Kandy’s religious roots have often led to it being hallmarked as a sleepy town worth visiting only for the Temple of the Tooth. However, overlooking the cultural importance of this fascinating and quirky city would not do it justice. Despite its early curfew, Kandy is a vibrant city, bristling with intrigue, suffused with stories and stuffed full of charismatic and completely unique characters. Whilst Kandy may be slightly lacking in nightlife 11 months of the year, during the evenings of August the city transforms completely. For ten exhilarating days, the city teems with fire dancers, drummers, performers, artists, religious processions and – perhaps the most popular – lavishly overdressed elephants. Spend a few days connecting with Kandy’s history and its placidly passionate people and the city will quickly capture your heart.
Try a traditional Sri Lankan spread for lunch at Ena De Silva’s Matale Heritage centre, before taking some time to relax and get ready for the Perehera. The festivities get started at 6pm and often go on right up until midnight. You’ll have seats to get the best views and photos of the procession.
After seeing Kandy at its most lively, take it easy with Kandy at its most serene as you visit the Botanical Gardens with a professor of botany as your guide, followed by lunch at the Empire Café, where from the safety of a shady balcony overlooking the temple of the tooth, you can watch the preparations for the evening get underway. From here we would recommend filling up on the delicious food over at Kandy House, and then escaping the city for the rest of the afternoon to hang out with Rahju the artist and sitar player. If you have enough energy for it in the evening then head over for a nightcap at Helga’s Folly, Kandy’s spookiest and undoubtedly most quirky haunt.
Having gotten comfortable with Kandy’s many different faces, avoid the crowds and take an early morning city walk around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandyan city markets to dig deeper into Kandy’s history. Finally finish up the trip with a cup of tea at the Queen’s Hotel for a literal taste of the two industries that changed this region forever: tea and tourism.
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