A UNESCO World Heritage Site and once the capital of the Sinhala kingdom, Kandy is considered the religious capital of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Situated 115km from Colombo at 465 meters above sea level, it is the last royal capital of Sri Lanka which has now become a major tourist destination. Facing the tranquil Kandy Lake is the ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’, known as the “Temple of the Tooth Relic”, the main attraction of the city. Built in the 16th century it enshrines the golden casket carrying the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, brought to Sri Lanka from India in the 4th century. Behind it is the royal palace complex and some these historical buildings have been converted into museums depicting the exhibits of the royal Kandyan era.
The best time to visit Kandy is the month of July/August when the city takes on an air of festivity. Both foreign tourists and Sri Lankan families flock to Kandy to view the annual festival known as the “Esala Maha Perahera” at which the golden casket containing the tooth relic parades the streets of the city in royal procession. The final night procession is the most spectacular event of the country and is viewed by thousands each year. The procession includes 75 or more caparisoned elephants, traditional dancers and drummers, flag bearers and chieftains, all dressed in glamorous traditional costumes in all their splendour.
Kandy has a rich heritage of Buddhist temples. Adjacent to the Temple of the tooth are three of the four major Hindu shrines that also take part in the annual parade. The city with a centrally placed bustling market is rich in cultural diversity and offers plenty for tourists to enjoy. It could be cultural performances at any one of the hotels or choice handicrafts at the many outlets, or fresh fruits at the open market.
Walking up to the “view Point” opposite the Dalada Maligawa above the lake, one can quietly enjoy the sight of beautiful hills that surround the city below. Enjoying a pleasant walk around the lake in cool fresh air is always a delightful experience. Spending a day at the famous botanical gardens bordering the Mahaweli river, noted for its orchid house, expansive well maintained lawns and ancient trees, would be something to remember. Kandy is the gateway to the higher hills and tea plantations and makes a good transit point to the cultural triangle.