Kandy & Highlands


Kandy, the last kingdom of Sri Lanka is also a major town in the central and the hill highland zone. Highlands are a geographically a hotspot for bio diversity from around the country. From the historically important last kingdom of Sri Lanka being Kandy and leveling with many archeological and naturally important locations, including the highland primary forests such as Horton Plains, the zone is one of the largest zones in the country with 2,558,716 people as per 2011 statistics. Until the mid 19th century the zone politically maintained sovereignty right before the country went to British ruling. The population demographics consist of a mixture of all ethnicities with Sinhala Buddhists and Tamils taking up a majority of the population. The climate is cool, and many areas above 1,500 meters often have chilly nights. The western slopes are very wet, some places have almost 7,000 mm of rain per year. The eastern slopes are parts of the mid-dry zone as it is receiving rain only from North-Eastern monsoon. The temperatures ranges from 24°C at Kandy to just 16°C in Nuwara Eliya, which is 1,889 m above sea level. Zonal economic aggregates make in at agriculture and tea is a crop making a highest contribution. The higher central parts of the zone known as the central highlands are known to be a UNESCO world heritage area due to its high sensitive bio zones. The biggest known Buddhist festival, the Dalada Perahera based behind the temple of tooth in Kandy is among one of the festivals the zone is known for and the next most known is the April flowering season and related celebration basing Nuwara Eliya town.

Kandy and Highlands


Being the last kingdom of Sri Lanka, Kandy is situated in the central hill country giving the kingdom its geographical advantage. After the king’s ruling was over the British took over in the Kandyan kingdom through the famous Kandyan Convention which was told there were two different versions in Sinhala and English. 

Kandy is known more for the temple of tooth. The famous temple has Lord Buddha’s left tooth relic and is a popular place of worship among the Buddhists and is considered the highest most sacred place among Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka. This temple also holds the famous annual Perahera, an annual cultural parade known for the traditional colorful cultural shows and elephant which carries the tooth relic. This is closely associated with the belief that it brings rain to the country apart from being a colorful event.

Other attractions in Kandy include the well informed museums including the world Buddhist history museum, the Udawatta Kele forest reserve powering up the lake in the middle of the town. The Ceylon Garrison Cemetery, the Ceylon Tea Museum, the St. Paul’s church and the museum for the most loved tusker Raja.


Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

The government run elephant orphanage in Pinnawala is a must for many visitors and in turn is quite popular. Being set up in 1975, merely in the purpose of being a home to orphaned elephants and cubs in wild, this has been a successful breeding project and has produced a number of newborns. Elephants usually roam free in the land mass, and is given feeding sheds for young ones. After feeding the herd is taken across the street to the river for the bath time which is a never miss sight. This can be viewed from viewing platforms of the nearby hotels which has put set seats for the elephant bath time specifically.


Millenium Elephant Foundation

This is a registered charity caring mostly for adult and disabled elephants. The place runs on volunteering and donations and is well worth a visit.  The healthcare facility also runs a mobile vetenary unit and offers a walk with an elephant, walking beside an elephant to the village followed by a lunch. Also, a guest can join with a mahout in bathing an elephant, which is another day experience being offered. They also have the “adopt an elephant” scheme which offers to adopt and take up expenses of an elephant for a year.


Spice gardens in Mawanella

This island is known well for its spices for its quality and the trading of them dates back in history. Now that these spices have become an icon in tourism, a well appointed set of spice gardens which grows copious amounts of spices are being maintained around the country, specifically in Mawanella. These spice gardens are staffed by well known in the spice industry who will be able to give you and in depth knowledge about spices, what you should know and polishing up on what you don’t. The spice gardens also has a smaller sales outlet which sells a range of dry spices to essences to cosmetics made locally using spices.


Adam’s Peak

Sacred to devotees of all three major religions of Sri Lanka, Adam’s peak is one of the most important pilgrimages of the country. The giant footprint found at summit is believed to be of either lord Buddha’s, lord Sivas or Adam’s. Regardless of the belief, the conical shape mountain is worth the climb, both for religious reasons and nature, but especially to witness the first rays of sun shadowing at the nearby mountain ranges, which is a known and a looked forward phenomena among the trekkers. The mountain has been in summit for over 1000 years tracing back to the written history, possibly even more so. There are three well known routes for the summit and taking leech protection plus your water is important. Please note that carrying and using single use plastics is prohibited at the site.



