A Kandy introduction

John Gimlette’s much-read story of Sri Lanka, Elephant Complex, describes in quite lurid detail the nose-slitting and ear-chopping that tended to greet Dutch and British visitors to Kandy in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The welcome is less cutting now but Kandy does still have occasion to leave its foreign guests a little disappointed. The name, of course, evokes a kind of fairy-tale kingdom and stumble across a wedding party at The Mahaveli Reach and the outfits (the men’s at least) will seem fantastical enough. Get stuck on the Old Perideniya Road after the schools turn out and any fairy tale ending seems a long way off.

How best, then to navigate 24 hours or so in the island’s ‘cultural capital’.

Places to see...

Why Visit Kandy...

Get up and out

I’m writing this looking at an old photograph, I’d guess from around 1920 going by the car, of ‘Ward Street, Kandy, Ceylon’. It ain’t the Kandy I recognise; Ward Street indeed, long since renamed.

There are moments, though, and perspectives in Kandy from which you can really picture the beautiful old town. Walking around the lake, bang in the middle of the city, very early in the morning, no doubt gives the best chance.

Walk along the lakeside, from the Hotel Suisse towards the city centre and you’ll get a glimpse across the lake to the Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Sacred Tooth), mist rising off the water, and a beautiful white domed stupha seen through the trees. Suddenly that’s a Kandy of a hundred years ago, and it’s quite stunning.


Walk it

Kandy is geographically muddling – a lake and a forest in the middle of the town often leaving A to B journeys long and circuitous.

Better than driving around the forest is to get out and walk through it. Udawatta Kele is a quite amazing sanctuary well inside the loop of the Mahaweli Ganga river that tends to define the limits of the city.

If the city centre disappoints in fairy-tale terms then the forest will surely compensate. Enormous, seemingly timeless trees extend great curled vines over wide paths that provide a kind of maze-like route. Troops of monkeys are often close by.

The ‘road’ names within the forest speak of Kandy’s colonial past – from the main entrance just above Trinity College you’ll soon stroll onto Lady Gordon’s Road via Lady Horton’s Drive.

Walking through the forest you can drop down to the Temple of the Tooth – stopping off perhaps at the Garrison Cemetry.

The latter, with many of the gravestone writings clearly legible and extensive, gives a wonderfully direct impression of life (and death) in old ‘British’ Kandy.


Shop smart

Kandy, in all honesty, doesn’t have the sprawling markets of other Asian cities. Its fabrics aren’t fantastic – you’d do better to brace yourself and head into Pettah in Colombo.

The Central Market near Keppetipola Road shows off an interesting enough array of local produce – a fair amount packaged and priced for the town’s many tourists.

Given Kandy’s rich history, though, you’ll find a good number of antique-type stores. Our favourite is the eponymous Waruna Antiques on the Old Perideniya Road – less about expensive antique furniture and most in the way of trinkets and little objects.

For gems and stones, we always suggest Tiesh, located not far from Waruna’s and the most reliable, in terms of quality and price, of Kandy’s many stores.








Five years ago, visitors would have been pretty well advised to skip Colombo and head straight off for hills or beaches. A lot’s changed, though, and the city now has a growing appeal for the curious traveler.


Galle Fort with its centuries old melting pot of cultures, Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, cobblestone streets and crumbling mansions makes for some great exploring.


Kandy is the hill country capital and gateway to the tea region of Sri Lanka. Once an ancient kingdom, nowadays it is an often traffic-jammed tangle of markets, temples, spice gardens and a picturesque lake.

Dining in Colombo

The Colombo dining scene is not as yet bursting with variety so some thought needs to go in to picking a suitable spot for dinner.

Dining in Galle

For a small city Galle (and the surrounds) does rather well when it comes to dining options and we do have our long standing and reliable favourites.


In Kalpitiya, between November and April something remarkable happens – hundreds of dolphins come to live and feed in the Indian Ocean. It’s nature at its purest and we can take you there.


Gal Oya Lodge offers the the only opportunity in Sri Lanka to spot elephants from the water. With a little luck you could spot them swimming between islands or bathing at the lake’s edge- a thrilling wildlife experience.


Yala National Park is a natural reserve of 96,000 hectares renowned for the highest density of leopards in the world. We suggest incorporating a stay at Leopard Trails for the best safari experience.


