniya Vihare, Lankathilaka Vihare, Hindagala Vihare, Gangarama Vihare, Degaldoruwa Vihare and Embekke Devalaya have gained much importance and popularity due to their art work, architecture and the association they had with the Kandyan Kingdom.
Kandy Esala Perahara (Procession) - The Kandy Esala Perahara is one of the most famous events in Sri Lanka and attracts a large number of visitors to Kandy each year during the period of the procession, from all parts of Sri Lanka and the world. This is a colourful and vibrant pageant conducted every year for 10 days at a stretch during July/ August, depending on the auspicious time. This is a tradition continued from the 4th Century, consisting of more than 100 beautifully dressed elephants, nearly a thousand traditional dancers, drummers, flag and torch bearers, whip crackers and Kandyan Chieftains in full regalia making this a fascinating procession. This annual cultural pageant and its drums vibrate not only in the ears but in the cultural, social and economic life of the peasants of the hill country and provide an unending platform to perform the traditional arts of the Kandyan People. Undoubtedly this is one of the most colourful pageants in the world.
Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya - 147 acres in extent, this is the best and the largest garden in Sri Lanka that a visitor to Kandy should never miss. Created in the 14th Century as the Pleasure Garden of Kandyan Kings, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Peradeniya is surrounded by the river Mahaweli on three sides and is connected to the opposite bank by a suspension bridge. With more than 4000 species of flora, the garden is an example of the wealth and beauty of the tropics. With more than hundred varieties of palm trees, five palm avenues where palms such as Talipot grow to an immense size, wonderful arches of glossy foliage, lovely fernery, and orchid houses with rare blossoms and spice trees in groves make it a rich botanical heritage in the world.
Traditional Crafts - Sri Lanka has many fine traditional handicrafts, which are the products of a continuing tradition of Sinhalese culture and craftsmanship. Out of the large range of handicrafts in the country, Kandy is famous for silver, brass and copper work, wood carving, ceramics, lacquer work, hand-looms, batik, handmade jewellery of gold and silver with precious gems, rush and reed work etc. Exhibition hall of Kandyan Arts and Crafts Association beside the lake and the Government owned Arts and Crafts shop, Laksala present a good display of these items. Nattaranpotha, a traditional craft village is found 3 km east of the city, where all families are engaged in producing crafts in the traditional way using traditional techniques and materials. Kandy is a paradise for tourists seeking to buy authentic souvenirs and jewellery.
Performing Arts - Kandyan culture is also inseparable from the traditional arts of dancing and music. They are absorbed in to the culture in various forms such as rites, rituals, productive activities, religious and monumental. The Kandyan dance (the dance of the upcountry) is one of the most advanced and free standing forms of art in the evolutionary process of dancing. Associated with the annual Kandy Esala Perahara (procession), Kandyan dance has won international fame. Today, the visitors to Kandy can experience the traditional dance and music at the daily Cultural Performances held at several places of the city.
Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawela - The Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawela is a famous attraction for both locals and foreign tourists and could easily be visited during the stay in Kandy. Approximately 30km from Kandy off the Kandy Colombo main road, Pinnawela could also be visited on the way to Kandy or the Cultural Triangle area from airport or Colombo. The Orphanage was established in 1975 to house abandoned and wounded elephants in an attempt to restore the elephant population in Sri Lanka, which came close to extinction as a result of being hunted down in large numbers during the British colonisation. At present there are approximately 90 elephants in the orphanage and this is the largest heard of captive elephants in the world. Around 25 baby elephants have been born in the orphanage since 1984. The baby elephants are fed milk twice a day at 9.30am and 1.30pm and the entire herd is taken to the river to bathe twice a day soon after feeding, hence these are the best times to visit the orphanage. Visitors to the orphanage could get involved and help the mahouts in bathing the elephants.
Map of the City