This small reconstructed Buddha image house shares some features in common with Hindu temples of Southern India. Standing on the raised bund of a reservoir, it was built with stone slabs and originally dates back to the 7th to 10th centuries. Some tantric carvings have been found in the structure which combines Hindu and Buddhist features. It is the only extant gedige built in the architectural style of the Seventh century Pallava shore temples in India. 



Gampola is a famous town in the Central province which had also been a kingdom in the fourteenth century. Gampola is the home for the famous three temple loop temples. Along with this, a number of Buddhist temples and shrines are spread across the town. Also being popular for the Ambuluwawa mountain which houses Ambuluwawa reserve and the parkland with many monuments of which one of them was the white stupa being dedicated to the farmers, Ambuluwawa mountain summit of rather the top of the stupa gives a magnificent 360 degree view of the Kandy city, the valleys and mountains further.



Matale a sizably smaller town is located at the river banks of Sudu Ganga and the foothills of the Knuckles reserve. Being the administrative center for the district by same name, Matale is read with a lot of rebellion names in the history of Sri Lanka and has often been used as a battle camp station. Matale holds the Aluvihare Buddhist temple known for the writing of Buddhist teaching to be preserved for the first time in the world. The very mild climate town is known for their coffee, cocoa and spices. Among the colonial history Matale’s Fort Macdowal is built to find the national alliance of Sinhalese, fort was eventually destroyed and to date a small part of the rampart is recognizable.


Knuckles Reserve

Knuckles mountain range- Knuckles which had derived its name with relevance to a clenched fist, as a mountain range located in between Kandy and Matale and is a wildlife reserve with a catchment. The Knuckles mountain range usually has a misty weather and a wet climate around the year usually. Knuckles is popular among various levels of trekkers for the uniqueness of the plains to do admirable hiking and trekking experiences. The weather in Knuckles are highly unpredictable, the cool breeze might bring in rain clouds any moment. The forest cover of Knuckles is relating to different mixed forest cover types and houses some of the rarest flora and fauna in the island, some endangered and some endemic.



The capital of Uva province is surrounded by paddy fields along the banks of river Gallanda Oya and has an old fort against a backdrop of mountains and a small lake. It is one of the oldest towns in Sri Lanka though there are no traces of the earlier settlement. The Portuguese once occupied it but set the town on fire before leaving. Among the attractions the city brings are a small botanical garden, a major Buddhist temple by the name Muthiyangana Vihara, Dunhinda Falls which is reached through a semi difficult trek, and 16th century wooden roofed bridge named Bogoda bridge tops the list.



Being regarded as the most favorable in the island the dry and sunny, cold and crisp town of Bandarawela is used as a base to explore the Uva Province. The Dowa Rock temple located 6km away from the town is known to have carried with them an interesting set of stories of the cobra bringing relics. Inside the temple stands an exquisitely carved Buddha statue and inscriptions which is believed to be belonging to the first century BC.



From its ridge position offering superb views of the low country, Badulla is also a good base in exploring the area. A walk down the main street from the station road crossing, and watch the apparent disappearance of the road over the cliff! Away from town, several tea plantations are happy to receive visitors with some offering even accommodation. Lipton’s seat is one of the major attractions the town has to offer being a mere 7 km away from center. This view point is named after Thomas Lipton, one of the pioneer tea planter/ traders in the country. Among other attractions are Adisham monastery which was a wealthy townsman’s bungalow which belonged to Sir Thomas Villiers. 170m high Diyaluma falls is much a smaller waterfall compared to Dunhinda but is much higher in height.


 Temple of the tooth

The temple of tooth is being considered as the most important place of worship by most Buddhists. The image house has with themselves the tooth relic of  Lord Buddha, which was considered to be a symbol of royalty thus had travelled around the country in kingdoms and settled in Kandy being the last kingdom of the country. The temple is complete with octagon shaped Paththirippuwa (image house), the gold roofed Ransivige, an exquisitely painted archway, the moonstone, and moat and drawbridge giving the protection. The temple ceremonies start at dawn and follows the traditions set forth by the kings themselves including drums and alms.


