Tourist attractions in Kandy, Sri Lanka and the nearby places: Dambulla and Sigiriya
As I have promised in my previous post, I will now share with you the most important tourist attractions that can be visited in Kandy and the nearby cities of Dambulla and Sigiriya. All three destinations should be on your travel list if you want to fully understand Sri Lanka and how the people there live.
Let’s start with the biggest and the most important city – Kandy, which is also the former capital city of Sri Lanka and considered one of the most sacred Buddhist sites. It is also listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. I recommend staying at least 2 days in this beautiful city in order to see everything and add at least one more if you want to relax and enjoy the peace and the breathtaking views.
We were lucky to have our driver Kumar from Sri Lanka by Car with us, which also become our guide and friend since we spend so much time together. He gave us important information about their culture, religion and the way they live and think. I don’t imagine learning so much without having him with us.
– The Temple of the Tooth – the most sacred Buddhist establishment in Sri Lanka because here you can find the actual tooth of Buddha. Yes, you heard that right! You can easily get now why this is the most popular attraction in town. The entrance fee is 1500 LKR + 100 LKR for minding your shoes (around 10-11$)
PS: in all Buddhist temples you need to leave your shoes at the entrance.
– Big Buddha – The name itself is self explanatory meaning that you can see this statue of Buddha from everywhere in the city due to its size and the fact that it is located on top of one of Kandy hills. So, besides seeing the temple, you will also get a panoramic view of the city for just 250 LKR (less than 2$).
PS: The temple is lit up at night and it looks like it watches over the city J
– Kandy Lake which is the heart of the city and surely you cannot miss it. We even took dinner at a restaurant nearby that offered lake view, but unfortunately I forgot the name. One thing that I should mention is that this I not a natural lake, it is a man made one in 1807.
– The Botanical Gardens are also worth visiting, but, sadly, we did not manage to get there this time. Still, I have seen many beautiful pictures from there so if you have the time, pay it a visit. The entrance fee is 1500 LKR (around 10 $).
If you have more time at your disposal, don’t worry, Kandy offers other great attractions such as tea factories and fields or museums. We decided to leave the tea fields and factories for Ella which we visited a few days later.
Another popular tourist stop from Kandy is Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage which is an orphanage, nursery and captive breeding ground for wild Asian elephants located at Pinnawala village. Because I have read so many controversial opinions regarding this place and the way they treat animals and keep them in captivity in order to make money, we decided not to visit. I do not want to give you the wrong information and it is up to you if you visit or not, I just want to say there are better ways to see wild elephants in their natural habitat – jeep safaris in one of the many national parks in Sri Lanka. We chose Minneriya National Park which is possible to visit in a day trip from Kandy too and it was the best experience. I want to thank Lakpura Travels for the best adventure and I will sure tell you all the details in my next posts.
After two amazing days in Kandy, we decided to head to our next destination – Dambulla, situated just 75 km away which means around 2 hours in the Sri Lankan traffic. Because of the short distance, there are many persons who decide to make day trips from Kandy and skip finding another accommodation in Dambulla.
Since we love to explore as much as we can, we added 1 night in Dambulla, followed by 1 night in Sigiriya (another 17 km away).
Things to do in Dambulla:
The Cave Temple, also known as the Golden Temple of Dambulla, is a World Heritage Site in Sri Lanka. This place is often visited by tourists because it is the largest and best preserved cave temple complex in the country. Here you can find no less than 153 Buddha statues, three statues of Sri Lankan kings and four statues of gods and goddess. Be prepared to climb some stairs though and finding some beautiful views along the way. I almost forgot the monkeys that live there, way less aggressive than the ones in Gibraltar or Bali. The entrance fee was 1500 LKR/person + 25LKR for the shoes.
PS: The Ticket Office is at the bottom, right where the stairs begin so be sure to buy them there so you do not climb all the way up for nothing (Yes, this happened before).
The Golden Buddha – although the name doesn’t state it like in Kandy, this is also a giant statue of Buddha that is taking care of the city of Dambulla. The statue is located on top of a 3 storey building that houses the museum and ticket counter and it was finished in 2001. Also, the Golden Buddha is situated very close to the Cave Temple. Although I am not sure of what I am saying right now, I think the two temples are connected because we went directly from the Cave Temple and we were not supposed to pay any ticket.
PS: Those big spots you see on Buddha’s face are actually big bees’ nests (also called wasps or hornets in Sri Lanka) that are very dangerous and can attack. I will tell you our scary, funny now though, adventure with wasps in Ella, Sri Lanka)
While we stayed in Dambulla, we also chose to go in our elephant safari at Minneriya National Park with Lakpura Travels (Soon all the details on the blog).
Things to do in Sigiriya:
Lion Rock or Sigiriya Rock¸as it is commonly called, is the most famous place in town. It is actually an ancient rock fortress, also UNESCO listed World Heritage Site, with important historical and archaeological significance in Sri Lanka. The story says this is the place where King Kasyapa decided to build its fortress being almost impossible to attack due to its height. The entrance fee is pretty high in my opinion (30$/person) making it the most expensive tourist attraction in Sri Lanka.
PS: Be prepared to climb to the top. Don’t forget the water, you are going to need it.
PS2: Those wasps I was talking about before can also be found here on Lion Rock acting as guardians of the place and there were some cases in the past when they attacked because of the noise.
Pidurangala Rock – Now let’s get to the less known climbing/hiking spot in Sigiriya that has not the attention it deserves. We actually decided to skip Lion Rock and went directly to Pidurangala and I will tell you why. Besides the huge price discrepancy (this attractions costs around 2-3$/person), it also has the best view in town, Lion Rock included J And, of course, less tourists. The only thing that can be considered a downside is the fact that the climb is a little harder because it is not as popular as Lion Rock so it doesn’t have stairs till the top. But, for us, this was the best part because we got to also exercise in Sri Lanka and it was much needed after all the goodies we ate.
Sigiriya is also the best starting point for your safari adventure (the most famous parks in the area being Minneriya or Kaudulla) or for day trips to the ancient cities of Polonnaurwa or Anuradhapura.
That being said, we have now covered the first part of our itinerary in Sri Lanka: the spiritual trio: Kandy, Dambulla, Sigiriya. Let’s move on to Ella!
PS: Sri Lanka on a budget article coming soon and I will give you all the budgdet accommodation tips there!
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