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18 BEST Things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka (2024 Guide!)

18 BEST Things to do in Kandy, Sri Lanka (2024 Guide!)

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Kandy isn’t made of gumdrops and candy canes despite its name. Instead, you’ll find some of the best places to explore in Sri Lanka! Kandy is the second largest city and is located in the center of the country. It’s surrounded by dense jungle, and raging waterfalls, and only a few hours from the iconic Knuckles Mountain Range. 

We spent a week in Kandy, and it was the perfect launch point for activities. We took the world’s most beautiful train ride from Kandy to Ella, got to see Buddha’s Sacred Tooth, and explored Sigiriya’s ancient civilization. Oh, and don’t forget the amazing local Sri Lankan food we ate and cooked here! 

While you’re planning your Sri Lanka itinerary, Kandy is certainly a must-visit. We have put together the top 18 things to do in Kandy, but really, you can find so much more in this beautiful city!

Don’t have time to read the full article? A few of our absolute favorite things to do in Kandy include:

  1. Explore the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic
  2. Enjoy traditional Sri Lankan flavors and fine dining at Cafe 1886
  3. Admire the Royal Botanic Gardens, the largest botanical garden in the country!
  4. Take this day trip to Sigiriya to see Sigiriya Rock and the Dambulla Cave Temples.
  5. Spot elephants at Minneriya National Park on this full-day tour

Things to do in Kandy

1. Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Monks lined up to make offerings at the Sacred Tooth Temple Kandy Sri Lanka
Monks making a daily offering
The shrine of the Sacred Tooth up close Kandy Sri Lanka
The shrine of The Buddha’s Sacred Tooth

The Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is the crown jewel of Kandy. It is a Buddhist temple that is a UNESCO Heritage site because it is home to one of Buddha’s teeth – yes, his real tooth! While this sounds a bit odd, it has held significance in Sri Lankan and Buddhist history for centuries. 

When Buddha died in 543 BC, he was cremated and his left canine tooth was given to one of his disciples, and eventually gifted to King Brahmadatte. In ancient times, this Sacred Tooth Relic held such power that it was believed whoever had it in their possession held the governance of the country. It was passed from ruler to ruler until the final Kingdom of Ceylon (Sri Lanka’s former name) ended in Kandy with the Prince of Kundasale in the early 1800s. The Sacred Tooth Temple was built in the royal palace where Buddha’s tooth remains today!

Visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is first on our list for a reason, it’s one of the best things to do in Kandy and holds a ton of cultural significance for Sri Lanka. The Temple of the Sacred Tooth is located right in Kandy’s city center, along Kandy Lake. While you can visit at all times of the day, you won’t actually see the tooth unless you catch one of the ceremonies which happens daily at 5:30 am, 9:30 am, or 6:30 pm. During this time, you’ll find lots of Buddhists leaving flowers or other offerings and traditional sound offerings taking place – it’s a unique way to experience the Tooth Temple. 

Even if you don’t visit during one of the ceremony times, the temple itself is still gorgeous to see. There are gold statues of Buddha, intricate carvings, old artwork, and the royal palace structure to admire. We enjoyed visiting outside of the ceremony hours because there were far fewer people, so you have room to roam around and spend as much time at the temple as you please. 

When you visit, you must cover your knees and shoulders, for both men and women! You can borrow a sarong at the front entrance at no charge if you aren’t wearing the right clothing. Entrance to the Sacred Tooth Temple is about $6 USD per person, and it’s so much easier if you have exact change in the local currency (2,000 LKR per person). 

Visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic is one of those Sri Lanka bucket list places. It’s gorgeous, and the history is astounding!

2. Visit a museum

A museum displays various statues of Buddha in Kandy Sri Lanka
So many amazing statues!
A museum displaying a pillar with symbolic markings in Kandy Sri Lanka
There was a lot to learn.

