"Green hills and orange skies" Top 5 Page for this destination Kandy by mafi_moya

Kandy Travel Guide: 307 reviews and 723 photos

Kandy is Sri Lanka's second city, its cultural capital, and the first stop for most tourists eager to escape Colombo for the beauty of the hill country. Built around a stunning lake, the city is the spiritual home of the Sinhalese people and Sri Lankan Buddhism, and a potent symbol of national pride and identity. The annual Esala Perahera, with its colourful parades of illuminated elephants, is one of the country's most famous sights.

A City of History...

As with many Sri Lankan cities there is a terrific sense of history - the Kandyan empire was one of Sri Lanka's greatest and held out for centuries against the foreign colonialists while the rest of the country succumbed. More than once the British and Dutch took the city, only to be shortly kicked back out again. The Kandyan people are widely revered as the true Sinhalese, sometimes seen as a cut above the rest.

It is also a city of tremendous religious significance: a hotbed of Buddhist political power and home to the famous Temple of the Tooth - the sacred tooth in question being Buddha's. This temple and the Royal Palace close by have formed the heart of the city for centuries - the Portuguese and Dutch in particular deliberately targeted the temple and the tooth inside, believing that if it was captured or destroyed so too would the spirit of the people be broken.

The famous "Last King of Kandy" was Sri Vikrama Rajasinha, who built much of modern Kandy and constructed the lake which now dominates the city. Ironically, given the Buddhist and Sinhala connections, much of his family was apparently Tamil! Such was his extravagance and penchant for slave labour that in 1815 his subjects surrendered to the British rather than stay loyal to their tyrant king, and Kandy was finally in foreign hands for the next century and more.

But...

The history is fascinating, as is understanding Kandy's importance to the whole country. The lake is beautiful and the setting is incredible and the town has a lot of charm. But to me this doesn't make up for the over-commercialism of many of the city's main attractions and the difficulty a foreigner has in walking around the centre without being hassled for money by beggars, guides, con-men and whoever else. It's also very crowded and congested.

Kandy is at the top of nearly every tourist's 'must do' list. There are definitely enough positives to make it a worthwhile visit - but if you've got a tight schedule then I can think of several Sri Lankan towns and cities I'd recommend over this one.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful lake, stunning natural setting and fascinating history
  • Cons:Too many touts and tourists
  • In a nutshell:The most famous but not the best
  • Last visit to Kandy: Jun 2003
  • Intro Updated Mar 15, 2004
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Reviews (12)

Comments (4)

  • Sep 16, 2009 at 3:08 AM

    I can vouch for this...I was hassled in Kandy and fell for it. I was persuaded to buy a man a bottle of arrak who told me he was a chef at my hotel. I got very annoyed at him and told him to f*** off. Next day I left for Ella.

  • piglet44's Profile Photo
    Apr 11, 2005 at 9:16 PM

    great page ,amazing pix I am jealous!!

  • radz's Profile Photo
    Jul 12, 2004 at 4:29 AM

    Beautiful,interesting tips:)

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Nov 10, 2003 at 9:49 AM

    And yet more excellent tips on one of the Island's most popular areas. I agree, with limited time, maybe the hassles involved here might send someone a bit farther north?

mafi_moya

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