48 Hours in Kandy: Tour of Sri Lanka’s Hill Capital

by | Mar 22, 2024 | Asia

Kandy, Sri Lanka’s cultural capital, beckoned with its promise of ancient temples, emerald hills, and a rich heritage. With just 48 hours to spare, I knew I had to pack in as much as possible. This whirlwind tour turned out to be an unforgettable adventure, filled with vibrant sights, spiritual encounters, and a touch of serenity amidst the bustling city.

Day 1: Unveiling the Heart of Kandy

My exploration began at the heart of Kandy Lake, a man-made marvel reflecting the majestic mountains that cradled the city. Lush greenery fringed the banks, dotted with locals enjoying a leisurely stroll or a picnic under the shade of ancient trees. Taking a boat ride across the lake offered a unique perspective of the city, with the golden roof of the Temple of the Tooth gleaming in the distance.

Speaking of the Temple of the Tooth, also known as Sri Dalada Maligawa, it was undoubtedly the highlight of my first day. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is Sri Lanka’s most sacred Buddhist temple, housing the tooth relic of Lord Buddha himself. The atmosphere was electric with devotion. Devotees clad in white sarongs offered flowers and incense, their chants filling the air with a sense of serenity. Witnessing this age-old tradition was a truly humbling experience.

A Brush with History at the Royal Palace Museum

Next, I ventured to the Royal Palace Museum, a captivating glimpse into the grandeur of Sri Lanka’s Kandyan kings. The architecture was a fusion of local and European styles, adorned with intricate carvings and frescoes that depicted scenes from the kingdom’s rich history. The museum’s artifacts – from ornately decorated furniture to royal weaponry – transported me back to a bygone era, offering a fascinating insight into the lives of Sri Lanka’s royalty.

Cultural Extravaganza at a Kandyan Dance Performance

As evening approached, I immersed myself in the vibrant cultural scene of Kandy. A captivating Kandyan dance performance unfolded before my eyes. The dancers, adorned in colorful attire, moved with remarkable grace and agility, their rhythmic steps accompanied by the melodious strains of traditional drums and flutes. The performance was a visual and auditory feast, showcasing the rich tapestry of Sri Lankan culture.

A Culinary Adventure for the Taste Buds

Sri Lankan cuisine is a delightful dance of flavors, and Kandy doesn’t disappoint. My days were filled with delicious discoveries. A staple is rice and curry – fluffy white rice served with a dazzling array of curries. From creamy coconut curries to fiery delights, there’s something for every palate. Don’t miss out on dahl, a lentil soup packed with flavor, and freshly made roti, a flatbread perfect for scooping up all that goodness.

For a vegetarian option, I recommend trying pittu, a steamed rice cake with a soft center and a slightly crispy exterior. It’s often served with a coconut sambal, adding a touch of spice. And no Sri Lankan meal is complete without a cup of strong, milky Sri Lankan tea.

If you have a sweet tooth, Kandy won’t let you down. Almonds, cashews, and spices are common ingredients in Sri Lankan sweets. I indulged in a plate of wattalapam, a creamy egg custard flavored with cardamom, and kavum, a sweet made from rice flour and jaggery (palm sugar). Both were melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

What are the best Hotels to stay in Kandy?

Remember, the best hotel for you depends on your priorities. Consider factors like location (near the lake or central sights), amenities (pool, spa), and budget before making your choice. Reading online reviews from past guests can also be helpful.

Day 2: Nature’s Embrace and Scenic Wonders

The second day was dedicated to exploring Kandy’s natural beauty. The Royal Botanical Gardens, a sprawling haven of diverse flora, was my first stop. Rows upon rows of orchids in a kaleidoscope of colors greeted me, followed by towering trees draped in emerald creepers. The sight of the Spice Garden within the botanical gardens was a sensory delight. The air hung heavy with the invigorating aroma of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom, a reminder of Sri Lanka’s role as a historic spice producer.

Breathtaking Views from Bahiravokanda Vihara Temple

For a panoramic view of Kandy, I climbed the Bahiravokanda Vihara Temple. The climb itself was a mini-adventure, offering glimpses of the city unfolding below. Reaching the summit was truly rewarding. The breathtaking vista of Kandy bathed in the golden hues of the morning sun left me speechless. The serenity of the temple grounds, adorned with Buddhist statues and colorful prayer flags, provided a perfect spot for quiet contemplation.

Encountering Gentle Giants at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage

No trip to Kandy is complete without encountering the majestic elephants that Sri Lanka is famous for. The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, a haven for rescued and abandoned elephants, offered a heartwarming experience. Witnessing these gentle giants being bottle-fed, frolicking in the river, and munching on their breakfast of leaves was a sight that melted my heart.

A Journey for the Senses: From Bustling Markets to Hillside Serenity

Kandy Lake, a shimmering expanse in the heart of the city, is the perfect place to relax. I spent an afternoon strolling along the lakeside path, watching locals fish and families enjoying picnics. The breeze carried the sweet scent of frangipani flowers, adding to the serenity.

For a dose of local life, I ventured into the Kandy Market. It’s a riot of sights, sounds, and smells! Stalls overflow with fresh fruits and vegetables, colorful spices, and an array of handcrafted souvenirs. Be prepared to bargain – it’s all part of the fun!

To escape the city bustle, I took a tuk-tuk ride up to the Bahiravokanda Vihara Buddha statue. Perched on a hilltop, this giant white Buddha statue offers breathtaking panoramic views of Kandy. Sitting in the quiet, gazing at the landscape below, I felt a sense of peace wash over me.

A Fitting Farewell: Sunset by the Lake

As my 48 hours in Kandy drew to a close, I returned to the shores of the lake. The setting sun cast a warm glow on the water, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink. The sight was a fitting farewell to this enchanting city. As I bid adieu to Kandy, I carried with me a treasure trove of memories – the grandeur of its temples, the vibrant culture, the breathtaking scenery, and the warmth of its people.

Kandy, with its rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty, had truly captured my heart. This whirlwind tour may have been short, but it left me yearning to return and explore more of this captivating city.

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