Kandy National Museum

The Kandy National Museum sits right next to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in the Royal Palace complex. The building can practically be one of the artifacts itself as it was first built in the 14th century! The quarters where the museum is now located were once the Queen’s quarters, and also housed the King’s harem, but were eventually converted to hold art artifacts in the 1880s. 

Today when you visit, you can learn all about the Kandy Kingdom’s history. There are over 5,000 artifacts including weapons, jewelry, furniture, and official documents from the British Colonial era. If you’re a history buff, you’ll really enjoy diving into Kandy’s long-standing history at the Kandy National Museum. 

International Buddhist Museum

The International Buddhist Museum is a display of how Buddhism has spread all over the world over the last 2,500 years. With a religion this old, there is a lot to learn! We found it incredibly insightful to learn about this religion and how it influences culture and everyday life for Sri Lankans and so many other countries. 

The museum is huge and broken up into rooms for 17 different countries. It is located within the palace complex, right behind the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, so entrance is included in your ticket price. We spent about an hour here and didn’t even see it all, so if you’re keen on learning more about Buddhism, this will be an ideal activity!

3. Eat at Cafe 1886

An assortment of local curry and naan served at Cafe 1886 Kandy Sri Lanka
We love curry!

One of my favorite parts of travel is the food! You can experience so much of a culture through its cuisine, and luckily Sri Lanka has some amazing food. Cafe 1886 is a staple, located right in the heart of Kandy. It’s loved by locals and travelers alike, so it’s a great lunch or dinner stop while you’re out exploring. 

Cafe 1886 takes traditional Sri Lankan dishes and puts a dash of fine dining into the mix, and what you end up getting is some incredible-tasting food. There aren’t many fine dining options outside of Colombo, so this establishment strives to bring the experience to Kandy!

We tried seafood kottu, which is one of Sri Lanka’s most famous dishes, full of fresh veggies and seafood. We also tried dark chicken curry, which was a rich and spicy curry dish, served with roti (Sri Lankan flatbread). On the side, we had coconut sambal and dal, which you’ll find with almost every Sri Lankan dish. We were blown away by all the flavors and fresh ingredients – it’s a great taste of traditional Sri Lankan food.

4. Walk around Lake Kandy

Palm trees around Kandy Lake in Sri Lanka
Kandy Lake is so pretty.

One of the things we love most about Sri Lanka is its expansive outdoor areas. Even as the second largest city in the country, Kandy has easy access to beautiful scenic areas, such as Kandy Lake! This man-made lake is right in the center of town. This area used to be paddy fields but was built into a lake in 1807.

The lake has a 3.2-kilometer (2-mile) shoreline with a paved walking path the entire way. It passes by the old palace, multiple temples, and the dam and gives gorgeous views of the town. There is even an island with ruined structures on it, once used by the King for relaxation and then later used by the British as an ammunition shelter. You’ll also notice the “cloud wall” that surrounds the lake was left unfinished as it was in the middle of construction when the British took over Kandy. 

Visiting Kandy Lake is an activity you could do nearly every day you’re in Kandy, it’s that beautiful! We certainly wanted to!

5. Kandy Viewpoint

View from the top of the Big Buddha Kandy Sri Lanka
What a view!

While seeing Kandy Lake at eye level is striking, you can get even better views by climbing up to the Kandy Viewpoint! From the top of the viewpoint, you’ll get sweeping views of Kandy Lake, the city below, and the rolling hills in the distance. 

The best time to visit the Kandy Viewpoint is at sunrise or sunset, as you can get some incredible views at these times. You will be able to miss the heat of the day, but there might be a bit of a crowd at the top, especially for sunset. The viewpoint is about a 10-15 minute walk up a steep hill, so wear your comfy walking shoes! 

You can find the viewpoint while walking around the lake, or following directions to Arthur’s Seat – it’s not hard to find but it will be hard to beat those views!

Related Read: If you want to add a beach getaway to your trip, be sure to check out our guide to Sri Lanka’s best beaches.