Kandy National Museum

Kandy National Museum has a collection which traces a vivid history of the development of culture of the Kandyan Kingdom. It features jewels, armaments, ritual objects, sculptures, metalwork, ivory, costumes, games, medical instruments, old maps and an enormous range of everyday and exceptional objects.


Tusker Raja Museum

The much venerated elephant who carried the tooth relic casket in the Esala Perahera for many years, was offered to the temple by a pious Buddhist family when he was very young. Raja was 85 when he died in 1988. His skin was stuffed and placed in this separate museum to the left of the temple.


International Buddhist Museum

Commemorating the 2600th anniversary of Buddhism being established in the country, this museum showcases how Buddhism spread from mainly in Asia then across the world. Taking a country wide approach, the museum showcases sections that belongs to different countries and their spread and stand in Buddhism is clearly explained through the artefacts donated by the countries themselves.


Temple of Tooth Museum

Sri Dalada aka Temple of Tooth Museum houses important relics which belong to the times of history of temple of tooth. Among the artifacts include historical events from when the tooth relic was bought to Sri Lanka, to heads of states and royals clothes, weapons and jewelry to artifacts which got destroyed from the Tamil Eelam Tiger attack in the late 1990’s. The museum is located in the same premises as the temple in the newly built wing.


Udawatta Kele Sanctuary

Once the forbidden forest of the kings of Kandy, this is now the city’s lung. The sanctuary now covers 257ha and contains several endemic species of flora and fauna. With over 150 species of birds, monkeys, squirrels, and porcupines, some interesting legends are attached to the forest as well. The legends of kings who had hidden here and gathered forces, a famous one says the pond in the amidst has a pot of gold coins being guarded by a red eyed serpent. Lady Horton’s drive takes you to the tropical end of the rainforest, which offers good views of the Mahaweli River.


Royal Botanical Garden – Peradeniya

Peradeniya being famous for its magnificent botanical gardens was conceived originally as Queen’s pleasure garden. It was converted to a 60ha botanical garden in 1821 and contains well kept lawns, an orchid house with an extensive/ rare collection, octagon conservatory, fernery, banks of bamboo and various flora inclusive of cannas, hibiscus, chrysanthemums, croton and bougainvillea. Avenue of palms, and colorful lawns are not amiss. The palm avenue meets the river drive at the end, which greets to a suspension bridge across the river which now is being rarely used.



The Buddhist temple in a beautiful hilltop setting, built on a rock, about a kilometer away from the main route is showing the Indian influence on temple building in the style of architecture. It has lacquered doors, carvings, and frescos and a moonstone at the entrance of the shrine. The image house here contains a Buddha statue which is guarded by a dragon throne, unusual for the time it has been built.



The second of the three temples, also sits atop a rock and was built by king Bhuvanekabahu IV. The present two storied brick structure was originally four stories high and was renovated in 1845 after the top two stories have fallen. There also is a moonstone, a swirl of elephant and a lion carving known as “Gajasingha”. The walls and the ceilings has extensive frescos well preserved to date.



The Hindu temple, dedicated to lord Skanda is along the same track about 1.5km away. The temple along with its dancers and drummers hall is well known for its intricate and famous wood carvings on the wooden pillars standing. These carvings contains of soldiers, wrestlers, dancers, musicians, mythical creatures and birds. The patterned roof tiles and the roof beams bought together in one huge wooden nail is also among the attractions of the temple.


Degaldoruwa Cave Temple

Degaldoruwa, as the name mean in Sinhalese is a rock temple built at a rock junction where two massive rocks touch each other and creates a cave. The shrine room of the temple has one set of the most well preserved rock paintings relating to the era, containing paintings such as lord Buddha defeating the king of death, and also a painting of the goddess of the world or earth. Suggesting the conqueror ruling the times had on the general lives, there is a painting of a guard holding a pistol, which doesn’t relate to the time shown in jataka stories. 


Kalapuraya Craft Village (Kandy Brassware village)

Now running with the second generation of craftsmen, the crafts village is a clustered set of households wedged around one street taken together and molded as a village in the latter 18th century. The crafts village is majorly known for brass crafts including lamps, bells, various collectibles and Thrishuls for Hindu temples. The laborious process of creating brassware is an art passed down in generations from the kings era to inhabitants of the village. Visiting Kalapuraya may enable you to meet various artists of various scale whose medium is metal.


