Kandalama is a village in Sri Lanka and is located within the Central Province. It is home to the Heritance Kandalama, one of Sri Lanka’s first 5 star hotels and the Kaludiya Pokuna Archeological Forest.
I stayed at the Heritance Kandalama at the start of my trip, it took 5 hours to get here from Colombo airport. The main reason for staying in Kandalama is that its located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s ‘cultural triangle’, only 20 minutes from the ancient town of Dambulla and situated right next to famous Sigiriya Rock.
The hotel itself is an architectural dream, as they say “the hotel doesn’t sit on the landscape, but is part of it”. It is the work of Geoffrey Bawa, a renowned architect and his most eco friendly design. Heritance Kandalama hotel integrates the rock face and camouflages itself within it, if you take a walk at front of the hotel and look back it disappears into the greenery and rock face. The views look out over the forest, lake and Sigiriya Rock in the distance and the sounds of birds and sight of the monkeys make this an extra ordinary place to stay. I found this hotel a perfect retreat especially after a long day out sightseeing, it was relaxing to take a dip in the infinity pool and gaze into the distance or enjoy a massage in their tranquil spa. The three nights I spent here set the bar extremely high for the rest of the trip, it was definitely my favourite hotel in all I stayed in whilst in Sri Lanka.
Sightseeing wise the main attractions to see and visit whilst staying in Kandalama are, Sigirya, the Golden Temple in Dambulla, Minneriya National Park and local elephant rides.
Sigirya or Sinhagiri known as the Lion Rock, is an ancient rock fortress located in the Matale district, near Dambulla town. The massive column of rock stands at nearly 200 metres high, 660 feet. According to Sri Lankan history thence site was selected by King Kasyapa (477-495 CE) as his new capital. He built his palace on the very top of the rock and decorated its sides with colourful frescoes (paintings of women). About halfway up the side of the rock he built a gateway, in the form of a huge lion. This is why the name of the place is taken from this structure ‘Lion Rock’. After the kings death it was all abandoned and was used as a Buddhist monastery until the 14 th century. Today it is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site, the most visited historic site in Sri Lanka and is known as the 8th wonder of the world. You definitely have to climb to the top of Sigiriya, it isn’t for the faint hearted so take your time.
Golden Temple is located in the town of Dambulla. It is also known as Dambulla Cave Temple and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The height of site stands at 160 metres high, with more than 80 caves in the area. Although the main attractions are spread over 5 caves, they contain statues and paintings, all related to Gautama Buddha and his life. With 153 Buddha statues, 3 of Sri Lankan kings and 4 of gods & goddesses, including Vishnu (the god of preservation and protection) and Ganesha (god of new beginnings). The murals on the walls of the caves cover an area of 23,000 square feet, they show the Buddha first sermon and amongst many other things. The origins of the temple date back to the first century and it is the largest and best preserved cave temple in Sri Lanka. A pleasure to visit, with locals offering you fresh fruits and monkeys paving the path up the caves, it is a very peaceful and interesting experience.
Minneriya National Park is a national park in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka. Minneriya was designated a national park on 12 th August 1997, as it was originally a wildlife sanctuary since 1938. The park covers an area of 8,889 hectares and the Minneriya Rainwater Reservoir is the main focal point of the national park which is 249 square kilometres in size, this was built by King Mahasen 15 centuries ago. As it is part of the elephant corridor, joining up with Kaudulla and Wasgomuwa parks, Minneriya National Park lets you see herds of Elephants throughout the year. I saw many elephants at Minneriya, which i observed for a couple of hours. There were many baby elephants, however they were closely guarded by their elders. The park is also know for its many species of birds and deer. If you have never experienced a safari, i would recommend visiting Minneriya National Park, and if you have been fortunate to safari elsewhere then this will bring back all the memories of how fantastic it is to still see animals in their natural habitat.
Elephant rides can be taken all over the area, you can pre arrange one or you can simply walk down nearby the lake of Heritance Kandalama hotel and take an elephant ride there. A must, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
As well as the major attractions, whilst driving around you will see and stop by many temples and statues of Buddha. Fruit stalls roadside are an absolute pleasure