6. Visit the Big Buddha (Srī Mahā Bōdhi Temple)

Looking up at the Big Buddha Kandy Sri Lanka
Impressive!
Ticket office for the Big Buddha Kandy Sri Lanka
Where you buy tickets for the Big Buddha

As you walk through Kandy, you notice the giant Buddha statue sitting on a hill overlooking the city. I was taken aback when I first noticed it because it’s so big! Commonly called “the Big Buddha,” it is actually named Srī Mahā Bōdhi Temple and stands 27 meters (88 feet) tall. 

This temple began construction in the late 1970s but was halted due to opposition in the monk community. The senior monks at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth relic were afraid the Srī Mahā Bōdhi Temple would overshadow the other temples in Kandy. It was appealed to a higher board of monks and eventually granted, and so construction of the Big Buddha was completed in 1992. 

Today, it is one of the best things to do in Kandy! You can hike to the temple in about 30 minutes from Kandy’s city center as it’s about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles). I call it urban hiking because you’re walking through the city for most of the way, but it’s all uphill (you can also take a tuk-tuk most of the way up)! Once you reach the temple, you can climb stairs to reach the shoulder level of Buddha. 

In case you need even more epic views of Kandy, climbing to the Srī Mahā Bōdhi Temple will certainly provide. The temple itself is quaint and quite lovely, it is much less popular than the Sacred Tooth Temple because it’s more effort to reach. Entrance to Srī Mahā Bōdhi Temple is about $1 USD, and be sure to cover your knees and shoulders as customary at a religious site. I recommend going early in the morning or for sunset because it’s gorgeous up there, and it can also get hot mid-day!

7. Street food tour

Two different kinds of samosas on a plate Kandy Sri Lanka
Samosas are so tasty!
Many different dried fish for sale on the side of the street Kandy Sri Lanka
I didn’t love the dried fish, but I had to try it!

I can’t think of a better way to dive into Kandy’s culture than through its local street food scene! This private street food tour not only takes you to see Kandy’s most iconic sights but pairs food with each stop so you have an even more immersive Sri Lankan experience. 

We love that this tour is led by locals, so you get an authentic look at Kandy. You will spend about 3 hours exploring the city, stopping at the central market, cultural center, Bogambara Prison, Kandy Lake, and more. Along the way, your guide will stop for fresh fruits, locally sourced spices, and the famous Ceylon tea. The main Sri Lankan dishes were the highlight for me, with roti (Sri Lankan flatbread with spicy toppings), egg hopper (a fried egg in a fluffy pancake), king coconut, and kottu! 

If you’re a foodie, you’ll love this tour. It’s a great way to see the main sights of Kandy with a local, so you’ll dive into the history and culture of the city while trying all sorts of local Sri Lankan treats! This tour is $52 USD per person for 2 people, and the price decreases for larger groups. You can book this private street food tour of Kandy in advance here!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

8. Royal Botanic Gardens

Royal Botanic Gardens Kandy
Beautiful!
Pathway through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kandy
It’s a lovely place to take a walk!

Sri Lanka has an abundance of flora with its tropical and wet climate. It’s hospitable to all sorts of plant life, and if, like us, you’re not accustomed to this lush jungle tropics, it’s mind-blowingly beautiful! Just outside of Kandy is the largest botanical garden in the country where you can see so many of these plants. The Royal Botanic Gardens is so well known that it receives over 2 million visitors a year! 

This area has been used for a royal garden since 1371 but was established into the gardens we see today in 1821. You’ll find over 4,000 different plant species spanning over its 60-hectare (147 acres) grounds. It is not only a great source of tourism, but it also serves as an important teaching and research facility. The gardens are some of the largest contributors to biodiversity and sustainability research and learning for the whole country!