Ceylon Tea Museum

Opened in December 2011 the government backed Ceylon tea museum proudly claims to be the first in its kind in the world. Located in an abandoned in 1986 tea factory, it contains some impressive old machinery. Polished up and laid in the sequence of the manufacturing line. These are collected from various tea plantations around the country. The first floor has an extensive collection of artefacts and relating to James Taylor, the first commercial tea planter in the island. The top most floor has been converted to a restaurant and also as a telescope for the surrounding to be viewed through.


Nuwara Eliya

The colonial town of Sri Lanka and is popularly known as the ‘Little England’, Nuwara Eliya is located in the highest plateau of Sri Lanka. Particularly like a usual day in spring in the English countryside, this small town is busy with tourists and is a popular destination. The Victorian style buildings bring the charm in even more to a misty day in Nuwara Eliya.

Offering a magnificent view of velvety green tea plantation wherever you look the town is known for their own kind of tea blend among the popular Ceylon Tea. Nuwara Eliya has its fair share of flower gardens blooming in April and the pampas savannahs, one popular such is Horton Plains. You can also visit a tea factory and witness how tea is blended, while also being fascinated by the centuries old stables and the Golf Club.



The upcoming chill tourist destination in Sri Lanka with a hippie vibe that lacks in most destinations, Ella attracts a lot of young travelers with its adventures such as the Ella rock hike, the zip line and the fair share of good cafes scattered around the town.

Also, the Ravana Ella water fall and Nine Arches Bridge is among the popular attractions the town is known for. Ella got listed in the Sri Lankan attractions very recently. The town has the perfect balance in hotels, some in the high-end accommodation category and some in the budget accommodation category.

Among the attractions the Demodara railway station plays a main role being a railway station which has one of the most unique architecture in around most of the railway stations around the world.



A popular yet a secluded destination in the hill country where tea is a popular take, Hatton is covered with velvet green tea estates and tea factories. Hatton also has an entrance to the popular Adam’s Peak. Hatton has a lot of waterfalls and are always picturesque scenery of them cascading down the mountains.

Hatton is a border to the popular sinharaja rain forest, a UNESCO world heritage sites and one of the remaining primary forests in Sri Lanka. Most parts of Hatton have the Victorian landmarks left from the Victorian days and a fair share of tourist hotels compared to the rural side of it.



This is a bustling town with a long history. In legend, it is associated with the Buddha’s first visit to Sri Lanka, while the late president Premadasa had a new temple built here to resemble the famous Buddhist temple in Bodgaya in Bihar, India. Opposite the temple, north of Kandy road six statues of symbolically important Sri Lankan leaders have been erected: three ancient kings, Devanampiyathissa, Dutugemunu & Parakramabahu; Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe who reigned over the 18th century Buddhist revival and two modern political figures- first prime minister DS Senanayake and his son Dudley, who oversaw the Mahaweli ganga project, the source of town’s importance & prosperity.

Hakgala Botanical Garden

Hakgala was established in 1861, and located within a strict nature reserve, and was once a Cinchona plantation. This delightful garden now is known for its roses. The name ‘Hakgala’ or ‘Jaw Rock’ comes from the story in epic ‘Ramayana’ in which the monkey god takes back a part of the mountainside in his jaw when asked by Rama to seek out a special herb! There are monkeys here who are quite used to visitors. The different sections covering the hillside includes a plant house, Japanese garden, wild orchid collection, old tea trails, arboretum, fruit garden, rock garden and oaks.

Horton Plains

The island’s highest and the most isolated plateau is contiguous with Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. Bleak and windswept, the landscape is distinctive and unlike any other on the island. It has been compared to both the Scottish highlands and the savannah of Africa. Visitors comes here on day trips to see the spectacular views from the sheer 700m drop at the World’s End though there is more to see within the sanctuary including popular waterfall Baker’s Falls. Plains has a relatively unique wildlife quotient including leopards and birds that are specific to plains only.

Accommodation choices for Kandy & Highlands

We’ve selected a range of accommodation options when you visit the Kandy & Highlands. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities, and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

Suggested itineraries featuring Kandy & Highlands

These sample itineraries will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in the Kandy & Highlands, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.


Contact our Travel Consultants to start planning your tailor-made holiday of your dream vacation to tropical Sri Lanka.

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