On route from Kandalama to Kandy we stopped at a Spice Garden near Matale, as Sri Lanka has long since been renowned for its spices. There are many spice gardens to choose from and you can learn about cinnamon, cardamom and favourites such as chocolate and vanilla. You are guided around the garden, talked through how spices are grown and then processed, at the end there is a shop to visit and purchase spices if you so choose. A visit to a spice garden is worth it as its informative, only takes half an hour and it breaks up your journey.
Kandy was the second stop in my travels around Sri Lanka, I stayed here 2 nights at the lovely Earls Regency Hotel. This hotel is favoured by the British sports teams and is a five star luxury hotel. It is one of Sri Lanka’ finest hotels, set 5 kilometres away from Kandy City, in Tennekumbura suburbs and built in a beautiful mountainous countryside landscape, overlooking Tennekumbura Bridge and the River Mahaweli, which offers you a holiday hideaway with the city not too far away to visit. I certainly found it very comfortable and relaxing after a day of sightseeing and its high tea is a must, very reasonable in price. The facilities are good, a pool, spa and gym with a choice of restaurants and bar. The indian restaurant is exceptionally nice!
Kandy is a major city in Sri Lanka, it was the last capital of the ancient kings’ era. The original name for Kandy was “Katubulu Nuwara” and “Senkadagala”. The city lies in the middle of hills in the Kandy plateau, it is surrounded by tropical plantations which are mainly tea. Kandy is a religious city and capital of Central Province, it has a population of over 125,000 people.
The city homes major tourist attractions, The Temple of the Tooth Relic, the Royal Botanical gardens and the Kandy Cultural Show, all of which I visited whilst here.
The Temple of the Tooth Relic (or Sri Dalada Maligawa is the traditional name) is a Buddhist temple right in the centre of Kandy city, located in the royal palace complex. It origins date back to 1595 and it houses the relic of the tooth of a Buddha, as popular belief says “whoever holds the relic holds the governance of the country”. The temple is one of the most sacred places of worship in the Buddhist world and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Worship inside the temple is conducted by Buddhist monks, known as Bhikkhus. There are 3 times of worship each day at dawn, noon and evening. I attended the evening ritual of the opening of the tooth relic door, which you can see it for a limited amount of time each day. People bring food and flowers to the worship and it certainly is an eye opener into another culture, one I feel privileged to have witnessed. Make sure you are fully covered on your shoulders and legs before entering the temple, this is an important sign of respect.
Royal Botanical Gardens are the largest botanical gardens in Sri Lanka, over 147 acres in size and houses 4000 species of plants. It formally became a gardens in 1821. This is a well loved attraction in Sri Lanka and I can see why, you feel as if you have been transported into another world and in parts you feel like you are back in England, walking in the countryside. These lush gardens are known for its collection of 300 species of orchids and over 10,000 trees to be seen in the park, including the Cannonball tree, the ‘drunken’ trees and the Giant Bamboo of Burma. Other areas of interest include The Cabbage Palm Avenue, a personal favourite of mine, one long avenue of Royal Palms where you find large amounts of fruit bats hanging upside down from the trees. There is an artificial lake, an Octagon Conservatory and a Suspension Bridge across the River Mahaweli, which you can walk over. You can easily spend 2/3 hours here, walking around enjoying the scenery and learning about the gardens.
Kandy Cultural Show is a MUST whilst exploring or staying in Kandy. The Kandy Dance cultural show is one of the most famous evening events, it certainly was a highlight of my trip. It starts early evening around 5pm and lasts an hour at the Kandiyan Art Association and Cultural Centre in the city centre, which is perfect timing to walk over to the Temple of the Tooth nearby and see the evening ritual afterwards. This cultural show offers displays in local culture and art, showing you all aspects of Sri Lankan traditions. Such as musical performance, dancing, acting, fire walking and drumming.
Whilst in Kandy you can visit a Gem Factory, I went to Isini Gems & Jewellers and had a tour of the factory, then a look at what was available to buy and you can barter in there. Sri Lanka is famous for its blue sapphire and there are many beautiful gems on offer. I bought some pink sapphire studs which were a good price and I was given an authenticity certificate.
My time spent in Kandy was a perfect combination of exploration and relaxation, as there is plenty to see and do around the city and the Earls Regency offered that hotel escape after plenty sightseeing. I do hope you enjoy Kandy as much as I did.