King's Ridge is the ideal location to take in the historical and iconic landmarks of Kandy. The city is a bustle of life in its varieties of shops that sell almost everything, from traditional batik clothing to gems and jewellery, to tea, tropical fruits and much more. The ten-storey Kandy City Centre, a modern-day mall that includes a variety of shops, restaurants, and entertainment areas, is one of the highlights. Moving towards nature, the Udawattakele forest, known as 'the garden above the palace' in ancient times, is a 257-acre nature preserve with over 400 species of plants. Natural beauty is abundant in the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, a 147-acre landscape that is home to over 4,000 species of flora. The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage provides sanctuary to the largest heard of Asian elephants in captivity - a must-visit for any animal lover.
Culture and heritage are abundant in Kandy, as evidenced by the Temple of the Tooth, a majestic structure adjacent to the Kandy Lake. The Gadaladeniya Temple, the Lankathilaka Temple and Embekka Viharaya give further insight into the history of the city and the artistic talents of its past inhabitants. A key attraction to Kandy is the Esala Perahera, which takes place in July and August of each year. This pageantry, paying homage to the sacred tooth relic, is a colourful procession of reverence. The Kandy Dance Centre keeps the region's ancient art of dance alive by performing cultural shows in a variety of Kandyan dancing styles that relate the island's history through the medium of dance.
Sri Dalada Maligawa
The Sri Dalada Maligawa or the Temple of the Tooth, one of the highlights of the world heritage city, brings countless numbers of pilgrims and travellers to this magnificent premises. The temple houses and safeguards the sacred tooth relic of Lord Buddha, which was smuggled secretly into the island by a prince and princess during the 4th century AD. Near the Kandy Lake, the Temple of the Tooth was built in the 17th century and is a marvel of architecture with its carved doors, a golden canopy in the main shrine area, ornate carved wooden pillars, and a moonstone at its entrance. The sacred tooth relic is encased in seven golden caskets studded with precious gemstones and is displayed to the public in the months of July and August during the 'Esala Perahera', a festive procession that makes its way through the city streets with a colourful parade of Kandyan dancers, fire dancers, drummers and elephants adorned in brilliantly coloured garments.
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
Established in 1975 by the Sri Lanka Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage is home to the largest captive breeding herd of Asian elephants in the world. The main function of the orphanage is to care for abandoned, injured or displaced elephants in a surrounding that mirrors their natural habitat. In recent years, the elephant orphanage began successful captive breeding. The elephant orphanage is in close vicinity to the Maha Oya, which allows visitors to view elephants bathing in the river, a sight that is bound to leave lasting memories.
Peradeniya Botanical Gardens
An Eden on earth, the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens is also known as the Royal Botanical Gardens, and was formally established in 1843. Located 5.5 kilometres west from the city of Kandy, it is situated close to Mahaweli River, with a perfectly manicured landscape of 147-acres and over 4,000 species of plant life. The gardens boast a wide array of orchids in the famous orchid house, along with palms, spices, a variety of medicinal plants and flower beds. In addition to human visitors, the gardens attract fruit bats each day who are enticed by its foliage.
Located in Pilimathalawa, 12.5 kilometres from Kandy city, the Gadaladeniya Temple is one of the oldest and largest rock temples in Sri Lanka. In 1344 AD, King Bhuvanekabahu IV commissioned Ganesvarachari, an Indian architect to build the temple. Therefore, the temple designs depict Hindu artistic styles, which are one of its most prominent features. The temple consists of two units - the primary and secondary shines of which the central temple is built from sculptured granite, making it unique. The main shrine consists of a statue of the Buddha seated in a lotus position, while the secondary shrine includes four shrine rooms, each consisting of a seated Buddha statue providing an overall atmosphere of serenity.
Dating back to the 14th century, the Lankathilaka Temple was built on a natural rock called 'Panhalgala' by King Bhuvanekabahu IV. A stone stairway leads up to the temple, which combines traditional imagery and carved scriptures of both Buddhist and Hindu origin. The Buddha House is a sea of religious paintings, and tree and flower designs that are authentically Kandyan, which spread from the floor and cover the ceiling. The temple also has a 'devala', with dedicated sections for the Gods Vishnu, Saman, Vibhishana, Ganapathi, Skandhakumara and Kumara Bandara. These historic paintings, rock face inscriptions, stone elephant figures and sculptures make the Lankathilaka Temple an edifice of marvel.
The Embekka Temple, or Embekka Devalaya as it is commonly called, was built in the period between 1357 and 1374 AD by King Vikramabahu III, and is dedicated to the deity of Katharagama. The temple consists of three sections - the first being the Sanctum of Garagha, the second being the Dancing Hall, and the third being the Drummers' Hall. The highlight of these three halls is the Drummers' Hall, popularly noted for its famous wood carvings depicting various subjects. The carving designs range from entwined swans, double-headed eagles, entwined ropes, a soldier fighting on horseback, and female dancers, to the unusual bird-human hybrid, elephant-bull hybrid, and elephant-lion hybrid, to name a few. The roof is unique in its structure as it is said to be held together by a modern-day catch pin, which was a revolutionary architectural design for its time. With a total of 514 unique designs, the Embekka Viharaya gives visitor a glimpse into the art and culture of a bygone era.