Located 115km to the east of Colombo and tucked away at an altitude of 500m, Kandy represents an ancient empire lost. Kandy served as the last capital of the last of the Sinhalese Kingdom, during the era of the ancient kings. Kandy was founded way back in the 14th century, and forms the southern tip of the ‘cultural triangle’ of Sri Lanka.
Due to its high elevation, The Kingdom of Kandy successfully resisted Portuguese and Dutch rule for 3 centuries, and then fell to the British in the 1815 Kandyan war, thus ending its independent rule. An ancient tradition of sovereign rule ended, and colonial rule began.
In more contemporary times, Kandy is the largest city in Sri Lanka besides Colombo, and was declared a UNESCO heritage site as ‘the sacred city of Kandy‘ in 1988. Kandy boasts outstanding natural beauty, and is surrounded by mountain ranges, lakes, waterfalls and Sri Lanka’s largest river, Mahaweli Ganga.
It is sacred to Buddhists, and religious pilgrims come from all over to visit the temples and shrines in the city. The architecture of the city, featuring Indian, Buddhist and Sinhalese accents, are also noteworthy. Due to its long history of sovereign rule, there is also distinct Kandyan culture and heritage that is well appreciated by visitors.
Here’s a glimpse of what Kandy has to offer:
1. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
Built in the 16th century, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (also known as Dalada Maligawa) is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world. As denoted by its namesake, it houses Sri Lanka’s most important Buddhist relic- an actual tooth of Buddha. The relic is kept in a golden Dagoba casket and attracts many devotees and curious visitors.
In ancient times, the tooth held more than religious significance, it also carried political importance, as it was believed that whoever had the tooth was vested with power to rule.
Many Sri Lankan Buddhists believe that they have to make at least one pilgrimage to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic once in their lifetime, so as to improve their karmic lot. Rituals are performed at the temple thrice daily, at 4.30am, 10.30am, and 6.30pm.
2. Knuckles Mountain Range
Appearing to look like clenched fists from the distance, the Knuckles Mountain Range is a breathtaking panoramic swathe of beauty that is shrouded in mist and mystery. Located 3000 feet above sea level, the climate up there is cool, wet and misty, unlike much of the rest of the country. There is a great diversity of flora and fauna in the Knuckles Mountain Range, including some species which are endemic to Sri Lanka, such as the nannophrys marmorata (a type of frog) and the ceratophora tennentii lizard.
The Knuckles Mountain Range is perfect for eco-adventures, including hiking, mountain biking and wildlife spotting. Natural beauty is all around, with lush green foresh and cascading waterfalls.
3. Embekke Devalaya
Embekke Devalaya is a temple that is famous for its intricate and beautiful wood carvings, arguably the best in all of Sri Lanka. There are a total of 128 carvings on the wooden pillars, including motifs of leaves, flowers, animals, soldiers, dancers and even mythical creatures such as mermaids!
Besides the exquisitely carved wooden pillars, the high pitched roof is also noteworthy.
4. Kandy Lake
Built by the King in 1807, Kandy Lake is a beautiful refreshing water body that is full of freshwater fish. Children can enjoy throwing food to feed the fish as a form of amusement, take a romantic boat ride on the lake, or stroll hand in hand around the lake. A diversity of wildlife can also can seen around the lake. In the middle of the lake is an island that holds the Royal Summer House, and an ornamental wall runs around the bank of the lake. Next to it is the Royal Bathhouse which used to be used by the King’s wives and concubines.
However, this beautiful lake that is now enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, has a less savory past. Built upon the sweat blood and tears of forced laborers, the building of the lake at that time was considered a waste of national resources when the Kingdom was under threat. The cruelty of the King in impaling protesters to the bed of the river adds to the bloody history of the Kandy Lake.
5. Udawattakelle Forest Reserve
The Udawattakelle Forest Reserve used to be a pleasure garden for royalty, and the lake used for bathing. An extensive variety of trees and plant life can be found here, and the forest reserve is also famous for its avifauna. Visitors who visit early in the morning will be treated to a melodious chorus of bird songs. There is a huge diversity of birdlife, including rare and endemic species. There are also 3 Buddhist monasteries and cave dwellings.
Staying in Kandy? These villas offer a warm and welcoming stay!