The grounds are also stunning to walk around. This goes to show Sri Lanka’s natural beauty, and after spending an hour or two exploring the expansive garden, you’ll be swooning as much as we were! The Royal Botanic Garden is open every day of the year from 7:30 am to 6 pm. Tickets are about $9 USD and can be purchased at the gardens!

9. Explore the Kandy Market

Vegtables for sale on the street in Kandy Sri Lanka
So much fresh produce
A small store called Winchester Dried Fish sells fish in Kandy Sri Lanka
You can find lots of interesting stuff here.

Even though Kandy is the second largest city in the country, it still isn’t that big of a city! There is a central shopping area that is the hub of activity, and we enjoyed simply wandering through the city’s streets. This is where you will find the Kandy Market which is one of the top local things to do in Kandy for very practical reasons.

There are food stalls selling fruits, veggies, meat, fish, spices, nuts, and all sorts of food. I love how simple these markets feel and that you can get such fresh food here. There are also many vendors selling clothes and other random knick-knacks, so you can pick up a Kandy souvenir, too. 

The market is busiest in the morning and usually full of locals doing their shopping and selling at this time. It’s definitely more of the local side of Sri Lanka than the tourist side, which is the best part of traveling here! You can spend anywhere from 1-2 hours at the market, depending on how much you want to see. 

10. Day trip to Sigiriya

The path leading to Sigiriya rock Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock is massive!
The beautiful view from the top of Sigiriya rock overlooking the mountains nearby Sri Lanka
These ruins are over a thousand years old!

If Sigiriya isn’t already on your Sri Lanka bucket list, it needs to be! This was one of my favorite places we visited in the entire country for its sheer size, natural beauty, and fascinating history. Sigiriya is a small town about 2 hours from Kandy and home to Sigiriya Rock, a monolith that stretches 180 meters (600 feet) high. You can climb the 1,200 stairs to reach the top for a good workout and astounding views!

Sigiriya is also home to an ancient civilization that dates back to 477 AD. The civilization was built at the base of the massive rock, and the palace was placed at the top for protection. It is staggering to imagine how they built a palace on top of this huge rock, let alone how they climbed it, as it’s nerve-wracking enough in this day and age! Once you see how impressively large the structures are, you will know what I’m talking about. 

Visiting Sigiriya is a must-do activity, and you can easily take a day trip from Kandy! This full-day private tour includes stops at a Hindu temple, a spice garden, and the Dambulla Buddhist Cave Temple. The highlight is exploring Sigiriya for about 3 hours, but the Dambulla Cave Temple is also a classic activity for this area (and one we loved)! This tour essentially pays for your driver and itinerary planning, as you will still have to pay admission fees for Sigiriya Rock and the Dambulla Cave Temple. 

You’ll also stop for lunch, and the guide does a great job of pointing out notable sights along the way. This is a great way to experience Sigiriya for a day, and the tour lasts for 10-12 hours, so you really get your money’s worth! It can be booked in advance for $65 USD each for 2 people with the price decreasing for larger groups.

The view from the top of Sigiriya rock overlooking the mountains nearby Sri Lanka
What a view!

If you’re looking for something a bit shorter, I recommend this 5 to 8-hour tour to Sigiriya from Kandy. This tour also includes hotel pickup from Kandy and stops at Sigiriya Rock and the Dambulla Cave Temple, but also takes you to Ibbankatuwa Megalithic Burial Site, a historic tomb. Sometimes a 12-hour tour can get rather exhausting, so I like that this one is shorter and still gives enough time at these epic sights! 

Lunch and entrance fees to Sigiriya Rock and the cave temple are not included in this tour. The tour price is based on the number of people in your group. For example, 2 people is $83 USD per person but a group of 4 is $67 USD per person. You can book it in advance online here

11. Day trip to Minneriya National Park

Elephants eating at a bush in Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka
You will see so many wild elephants.
Our guide pointing out a juvenile elephant nearby
A young elephant was checking us out.

