Kandy | Sri Lanka

Kandy Hill, Sri Lanka

We arrived in Kandy on a bus from Matale. We hadn't booked any accommodation so set to work finding somewhere to stay when we got there. We'd looked online but a lot of places were booked up or very pricy because it was the Esala Perahera. In hindsight maybe we should have booked in advance. We found a tuk tuk and asked the driver if he knew any guest houses. He said he did so took us to the first one. We looked around and the price was very high, again because of the Esala Perahera, we tried to negotiate but they wouldn't budge. I don't mind paying higher prices but the quality of the room was not reflected in the high price in any way. We moved onto another guest house and it was the same problem. We asked the driver to drop us off in town and we'd found our own accommodation but he kept insisting we see 'just one more!'.

He eventually dropped us off but demanded triple the price we'd negotiated because we hadn't picked any of the accommodation he'd shown us even though we'd asked him after the second one to drop us off. After the stress of trying to find somewhere to stay our next task was to try and find somewhere with wifi to conduct our own search.

We found a bar / coffee shop so sat down to have a coffee and get some (very bad) wifi. Using the wifi we managed to find a hostel with beds available. We headed to the hostel, dropped off our bags and headed into town. The hostel was around a half an hour walk from the main city. The walk was very hilly but thankfully was downhill on the way to the city, we usually got a tuk tuk home because the hill was so steep! 

I have to say I never really got my head around the logistics of the city. What I mean by this is I usually had no idea where I was going. I'm usually quite good at getting my head around a new place, I start to recognise landmarks and work out how to get around. However, with Kandy, we could never quite get the route into town right. We ended up walking to the train station both times which was the opposite to where we actually wanted to go! It does feel much larger than anywhere else I visited in Sri Lanka (apart from the capital, Colombo).

Buddhas in Kandy

What to see in Kandy

The Esala Perahera

This is one of the most important Buddhist festivals in Sri Lanka. The tooth that is held in the Temple of the Tooth is carried through the city in the procession. Being able to see this depends on what time of year you will be visiting Kandy. The festival takes place from the end of July until the first week of August. If you're in Sri Lanka in this time then it's worth checking out. I can't tell you exact dates as they vary slightly from year to year but I'm sure a quick google will tell you the 2017 dates. 

If you do visit, get a spot early! The procession starts around 7 pm but the city will get packed a lot earlier, it will start getting very difficult to get around due to roads being blocked off, trying to get from one side of the street to the other is extremely hard in certain areas. There are plenty of places to watch the procession but they will fill up quickly. We looked for a place to watch around 5.30 and a lot of areas were already full. 

Ensure you sit somewhere that the procession actually passes. We initially sat down in a space but were told that the procession didn't actually come past us, it came close but not past. There were lots of other people sitting in this area so I'm not sure if they knew. We quickly moved on. We ended up sitting right by the end of the procession. We sat 'front row' on the street but as the procession went on it was clear this was not the best position. 

TIP: Don't sit near the end of the procession, most of the dancers had stopped by this point so we missed out on seeing a lot. 

You can buy seats in restaurants or shops to view the procession from. We found these pricy. They varied from around 25 to 35 pounds, most were just a small chair in a shop front, others were more fancy. 

Streets of Kandy, Sri Lanka

Explore the markets

There are plenty of markets in Kandy to explore. I can definitely say that we spent a bit too much time exploring them. Many of the outside ones are like the usual ones you find. Set up for tourists selling traveller favourites such as elephant pants and knock off brand clothing. However, we found an inside market which seemed to be very much the same as the outside ones until a man invited us up to the top floor. This actually sounds incredibly creepy when I write it but it wasn't as creepy as it sounds. We assumed he was just going to take us to another floor of the same stands but we followed anyway as we could easily turn around if they were. However, the top floor was a bit of a goldmine. We seemed to be the only tourists up there. The stalls were a complete jumble of clothes. It was like one big charity shop. 

It was great as a lot of the clothes were the sort you'd find in some quirky vintage store except without the high prices! We got a bit too carried away. We had to look through a lot of bad clothes to find the gems but it was great. I have to say I enjoyed escaping sightseeing for the afternoon. We came away with way too many clothes and had to buy a bag to carry them all in. Not a good move but I do wear a lot of the clothes I purchased so I guess it worked out well. 

I think the market we went to was the central market but I'm not completely sure. I didn't take too much notice of my surroundings and we always ended up getting a bit lost on our walk into the centre!

tuk tuk Kandy, Sri Lanka

The Lake

This is one thing we didn't get chance to see (probably thanks to our mad shopping afternoon). We did however, see some of the lake whilst walking around the centre of Kandy. I think you can hire boats to go out onto the lake or just walk around it.

The Temple of the Tooth 

Temple of the tooth, Kandy

Elephants in Kandy, Sri Lanka

This is, maybe, the most important temple in Sri Lanka. It's also one of the main reasons for visiting Kandy. We went very early before our train to Nawalapitiya (where we'd treated ourselves to a night at a cute hotel in a tea plantation). We were supposed to go the previous day but we got carried away shopping in the markets. Long story short we got very excited over cheap clothes and bought way too many. I greatly regretted this when I had to carry all these new clothes in my rucksack!

When we went the Temple of the Tooth closed earlier than usual for the Esala Perahera festival. We had seen this on our first night but did not want to see it again so planned on going to the temple in the later afternoon. However, we couldn't so ended up having a very early start. I guess it was karma for going shopping instead of being cultural!

The entrance fee to the temple is higher than most of the others we visited but it is the most important one and this reflects in the price. You have to hand over your shoes before you enter. There are people offering to give you guided tour but we declined, we were in a hurry and didn't want to spend extra money and not be able to fully appreciate a tour.

The temple was already quite busy when we got there and we were there pretty early in order to fit it in before our train. There are various other buildings in the complex some are included in the ticket but many of the museums have a separate fee. 


  • Bus from Matale to Kandy: 40 rupees (less than an hour)
  • Easy train access from Kandy train station to traveller favourite such as Ella. 
  • Can also get the bus from Dambulla, slightly longer and costs more but still very cheap. 
  • Entry to the Temple of the Tooth: 1000 rupees 
  • Go to the Temple of the Tooth early as it can get very crowded inside! 


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