Lake in Kandy at sunset, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka,  travel

Kandy and Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

Kandy at sunset

Kandy and Nuwara Eliya are two beautiful regions of Sri Lanka. After a few days exploring both, I’d recommend adding them to your Sri Lanka itinerary.

The deeper you travel into the heart of Sri Lanka, the more you realise how truly diverse this little country is.  As you travel away from the sunny coasts, the landscape becomes greener, mistier, and altogether more mysterious.

Central Sri Lanka

Our tour of Sri Lanka took us to the edge of the cultural triangle. We split the next few days  between Kandy, the largest city in central Sri Lanka, and the hilly town of Nuwara Eliya. Nuwara Eliya, is foggier and cooler than many parts of Sri Lanka. Add in instances of colonial British architecture, and it felt familiar, living up to its nickname of “Little England”.  At our B&B that evening, my friend and I wrapped up in the warmest clothes we had with us. We sat sipping tea and feeling oddly a little homesick for London, despite the fact neither of us is originally British.

Nuwara Eliya

These two places, vastly different despite the fact they are not far apart, have plenty of things to do and see.  The scenery alone makes traversing these regions worth it.  I’d recommend putting these on your itinerary:

Visit The Temple of the Tooth

Kandy is known for being the centre of the country’s dominant religion, Buddhism. The Temple of the Tooth is most sacred place in Sri Lanka to visit for Buddhists. The golden-gilded temple believed to house a tooth from Lord Buddha himself. But no matter your religious beliefs, this is a cultural and historical highlight, and a great experience to visit.

Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka

I loved that we had our guide along with us. He gave a lot of helpful tips and advice to make sure we could be as respectful as possible during our visit.  Make sure to dress conservatively, covering your legs and shoulders (I wore a long maxi skirt and a light cardigan). I’d recommend sandals to make it easier when you have to remove your shoes.

Inside the Temple of the Tooth, Kandy, Sri Lanka

The legend of the tooth states that it was taken from Buddha as he lay on his funeral pyre. Then, Indian Princess Hemamala smuggled it to Sri Lanka as she fled from Hindu armies who were besieging her father’s kingdom. Later, the tooth was brought to the temple where it sits today, enshrined in seven nested golden caskets.  Once a year, the people of Kandy hold a celebration in which the tooth is paraded on the back of an elephant.

Guards at the entrance to Temple of the Tooth in Kandy

Inside the temple, you’ll find drummers performing ceremonial rituals, various religious shrines, portraits explaining the history of the tooth coming to the country. The tour culminates in visiting the tooth itself, hidden from view inside the caskets.

See a Cultural Show

Dancers take the stage at a traditional culture show in Kandy, Sri Lanka

After visiting the Temple, we sat down for a cultural show.  Don’t expect a fancy venue (this one reminded me slightly of the auditorium at my old school), but the performances were great.

A dancer wears a traditional Sri Lankan mask at a cultural show in Kandy

Featuring traditional dancers and drummers, the performance consisted of 11 dances in traditional costumes, each representing a different part of the country’s history and culture. One involved the famed traditional carved masks you are bound to come across as you travel through the country.

Dancer spin plates during a cultural show in Kandy

The last performance is the highlight – fire walkers tread across hot coals, live flames, and eat fire.

The show was entertaining and a great way to learn more about Sri Lanka’s rich culture.

A fire walker walks across hot coals at a cultural show in Kandy, Sri Lanka

Tour a Tea Plantation

Tea plantation near Nuwara Eliya

I love tea: Black, green, herbal, any kind, so long as it is strong. The Sri Lankan tea met my tastes, putting British supermarket brands to shame. Even better, it tasted incredibly fresh.  To learn more about it, our tour guide drove us to the plantation, not far from Nuwari Eliya.

Sri Lankan woman talks about the tea making process at a tea plantation in Sri Lanka

There, we were taken through the tea making process. We learned how they make black, green, and white teas, from the leaves used through to the fermentation process. Then, we sat down for a tasting and cake in the cafe.

Wander Around the Royal Botanical Gardens

Flowers at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya Sri Lanka

Formerly the King’s pleasure gardens and not far from Kandy, the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens are a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

Path lined with tall palm trees at Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya Sri Lanka
lily pad  covered fountain at Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya Sri Lanka

As Sri Lanka’s largest garden, there’s plenty of space to explore, relax, take a picnic.  Even though I’m no horticultural expert, I loved walking around the gardens.

Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya Sri Lanka
Pink and white orchid
Pink, white and purple orchids at Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya Sri Lanka

Along the way, you’ll pass around 4,000 species of plants. Highlights include the imposing Avenue of Royal Palms, an Instagram-worthy orchid house, a century-old fig tree, spice gardens, and tons of bamboo.

There’s also plenty of monkeys and birds to watch as you stroll around. It’s a great way to enjoy a bit of sunshine and some fresh air

Monkeys sit in a tree at Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya Sri Lanka
Can you spot the monkeys in the tree?

Watch the Waterfalls

You’ll find some of the tallest and most awe-inspiring waterfalls in the country in the hilly region of Nuwara Eliya. This includes the Devon Falls and St. Clairs falls, among others.

Mist covers Devon falls near Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka
Devon falls near Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka

On our last full day in Sri Lanka, we drove not far from Nuwara Eliya past Ramboda Fall. The waterfall is Y-shaped, cascading down the hills and prime beauty spot in the country. Then, our tour took us winding through hills, up to a high-up lookout facing Devon falls. When we arrived, it was shrouded in morning mist, quickly burned away in the sun as the heat of the day settled in.

The rest of the morning was spent white-water rafting before returning to the coast for a late afternoon at the beach. We relaxed in our hotel near Negumbo before catching our flights the next morning.

Sri Lanka remains one of my favourite countries I’ve visited. I’d love to return and explore the eastern parts of the country.

Have I missed any great places in this Sri Lanka series? I’d love to know some new places to visit to return to this lovely country!

Things to do in Kandy and Nuwara Eliya Sri Lanka

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