Sri Lanka is home to 26 national parks which is an impressive amount considering how small the country is! Minneriya National Park is one of the best national parks in Sri Lanka, as all sorts of exotic animals roam free. This park is actually home to the densest Asian elephant population in the world! So if spotting an elephant in the wild is on your bucket list, taking a day trip to Minneriya from Kandy is essential. 

Minneriya National Park is in the dry region of Sri Lanka, and it also sits right along an elephant migration route. Because this area of the country is so dry, finding a water source is essential for elephants, as they drink a lot of water. Minneriya has a huge lake area, so you can find 300 elephants here every day grazing on the lush grass, bathing, and drinking up all the water. They are here at sunset so frequently, that this has been dubbed “The Gathering,” and you’re bound to see elephants and other unique animals here!

You can’t visit Minneriya on your own, so taking a tour that coordinates a safari through the park is your best bet. The safaris are best taken in the afternoon, so this tour from Kandy makes a full day out of it by including stops at Sigiriya and the Dambulla Cave Temple. Taking a safari through Minneriya National Park was one of the most memorable experiences we had while traveling through Sri Lanka. We still can’t believe the number of elephants we saw, and how unbothered the elephants were while we watched.

This tour covers the cost of your driver and itinerary planning for $60 USD each for 2 people, and the price decreases for larger groups. However, you will still need to pay entrance fees including to the national park and for the safari, which can be an additional $60 USD or more depending on the tour size. So while that’s a good chunk of change, it’s worth it, as you’ll experience a lot! You can reserve this day tour to Minneriya National Park in advance here

Related Read: Another popular spot to see elephants in Sri Lanka is at Udawalawe National Park.

12. Take the train from Kandy to Ella

Coming around a bend on the train on the way to Ella Sri Lanka
One of the most beautiful train rides in the world
Holding some beers you can buy on the train on the way to Ella Sri Lanka
The train sells beer!

When it’s time to depart Kandy, taking the train to Ella is the most iconic activity in Sri Lanka. The route from Kandy to Ella via train is known as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world – and I’d have to agree. Rolling tea plantations, waterfalls to surpass them all, and quaint towns nestled in the hills are just a few of the magnificent sights along this route. The train is a bright blue color and passes over the famous Nine Arches Bridge in Ella to finish a beautiful train journey. 

This train ride is definitely well known, so be prepared for it to be popular amongst tourists. The route from Kandy to Ella will take 8-10 hours because it moves slowly and makes a few stops along the way, but it feels a bit quicker because it’s seriously beautiful the whole time. And while people have assigned seats, no one really sticks to them, so we were able to roam around the train to see all the viewpoints, hang out the side, and make some friends along the way! 

You can break up this train journey by getting off in Nuwara Eliya or Haputale and spending a few days exploring a quaint town before you reach Ella. If you have time in your schedule, I recommend this option because these towns are worth exploring, and then you can continue your train journey to Ella!

When purchasing tickets for the train from Kandy to Ella, you can reserve your seats online ahead of time. You will have to arrive at the train station early to pick up your physical ticket, be sure to arrive about an hour before your train. We waited until about 15 minutes before and got stuck in a long queue and almost missed the train!

If you’re visiting during the high tourist season (December to April) try to book these tickets as far in advance as possible! You’ll have the option to book first, second, or third class. While first class is usually people’s first choice, second class is actually the best option on this route! It is spacious and clean, and you’ll want the windows open so you can stick your head out and get a good view. First-class tickets are about $10 USD, second-class is about $2 USD, and third-class is about $1 USD (but this is the most crowded option). 

This train ride takes a little extra effort to schedule than your typical train journey – but it’s worth it, trust me! You can even purchase beer and snacks along the way, making this beautiful experience even more fun!

Related Read: If you have time be sure to check out the view from Lipton Seat while in Haputale.