Observing the majestic nature of the largest mammal in the world, the Blue Whale, from an aerial point of view leaves passengers with an incomparable experience and understanding of the true magnitude of the beauty and grace of the species.


Ashburnham Estate is set in its own gorgeous 100-acre tea estate, around an hour north-east of Kandy. The estate boasts stunning waterfalls and beautiful views up to and across the Knuckles Mountains, not to mention around 60 acres of lush tea fields, plucked each day.


This is an immersive encounter for which the basis is local food: Muslim inspired biryani along with a bevy of spicy condiments, an assortment of hoppers and accompanying curries, or a simple but wholesome plate of rice and curry featuring seafood.


Photograph your way through the colourful streets of iconic 17th century Galle Fort, a melting pot of cultures, people and cuisines. The host is a 5th generation resident and photographer of this historic city, who has explored every corner of it since he was a child.


The local host of this homestay experience organizes custom hiking tours in the Knuckles Mountain Range. This in an ideal experience if wanting to go beyond the standard guidebook offers- go with the flow, live in basic conditions and learn about remote communities.


The Veddas are the forest-dwelling, indigenous people of central Sri Lanka. Neighbours of Gal Oya Lodge are one of the last remaining communities of the Vedda people and here, the village chief can be invited to take you on a walk through the jungles of his ancestors.


This experience takes place at a beautiful working cinnamon estate of 25 acres in the south of the island. The cinnamon grown here produces fine cinnamon quills, ground cinnamon and leaf oil. Private tours of the plantation are available, followed by lunch.


There’s magic in the air in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka. Floating effortlessly over the jungle to a breathtaking sunrise in a hot air balloon ride is an exhilarating and perfect way to see this picturesque countryside from a different perspective.


This full or half day waterfall chasing experience offers a trek through lush wilderness into the heart of the central provinces of Sri Lanka with an experienced local guide to discover Aberdeen Falls – a spectacular 98-metre horsetail waterfall.


Enjoy the greenery-clad, scenic views of the central hills of Sri Lanka then take in the unique bird’s eye view of the awe-inspiring site of Sigiriya rock fortress, studded with beautiful green gardens, ponds, fountains, promenades and pavilions.


While white sandy beaches may be the first images that leaps to mind when you imagine Sri Lanka, the island is blessed with a mountainous interior making it a very special hiking destination. There are trails for all sorts of experience, from easy walks to more intense treks.


If you’re looking to push the limits come to Sri Lanka for the kitesurfing season and ride the waves of the Indian Ocean. Between May and October, the Kalpitiya coast offers some of the best kitesurfing in the whole of Asia. Travel to the school for day lessons, or stay longer.


Sri Lanka’s position just above the equator guarantees sunshine to all corners of the country at various periods, making it a year-round sailing destination. Our sailing partners’ fleet of yachts provide an exclusive vantage point to stunning landscapes and pristine beaches.


Beaches in the sun-kissed stretch between Tangalle to Galle are some of the finest on the island. While some of these also have big waves and a strong current for the majority of the year, there are plenty of swimming-friendly bays in idyllic settings.


Supported by the Born Free Foundation, this complex is a halfway house for orphaned elephants. Although you can’t get up close and personal with the elephants, seeing them at feeding time (from a viewing platform) is still heartwarming and a lot of fun, specially for the kids.


This is an immersive art-based experience around the livelihood of a local artisan. His work is an act of cultural preservation as much as it is an art form, for it involves the ancient medium of ‘Kolam’ masks native to the coastal town of Ambalangoda.


This Tuk Tuk tour is a fun-filled, fully inclusive, 3-4 hour “off the beaten track“ adventure, that gives a taste of authentic Sri Lanka. The tour aims to showcase the historic bustling city of Colombo, capture the smiles of the locals all while cruising in a retro fitted tuk tuk.


SUP Yoga mixes classical yoga practice with stand up paddle boarding in a beautiful lagoon. Whether you are a regular on the mat or never done yoga before, the floating yoga studio will be an incredible experience.


Tri is Sri Lanka’s first truly contemporary sustainable luxury hotel. The yoga shala is an elegant, elevated retreat space that captures spectacular 360° views to stimulate body, mind and soul for creative expression.