13. Udawatta Kele Sanctuary

Entrance to Udawatta Kele Sanctuary in Kandy
Entrance to Udawatta Kele Sanctuary
Pathway through Udawatta Kele Sanctuary in Kandy
Pathway through Udawatta Kele Sanctuary

The Udawatta Kele Sanctuary is yet another gorgeous natural area in Kandy. This protected reserve covers 104 hectares (257 acres) and has become essential to Kandy’s ecosystem. The large forest area provides clean air and water for Kandy, is home to many species of wildlife, and is a beautiful outdoor area to explore! 

Udawatta Kele means “the garden above the royal palace” in Sinhalese, and that is precisely where it is located! The entrance to this forest reserve is only about a 25-minute walk from the city center (or a quick tuk-tuk ride). Once you’re in the park, you can explore the many walking trails and you might even spot some cool birds and animals! There are over 80 species of birds in this park, so it’s perfect for birdwatching. 

Entrance to the park is about $3 USD and goes back to maintaining the trails and park. This is a great way to enjoy Sri Lanka’s natural beauty. It’s a shaded area, so you can visit at any time of the day. Spend an afternoon outside enjoying Udawatta Kele Sanctuary!

14. Take a cooking class

Learning to cook in Sri Lanka!
Learning to cook in Sri Lanka!

If you’ve never taken a cooking class while traveling internationally – do it here! My first-ever international cooking class was in Sri Lanka, and I had so much fun I had to book another! Food is such a big part of every culture, so learning how to make dishes from scratch can be a great point of connection and immersion into the country. 

Sri Lankan food is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, and nearly everything is coconut-based (YUM!). There is actually a lot of spice, so if you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen (or just let your host know and they can work around it)! 

This cooking class in Kandy is great because you get to learn how to make 8 different dishes in 3 hours! You’re hustling while working in the kitchen, but the payoff is so worth it as you enjoy sambal, dahl curry, fish ambulthiyal, and more. This cooking class is also fun because you get to learn how to make a Sri Lankan cocktail. This is a private tour, so the kitchen doesn’t get too crowded and they pick you up from your hotel. 

Everything is included in this tour, and you get to eat your finished product at the end, which was my favorite part! This cooking class in Kandy is $29 USD per person for a group of 2 or cheaper if you book for a larger group. For an additional $10 USD per person, you can add a trip to the village market to pick out ingredients. This cooking class can be reserved here

We also love this other cooking class in Kandy, where you will learn all about Sri Lankan spices and vegetables, the staple to this cuisine! It takes place in a village outside of Kandy, so you really get an authentic experience. You’ll be making a curry dish and learning all the steps along the way. This class starts at $35 USD per person with extra experiences available for an additional fee and includes transportation from your hotel (but not the return journey), all the ingredients, and your meal at the end!

15. Take a walking tour

Colorful flowers at the base of the Big Buddha Kandy Sri Lanka
This really is a Big Buddha.
A man walks with his elephant at the Sacred Tooth Temple Kandy Sri Lanka
An elephant at the Sacred Tooth Temple

Walking tours are one of my favorite ways to explore a city. While it is fun to wander around and explore on your own, you’re missing out on the “what” behind the sights you’re seeing. Walking tours are led by a local, so you get a deeper insight into the iconic places of the city. Plus, they usually include some hidden gems, so we like to take these within our first few days in a city so we know where to return to!

This full-day walking tour of Kandy covers a lot of ground! Over 6-8 hours, you will visit the most important sights including the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, Kandy Lake, Kandy Market, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the National Museum of Kandy. Along the way, the local guide does a great job of giving information and telling the history of Kandy, with their local perspective thrown in there so you learn a lot about what it’s like living in the city. 

This tour doesn’t include any entrance fees or food, so you’ll want to bring some cash along. The tour departs at 7 am or 4 pm, so you miss the heat of the day and can possibly catch an epic sunset if you go in the afternoon! The price depends on the number of people in your group. It’s $35 USD each for 2 people and $20 USD per person for 3-15 people. Reserve this tour in advance here

16. Day trip to Nuwara Eliya 

A cup of tea overlooking the tea fields at Pedro estate in Nuwara Eliya
Bluefield Tea Garden was closed during our visit so we went to Pedro Estates.
Ramboda Waterfall

Nuwara Eliya is along the way from Kandy to Ella, so if you don’t make a stop there to break up your train journey, you can take a day trip from Kandy. Whichever way you choose it’s worth a stop, as there is a lot to explore in Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is one of the most important areas of tea production in the entire country, so you’ll see rolling hills full of tea plants everywhere you look. It is also rather high in elevation, so while most of Sri Lanka is pretty hot and humid, Nuwara Eliya is cold and mountainous – we enjoyed the nice change in weather!

Nuwara Eliya was put on the map when the British ruled and discovered how valuable this climate is for growing and producing tea, so you’ll see British influence all over the city. But besides tea production, this part of Sri Lanka is gorgeous and full of waterfalls, animals, yummy food, and welcoming people. 

Nuwara Eliya is about 3 hours from Kandy, so while it’s a long day trip you’ll see a lot of amazing things along the way! This tour to Nuwara Eliya from Kandy provides a local guide and plans all your stops, so you can sit back and enjoy the day. You will stop at Ramboda Waterfall, the highest waterfall in the Kandy district, Victoria Park, and Gregory Lake, which sits right in the middle of the town. 

A trip to Nuwara Eliya isn’t complete without visiting a tea plantation to take a tour of the factory and try some locally sourced tea. This was my favorite part of this day tour as it was fascinating to learn about the country’s main export, and you got to drink tea! This tour is $85 USD for a group up to of 3. Entrance fees and lunch are extra, so bring some extra cash. You can reserve this full-day tour to Nuwara Eliya here with free cancelation available up to 24 hours before!

Related Read: If spotting leopards at Yala National Park is on your bucket list, we have everything you need to know about Yala National Park here.

17. See the surrounding waterfalls 

Beautiful waterfall on a waterfall tour in Kandy, Sri Lanka
One of the waterfalls we saw on our tour

There are tons of waterfalls surrounding Kandy. So many that you can spend a whole day just searching them out on a waterfall tour. 

This full-day tour is the best way to see five different waterfalls, plus more interesting sights in the area. This tour is led by a local, Roshan, and he is truly the best! Not only did we get to see some incredible outdoor scenery, but we also learned a ton about the area. 

First, you’ll head to Huluganga Waterfall, which is an impressive 75 meters (246 feet) tall. Lebanon Estate Waterfall is close by and is a wide sprawling waterfall that looks like it’s crawling down the rocks – it was quite lovely. We also visited Jodu Ella Waterfalls, where you can swim under the falls! We stopped at two other waterfalls along the way and were able to swim a bit more.

It was such a serene experience, and we appreciated the insight that Roshan brought to this tour. Perhaps the best part though, was the homemade lunch that his wife made for us! Homemade Sri Lankan food and waterfalls – what a perfect day! We also made some extra stops at scenic overlooks and visited local shops, just as an added bonus. 

Some of the waterfalls have entrance fees, so bring a bit of cash just in case. Otherwise, this tour includes everything else – transportation, lunch, water, snacks, and your amazing guide! You can reserve this 8-hour waterfall tour for $55 USD.

18. Hike the Knuckles Range 

Driving through the hills in the knuckles mountain range
Driving through the hills in the Knuckles Mountain Range

The Knuckles Mountain Range is an iconic mountain area. It is made up of 20 different peaks, with 9 of them reaching over 1,200 meters (4,000 feet). The mountain range was named “Knuckles” because the peaks look like knuckles on a clenched fist. 

The Knuckles Mountain Range is an important part of Sri Lanka’s ecosystem. Most of the country’s water comes from the mountain area, and it has a vast biodiversity. About 34% of the trees and plants that can only be found in Sri Lanka are located in this area, and it was added as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site in 2010. It is a cloud forest, so there are often low-hanging clouds that provide a damp and temperate climate. 

Even though this is a huge mountain area, there are a lot of great hiking options that you can do in a single day! This makes exploring the Knuckles Range possible for those traveling through, and trust me, you’ll want to visit these mountains if you love the outdoors – they are stunning! 

This full-day tour makes hiking in the Knuckles Range during a day trip possible. It includes roundtrip transportation from your Kandy hotel, lunch, water, and entrance fees. You’ll be hiking the Tea Trail Trek which will take 6 to 7 hours to complete. It is moderately difficult, so you will want to be in decent hiking shape for this one, but the views are incredible at the end so it’s all worth it! Along the way, you’ll see waterfalls, creeper vines everywhere, old wooden bridges, and of course, incredible views!

This is the perfect tour for those who want to get a little adventurous while visiting Kandy. The trailhead is about 2 hours from Kandy, so expect this to be a full day’s journey. You can reserve this hiking experience for $100 USD per person, and the price drops per person with a group of 4 or more, which isn’t bad for how epic of an adventure this is! Secure your spot in advance here to visit the gorgeous Knuckles Range!

Getting Around Sri Lanka

tuk tuk parked at the beach in mirissa sri lanka
We rented a tuk-tuk for our entire trip around Sri Lanka.
Watching sunsets in Sri Lanka from our tuk tuk
Tuk-tuk is a great way to get around Sri Lanka.

To visit all of the best places in Sri Lanka, you’re going to need a mode of transport. You have a few choices when it comes to getting around Sri Lanka:

Rent a Tuk-tuk

Easily the most popular (and most fun) way to travel around Sri Lanka. We actually rented a tuk-tuk on our trip and absolutely loved it! Tuk-tuks are easy to drive, cheap to rent, and the freedom that comes with your own wheels is unmatched.

If you do decide to rent a tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka, be sure to go with a reputable company that provides quality tuk-tuks, such as Tuktuk Rental (who we rented from.) These guys not only offer an amazing service, but their tuk-tuks are actually rented from local families, providing income for the local community.

If you decide to rent from Tuktuk Rental, be sure to use the coupon code ‘DEST‘ for 5% off!

For more info, read our blog: The Truth about Renting a Tuk-tuk in Sri Lanka.

Hire a Driver

If you’re only planning on going to a couple of destinations, then a private driver is not a bad idea. In the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle, your driver can take you to your next destination. All you have to do is sit back and relax!

You can hire highly-rated drivers in advance to pick you up right from the airport when you arrive in Sri Lanka. This driver will take you to your hotel in Mirissa, Galle, Bentota, or Unawatuna. Whereas this driver will take you to Kandy.

Of course, every time you want to change destinations you will have to arrange for another driver (unless you book this driver who will drive you around for an entire week). Car transfer can easily be organized through your hotel.

Take Public Transport

This is a choice I only recommend for those on a very tight budget and with plenty of time. Public transport is everywhere in Sri Lanka in the form of public buses and trains. It is also very cheap, costing less than a couple of dollars per journey.

However, it isn’t the most comfortable way to travel. The buses don’t have air conditioning and neither do many train services. They can also be slow-moving, stopping every couple of minutes to pick up more passengers.

With that said, public transport is popular with budget backpackers, and it is mostly safe. This is one way to travel for those who want to get around as the locals do!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey stands by some sunflowers at Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka
Thanks for reading!

Hopefully, you now have some ideas for what you want to do when you visit Kandy. We enjoyed our time in this Sri Lankan city and the beautiful surrounding area and want you to have as great of a stay as we did!

If you found this blog helpful, you might want to check out more of our blogs about Sri Lanka. Get started with one of the related blogs below:

5 BEST Colombo City Tours + Our Top Choice

7 Awesome Things to do in Nilaveli Beach, Sri Lanka

15 Most Romantic Honeymoon Hotels in Sri Lanka